Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Faux Meat - Why?

Whilst looking for Bourdain photos the other day, I stumbled upon this blog, Hezbollah Tofu, dedicated to veganizing all of the recipes in the Les Halles Cookbook. The idea for the name came from this quote from Bourdain's book, Kitchen Confidential:
Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.
I like a good meat-free meal as much as any vegetarian. I enjoy tofu - as tofu, not as faux meat. Love tempeh, but I'm allergic to it. And I think dishes like Pot au Feu made with seitan and tofu "scallops" are an abomination. It's not going to taste like meat, no matter what you do to it. It would be like a carnivore taking steak and trying to make it taste like broccoli.

Why fake meat at all? Because you miss it so much, right? How about some nice bacon? Mmmmm!

There's a Chinese restaurant in town that makes several dishes with "meatless chicken" and I have tasted them. I find the meatless orange-flavored chicken tastes like donut holes in a sweet sauce. And nothing like meat. I'd only order it if I wanted to have dessert for my entrée.

I remind myself of a story. I used to work with this bizarre woman who was not a vegetarian, but she did occasional horrific vegan-esque things to food. One day, she brought in homemade lasagne for lunch. It looked like lasagne, but when she explained that she used tahini instead of cheese, I laughed at her. How the f*ck is that an appropriate substitute? Crumbled tofu, ok, that might work, but it's going to taste like tofu (and I don't care what you say, tofu always tastes like tofu). Tahini is going to taste like...sesame seeds.

Said weirdo stood up, said she was sick of me making fun of her lunch, and stomped off. She didn't speak to me again. Ever. And we shared a cubicle....

This post is not meant to malign vegans or vegetarians. I appreciate your choice to not eat meat. But a wise veg-head should be more interested in creating a new cuisine, rather than faking an existing one. It's akin to using carob in chocolate mousse - it ain't never going to be chocolate or taste like chocolate. Oh wait...you all do that too.