Vegan food trend: Crying for substitution


As will soon become obvious, this article was written by an omnivorous female who believes in the power of a well-balanced diet – and still respects animals and their rights and our environment in a healthy and practicable manner.

The ambition for a good and wholesome cuisine has always been fresh produce and to tamper with it as little as possible: to retain vits, minerals and trace elements, maintain its original shape, colour, size and taste and to offer a pleasant sight on the plate. Boiling vegetables to death or to make a pallid mash of virtually everything has luckily dropped out of fashion – reason enough for palates and eyes each to heave a huge sigh of relief.

Herbs are a vital ingredient for any cuisine.

Herbs are a vital ingredient for any cuisine.

The more astounding it is that produce employed for the vegetarian and vegan cuisine to replace meats or, in case of the latter, absolutely anything animal, is often processed fare, not seldom shaped, coloured and flavoured to resemble what it seeks to avoid: meat or fish, milk or cheese are feigned to lend them look, taste and a mock identity of the real stuff. Are these added flavours all natural or is the putatively healthy yet costly nourishment rather a concoction straight from the chemical laboratory?

Crisp and crunchy: satisfying primate stomachs

On its exhausting journey through evolution, humankind was forced to put up with the weirdest of foods, although, way back when, they lacked aptitude to make a proper distinction. Instead they were glad to consume whatever seemed edible – a painful and sometimes lethal trial-and-error exercise.

In today’s terms of thinking there wasn’t that much choice before brains gradually intelligised and began to comprehend what could be devoured or processed without killing oneself and the entire tribe, and what not. Things improved with homo erectus (2,000,000 to 400,000 years ago), a primate able to walk upright – and bright enough to design useful tools for daily use. And, pling! they are said to have been the ones to kindle the first fire. Thus, foods otherwise hostile to the digestive tract, could be cooked to facilitate metabolism and alleviate the grumpiness brought on by a constant battle raging inside guts. When scientists examined the state of that species’ teeth, they found indication for an amazingly healthy and broad diet. The early homo loved it crisp and crunchy and feasted on delicious roots! And their molars gave evidence of a frequent consumption of meat. Tough meat.

Appetisers galore

Slaughtered chickens hung over a rail

Admittedly, slaughtered chickens hung over a rail do not offer a terribly enchanting sight. Brought up in a decent manner, they make tasty and healthy food one may relish without a guilty conscience.

That was a very long time ago and still people are eating weird things – many of them without constraint: oysters, snakes, uncooked seafood or wriggling silkworms, fermented fish and vegetables, bush rats and sparrows, trotters, mutton’s testicles and cow’s tails, roasted ants or bugs washed down with an invigorating slug of raw egg or the fashionable Kopi-Luwak coffee brew straight from the intestines of a brutally abused civet cat. The list is endless and quite gruesome. In some of these cases, long-cherished native culture or mere absence of funds may dictate the menu on the table, but more often than not, the self-chastisement is voluntary.

Donald Watson, a British animal rights advocate, founded the Vegan Society in 1944.
He defined the term „vegan“ and its underlying philosophy such:
„Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.“

A fresh fish

Fresh fish offers a perfect alternative to meat.

Working wonders: substitutions in vegan cuisine

Health reasons or credible conviction may explain why a constantly growing number of people reduce their diet to vegetarian or – hardcore: vegan. Rebellious intestines have driven many a contemporary to using soy products instead of cow’s milk, cheese or meat: Tofu seems to have become the panacea of present-time eaters and has been the forerunner of substitutional alimentation outside Asian countries. For western vegans with a craving for scrambled egg, it is said to be a magnificent replacement.

Meatlessness: gullible consumers
The offering for substitutions for anything animal is immense – and why would marketeers, and even the medical front, not jump on the bandwagon when there is loads of money to be made?

Foods that simulate taste and texture of meat are meanwhile „manufactured“ by a number of companies. Names do sound inappropriately carnal though: “veggie deli slices (bologna, ham, turkey, and other flavors), veggie burgers, veggie meatballs, veggie sausage links and patties, veggie bacon, veggie ground “beef,” soy chicken patties and nuggets, veggie meatloaf and Salisbury steak, veggie jerky, whole “turkeys”, nut roasts, lentil-walnut pates…“

Chacun à son goût
For the majority of the modern society a healthy diet in the shape of a substantial meal is a prime concern. Fresh organic produce straight from the trusted farmer’s shop, meat from free-range oxen, pigs, sheep or chickens with a name to them, milk from happy cows or goats and honey from busily buzzing bees. The price is secondary. A wide variety of unadulterated, honest food will keep present and future generations physically and mentally healthy. The choice is free for everyone to make.

The „enslavement“ of bees
The enslavement of bees is in fact the reason why staunch vegans deny themselves the enjoyment of honey. Yet, according to common knowledge, a bee’s sole purpose of living is to forage and deliver their yield of nectar to their hive to feed their queen for procreation and to produce honey. No wicked beekeeper lashing out at them with his minute bee’s whip. And – not to be forgotten – thanks to „the birds and the bees“ humankind will continue to exist. Vegan reasons for shunning honey:

Images: ©Christina Feyerke