23/10/2018 by Rose Eveleth
On today’s episode we tackle a future that was once a staple of science fiction: food pills. Instead of shopping and cooking and sitting down to eat meals together, we all simply pop our nutritional pills and move along with our lives. How feasible is this, really? Where did the idea come from? And what does the rise and fall in the popularity of the idea say about our changing relationships to food, culture and politics?
Annalee Newitz, science journalist and science fiction author, co-host of Our Opinions Are Correct
Charlie Jane Anders, science fiction author, co-host of Our Opinions Are Correct
Helen Rosner, food correspondent for the New Yorker
Rob McGinley Myers, writer and podcaster
Katie Gordon, associate professor of psychology at North Dakota State University and co-host of Jedi Counsel Podcast
Mike Rugnetta, producer of Reasonably Sound
Soleil Ho, food writer, co-host of Racist Sandwich, host of Popaganda
The episode very quickly explains that a food pill that meets all your macronutrient and micronutrient requirements is scientifically impossible, and then moves on to the more interesting aspects of who thinks food pills are a good idea, the people who changed their minds about this, and the reasons we eat food besides giving ourselves nutrition.
- Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders’ point that the people who found food pills a good idea were mostly white American male scifi writers was interesting, but not as viscerally so as the rest of the podcast
- I found Mike Rugnetta’s claim that he found having to eat boring, or an intrusion on what he wanted to do; and that he had solved the problem by eating the same sandwich for every meal for four years more interesting than alarming or monstrous. Don’t we keep hearing that we should rise above the pleasures of the flesh and boredom? This man put it into practice. What Buddhist-like triumph of focus.
- That said, his admission that he changed his ways and even started to cook, so that his girlfriend / now wife would not have to suffer because of his personal preferences was quite heartwarming. Especially when he says that even after learning to cook, he still finds it a chore to eat. It’s an admission that seems curmudgeonly, but in my opinion, shows an underlying sweetness to their relationship.
- Compared to that, his opinions on Soylent and food pills were the least interesting part of the program.
- Helen Rosner said that eating is the most intimate thing two people can do with each other besides sex. Possible, but I’m not convinced.
- A reason I’m a little leery of Soleil Ho’s almost-romanticisation of food preparation and sharing as a medium of passing on culture is that so often culture is nasty and brutish. But I’m biased that way.
- Overall, this episode was a validation of my attitude that “Everything is more about the signals it sends than its practical function, and that’s a good thing!” But in a way, I am more skeptical about food continuing to act like this than the episode itself was. The episode thinks that food eating and sharing is secure as a relationship-building or cultural activity for all time, and I’m not so sure. Once upon a time, we used to make each other clothes as a marker of love and commitment; and now we just buy ourselves clothes. Food might go the same way, and it has already taken so many steps in that direction – delivery services, ready-to-heat things and packets and packets of snacks, and so on. I don’t know if a food pill or Soylent packet is going to be the thing that strips it of significance in interpersonal or cultural relationships. What if it just becomes a signaling method for the very rich who can afford to signal?
- For the past few years, I’ve been losing both my palate (and therefore my ability to distinguish between good food and really good food); and my memory for taste. This means that while I still love bonding over food, now it has to be more about cooking myself or the ambience at a nice restaurant; than the food itself. So maybe I feel it’s easier to lose.
Start Date: 2018-11-09
Finish Date: 2018-11-11