Fake Meat for Vegetarians

15 Jun

Browsing at the supermarket yesterday, looking for ideas, inspiration, and ingredients, I came across something that made me stop and think about vegetarian food, attitudes, and ethics.

On the shelf amongst the health food products was a can of “vegetarian mince meat”, which claimed to look just like the real thing.  Excuse me.  If, like myself, you have made the choice to eat a healthy, mostly vegetarian diet, why the hell would you want your food to continue to look like red meat? 

I can understand that maybe in the early stages of crossing from meat and three veg to just the veg, there might be withdrawal symptoms.  Eating something that looks like, but doesn’t taste like, meat might work for some people.  I know it wouldn’t work for me.

The problem with the “meat substitutes” as far as I can see, is that they keep you in the “meat and three veg” frame of mind where meat has to be the centre of the meal, with several vegetables floating around the edges of the plate like organic orbital satellites.

When I decided to go mostly vegetarian I made a clean slash of it.  A quick squizz at a couple of vegetarian cookbooks to set me on the path, and the meat, potatoes, and salad got replaced with lentil and spinach curry, mashed potato topped vegetable tarts, middle eastern spiced chickpeas and chard, and a host of other dishes.  My repertoire has expanded to the point that I can go for two weeks without exactly duplicating a meal.  Oh we have our favourites – a quick and easy pasta dish using canned tomatoes, chives, onions and sour cream over fresh linguine, and lentil and spinach curry, but the main thing is that our household has a wide and varied diet of vegetable dishes.

If you’re going to keep creating meals that look like meat is involved, but isn’t, you’re never going to stretch your culinary wings, and it will be very easy to backslide into replacing that can of vegetarian minced meat with real minced meat.  From there it’s on a short step to chucking a hunk of steak on the barbie.

I guess what I am saying is, being a vegetarian is also about a change in mind set, as well as a change in diet. 

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