Hello reader fair and true,
I’ve been traveling and terribly busy these last few weeks, so I’ve been tardy. But here is a nice long installment for you at last, giving a bit more background about how TROPH changed the world and what Josep thought of it all.
By the time the highly publicized and successful study was concluded, the public had already developed an appetite for the miracle pills. Following its brisk FDA approval process, the new pills, dubbed Lotuzen, were brought to the eager American market. The only question was, where to start?
The TROPH executive board took advantage of the sells-itself nature of a food/medical pill, and took a somewhat riskier advertising approach than their marketing corps advised. Lotuzen was gleefully and only quasi-ironically sold first via infomercial aired on daytime TV. (At the time they still had to be gotten via a prescription, and the tweaks to the medical dosages could only be accomplished between three-month order, but nothing was stopping TROPH from using faded celebrities with fashion lines from extolling the virtues of Lotuzen.) Nothing could be more tacky, and the level of derision from tech blogs was as high as you’d imagine. But the cunning mind of Dr. Chu compassed all of this. They all had to admit, a couple of years later, that she knew what she was doing. She had a close relationship with her own technophobic parents, even as her fame grew, and she observed their responses to advertising and knew that held the key. As she expected, this bizarre tactic had the effect of bringing in the large print crowd as soon as the pills came to market, while somehow not damaging TROPH’s image with young people and early adopters. “Lotuzen – As Seen on TV” remained a key part of their cheeky branding for many years.
Slowly at first, then precipitously, people simply stopped eating. Previous generations could hardly imagine such a huge change in human ritual, but at least in the US and other advanced countries with shallow food culture, it seemed to happen overnight. Eating was now something done only occasionally, at once a great sensual pleasure and a bizarre inconvenience. People would still go out to eat, but it had the same exotic pomp as going to the opera. Anyone who ate had to be a great epicure, otherwise the expense and trouble weren’t worth it. Eating more than a light snack even once a week was reckoned extravagance. Certainly there were quite a few thinkpieces in those early years about the death of a close connection with the earth and one of life’s great and simple joys, but all this reminded one of nothing so much as the advent of the smartphone. Things like this always have a certain tinge of the ridiculous at first, as do the people who take to them too earnestly, but within a few years, people can’t imagine their lives without them. Josep couldn’t remember a time before Lotuzen, but he could still remember this transition period. There were a lot of fat people then, he remembered. How odd. Fatness seemed so quaint to him now, as did the violent stigma against it and the immense struggles that people faced with it.
Now in his fortieth year, he was witnessing and most artfully commenting on an equally interesting transition—if less important medically, just as meaningful culturally. For one thing, only last year an unprecedentedly ecumenical panel of holy fathers and mothers from the world’s faiths came together to discuss the impact of the holorestaurants on religious guidelines around fasting and dietary restrictions. So consuming and novel was the question as to whether it was the substance of what was put in the body, or the carnal experience of the pleasure of food (whether this be any food, or particular forbidden foods, depending on the application) which truly distanced one from the divine, that what was supposed to be a four-day summit ended up lasting forty. It certainly didn’t seem fair that someone could take a food pill—created of synthetic ingredients and providing no real pleasure of its own—and be reckoned disobedient, while someone could skip the food pill and eat a five-course meal at a holorestaurant and be considered abstinent. This issue was of more moment even than the long and bitter debate around birth control, since various methods of contraception had been available in various forms for millennia and the sexual activities remained (mostly) the same.
The decisions reached by the governing bodies of the panel fell, as one might expect, more along conservative/liberal lines than along faith lines. It caused more than one major schism, as some of the more modern sects even considered the holographic food to be accepted in rituals involving the consumption of food. Josep had thought about writing a cute little column wondering whether the new ultra-modern Jews at least required that a rabbi be one of the programmers of the bitter herbs simulation. But his own lapsed Judaism was enough of a sore spot that he decided to pass on it; he had to admit that he felt 25% less guilty chowing down on a simulated bacon cheeseburger when the high holidays rolled around than he would have otherwise. In any case, the painful process of any religion in continuing to be “in the world but not of the world” rolled on.