I’ve found a connection between Clay’s Ark, Zulus, and Zone One: food. In all of these novels, humans have to deal with alternatives to the plethora of foods we have available in any modern supermarket or grocery store. In Zulus, the planet is dying and cannot support the same amount of life as it used to, because of this, humans gain nourishment from a diet of cheese and crackers. Fresh fruit is a coveted item brought in from rebel camps outside city limits, “Alice Achitophel sat down with a cup of tea, cheese and crackers, and this evening an apple bought from a rebel in an alley downtown,” (Everett page 17). The only places to purchase fruit are in back alleyways and underground rebel gatherings. Clay’s Ark, showed the availability of food through the surprise of Blake when he enters the enclave. He is at first surprised to see a functioning farm. “Blake suspected this was the first meal he had eaten that contained almost nothing from boxes, bags, or cans.” (Butler page 482) This hints that farm-grown livestock and produce are lacking in availability, which could also be a nod toward the prominence of processed food in our daily diets. Yet Eli’s observation leads me to think differently. “He went to the well, turned the faucet handle of the storage tank, caught the cold, sweet, clear, water in his hand, and drank. He had not tasted such water in years.” (469) through this I inferred the availability of fresh, clean water (such as well water) is also lacking. Zone One displayed a more prominent lack of food, causing dystopian humans to ease their hunger with a nutritional paste, “He burped up some of that morning’s breakfast paste, which had been concocted, according to the minuscule promises on the side of the tube, to replicate a nutritionist’s concept of how mama’s flapjacks topped with fresh blueberries tasted.” (Whitehead page 12)
A cheese-only diet and nutritional food-paste may seem far fetched but some real-life alternatives to food are just as shocking. Around Lake Victoria in Africa, there is an abundance of flies or midges, as a way to take advantage of this influx, villagers use them to make fly burgers. These high protein burgers help battle protein insufficient diets and offer more accessible ingredients. A man-made product having enough vitamins and nutrients to supplement a meal is Soylent. Soylent, produced by Rosa Foods uses soy-protein, sunflower oil, and flavor specific ingredients, to produce a nutritional supplement which is available in a liquid or powder form. Soylent also has a year-long shelf life and doesn’t require refrigeration, helping reduce food waste. While these are specific examples, supplements for food can be found in more normalized forms like nutritional and protein shakes, we see them in our nutritional supplement areas of our local supermarkets and vitamin stores. Zone One seems odd because meals are super-concentrated, we’re used to drinking our meal supplements; just think how much more we could accomplish in a day if we could just swallow a pill and didn’t have to set time aside to eat and enjoy our food or dining experiences.