Considering culinary counterfeits

I don’t want this to turn ugly, but in general I am opposed to versions of foods. Allow me to elucidate.

The other day, I saw a YouTube video (well, its thumbnail anyhow) about recreating a vegan version of smoked salmon and cream cheese.

I’ll let that sink in…

About five years ago, I was diagnosed with a laundry list of allergies. As a result of this diagnosis, I ended up going gluten – and then grain – free. At the time I was despondent. How would I ever eat a cookie again? Or bread? I read every recipe I could find, and tried everything I could to replicate the foods I loved. Some worked, most didn’t.

The conclusion I came to was this: don’t try. That sounds defeatist, and maybe it is, but the point is that there are foods that should not – that cannot – be iterated. Bread is one. Meat is another. Besides, if you can’t have such foods for health reasons, continuing to eat some poor substitute will only hammer home the fact that you can’t have the real thing. In my experience, that makes resisting the urge to ‘cheat’ that much harder to overcome.

And so far as vegans are concerned, they made their choices*. No more meat, no more dairy – and that ought to mean no pale imitations. If you want salmon that badly, eat some. But if eating an actual fish makes you too sad, don’t eat a pretend fish instead. It seems underhanded somehow, like trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Just a quick side note about that saying, because most people don’t seem to understand what it means. Having a cake means keeping it, whole and uneaten; still in existence as a cake. Eating it means there’s no more cake, so you can’t have it any more. Get it?

Moving on.

I’ve seen thumbnails for a bunch of similar videos, like how to make vegan steak. THERE’S NO SUCH THING! I don’t care how you dress it up, it ain’t meat, and calling it that is insulting to cattle.

All of that said, some of you might remember my last post where I linked to a recipe for vegan cheese sauce.  I can hear the cries of hypocrisy from here. So, there are two things I exempt from my deep dislike of all culinary counterfeits (especially vegan ones): scrambled tofu and vegan cheese sauce. And I’ll tell you why.

For me, neither of these recipes re-creates the food they’re intended to accurately. That’s not the point. The point is that they’re close enough to hit certain buttons while not being the foods that make me feel poorly. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. Or maybe there are just times when a bowl of brown rice needs its comfort level upped, and a thick, vaguely cheesy sauce made with white beans and nutritional yeast is just the thing to fill that very special gap. Plus, I feel scrambled tofu is a good introductory recipe for those who are new to coagulated bean curd – close enough to remind one of a plate of eggs while being super tasty.

I suppose it’s each to their own, but I just think that one’s time would be better spent enjoying foods more as they are, on their own merits, than trying to make them taste like a thing one is consciously avoiding.

*I make a distinction here between people who eat a vegan diet because their bodies reject animal foods, and people who identify socially as ‘vegan’. The former are exempt from any talk about choice.

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