Food Alternatives and Pop Culture

Food Alternatives!

Movies and tv shows offer a beautiful escape, where one can immediately be sucked into a world of fantasy and delight, and for a wonderful one or two hours (on average) forget their cares and worries in the real world.


Freddy Kruger Pop CultureSource:

Hm, on second thought..

However, it seems that perhaps movies aren’t only the fantastical, unrealistic creations we deem them to be. Food, more specifically foods that substitute “normal” meals, can be found throughout movies from the last 50 years. Though more prevalent in sci-fi, these kinds of foods have also appeared in fantasy and comedy films of all types.

Join us as we have a look at some of the most famous of these food alternatives!


Soylent Green from Soylent Green


Soylent Green Pop CultureSource:

Ignore the man on the conveyer belt. Or wait, no.

First up on the list is the 70s sci-fi film Soylent Green, which is probably familiar to some of you because it is what inspired the name of the Rob Rhinehart brainchild Soylent (albeit, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way).

So, what is Soylent Green, you ask? Well, in a dystopian future set somewhere during 2022, food is scarce and humans have instead started to consume Soylent Green, which they are told contains high-energy plankton that is extremely good for them. Hm, that’s not questionable at all. Anyways, later on in the film, and rather gruesomely I might add, it is discovered that Soylent Green is actually made from humans (oh my!). This discovery is what urges a very handsome-looking Charlton Heston to exclaim “Soylent Green is people!”, with all the cool subtlety of the 70s.

Charlton Heston Pop CultureSource:


Gruesome as it may seem, I must say that Mr. Heston’s dismay at the true origin of Soylent Green feels a bit misguided. After all, it served its purpose: Feeding people and providing them with the correct and complete nutrition. Seems a tad ungrateful to me, Charlton Heston. Obviously, the fact that it was made out of humans clearly doesn’t qualify as an added bonus, but hey, there you have it.

*Small sidenote: The film Soylent Green is in fact based off of a sci-fi novel of a different name, called Make Room! Make Room! The Soylent in the novel is in fact made from soybeans and lentils, and thus, is far less ominous than its film counterpart. I understand why the film changed this; Charlton Heston would have had to exclaim “Soylent Green is soybeans and lentils!”, to which a bystander would have nonchalantly replied “So what?”. Not exactly a thrilling climax.


Lembas Bread from The Lord of the Rings


Lembas Bread Pop CultureSource:

Mm, bread.

Aside from inspiring generations of people to rise up and triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds, The Lord of the Rings also made people want to eat a lot of bread. Not just any bread, mind you, I’m talking about Elvish lembas bread. This magic bread, first introduced to us by Lady Galadriel as the Fellowship departs from Lorien (are you still with me?), grants the eater strength and energy that can last for hours. I am assuming that it’s nutritionally complete (or whatever that means in Middle-Earth), since the characters go for months subsisting solely on lembas.

We can also assume that it contributed to Legolas’ rather toned and lithe Elvish figure.

Legolas Pop CultureSource:

I’ll have what he’s having.

I think we can safely conclude that it wasn’t Frodo who was responsible for the collapse of Sauron and his minions (and by Frodo, I mean Sam), but the majesty and power of lembas bread.


The Gruel from The Matrix


Tasty Wheat Pop CultureSource:

Wow, now I’m really hungry.

Everyone knows The Matrix, and everyone probably remembers the less than appetising gruel the crew members of the Nebuchadnezzar ate every day whilst cruising around the underground caves of the machine-run real world (or something). Mouse, the aptly named character who looks a mouse, tells Neo, who is busy regarding his meal with a distrustful and shifty eye, that the gruel fondly reminds him of Tasty Wheat. We are left to ponder what Tasty Wheat actually is, as another crew member refers to the meal as a “bowl of snot”.

Bowl of snot though it may be, another character named Tank, the aptly named character who looks like a tank, more lovingly dubs it “Breakfast of Champions”. When Neo’s only response is another shifty, dead-eyed stare, Tank explains that this so-called Breakfast of Champions contains everything the body needs to survive. Bonus: it’s not made from people! Luckily in The Matrix, human bodies aren’t used for food. They are only used as power sources for the tyrannical overlord machines. Phew.

Slimy Rebirth Matrix Pop Culture

 Somewhere, Charlton Heston is rolling his eyes thinking, “Whatever Neo, I had to eat people!”

Conclusion? Less appealing than potentially turning into Legolas, but more appealing than chowing down on something that could have previously been someone you knew.


The Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


3 Course Gum Pop CultureSource:

This one’s a doozy.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory gifted our childhood fantasies with many magical, candied delights. I use the term “delights” lightly, since the majority of them led to some rather untimely deaths. But I digress.

The idea behind the Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum was simple: chew on a stick of gum for a short while and enjoy the experience of eating an entire three-course meal (but obviously not really). We are led to assume that the gum also somehow fills up whoever was chewing it and is in some form or another, satiating.

Regardless of this, however, Willy Wonka himself never actually states that someone could live off of the gum exclusively. This is strengthened by the fact that the only person to ever try it presumably dies somewhere off-screen.


Willy Wonka Pop CultureSource:

“Oops, too much baking soda”, Willy Wonka presumably said whilst cackling.

Wonka’s Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum could potentially have saved everyone the trouble of slaving away in the kitchen for several hours. Too bad he turned out to be an insane child hater. I suppose that would be a damper on any ingenious invention process.



Luckily, Queal will neither turn you into a giant human-blueberry hybrid nor does it contain the remnants of your recently gone-missing coworkers. However, I can say with some confidence that it is indeed a “Breakfast of Champions” and could very well lead to you sashaying around with a Legolas-esque (see “toned”) physique.

What do you think, did I miss anything? If I did, sound off in the comments below in case I missed any Queal-like food alternatives in the film and tv realm.


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Floris Wolswijk

MSc in Industrial & Organisational Psychology. Floris has started two companies before. In his student life, he was President of his Study Association and Director of a Student Strategy Consultancy. He participates in obstacle runs and has energy for two. Getting the right things done is what he gets up for in the morning.

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