Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vittles for Vegans

I am a vegetarian. The first of this year marked my one year anniversary of going down the leafy green path. It was not a 2008 resolution, but some bad Christmas meat of 2007 that was the catalyst for my conversion. That, and several years of learning about "what's in the meat" and what it does to the planet.

So while I am vegetarian for both health and ethical reasons, there is nothing militant or proseletyzing about my attitudes on my food orientation. There is no meat in my house, but there is quite often meat in the stomachs of my family members. How they come by it is not my business.

Yesterday my son had a sample at Trader Joe's. He thinks we go there just for the samples. He thinks that's going out to eat. The "sample lady" was carving a pink, juicy prime rib into bite sized morsels, stabbing them with toothpicks, and flopping them into little cups. Mikey grabbed one and downed it. "It''s MEAT MAMA!" Chew, chew, chew. "Mmm! Dontcha wanna try some mama!?" This kind of thing comes up often at the sample table, and I often worry the "sample lady" thinks I'm preaching to her as I explain to my son (again) why I don't eat meat.

So I have a sense of humor about the whole thing. I crave meat and I joke about it. I see the Arby's five for $5.55 on TV and I tell my kid, "I'm goin' to get it! Right now. I'll smell them all, maybe lick off the sauce and chew on the drippy buns a little..." He tells me I'm crazy. I'm still imagining the pleasures of horseradish sauce mixed with blood as I hear the next commercial begin: "Badda bah bah baaaaah! I'm lovin' it." And it begins again.

Not that I ate such disgusting things when I ate meat. I ate it infrequently even then, and my favorite things were borderline healthy. Beef was never on my shopping list, and my number one meaty meal was the carnitas burrito from Chipotle -- that's some happy pig meat you know. Mmm, carnitas...

But, curiously, vegetarianism has lately had me craving things that I never would have eaten, even as an omnivore. Arby's, hot dogs, Big Macs, SPAM! And also things I rarely ate, like huge fatty slices of bacon, salty shavings of cured ham, or... Trader Joe's prime rib.

All this has led me to come up with loving names for all my favorite fake meats, to find a way to hold them close to my heart and my palate so that any cravings for the "real thing" can be instantly squelched with a bite of surrogate meats. Yes, I eat fake meats. And I find it hard to explain to someone that I had a killer BLT for lunch, when really there was no "B" in it at all (and certainly no killing). "I thought you were vegetarian?" Explaining this stuff always sucks.

So here is a list of monikers I've come up with for fake meats of all brands, selected to replace the meats they are copying almost seamlessly in any conversation about what you had for lunch:

Bacon = Facon (Fake-un)

...hence BLT = FLT

BBQ Riblets = Fiblets

Hot Dogs = Not Dogs

Sausage = Falsage (False sausage)

Ham = Sham (Ha! My favorite!)

Spam = Sham Can

Bologna = Baloney bologna

Jerky = Nicey

Meatballs = Cheatballs

The corporates have already come up with "Tofurkey" and I can't get it out of my head -- so I have yet to coin a new fake-turkey title. I never eat the stuff anyway. Their Thanksiving loaf is like a giant turkey pill with a gelatinous brown capsule shell, filled with gooey rice and stuffing medicine.

The only cheat (i.e. meat) favorite of mine that I have not found a name for is vegetarian corn dogs. It's torturing me!

The title includes vegans (which I am not) because all of the cheats listed here are available in vegan form, so those dedicated plant-eaters can join in the lunch conversation too. Fortunately for vegans (but not for America) so many people are lactose intolerant and/or afraid of eating eggs that the extra step of throwing in a reference to soymilk or egg substitutes won't throw off their meal talk.

Although, if someone invents fake honey (agave syrup?) they may have to start calling it "funny." Wait -- many meat-eating people are not thoughtful enough to realize that vegans don't eat honey! Shoot. I'd better move on before I belie my earlier claims of food tolerance.

I'm going to go look at the Steak and Shake coupons that came in the mail today...just look. And maybe chew the corners a little.

UPDATE 5/9/09: Tofurkey is now my friend. I think I'll just call it Tofurkey, except that confuses things because it comes in ham, Italian beef, etc. I've been making "kicked out of the club" sandwiches with Facon and Tofurkey. Anyhow, I take back what I said about the gelatinous meat capsule, and I might just try to make one this fall.


  1. Ah, veganism, one of my areas of expertise. If I have areas of expertise, which I probably don't. Okay, stop

    Sorry, I'm a wee bit giddy this morning.

    I think I'm in my second year of veganism. I'm still a baby. For me, it was seeing what went down in slaughterhouses that was the breaking point. I've always had a soft spot for animals (I prefer them to most people). I'm still surprised by just how many vegans/vegetarians there are out there.

    I hate those wackos that give vegans and vegetarians a bad name. Honestly, when will PETA get the message that yelling "Nazi" in people's faces isn't exactly helping their cause? And the ads with naked women in them, exactly how does objectification tie in with going veg?

    I thought the exact same thing as Mikey when I was younger and we'd go to Sam's Club.

    You've got to have a sense of humor about dietary choices just like everything else. I usually do and there was only one time that I didn't. It was in a speech class, while doing an assignment (in the bitter cold, I might add). One guy in my group asked me the same question no less then ten times: "Hey Lauren, want a hamburger?" Then he'd laugh like he'd just said the single most hilarious thing ever uttered by man. The whole time, I was thinking, "Dude, if you're going to tell the same joke a million different times, could you at least try to think of a different meat? Maybe a little variety to at least fake some kind of cleverness?" Alas, that continued for the whole assignment.

    I guess I'm lucky since I never really enjoyed meat when I did eat it, so it wasn't so much of a sacrifice for me. To this day I haven't had a craving for meat. The weird craving I get is for something that I used to gag on: Soy milk. I simply love vanilla soy milk and chocolate too.

    Explaining does suck. A few of my parents relatives once got angry because Mom used vegan butter in the mashed potatoes. Never mind that nobody had noticed until they overheard me saying something to my Mom. Of course, I've never expected much out of their relatives.

    HA! I love your list. I'm going to show it to my mom. She'll get a kick out of it :-) But you forgot Teese! The fake cheese!

    Oh my gosh, Robyn, I was on the floor when I read the whole thing about honey. Thank you for that. My eyes are still teary, I can't stop laughing.

    Have you ever been to Red Robin? It's supposedly the most vegan/vegetarian non-vegetarian restaurant. We went to one while on our road trip and I have to say, I was quite impressed. They even had a dessert that was vegan friendly, which blew me away. At most burger joints, you're lucky if you can get a salad not covered in bacon and cheese, much less any kind of dessert.

    Excellent post! I eagerly await the next one :-D

  2. Oh no! I just remembered that I was that guy! When I was a teenager, I knew a girl that was a vegetarian and I used to ask her if she wanted some kind of hamburger type item all the time! Much longer than just one class period. I thought I was being funny, but thinking about it now, I'm pretty sure it was just as lame. In my defense I was a teenager, and I didn't laugh like it was the funniest thing ever...still - oh the embarrassment! It always makes me squirm remembering things like that from the past. Cringeworthy is an appropriate word, I think. I'm different now, honest!

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go try to repress that memory again:-P


I publish all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unless I have no idea what you're saying. If you want to email me (with only good I hope), I'm at rbyrd [at] niu [dot] edu.