New Yorker article, photo by Richmond TalbotI just got the latest New Yorker and read The End of Food by Lizzie Widdicombe.  It tells of the invention by a Californian named Rob Rhinehart of Soylent, a food substitute. Like most of his friends, Rhinehart had been living on McDonald's dollar meals and five-dollar pizzas from Little Caesars. He and his friends thought eating food was expensive and an interruption of their work.

Sound familiar? See HG Wells' cautionary tale The Food of the GodsHe is quoted as saying, "You need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself. You need carbohydrates, not bread." He said fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but they're mostly water. He decided that nutrients - the things you need from food - could be reduced to a powder which could be dissolved in water and drunk. For him the problem was solved. He claims that for the past year and a half he's been living almost exclusively on Soylent. Widdicombe reports that he looks healthy.

(Ed. Note: This sounds disturbingly like HG Wells' cautionary tale , with some branding help from a 1973 thriller...)

Soylent Green was a 1973 thriller with Charlton HestonSoylent is nerd food and has gained a following among computer engineers and other bright young workers. Rhinehart claims that his discovery will eliminate the need for agriculture, which he says is an inefficient use of resources. Of course some agricultural products are used in the production of Soylent, but Rhinehart dreams of a time when farming will be made obsolete by Soylent-producing algae that would turn out the product using only sunlight and water.

This is the opposite of the Whole Foods philosophy. Instead of removing chemicals from food, you remove the food and ingest chemicals. If you protest that you can't live without rocky road ice cream you can have it. Rhinehart calls this recreational eating, which he condones and occasionally indulges in.

As a person who has found good food one of the blessings of life, I'm somewhat appalled, and yet I'm not outraged at the idea. I lunched today on a ham salad roll from a supermarket deli. The roll was sweet and cottony, and the main flavor of the ham was salt which remains on my palate as I type. I was able to get it down with the copious lubrication of cheap mayonnaise - sugar, salt, and fat. I'm embarrassed at this confession, but I was tired from my morning chores and didn't feel like rustling up a better meal. Rhinehart in his dollar meal days was a fellow sufferer. Considering the number of Americans who subsist mainly on fast food, he may have invented a godsend.

Tripe & Tofu at Great Taste in Chinatown, photo by Richmond TalbotBut I continue to seek out new foodstuffs, and am trying to tempt the Foodie Pilgrim into undertaking with me an excursion to Boston to explore the bizarre foods of Chinatown. I was there a short while ago and sampled a dish of tripe and tofu at the Great Taste Bakery & Restaurant.   These are two foods I've long striven to learn to like. I had been making progress with tofu, but tripe had defeated my attempts to achieve appreciation - until then. Perhaps my self-congratulation at my new ability skewed my judgment as to how good it actually was, but it sure wasn't bad. If I've mastered tripe, can the conquest of duck feet be far behind?