That VegNews story reminds me of a longstanding curiosity I have about the ethics of veganism and to a lesser extent vegetarianism. Much of the industry (movement?) suffers from profound meat envy. So many dishes are attempts to simulate the experience of eating meat. That’s understandable except so many vegan types insist we’re not supposed to eat meat. If that’s the case why come out with fake beef stew? It’s like pitching Beatlemania (some of you remember that, don’t you?) to people who don’t like the Beatles. I raised this point in an article Rich Lowry made me write for the magazine years ago. He insisted I go on a vegan diet (I did not like it).
I tried a wide array of “cheese” products made from various non-dairy substances. And guess what? They all taste like really smart scientists got in a room and tried to come up with a close approximation of cheese. But, sorry, soy pizza doesn’t taste like pizza; it tastes like something trying to taste like pizza. That doesn’t mean it tastes bad, but it only tastes good to the extent it approaches tasting like the real thing. Throughout my ordeal, I kept referring to my meals as “pod-people food”; when you think of what “pod people” are like in Body Snatchers movies, what makes them creepy is that they’re almost human. Meatless Chick’n nuggets, truth be told, don’t taste that bad. In fact, I was astounded by how well the manufacturers simulated not just the taste, but the chewy texture, of chicken. But that’s what was so off-putting: It’s not chicken, and you know it.
For example, the meatless buffalo wings, manufactured by Health Is Wealth, were one of my favorite dishes. Labeled “Completely Meatless and 100% Vegan and Vegetarian,” they’re made almost entirely from soy and stone-ground wheat. I was disappointed to discover they don’t contain fake bones. But why not create fake bones? Well, if one is to take the arguments of the ethical vegans at face value, isn’t it a bit disgusting or immoral to make products that look like the foods they consider most evil? Fake hamburgers are really a marvel, but while they still come up short on the taste front, they certainly look like hamburgers. If meat is murder, why hawk products that look like the mutilated corpse? Consider our views on cannibalism, then imagine selling faux human flesh in, say, the form of human thumbs — “It tastes just like a missionary!” Wouldn’t that still be in poor taste?