Neil Gaiman explains CHOW (MEAL's predecessor) as:

CHOW contained spun, plaited, and woven protein molecules, capped and coded, carefully designed to be ignored by even the most ravenous digestive tract enzymes; no-cal sweeteners; mineral oils replacing vegetable oils; fibrous materials, colorings, and flavorings. The end result was a foodstuff almost indistinguishable from any other except for two things. Firstly, the price, which was slightly higher, and secondly, the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman.

As for MEALS, he says:

MEALS was CHOW with added sugar and fat. The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS you would a) get very fat, and b) die of malnutrition.

Now, I can understand someone buying CHOW because they could eat lots and lots and still not get fat (Gaiman calls it the "ultimate diet food"). But why would they buy MEALS when it provides neither nutrition, nor reduces weight?

  • 10
    I'm pretty sure the joke here is the MEALS already exist. They're the microwave meals available in every supermarket in every country in the world and they work pretty much as described.
    – Jontia
    Aug 5, 2019 at 9:06
  • 3
    Marketing. It covers a multitude of sins.
    – Radhil
    Aug 5, 2019 at 15:33
  • 4
    Because they taste nicer.
    – Valorum
    Aug 5, 2019 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


It seemed to me like a joke about fad diets and how they don't really help at all, so the MEALs are the logical conclusion to that concept: food that just doesn't do anything at all except cost you money.

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