Friday, July 20, 2012

Who wants to eat a fake chicken?

I do want to say before I dive into this topic that I really appreciate all the support and response from my last post on vegans who for whatever reason, stop being vegan.  Even those who question my logic and comparisons challenge me to think. Thank you.

And now on to something a little lighter. 

Fake chicken?  No, I'm not talking about those goofy rubber chickens used in an old school comedy routine.  I'm referring to plant proteins processed in such a way as to have a similar taste and texture of animal meat.
Now, I have encountered online and in person more times than I can count the question of why in the world would vegans or vegetarians want to eat something that reminds them of meat if meat disgusts them so much?  Well, there are A LOT of assumptions behind that question.  First of all, vegans and vegetarians are by no means a monolithic group.  People come to this decision for many different reasons and motivations.  Some for health reasons(in which case you could say they eat a plant-based diet), environmental, and for the desire to no longer participate in the exploitation of animals in any way, be it for food, clothing, entertainment,etc.

One of my absolute favorite vegan authors Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, makes the point that just because vegans decided to stop eating meat doesn't mean we no longer enjoy chewing.  And her quote from an interview with Edible East Bay drives home the point that the word "meat" does not only refer to the flesh of animals. 
 " The word “meat” originally meant “that which was eaten (solid food) to distinguish it from that which was drunk (beverages),” and we still use the word when we refer to such things as “nut meat” or “coconut meat.” I absolutely abhor such words as “fake” and “faux” and “alternative” and “substitute” to talk about plant-based foods. "

I'm starting to think more and more like Colleen. Although I do often slip back in to calling veggie burgers, chik patties, ribz, and the like fake meat. It's going to be a hard habit to break. Old expressions die hard.  :-)

I grew up on soul food. Lots of fruits and vegetables( I was raised by a farmers daughter after all).
But also lots of meat too. Fried chicken, baked chicken, ribs, steak, pork chops, fried fish, you name it, I ate it.
And as a kid I loved it all.  In fact, my dad used to say to me as I filled my plate," make sure that you don't make a meal out of just meat!".  Ha ha, well wasn't that prophetic??

So fast forward several years and I am one of those vegans who loves a good grain or soy based meat. (lookie there, It was hard, but I didn't even use the word faux or fake. Colleen would be proud.)  Not every day of course, but often.  And no, I don't have some secret desire to tear into the flesh of animals because of some primal need that's going unfulfilled.   I guess the foods of my childhood are just familiar and I like to enjoy them on occasion. All without having to cause another   living creature the torture and slaughter necessary in order to make it possible to end up on my plate.

So, as a result of my long love affair with vegetable based meats(did it again! I'm so good. lol),  I keep my nose to the ground for new products on the market or soon coming to the market that widen the choices for those like me who enjoy this stuff.   And guess what??  There is a great product that's just been released.  And I didn't have to wait too long to try it.   The closest major city from us is several hours away, so new things tend to take a while to make it up here to us. But not this time.

I know, I know "just get to it Val, what is it?"

It's called Beyond Meat and it looks a little too much like shredded chicken. It's crazy what they can do in food science these days.  But, I didn't think I'd see it anytime soon unless I took a trip down to the Bay area to a Wholefoods Market or something.   So, imagine my surprise one day as I was perusing our local co-op and came upon THIS:
And at $5.89 a pound it's much cheaper than most meat substitutes.  Oops, I slipped up. Well, I can't be perfect all the time, sheesh. A little grace please? lol

It was in the frozen bulk section of the store. So, I got myself a good pound or so and trotted happily home, excited to try it out.

Here's how it looked before I cooked it:
Crazy, huh? A warning to my vegan friends who never liked animal meat anyway or have happily given up eating anything that looked like or reminded them of it; this stuff may gross you out a bit.  It's that convincing.  Even more than the Gardein products I think.  Except the Beyond Meat product is unflavored and doesn't taste like much before you season or cook it.

So, what did I do with it?  I thought I'd throw together a modified version of Chef Chloe's Alfredo recipe.  First, I sauteed the veggies and the Beyond Meat product.
Sorry, the lighting isn't the best over my stove.

Here is the finished product with the Alfredo sauce on it.

Oh, and that's Daiya vegan cheese sprinkled over the top in case you were wondering. Yummy stuff.  In hindsight, I think I got a little too liberal with the sauce.  (or didn't cook enough noodles) I kind of drowned everything to the point that the veggie meat is barely visible. But, it was good. Really good.
I plan on getting more soon.  Well, that is, whenever they get more in stock at the co-op.
When I went back a couple of days after discovering it, that container was scraped empty!  I guess word got out.

Now, a note to my friends who avoid soy. I'm sorry, this product is not for you. If you eat soy, but cannot tolerate wheat or gluten, you're in luck, there is none.  A bonus for a good friend of mine who's not vegan by any means, but is always open to trying good alternative sources of protein, but cannot tolerate wheat.

Here's a great article and video with food columnist Mark Bittman on Beyond Meat.

I also love this quote from him as it makes nothing but sense to me.

"..Really: Would I rather eat cruelly raised, polluting, unhealthful chicken, or a plant product that’s nutritionally similar or superior, good enough to fool me and requires no antibiotics, cutting off of heads or other nasty things? Isn’t it preferable, at least some of the time, to eat plant products mixed with water that have been put through a thingamajiggy that spews out meatlike stuff, instead of eating those same plant products put into a chicken that does its biomechanical thing for the six weeks of its miserable existence, only to have its throat cut in the service of yielding barely distinguishable meat?
Why, in other words, use the poor chicken as a machine to produce meat when you can use a machine to produce “meat” that seems like chicken?"  -Mark Bittman

Sounds good to me Mark..

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Giving up on veganism

So I recently checked in to one of my favorite vegan cooking blogs to discover that the author is no longer vegan. Several life changes brought them to their current path including a new relationship, working around animal products and of course, the love of cheese.  Also, another reason(probably the main one) cited for giving up the vegan life was just coming to a point of being jaded about life on this planet.
There's so much suffering around that apparently it became too overwhelming to think that they could really do anything about it by continuing to refuse the consumption of animal products.

This really got me thinking.  I wonder how the abolitionists of the nineteenth century felt when they saw around them what appeared to be the irreversible suffering of slavery. Or the men and women in the Suffrage movement who fought for women's right to vote?  Or those in the modern civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr and others?  Or Mildred and Richard Loving?   I wonder what my life would be like today if they had given up? 

If they(heroes and agents of God in my opinion) had grown weary of the fight, where would I be today?  Would I still be a slave on some plantation in Georgia somewhere? Maybe.  And I most assuredly wouldn't be voting in the next election or married to my husband of almost 9 years.  And speaking of voting..  
Would we ever have had a black(or biracial) president in the White House right now?  Or possibly a woman in the near future?

I admit, I felt a bit sad when I read that blog post. Especially when I just came off the heels of watching a new documentary that shows family farmers, not big impersonal agribusiness, coming to a point of no longer wanting to participate in the cruelty and suffering that is inherent in animal production.  

But I do understand feeling overwhelmed, so I'm not judging my fellow blogger. I will not unsubscribe from their blog  or Facebook page as some have posted. (after making all kinds of declarations of how selfish they feel the blogger is now)   That's something I have noticed in this vegan world online.

When you "leave the fold" so to speak, there is sometimes quite a backlash. And it can get nasty.   But I think I understand that too.  I mean, if we were living in nineteenth century America and someone who was once a fierce abolitionist, fought tooth and nail for freedom for blacks and then decided that it was just too overwhelming and decided to give up and in fact buy themselves a few people to work their farm and as a bonus satisfy their "night time needs" , I would imagine others in the movement would feel a bit betrayed, including their new slaves.

Do I hope the blogger becomes vegan again?  By all means yes!   I honestly hope this is a temporary season in their life and at some point the eyes of their heart will open again and believe that they indeed can make a difference.  

Just like the social justice struggles of the past and present, they depend on enough of us to care and never give up.

What do you think?