There is a Vietnamese sandwich shop near my apartment that does something very few restaurants do: they use seitan, instead of tofu, on their vegetarian sandwiches. As a vegetarian, I love this fake meat option that neither tastes like tofu (because, to be honest, I’m really pretty tired of tofu), nor actual meat. It’s just wheat gluten, and that’s what it tastes like. But for some vegetarians and vegans, even seitan is too close for comfort. Riddle me this: do you like meaty fake meat?
A recent-ish (and very well-written) article by Brian Palmer at Slate got me thinking about the topic. The piece was about how vegetarians and vegans have had to get used to the fact that in most eateries (and, in fact, when cooking at home), the option is often meat (which is a non-option), or tofu, which is questionable because soy is sort of starting to get weird. Also, tofu is, much of the time, either fried or slimy, neither of which are very appetizing. In spite of the fact that fake meat is a burgeoning, million-dollar industry, rarely are we offered TVP (which is also soy), Quorn (which is fungus, but still kind of good), or seitan, which is wheat gluten and pretty awesome.
However–this is where the question comes in–there are quite a few vegans and vegetarians who find seitan’s consistency–as well as the consistency and flavors of other fake meats which can get pretty close to mimicking that of meat–to be off-putting. They’ve made the choice to not eat meat because they don’t like meat. They don’t want a meat-like substance, they want a meat-free diet.
And when it’s covered in sauce that’s often associated with meat–like barbecue or teriyaki–it’s really too much for them to handle. In fact, a friend recently told me that she prefers the slimy or fried tofu, because at least she knows they didn’t botch her order. Which is totally fair. Also, fake meat can be pretty highly processed, and if you’re skipping out on animal products in an attempt to be healthier, incorporating a lot of artificial stuff on purpose seems like a poor decision.
The Kitchn asked about this question some time ago, but I feel like it’s time to revisit it–this time, with an ultra-scientific, legally-binding poll. Which camp do you fall into? Do you like your fake meat to fool you, or would you rather never taste anything even remotely meaty, ever again? Let me know. I want to know which team to bat for.
Sorry! This poll is now closed.