If You Want Meat … Eat Meat

Some people don’t eat meat. They all have their own reasons, and I’m not here to talk about those today. What I want to talk about is the fake meat some of them eat instead.

Before even looking to closely at the substitutions, I think it’s a bad idea on principle. They came up with margarine instead of butter … how’s that working out? If I want butter I’m going to eat butter. If I get it into my head that I’m eating too much butter* I’ll eat something else instead of butter. But it won’t be a fake butter-like product, it’ll be something like pasta or vegetables. (Which are really nice with a nice big pat of butter. Doh!)

But when you do look at the substitutes, it’s pretty horrifying. Over at Dr. Salerno’s Silver Cloud Diet site is this little nugget:

I am not making this up.  A team of scientists at the University of Missouri, who claim to have worked on this project for more than ten years, I swear ”“ I am not making this up ”“ that they have invented a soy product that not only has the flavor of chicken, but the mouth feel of chicken too.  You know,  breaks up like chicken in your mouth,  not too hard,  not too soft,  but just like real flesh.  Now isn’t that a comfort to you?  Pull this rubbery goo apart, and a few strands hang loose.  So the vegetarians are all atwitter.

In fact they haven’t been this excited since the fabled Tofurky of the Sixties, which was a shapeless blob of tofu shaped like some giant tumor on the Thanksgiving table, but seasoned with sage and stuff to make it taste like real turkey.

But wait, here’s the good part:

[S]oy grown in the U.S. is mostly from genetically modified seed. And it’s so new we hardly know what it will do to human beings when put into our own food chain.  But we do have a pretty good controlled study going on. The state penitentiary system in Illinois, under the wise leadership of the infamous Mr. Blogoivich, in partnership with a giant agricbusiness, began substituting fake soy meat for the real thing to prisoners.  The results were almost instantaneous.  Gastric distress,  esophogeal problems up to and including cancer, a lowered sexual capacity for male prisoners due to the estrogen in soy (one thing a warden loves most is to tamp down the libido of caged men), and other adorable side effects.

The result is that the state of Illinois has been sued by the Weston A Price Foundation for cruel and inhuman treatment to prisoners. Now you may not think this has much to do with you or your children, but think again.  They have big plans to move these products into school lunch programs.

Yum, gotta get me some o’ dat.

But here’s the thing that I just don’t understand. If you don’t want meat, why try so hard to make yourself believe you’re eating meat?

If it’s for religious reasons, you’re supposed to be giving something up, aren’t you? Or is this just something you learned as a child and don’t even question it any more? When I was eight I would give up things for Lent that I didn’t like anyway. “For 40 days I won’t eat liver or cauliflower.” Yay for me.

If it’s about health, every man-made food substitute has turned out to be a horrible replacement: margarine, baby formula, saccharine, the list goes on and on. And with soy as the #1 ingredient in many meat substitutes, you’re volunteering for that study with the inmates.

But ultimately, there’s a big practical reason I just can’t get around: It’s too tempting. Debbie at Words to Eat By talks about growing up Jewish and smelling bacon every day.

Weekend mornings were torture for me during my adolescence — I had a paper route in our apartment complex, and the weekend papers were expected to be delivered before 8. As if the waking up early part wasn’t hard enough for a young teen, in my dazed state I’d wander the building’s hallways toting stacks of smudgy newsprint, floating from doorway to doorway on the aroma of my neighbors’ breakfasts. Were the people in 3A having eggs with their bacon, or pancakes? Perhaps 2K was firing up the waffle iron. Whatever it was, the whole building would be suffused with that unmistakable, intoxicating scent. My stomach would growl plaintively, and I’d feel guilty for wishing I was a bacon eater.

Anything that makes you feel guilty for wanting it, it’s better to just avoid altogether. Now that she no longer keeps kosher, she know what she’s missing.

Oh. My. God. Bacon is goooooood. But in the nearly twenty years since I’ve observed the laws of kashrut, I still have yet to cook bacon in my own home. And likely, I never will, for two reasons: First, I have a definite mental block on allowing blatantly nonkosher items into my kitchen. There’s been no pig of any kind here, nor any shellfish. It’s just too far over the line, I guess. And second, bacon in particular is crazy unhealthy.

I disagree with her that it’s unhealthy, but like I said in the beginning, that’s a story for another day. The point I’m taking from her article is that she knows better than to even let it in the house. But then she goes and gets facon.

If you don’t know that looks like dog treats, then you’ve never had a dog.

So I’ve got a sincere question for anyone who doesn’t eat meat, but does eat things made to resemble meat: Why?

* Speaking of “too much butter”, I know what each of those words mean, but I don’t think it’s grammatically correct to use them in that order.