I don’t have anything against vegetarians and vegans. Whether they adhere to this way of life for health reasons, ethical reasons, or the perception that it benefits the environment, I respect their decision.
They sure eat some strange stuff, though.
I toyed with vegetarianism in the early 2000s and remember my experience with a packet of organic God-Knows-What that was supposed to turn a block of firm tofu into egg salad. Well, if you squinted at it from a distance it looked like egg salad, but I recall the flavor falling far short of what it was attempting to replace.
The whole fake meat industry is kind of absurd, really. Think about this in reverse: imagine industry trying to make a steak look like vegetables. Absurd, right? What you have is ex-carnivores trying to satisfy a natural blood-lust with a laboratory product made from what used to be food. I say ‘used to’ because whatever its original form, what remains of the soy or corn or whatever was the basis for a particular concoction is totally divorced from its original nature.
Am I overstating this? Read this description of scientists trying to create what is apparently the holy grail of vegetarians: fake chicken that simulates real flesh:
“The first soy product that not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh. When you pull apart the Missouri invention, it disjoins the way chicken does, with a few random strands of “meat” hanging loosely.”
This certainly sounds like it is meant to appeal to a vegetarian’s natural and normal blood lust, don’t ya think? If meat was really ‘disgusting’ to them, this description would sound pretty awful.
It kind of grosses me out – and I eat meat.
What grosses me out even more is how they make it:
First, you take a dry mixture of soy-protein powder and wheat flour, add water and dump it into an industrial extruder, which is essentially a gigantic food processor. (You have to climb a ladder to get to the hole at the top.) At first, the mixture looks like cake batter. But as it’s run through the gears of the extruder and heated to precisely 346°F (175°C), the batter firms up and forms complex striations. It took Hsieh and Huff many years to get the temperature right, and it also took years to discover how to cool the soy cake very quickly, before it could melt.
Doesn’t that make your mouth water?
In my semi-vegetarian years, I did find a few meat substitutes that were OK. The rest sucked. My wife hated them all. She was a heck of a lot happier with what I cooked when I switched to a meat-filled low carb diet.
So was the dog.
Anyway, you can read more about this fake chicken milestone here , and take a lookee here at a slide show of other fake meats that keep the inner carnivore of vegetarians at bay.