I almost failed to write this article. I was exiting Huel’s website in exasperation at its fruitlessness (pun intended), when one of their founder’s names caught my eye. The name of a Mr Rob Rhinehart jumped my imagination (the founder shares a name with Django Rhinehart the most famous jazz guitarist of all time). The irony that Huel’s nail in our cultural coffin might come at the hands of a relative of the greatest Jazz Guitarist of all time was too sweet an irony to be missed.
For the uninitiated, Huel markets itself as a meal replacement, to some people at least. To the rest of us it is a foppish entrepreneur’s wet-dream, fresh from the teats of Silicon Valley’s capital cows. It envisages a new wave of super-vegan millennials marching us into an environmentally-sound new world, powered by nothing but powdered peas and oats. This might come as a relief to the latest generation of trendy vegans who rest their hopes for rickets-free mobility on the carefully measured nutrient intake of Huel.
I was politely informed by one such vegan – a particularly wan figure – at a Christmas dinner, that he had in fact replaced every lunch with Huel and occasionally indulged in the ‘Milk of Mother Science’ for dinner as well. Shunning not only dairy and eggs, but indeed any interest in food at all, he had instead prostituted himself to the gritty Vanilla jism of capitalism. He was disgusted that I should even mention anything so environmentally damaging as an actual meal at lunchtime. He fanned himself, exasperated at the environmental damage done by restaurants. Needless to say our conversation was short.
I should clarify that I think veganism is ultimately a good thing. In fact, I also think that Huel is a wonderful idea. But Huel is no fresh revelation. It is remarkably similar to what they pump into the stomachs of trauma victims and the comatose. So perhaps Huel customers, treating every-day life with the equal vigour of a coma patient, should take a step back for a minute. If food itself is dispensable, then surely drinking could also be streamlined to a sort of Huel drip. And life itself an could become an efficient anaesthetised stupor. You could book the lot of them into Self Storage. It is likely a more fulfilling existence than one which has ruled that food is too much an inconvenience to be attended. Huel banks could put thousands into environmentally friendly Huel comas.
Perhaps this is extreme. It is not so much that I am angry about Huel. Rather, I am sad at the minds of people who take the choice to miss eating. Eating is a thrice daily opportunity and challenge to use your initiative and ask, what does my body need? Learning how to sustain ourselves is the most important evolutionary trick to life. But even more importantly than that, laughing with friends, staring into the eyes of someone special or celebrating together all are initiated by the act of food. You cannot bottle those things. If Huel is the future then it is simply not worth living for. The sun on my skin and the birds on the trees are simply not enough, I am afraid. I don’t just want to sail through this world after a hideous nutritionally-sound liquid lunch. I want to eat it. Admittedly, I am not really the target audience of Huel. I eat every meal as though it were my last. But if anyone were to give me Huel as my last meal then rest assured, I would be back to haunt every Huel-friendly dietician this side of Silicon Valley.
Aside from the distracting name of Django Reinhart’s iconoclastic great-grandson, I could find no independent study pertaining to the nutritional value of Huel, only those on Huel’s own website and forums. For the trend which this has become, I hoped that there had been more debate around the long-term effects of living off a powder. But, perhaps the type of customer who, for the sake of convenience, foregoes the curiosity, romance and warmth of food, also fail to be curious about the kind of life which they replace it with.