The transition from a meat-laden diet to vegetarianism or veganism can seem daunting. For many, quitting meat cold-turkey (or Tofurky) feels too extreme a decision to make without adding in some baby steps to ease the transition. This is where “fake meat” comes in. We’ve all seen the meat-imitation products that line the shelves at health food stores (Quorn and shamburgers, for instance), expertly luring us into a false sense of familiarity and assuring us that we don’t have to give up the “meat-as-a-meal-staple” model just yet if we’re not ready. And while these meat reminders might fill some carnal (or perhaps subconscious) void for us temporarily, they are not necessarily the only–or best–solutions to going meatless; in some cases, the ingredient lists of some meat substitutes are as long–and as indecipherable–as on countless junk food labels.
It’s possible that the “fake meat” industry may be a necessary step in a large-scale cultural paradigm shift to plant-based thinking. The intention behind meat-replacing products is certainly a noble one: to make the transition to a plant-based diet easier and more accessible to the masses. After all, humans have had meat-centric diets for millennia, and that’s not something that can be changed overnight. The resources that exist for people facing this dilemma are limited, but critical, and I’m delighted to say that an upcoming BenBella Vegan title addresses this very issue.
Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health and Happiness by Ashley Melillo emboldens readers to take the plant-powered plunge. The book focuses on plant-centric meals rather than relying on vegan variations of meals that are typically meat-laden. Ashley has created recipes that masterfully transform plants into unique meat and cheese replacements while retaining their whole-food properties (i.e. split pea nacho cheese and cauliflower and sun-dried tomato chorizo).
There are certainly advantages to meat-replacement products. And while many such products are making steps to include fewer artificial ingredients, it’s hard to beat natural, whole foods in the meantime.
Keep an eye out for Blissful Basil to be released in December 2016. For a fascinating read in the interim, check out an insightful interview about going meatless without “fake meat” on NPR’s The Splendid Table here.