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January 14
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JANUARY 2, 2010 2:53AM

Why Does Vegan Food Have To Resemble Meat?

Rate: 9 Flag

I must continue to ponder this question. 'Specially after a visit to a local vegan food store to get some lunch. Have you noticed at places like this and Whole Foods that vegan dishes and the various tofu, tempeh and seitan stuff almost always resembles a meat product?


I have been trying to figure this out for a long time. The immediate answer would be obvious..most vegetarians probably were raised eating meat and were used to it for a long time, then for health or ethical reasons they made the decision to switch over. To make the transition and new lifestyle more "palatable" as it were, vegetarian food companies produce their meat substitutes to resemble remnants of one's old eating habits.


And isn't that funny...? I always thought the idea was that you did not LIKE the idea of eating animals, yet almost all commercially prepared vegetarian foods LOOK like animal products.

Various meatless products include "McNugget" style frozen wads, ground fake beef, stuff that looks like sausage and jerky sticks, vegetable protein formed into hamburger style patties, tofu molded to look like a side of chicken. Veggie treats that look like chicken drumsticks. Tofu meals that resemble cooked roasts. Fake corn dogs. Sliced fake meat resembling lunch cut turkey. Dishes are even prepared with meat sauce flavors..BBQ, Teriyaki, etc.



It appears that a alot of vegan foods want to emulate and make you think you are still living the fast food meat filled lifestyle. So many of the products are "junk food meat" style..corn dogs, hot dogs, hamburgers, McNuggets, etc.


Morningstar's fake bacon looks so real they've designed it to have the crispier "meat" parts and "streaks of fat" that run thru it and are actually textured softer.


What is really being said here?

The idea is to imitate almost exactly the very thing that supposedly their customers morally oppose.

Well, it has to be the "lifestyle transition" thing. The fake food must have some sense of familiarity, some sense of variety and fun so you don't feel like a total outsider. After all, what fun would it be if all fake meat foods resembled brown shapeless clumps. Everything has to be marketed to be as appealing as possible.


And for those who are non dairy, non dairy drink products are still referred to as "milk" milk, rice milk, etc. And used the same way reg'lar milk is.


So...what gives man. IS the resemblance merely a psychological crutch or are humans really just meant to eat meat and our food, one way or another has to echo this instinct?



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vegan, fake meat, vegetarian, foodie

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I once went to a friend's house for Thanksgiving- her entire family was vegetarian and had a traditional nut loaf for the main course. Apparently, they had tried a tofu turkey the year before and the younger kids actually protested it, as they were convinced that their parents were trying to get them to eat meat. The youngest, Jaime apparently said "well that's just stupid! If we don't like meat, then would we want to eat food that looks like it!?"
I think it's a mix of familiarity aka a crutch.
It's because their marketing guys are hoping you mistake their product for what they're mimicking. I keep hearing about this stuff, but personally shy away from ANYTHING that is made to look and taste like something else. I mean, how much processing goes into streaky-textury-fake-bacon? Gross.
Fat and sweet
Our brains wired to eat
Fat sweet meat
Jacob, from the mouths of babes!
Is this a struggle of ethical philosophy over instinct? If so there is some nod left here to instinct.
I have been asking every vegetarian I know about this for years. Not a one of them has given me a good answer. And Tofurky is nasty.
Love this! It has always irked me as well.
I was both a vegetarian and a vegan for many years. I never ate these products. I'm puzzled by them. I've always felt that they're for short term vegetarians. They seem to also be for people who eat products rather than ingredients.

Most vegetarians--myself included--were raised as meat-eaters. And our entire dining culture is centered around meat. Try being a vegetarian and going out to a nice restaurant. See how many choices you have. Hell, try going out to Applebee's. You've got to pick the meat out of every salad.

Fake meat gives vegetarians options. You can put a Gardenburger on a bun and play along with your meat-eating friends. Frankly, my wife and I appreciate the fact that Burger King has a veggie burger; we rarely stop at any other fast-food joint when we're on the road.

And, as an honest vegetarian, let me add that I fully understand the allure of meat. It smells good. I'm sure it tastes great. I just don't want to eat it anymore--in part because of the horrorshow that is the American meat production industry. And in part because I am fortunate that I'm affluent enough to have the choice. And in part because, if we were really serious about feeding all the hungry people in the world, we'd all be vegetarians.

And in part because, seriously: the fake meat ain't bad.

What do you think, surly?
Great post. I'd recommend you tag it 'foodie.' If you'd posted it on a Tuesday morning, which is Foodie Tuesday, this might have made the cover. I appreciate vegetarian dishes that don't strive to be meat, but the prepared food industry caters to those who are weaning themselves off, I expect.
Hi Frank...I was hoping to lure a vegetarian in here. :D You have a great point..the idea of "fitting in" when you eat with everyone else. You can appear to have burgers, corn dogs and sliced turkey just like everyone else! Which shows you how incredibly powerful social pressure is, even moreso than upholding a moral conviction, because look at the concessions people are willing to make to create a sense of cohesion among everyone. The veggie burger really still is a burger, right? So the rest of us won't stare and think you're an alien.
I start to feel this sense of social pressure when it comes to something different..but just as significant..alcohol. I don't drink, and how many times am I questioned and teased about this. WHAT? YOU'VE NEVER BEEN DRUNK?? EVER? Like this is a requirement in life. And of course having drinks pushed at me despite how I feel. Just like with hamburgers.....thus the need for virgin drinks and veggie burgers.
Kathy, thanks...I am still. very new here and I actually have no idea how you guys even found this post. A keyword search? Anyway, I'm sure I'll learn how everything jives around here...eventually...
This is a good question. I'm an omnivore who eats very little meat (and goes for the ethically-raised sort when I do.) Because I don't eat a lot of meat anyway, I've never been one of those people who thinks it's "not a meal" if it doesn't include an animal product. I'm happy to accompany friends to vegan and vegetarian restaurants. When I'm at those places, though, I'm never even slightly tempted by the fake meats. If I want some protein (as I usually do, for energy and satiation) in a vegan restaurant, I'll have a nice bean chili or something. Fake meat is just (in my opinion) icky.
I don't know, Red. For me, it's not social pressure so much as cultural familiarity. I grew up with casseroles and hamburgers and tacos. Becoming a vegetarian means relearning how to eat, and fake meat gives you options that provide some ease and comfort. I don't give a care whether anyone knows I'm a vegetarian. When people ask, "What do you eat for Thanksgiving?" my answer is, "You've got to be shitting me. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, stuffing, corn broccoli, cranberry sauce, pie. You think I miss the turkey?"
RedTango, there's a feed on the cover page of Open Salon. Anytime someone rates or comments on your post, it shows up in the feed. Also, new posts show up (briefly) in the feed, and anyone can click on the 'Most Recent' tab from the cover to see most recent posts.
Thank you Kathy. I'm starting to learn what people seem to like to read here (based on what other posts are being left and their slant on things) as well as realizing it's a good idea to create a headline that will stick during it's brief appearance in public.