Of the Romeo y Julieta De Luxe, Edición Limitada 2013, I have nothing to say. To be honest, when I plucked this cigar from my humidor, I had no idea what it was. “2013 Romeo EL?” I thought “Never heard of it.” A brief Bing does not reveal much: it appears to be another EL that has failed to distinguish itself, either in excellence or mediocrity. Ah well. The facts, as they say, will be in the fire.
I lift the cap and toast the foot. It begins very dry on the palate, mid-to-light tobacco with notes of straw and dry dusty earth. Somewhere in the back of it there is the tang of fresh basil.
For all my lifelong debauchery, I’ve never really got that much into food. Drink, women, drugs, cars, boats, watches, racehorses, fine clothes, finer tobacco, and all the other pursuits of the epicurean? Sure. Food? Not so much. It’s not that I don’t like it – a good meal is a good meal – but I never really saw the need to seek it out. The maximum threshold of deliciousness can be reached for $10 at the local Chinese greasy spoon. Beyond that I don’t much see the point. Particularly my meals at home – the ones I consume as a solitary bachelor, in my underwear, slumped in front of the television – those meals I get no pleasure from. I resent every aspect of the experience: the time spent in the hellish supermarket, the time cooking, the time eating, the time cleaning up: it’s all a waste! An hour a day at least, spent in the service of a joyless calorie obligation! You can imagine my delight, therefore, when Soylent burst onto the scene.
Soylent is a nutrient slurry, designed by a tech entrepreneur to take humanity to the level beyond food. Essentially it is a beige powder that, when mixed with 3L of water and drunk throughout the day, gives the body 100% of what it needs. Nothing more. Nothing less. On a diet of Soylent there is no shopping, no cooking, no washing up and minimal preparation. Meeting the food obligation is reduced to minutes in the day. Most people with whom I discussed the idea were offended by it: “food is a fundamental part of the human experience” they would say. “How can you forsake it?” What they don’t get is that it’s not replacing all food. Lavish banquets with friends? Sure, I’ll eat those. But the miserable tin of baked beans on a Tuesday night? The tuna, spooned unheated from the can on a Wednesday? Give me the slurry. A month of Soylent costs about $350, which seems like a lot of up-front cost, but is pretty cheap when you consider that’s it’s your entire caloric intake for a month.
Soylent is not available in Australia (our nanny does not only disapprove of tobacco), but they make the recipe freely available, so I was able to cook my own (it’s basically oats, protein powder, and 50 or so vitamins and minerals). Like most of the innovations I bring about in my life, it eventually trickled down to my manservant Davidé, who fell in love with the stuff.
At the midpoint the cigar is very dry, with a slight umami flavour, shitake mushroom. The straw still lingers, as does the dust. It is dry, very dry.
As long as I’ve known Davidé, the brute has always had a terrible digestive constitution. If we go out on the town, it is guaranteed that at some point he will be running for a public toilet in a state of desperation. If he comes to my home, his first demand is to immediately use my bathroom. Very often he regales and disgusts me with anecdotes about soiled clothing. When I began my post-food lifestyle I threw him a few tubs, and a week or so later he came to me, glowing. “Mr. Groom” he said “this stuff is a goddamn miracle. I’ve never done shits like this in my life. Solid perfect lumps that sink like stones. Regular as clockwork. I don’t even have to wipe anymore!” His questionable personal hygiene aside, I also felt pretty good. Strong. Lean. I was never hungry, and always energetic. It was my first experience of having a balanced nutrient intake, and it was good stuff.
Davidé has always had a very specific taste in women, which is to say he likes girls who are deeply, deeply damaged. At the moment in question he was dating a Singaporean diplo-brat named Jade. They’d met on the internet, and rapidly become lovers. She was gorgeous, a pouty, fine boned Asian. She had shaved her head completely bald, and wore an ever changing series of brightly coloured wigs. Needing something to get her through the day, she huffed nitrous-oxide bulbs constantly (she had started on the NoX because she didn’t want to take an addictive drug, but was on them to point of complete addiction, psychologically, if not chemically. She needed ten to get herself out of bed in the morning. She had them delivered weekly in industrial quantities, and there was a basket of empty canisters in every room in her house. Davidé referred to her home as Da Nang.) Ringing her arms and legs were rows of scars, and whenever Davidé angered her she’d tell him she was going to add another. It was a promise, not a threat. She hated to sleep alone, and would demand that he stay over nightly. When he refused she would threaten to cut him, or failing that, herself. If he spent more than an hour or two away from her he would start getting hysterical messages accusing him of cheating. She was deeply, dangerously damaged.
Because of her separation anxiety, Jade, therefore, was present when we cooked our second batch of Soylent. They’d just recovered from one of their frequent splits – Davidé had announced that he was leaving her, and she’d sent him a constant stream of alternatingly sexy and suicidal images until he’d relented and gone over to her house, where they’d had wild sex while she screamed abuse at him. At the cook-up she mostly just brooded in the corner. Soylent is mostly cooking by spreadsheets – it’s just a matter of figuring out ratios – and Davidé, in an attempt to include Jade, gave her the job of crushing up the various pills that make up the micronutrient quotient of the Soylent with a mortar and pestle, while we handled the “man’s work” of reducing several kilograms of oats to flour, and mixing in great sacks of protein and maltodextrin. She performed her task diligently, but silently, watching something on her computer. When she was finished she handed us the mortar filled with grey-brown powder and wordlessly disappeared into Davidé’s room. He rolled his eyes. “She doesn’t like it when I talk to other people.”
A week or so into the new batch, I came to the conclusion that something was definitely wrong. I felt weak and lethargic. When I stood up too quickly I would get dizzy. In the shower I would feel myself starting to black out, and have to sit down and run the water cold. There was a constant slight feeling of nausea. For the first few days I just thought I was coming down with something, but as it continued to get worse, I eventually began to wonder if something might be wrong with the Soylent. I called Davidé, who by this stage had broken up with Jade again (for what would prove to be the final time) and asked him how he was feeling. “Shit,” he replied.
We returned to our spreadsheet and did an audit of our left-over ingredients, comparing the amount left in the containers from the amounts that should have been expended in a proper, balanced cook. The big stuff all seemed fine, the oats, the maltodextrin, but when we got to the micronutrients the issue quickly became clear: she had given us almost thirty times the recommended daily dose of chelated molybdenum (a mineral that, among other things, leeches copper from the body), and no copper, iron, zinc or vitamin B12. We were in the advanced stages of copper deficiency. She was clearly trying to kill us.
We Googled for hours looking for a solution, and debated at length the merits of adding a large copper supplement to offset the molybdenum, but eventually decided it was too risky. We snuck out at night and dumped great garbage bags of Soylent into a skip at the construction site across the road. The post-food experiment was over.
In the final third the cigar gets ashy and a bit tannic. The is a strong herbaceous quality, that is not entirely unpleasant. It ends without tar, but very tannic. A fine cigar for any occasion, and better than a Petit Coronas, but the least of the three Romeo ELs I’ve had in the recent past.