Change, Fake Meats and The Whole World Goes Veg

12Mar12

Mark Bittman explored the world of Fake Meats and according to a Friend’s facebook page the whole world is going to go Veg some day.
Here’s my perspective: I don’t think the whole world is going to go veg today, tomorrow, or next year. Just as I don’t think we’re going to someday reach peak oil and all of the sudden we will stop using cars just like that.

Change sucks, particularly when it happens too fast. But you know…it really doesn’t often happen overnight. When I was born some 23 years ago, there were no gay, out, celebrities. Today there are, even on network television. 23 years ago, there was no facebook, no youtube, no internet, no cell phone, heck most people you met didn’t know how to use a floppy disk. Things changed fast. But not overnight. There are still homophobic bigots and you know I think a lot of them are going to be here for a long time. Just as there are folks at my work who still don’t understand the concept of spell check or how to save a word file, but some of them have ipads…go figure.

Similarly, I think there will come a time (possibly in my lifetime,) where the type of meat we WANT to eat will be so expensive and hard to find that we won’t eat it everyday the way we do now (about 1/2 lb per day). Instead we might eat some more tofu, some more veggies, some more weird fake meat. At some point our processed meats will become more plant than animal, and at first that will shock us and then we’ll say “whatever” the shit tastes good and is probably just as bad or slightly better (anyone remember this Buffy episode?)

Will that be Human, Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

More doctors will advise less meat, and our cholesterol will be so out of whack from years of super-sizing that we’ll either have heart-attacks or adapt. We’ll eat meat once a week, more of us will skip the whole thing entirely. We’ll have to choose between desecrating rivers that we live near with animal sewage or eating less meat. Sometimes we’ll choose eating the meat and saving our rivers, and sometimes we won’t (to be honest it will probably be determined by how wealthy and powerful the folks near the rivers are). Our oceans will be so overfished that fish costs will skyrocket and fishsticks will be replaced by fish-ishsticks. And gradually meat will get less popular. And fake meat will become less weird.

I think the smart ones will realize this change is coming and not freak out. We’ll learn to cook vegetarian dishes that don’t suck. Some of us might try going cold-tofurkey. But most of us will buy what is cheap and tastes decent, and someday the market will win out because we live in a finite system, and eventually eating meat at the levels we do will just not be possible, desirable, or marketabl. In fact most of us probably won’t really realize it. We will probably still think of ourselves as omniverous, and just complain about the price of meat, and eat meat that is mostly plant.

But it won’t be overnight, it might not even be in my lifetime. But I imagine by the time my children have children we will definitely be eating a substantially different meal on a different plate. When my grandma was 23, no one ate “cheese product.” And now we eat it all the time, I was raised on this crap. Also it should be noted that this change will probably affect poor folks first. Because there will always be someone who can raise some free-range chickens sustainably in the backyard of their mcmansion, but if that’s the only game in town those chickens will cost you a pretty penny, meaning that those who can not afford will be changing first and fastest.

Since change sucks so much, this self-righteous young folk is here to tell you let’s start it now. You’re heart will thank you almost immediately, and to be honest it probably buys us a little more time to adjust to this change, making it easier on all involved.

I’m not a huge fake meat lover. I usually let the experts at vegan restaurants try to impress me with their fake meats, and leave the veggies, legumes, and grains to be my turf.

But sometimes I dabble so here are my thoughts on a few for those new to the whole thing:

Tofu: I don’t even think of this as a fake meat. It really is it’s own category. It tastes like whatever you cook it as, and it grows on you. Haven’t liked it in the past? Fry it up, and get a lot of seasoning. Order a General Tso’s Bean Curd at a chinese restaurant. It won’t taste or texturize like chicken, but you know it feeds that protein desire pretty good. (Please note that this isn’t necessarily healthy, but I think it’s a good starting point for tofu if you’re coming from the Standard American Diet). Or if you’re into health, consider marinated or baked tofu. It’s easy to do yourself on the cheap or you can buy it premade.

Seitan: If you’ve had seitan before and not been a fan, I wouldn’t right it off. (Unless you have trouble digesting gluten, in which case avoid it like the plague!) Seitan is basically gluten. And gluten is the stuff that makes your pizza dough sticky. It’s like a protein-packed bread that depending on how you make it could be a bit heartier and chewier than tofu, more like steak or chicken. Most commercial fake meats have some relation to gluten/seitan. You can make it from scratch, and the recipes and results vary so much it’s crazy. Some I find disgusting, others delicious. I like this one from Real Food Daily, after I make it I like to fry it like crazy and put it in a burrito. Healthy? Probably not, but you know neither are most things we put in a burrito, this is probably not less healthy than that stuff.

Tempeh: This is made of fermented soy, which sounds gross, and in my opinion sometimes is. But other times its super delicious and adds a nutty depth of flavor to a dish (reminds me of some sort of peanut or something). I never cook with it because I’ve had some bad experiences, but I’ve had others cook it for me and loved it so maybe one of these days I’ll get over my fears. I do love a commercial variety however of Fakin Bacon. This stuff does not necessarily taste like Bacon, but I think it tastes REALLY GOOD. And overall I think it’s pretty healthful too, which unfortunately bacon not so much. I’ve also had folks make this from scratch and the shit is delicious. And piggies are so cute, I couldn’t eat them even if I sometimes want to.

Better than eating Babe

Gardien: I think they get the texture of meat right, but I think it tastes bland and boring. Personally it’s too expensive for me to have much of an interest, but I know others love the stuff.

Veggie Burgers: Ok. Not burgers. I prefer homemade ones, ones that are not trying to be burgers, but trying to be their own thing. I’m a fan of Chickpea Patties (again you’ll see good old gluten in there).When I want something burger like, I’ll sometimes go for Morningstar’s breakfast sausage patties. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a McDonald’s sausage, but they seem the same to me (which might say more about McDonald’s Sausage than it does about Morningstar…but so is life).

 

For those who think they might want to start experimenting with vegetarian stuff, I encourage you to be open and explore these things. If one doesn’t work for you ditch the thing and move on. There are so many recipes, so many other fake meats out there, this is just what I’ve encountered. Just because you hated one of these in 1972, doesn’t mean you’ll hate it now. And just because you sometimes eat fakin bacon doesn’t mean you’ll never eat real bacon again. (although if that’s the route you go, more power to you, welcome to the club).

And of course, there’s so much more to vegetarianism besides fake meat. Again I probably don’t eat fake meat more than once a month. What do I eat? Here’s what I’m having today (notice this is not a health recommendation, this is just an example of how easy this stuff is):

Breakfast: Dunkin Doughnuts Coffee and Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese

Lunch:”Vegetarian Wrap” from the deli (aka Breaded Eggplant, Mozzerella Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, Lettuce, Tomato on a flour tortilla)

Dinner: Maybe some leftover pizza, or maybe some blackbean soup and nachos or maybe some stirfried veggies, some rice, and a bean.

 

No fake meat there, nothing weird, nothing you can’t get from a regular grocery store, nothing that costs some crazy amount of money. And don’t freak out but it might be the future of food.

 

 

 

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