Chick'n. Tofurky. Not Dogs. Some of the best-selling (and best-tasting) vegan mock meat items do so with tongue-in-cheek names. For many of us vegans, it's bittersweet.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with making a food item taste like another, but when we do this to avoid inflicting suffering, why do we keep the names associated with those practices?
Okay, maybe it's obvious. If you're trying to reduce your intake of bacon for health or ethical reasons but still crave the flavor, Fakin' Bacon might be a little easier to pick up off the shelf than "Smoky Flavored Tempeh Strips." And there's no arguing that cooking up a Tofurky roast on Thanksgiving is fun to do and talk about (and delicious eats), but isn't the point really to eat something healthy and cruelty free regardless of what it's called?
The vegan and vegetarian diet has become increasingly more popular in the last two decades since I first swore off meat. I had few options back then, and like many vegans, I embraced the first slice of vegan pepperoni with a lot of drool and promises of my first born to the devil. But being meatless does not equal healthy—especially now that the dangers of too much (GMO) soy and wheat are riskier than ever. Processed anything is always less healthy than fresh, wholesome ingredients. One of Michael Pollan's most memorable food rules is "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself." That's food for thought when it comes to faux chicken wings, sausages and bacons, too.
Still, what's wrong with simply calling food what it is?
Why aren't we ready yet to promote delicious ingredients rather than gloss them over as other food products that come from great amounts of suffering? Praise goes out to Sunshine Burger for making up its own name for a sunflower seed-based burger that not only tastes amazing, but isn't full of highly processed and questionable foodlike substances. Newcomer to the veggie burger category Chez Marie gets the same props for highlighting the fact that their burgers, loaded with healthy ingredients including hemp seeds and black beans, aren't lost in kitschy names resembling some part of a deceased animal.
Flore, one of Los Angeles' best vegetarian restaurants makes the tastiest veggie burgers on earth from scratch with humble names like the Broccoli Kale burger or Quinoa Chickpea burger. There's no guessing what gives it a meaty like texture or smoky flavor.
I imagine as our food system keeps shifting, we'll lose a lot of the animal foods we once took for granted. Generations in the not-so-distant future are more likely to have only ever tried a "Tu-No Salad" made with tempeh rather than the endangered fish. Isn't it time we start to embrace these food and call them what they really are? Sure, once upon a time it was cool to make fun of beans and broccoli, but we know better now. There's nothing faux about good food, and certainly nothing to hide in enjoying it.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Image: Flore Vegan