Vegans and their propensity for mock meats.

I am absolutely spoiled when it comes to my vegan friend situation here in Scotland. I befriended plenty of vegans while living in Glasgow. Now that I live in the smaller city of Dundee, I am pleasantly surprised to find the vegan community is thriving here as well!

Yesterday my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of attending an all-vegan BBQ. We walked the leisurely hour to our friends’ flat with a brief diversion to Asda to pick up some fruit.

My boyfriend has been eating only fruits and veggies for about a year and a half now. This isn’t my first stint of high carb low fat, as I ate similarly for about a year back when I was living in California, but my diet was never this clean. Rice, bread, and pasta were still staples of my diet back then. Since we met (almost 2 months ago), I’ve been gradually reverting back to the high carb low fat lifestyle. And after I moved to Dundee to live with him about a month ago, my diet has been very clean: only fruits during the day and steamed veggies and potatoes in the evening.

At the BBQ, we were the only vegans not partaking in the grilled sausages, burgers, and kebabs. We snacked on grapes and berries instead. One of the friendly vegans there commented that our way of eating seemed too restrictive. I explained that isn’t the case at all, since I’m not restricting myself from eating those things, I simply choose to eat other foods, like fruits and veggies. Those are the foods I crave, and honestly, cooked processed foods just don’t taste as good as grapes.

One of the attendees casually mentioned he wasn’t vegan. He happily enjoyed all the vegan food albeit with a few ‘that looks like cardboard’ jokes tossed around, but brought up an interesting point. Our friends were deliberating over who’d be the lucky one to score the kebab with the most mock chicken bits. This new vegan-adjacent friend pointed out that ironically vegans seem to be after the fake meat bits, not the veggies. Later he asked why vegans are interested in eating mock meats since vegans don’t want to eat meat in the first place.

I’ve often wondered the same. Why are vegans interested in eating mock meats at all, especially those that resemble their meaty counterparts? I’m referring to mock meats that look eerily similar to the real thing: vegan bacon strips with white marbling reminiscent of pork fat, vegan shrimp or prawns, vegan poached eggs with runny yolks….

I suppose some vegans genuinely enjoy the taste of meat and animal products, so these vegan substitutes offer a way out. One can still enjoy that familiar meaty experience without harming any animals. While ethical, these substitutes aren’t necessarily more healthy. (Personally, the thought of eating something that looks so much like the real thing makes my stomach turn. I don’t want to be reminded of meat, cheese, eggs, or seafood.)

But I don’t view all mock meats the same. For one, foods can be shaped into patties without the intention of trying to replicate meat patties. Falafel and other foods have been shaped into patties for ages.

I can see how some mock meats could be useful if they offer new vegans some solace as they adjust to veganism. Vegans are typically faced with the uncomfortable situations of being the only vegan at a bbq, the only person not marvelling at the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, or the only person at work who avoids sampling the free cake that miraculously appears in the break room. Being able to enjoy a vegan burger, Tofurky roast, or vegan cake (if you’re lucky!) while surrounded by non-vegans not only puts you at ease, but it normalises veganism and shows them how easy the vegan lifestyle can be.

I don’t eat any mock meats now as I only eat fruits and veggies. How do you feel about them?

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