One of my favorite smells in the world is grilled meat. Yes, that’s right; not freshly baked cookies or any other sugary treat that smells as though it came from a plump and cheerful storybook-Granny, but tender, perfectly seasoned meat with charred black lines carefully stamped across its surface. This may be due to the fact that I’m half Greek, and I grew up eating lamb souvlaki like most kids eat PB&J. In fact, when my best friend recently became a vegetarian, my Grandmother asked her, “But you still eat lamb chops, right?” My friend laughed, not understanding that it was not a joke.
Along the same lines, I do think that a vegetable (or a grain or any other non-animal substance for that matter) should never be meat, ever. And it is to my great dismay that an overwhelming number of my fellow Angelenos heartily disagree. Lately, I have been unable to escape these so-called “meat substitutes” for self-pronounced animal-lovers and health fanatics. Animal lovers? I think not. I am a true animal lover. Nobody quite loves eating a delicious animal as much as me. Cows? Certainly. Pigs? Why of course. Rabbits? Delicious. Some people are cursed with a mind that is unable to separate the cute pink porkie rolling in the mud from their sausage. But I have mastered the art of compartmentalization; my food is not a face. All around me I see my friends munching on “facon” (fake-bacon), veggie burgers, soy chicken and the ever-dreaded tofu. I see them cringe as I hungrily enjoy my steak sandwich at lunch, averting their eyes as they eat (with much less gusto, it seems to me) the “vegetarian option” from the cafeteria.
Yet I have learned to accept their barely concealed disgust. They’re vegetarians, and for whatever absurd reason, have decided to forgo meat. And I’m fine with that choice. Honestly. What I absolutely cannot accept, however, is that once they have chosen to not eat meat, they immediately begin the hunt for meat replacements! And these replacements are a disgrace; they are the skeletons in the closet of meat, so to speak, that really should never be exposed to the public (and I do mean never). “Facon,” for example, which is supposed to look and taste like real bacon, is colored a bright pink with yellow splotches, which I’m assuming is a poor attempt at copying the russety-brown and cream color of perfectly crisped, salty bacon from an actual pig. It could not possibly look more artificial, and frankly, downright unappetizing. Similarly, veggie burger patties all bear a strange, disconcerting resemblance to the infamous and unidentifiable ‘mystery meat,’ which is nowhere even close to what a perfectly cooked all beef burger looks like. But the most irksome aspect of these “foods” (although I begrudge even calling them that) is that their main appeal is that they “taste just like actual meat!”
Whoever came up with that slogan, was, clearly, mentally deranged. The salty, card-boardy soy substitutes do not taste at all similar to meat by any stretch of the imagination. And furthermore, if a person were willing to eat fake meat because it tastes like real meat why would he or she not eat just regular old meat? Either eat meat, or don’t eat meat; but please, out of respect for all that tastes good in the world, do not try and find a way to do both.
Yet it is the American way. We want to spare our furry friends, yet we cannot bear to sacrifice the delicious, sinfully good red meat. We simply cannot bring ourselves to make the sacrifice, and so we try to cheat the system by coming up with tofurkey and soy chicken, which are nothing more than a manifestation of American laziness and resistance to making a “hard” life choice and sticking to it. We believe that we are getting the best of both worlds, that we have it all, but if you actually stop to taste what we are so busy praising, then you would come to see that it is nothing to be lauded.
Fake meat is really just the newest link in a long chain of greedy attempts to have our cake and eat it too… only this time it’s soy.