If you could live on only one food, what would it be?
The emotional answer is pizza, but the practical answer is soylent.
For all its faults, late-stage American capitalism has given us a product that meets all of our nutritional needs and which could theoretically provide indefinite subsistence. Soylent is mostly used to power code-monkeying, but could also stock the bunker where you live after our "tremendous, really tremendous" nuclear negotiations with North Korea don't work out.
With mushrooms clouds forming on the horizon—and with the new year being a good time to eat clean—I tested five competitors of classic Soylent-brand soylent, eating each for breakfast with a large cup of coffee.
Powder in bottles, $4.40 per bottle, chocolate flavor, spacenutrientsstation.com.
Aleh Manchuliantsau came to this country without his wife. So he decided to eat like an astronaut.
"Normally my wife handles the cooking, but while I was in the U.S. I needed to find a way to eat healthily with my very limited culinary skills. I tried restaurant food, but eventually that made a negative impact on my wallet and was rather fatty," he writes on his astronaut-themed website. On the upside, you just add water to the powder-filled bottle and shake. On the downside, his self-admitted "very limited culinary skills" are on full display with this dirt-flavored powder, which is riddled with half-ground seeds.
Powder packets to be dissolved in water, $4.50 per meal, three flavors, tsogo.com.
Tsogo was funded last year with $36,000 raised on Indiegogo. Odd to me given that it came years after Soylent and had essentially the same pitch: Never grocery-shop again and get perfect nutrition! The blend is the same stuff you see other places—chia, flax, hemp and brown rice—but in smaller packets and with a chalkier flavor.
Powder in one-day packets to be scooped out, $6.31 per bag (paid in Euros), joylent.eu.
Joylent started because Soylent wasn't shipped to Europe. Rather than just ripping off the Soylent look (sup, Huel), it took things in a twee direction, with anthropomorphic strawberries poised to eat each other (sup, Soylent Green). It adds bits of freeze-dried fruit for nutrients and flavor, and the strawberry almost tastes like off-brand Nesquik.
Bars with 20 percent of your daily nutritional needs, $2.02 (paid in Euros), joylent.eu.
Like Soylent's "Food Bar," Joylent has flavored oat bars. Five of them equal a day's nutrition, though it'd be hard to make yourself eat five of these in a day. The Twenny is convenient, but unpleasant in texture and flavor. The banana flavor, for example, tastes like batter left out overnight.
Brownie-size bread squares, $2.90 for a meal, mealsquares.com.
MealSquares are essentially sciency breakfast bars: little flat squares of very dry bread that have 400 calories of ingredients like oats, rice bran, sweet potatoes and chickpeas. If you microwave them, they get a little moister and the few tiny bits of dark chocolate melt, making them much more palatable. They are quite filling, though, and about as close to "real food" as you're going to get from a soylent product.