And We Forgot The Taste Of Bread: Soylent, Day Two

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I text a lot over the course of a day.  And in light of attending the Geeky Kink Event last weekend, I had lots of new people I was chatting with.
And about two hours into Soylent, I asked someone what she did, and she replied with…
…a picture of a cake.
I should add: this was a totally innocent picture of a cake.  She was a baker.  She was showing me her craft.  But to a man condemned to slurping goop, she might as well have sent me pornography.
And as the day went on, one by one, my so-called “friends” started sending me pictures of food.  “Miss this yet?” they’d ask, texting me a photo of a turkey dinner.  A Dunkin’ Donuts coffee narrowly missed my hunger mark, as it wasn’t iced.  Chocolate chip muffins were displayed like a stripper’s nipples.  Which led, eventually, to this conversation:
Soylent.
The lesson: my friends are dicks.  (But they make me laugh.)
But come the end of Day Two of Soylent, and I have found this new diet to be… weirdly revealing.  Because my days are now as gray as the goop in my glass.
See, I never realized this before the (literal) gravy train ended, but I tended to parcel out mini-rewards to myself over the course of the day.  Did I just untangle a hard math problem?  Hey, time for a low-fat Rice Krispy treat.  Do I feel like I’m halfway through the day at work?  Let’s commemorate the occasion by grilling up a nice juicy turkey burger!  And of course, after I put in my ninety minutes of writing in the evening, a nice cold glass of chocolate milk goes down smooth as the author’s reward.
And those various flavors provided both a pulse and a variety to the day.  I worked in my same living room, I checked the same email programs, I checked the same websites – but come my 11:30 snack, would I have a buttered hot dog roll, or hummus?  When it came to the sugary treat I’d allow myself, would it be a S’mores Pop Tart or a bowl of cereal?  For dinner, would it be roast chicken or meatloaf or a balsamic salad or Italian wedding soup or…?
Food, I’ve come to realize, was what broke up the sameness of routine.  Food and books were the two things that were endlessly mutable for me, and now without one, the days take longer.  I have no real way of marking time at work – oh, sure, I can look at the clock, but I’m sippin’ goop and wrangling code, sippin’ goop and wrangling code, sippin’ goop and wrangling code and God, what time is it?
Time passes slowly without these markers.
And you realize how much “eating” is actually a skill.  My blood sugar levels kept rising and crashing, rising and crashing, because my stomach would take a glass of Soylent and extract the ingredients with clinical efficiency in a methodical way.  You need to not just drink big gulps, swilling four separate glasses a day doled out in discrete intervals; you need to space out the fuel, because otherwise your body will just greedily process it all and leave you in a trough of starvation.
When I ate during the day, I had an unconscious library of how to eat, a library so comprehensive that I hadn’t even recognized how thoroughly I’d internalized it – am I crashing? Have a glass of milk.  Want something to last me an evening? A nice, dense chicken breast.  Need to think clearly? Sugar blast.  I understood how to manage my energy levels and moods by stuffing various organics down my gullet, and now I have just… Soylent.
And yet… Soylent has removed something stressful from my life.
There is a pleasant purity about it.  There are no bad choices to be made.  Particularly after they’ve cracked open your chest to rewire your fat-clogged heart, every meal becomes a crossroads: Do I eat what the doctor wants, or what my instincts want?  How much margarine should I spread on that hot dog roll?  Shouldn’t I be eating fishy old tuna instead of this marvelous chicken a la king?  You should be eating more fruit, less Pop Tarts, God, you’re killing yourself, you’re literally killing yourself, but this food is so good.
I have wept in the grocery store.  Because after you’ve been on the ventilator, you feel this terrible weakness growing within yourself like a cancer.   There are all these worlds closed off to you except maybe in tiny snippets – no more cashews, no more juicy burgers, no more tubs of Ben and Jerry’s – and whenever you do allow yourself that one-time pleasure, it comes mixed with the horrified realization that you have just thrown a spadeful of dirt onto your own grave.
After the triple-bypass, there are only foods you hate but must eat, and foods you love that will destroy you.
Yet all I can have is this Soylent.  I can’t have too much.  You can’t want too much of this.  And it feels – well, safe.  It’s boring, but it’s a path that means I can’t overdose on a the heart-strangling meat of prime rib, can’t eat a weekend’s worth of calories in one hot fudge sundae, can’t lie to myself about what I ate.
No, it doesn’t have all the micronutrients that natural foods have.  But honestly, how many natural foods am I eating?  If I was leaving behind my vegan diet of roots and berries to go to Soylent, well, that’d be insane.  But truth is, I’m eating turkey hot dogs and Instant Breakfast Bars.  It’s probably a net growth in health to eat this.
And when I go to bed at night, there’s no heartburn because I was hungry at 9:30 and gorged.  There’s no question that what I ate was at least okay.
There are no decisions, but there are no bad decisions.  And it’s only day two.  I don’t know whether I could live like this.
But I could see how much better it might be if I could.
TOMORROW: Not Without My Anus

2 Comments

  1. Czynski
    Nov 13, 2014

    May I recommend Soylent Orange? It’s a whole-foods based Soylent imitator, takes about 7 minutes to blend up a large batch. Or the commercial product from the same people: MealSquares, which are 100% less goopy and just as nutritionally balanced. Both have one significant missing nutrient, which is omega-3/6 balance; the pair behind it found that absorption was unacceptably low with any thing they could include, so they recommend salmon-based meals augmenting surgery of these.

  2. Fallopia Tuba
    Nov 13, 2014

    Yeah, most people equate “vegan” with “ascetic”—when actually, a vegan diet is often a way to have your cake and eat it too. One of your commenters on LJ remarked that she would go vegan “if she had to” but she wouldn’t voluntarily because she loves meat and cheese too much. In my opinion, that’s a very short-sighted way of looking at it, especially since there are so many meat and cheese analogs that are getting more meat like all the time; take, for instance, this sausage-and-egg breakfast: Or there’s a cookbook that shows you how to easily make vegan cheese—actually, there’s more than one.
    I’ve been vegan for about twelve years now, and nowadays I’m always discovering vegan cheeses (the latest offering is from Field Roast and is called Chao; I haven’t tried it, but a lot of people are saying it’s an amazing new cheese) and even marshmallows.
    I’m not a “good” vegan; the last time I did a juice fast was over ten years ago, and my juicer has sat dormant since then. But I eat my kale, and like it. I also walk as much as ten miles a day. (Don’t wear a pedometer, so I don’t know for sure, but my feet tell me when I’m pushin’ the limit.)
    A vegan diet is not a cure-all and probably not even a weight-loss plan—I weigh about the same I did in high school, no more and no less. But my vital signs are way better and I can bet I won’t ever in my life be a heart patient. I’m actually vegan for the big picture, though; animal husbandry—as in food and leather production—is ruining the planet.
    I notice that most people don’t care about that—and why should they? Everyone who’s alive today is going to be dead 100 years from now anyway.

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