by Oskar Steiner
In today’s world, eating can be stressful. At least that’s what synthetic meal replacement company Huel would lead you to believe. Huel is a British startup and one company among many who promise a complete and total balanced meal with every shake. Taking the form of a brown powder and made from a mix of oats, peas, rice and other good(?) stuff, Huel is also entirely vegan and presents itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to the current inefficient and destructive state of the modern food sector. Huel’s website is a minimalist’s utopia of clean photos and simple typography, and for Le Zadig board member Oskar Steiner, Huel’s proposal seemed too good to resist. For the next week, Oskar will be consuming exclusively Huel with the intention of figuring out whether these meal replacements are the future for busy, broke, and stressed students like those of us here at Sciences Po. It is with great pleasure that we at Le Zadig present to you this experiment of debatable proportions.
Chapter 1: The Beginning.
Finally, after a week of waiting and anticipation, Huel arrives. Unfortunately, due to Huel’s sheer mass, Huel has not been able to fit in my inadequately equipped post box. The text I get from UPS informs me that Huel has been deposited at a rendezvous point. I must go collect Huel.
I spot Huel instantly upon my arrival at the store that has volunteered itself to UPS—the appropriately named phone repair store “Fix Phone”. Huel is sitting all alone on a shelf behind Fix Phone’s front desk, beckoning at me with a menacing innocence. Fix Phone is entirely empty. Evidently, I am the only one stopping by to collect their dystopian oat paste on this Tuesday afternoon.
“Euhh, j’ai quelque chose ici pour Oskar?” I say frenchly. The man behind the counter, Paul, eyes me slowly with a dubious gaze. He is the last barrier between me and ascendance into a higher nutritional realm. I can’t let him stand in my way.
“Le chose la, ça dit ‘Huel’ sur le paquet” I repeat. Paul turns slowly, and soon enough, Huel is in my possession. I sign for the package and leave quickly, intent on minimizing wasted time. Huel is all about efficiency, why not apply that mentality universally?
Home now, I set Huel down on the floor a quick photoshoot. I am in a state of abject terror. Here are four two-kilogram bags of chemically engineered oat and pea powder, which I will be exclusively consuming for the next 5 days.
When I placed my order, I chose to get 4 different flavours: berry, coffee, vanilla, and the enigmatically named “original”. Now trying to pick which variety my quest will start with, I text the situation to my roommate, James.
“Original obviously lol.” He’s right of course. If I truly want to understand Huel, I need to turn back the clock to where it all began. I open the shiny back labelled “original” and empty 600 calories worth (4 scoops) into my mixer bottle. I add in some cold water and take a moment to congratulate myself.
Here I am, a modern enlightened man, staring conventional eating norms in the eyes. I am rejecting the antiquated idea of “food”, staking my claim in the modern nutritional landscape, pioneering a new path towards pure utilitarian consumption. I close my eyes in a wild fit of ecstasy, fear, anticipation and desire. I start shaking the bottle.
Instantly, I know something has gone very wrong. Opening my eyes, I wipe a sticky goo off of my face and realise my error. I forgot to close the lid, and now a lumpy, oaty, beige mush has plastered itself on every which surface in our Rue Longue apartment.
It is no matter. I will clean up later. The freshly mixed Huel is pulling me ever closer, and after a few seconds of futile resistance, I succumb to its primal magnetism.
I take my first sip of Huel and instantly know that for worse or for better, my world will never be the same.
Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 2: The Reckoning