It’s BBQ season and I enjoy grilling up a plethora of plant-based vegan sausages, burgers and meats. Inevitably though somebody will (not necessarily disparagingly) call this food “fake”. I usually jokingly quip with a correction like “Nope, it’s quite real, see?!” or something like “No, here’s a fake burger!” while chomping cartoonishly at an imaginary sandwich in my hand. But I understand the point, it’s trying to be something else. 1
For years companies have been rushing to meet the growing demand of people like myself who wished to have their burger and eat it too. They scoured the plant-based kingdom for ingredients that provided the taste and texture of the old familiar animal foods. These ingredients get processed, combined, boiled, dehydrated, fried, condensed, extruded, and (you get the point) otherwise tortured in a search for a better analogue (all for profit of course). 2 The meat versions have gotten pretty good. Dairy products, not so much. 3
But is guacamole made with peas still guacamole? 4 Is chocolate pudding made with avocado still pudding? But hey, I’m no purist when it comes to these things. Sometimes though, even I have a knee-jerk reaction to the bounds for which ingredients challenge the original meaning of the word. So maybe the wheat gluten burger IS fake. Make the pea protein cheese IS fake. Should we say instead make up ridiculous words like “chik’n” or “chreese”. Or maybe say “vegan cheese” or “vegan meat” further diminishing the word vegan to mean “not as tasty”?
But wait, there may be an solution. A solution that not only solves this quibbling conundrum, but brings about the vegan world 5 vegans have been fantasizing about. Recently things have been happening. They’ve been happening so low under the radar though that this revolution may arrive with a whimper and not the bang most would assume. Three words: real vegan food.
By that specifically, I mean there are efforts to make animal foods utilizing nature’s own biological technology 6 and cutting out the middle animal. Here are a few recent examples of people I’ve recently met who are working on such exciting projects:
New Harvest is a 10 year old non-profit with intents on making conventional meat production obsolete by any means including cultured meat.
Muufri is a small business savvy startup with plans to make sustainable animal-free milk from the bottom up.
While the logistics of in vitro meat currently seem overwhelming real vegan cheese is apparently less so. Once we have vegan milk, cheese then can be made from the ground up employing age-old traditional methods. This animal-free cheese then is a holistic natural product of nature identical in the most important ways. 8 Not only that, but we can customize it minimizing known health effects of allergies and intolerances. The body of scientific nutrition literature applies too so there will be less unknowns unlike the current slapdash plethora of untested amalgamations for which we are currently being subjected. 9 And all that just scratches the surface to the benefits real natural vegan food can bring.
How lucky that the one thing fake food makers have been having a helluva time trying to mock might be right under our microscopes?! A good vegan cheese is the holy grail for vegans and this goes beyond any dreams of plant-based versions. How short-sighted and uncreative is it to rely on the limiting toolset of plant-based materials? It’s time we grow up and leverage the cutting edge technological tools to create a more just future. The “vegan world” will not come as a result of will power and belabored kitchen endeavors. It will happen when technology provides a superior vegan product.
So to recap:
- We don’t need 10 untested witches’ brews of reductionist animal product knock-offs made by companies that shame natural technology. 11
- We don’t need to suffer hours of complicated concoctions that ultimately rely on our amnesia to convince ourselves they taste good.
- We don’t need to limit ourselves with this obsession with “plant-based” materials.
- We don’t need to build a new animal body factory every time we want to convert energy into delicious protein.
- And we won’t need fake vegan foods any longer. 12
- ALERT! Much of this post is satirical and tongue-in-cheek. I recommend reading all the way through straight and then checking footnotes if some of it is lost in the dryness. ↩
- Ethical profit is fine by me! ↩
- Understatement, even though many vegans will insist otherwise as “if you’ve only tried this certain brand or obscure recipe”. Nope, thanks, I’ve been around the vegan block enough to know better. ↩
- Technically called “mockamole” but this one was particularly bad for the GMO avocado (hint, there aren’t any) rant at the end. ↩
- Yes, that is the goal for vegans. Whatever that means. ↩
- Otherwise known as “biotech” ↩
- RealVeganCheese.org website, IndieGoGo campaign ↩
- #GMOFAQ: Transferring genes from one species to another is neither unnatural nor dangerous | it is NOT junk, Michael Eisen ↩
- I do not really believe new combinations of food ingredients need to be scientifically tested every time. That’s as ridiculous as saying the same for every genetically modified plant. ↩
- What constitutes a “need” is another silly argument people use over GMOs. As in “We don’t need GMOs”. We need any and every viable solution particularly if it spares suffering and lives of animals. I do support and encourage fake vegan foods. ↩
- Vegan food companies will cynically cater to anti-GMO fears simply to sell product. Example ↩
- Again I must reiterate that I don’t find food shaming using subjective terms such as fake, real, good, bad, junk, natural, unnatural, processed, clean, etc to be helpful. I’m using these terms here satirically to make a point. ↩