Taste

Towards An Online Literature Of Vegetarian Cuisine

01/11/2017 12:51pm ET | Updated January 11, 2017
fcafotodigital via Getty Images

It has come to my attention, through trial and error, mostly error, that even the most vegetarian-friendly corners of the blogosphere are rife with trite, misleading, and otherwise unacceptable terminology, resulting in a skewed understanding of the vegetarian and its lifestyle. The following points are offered to remedy the situation.

1. When presenting a meatless recipe, extolling the virtues of a plant-based dish, or otherwise directing those who would typically consume the flesh of beasts away from their traditional fare, do not claim that they “will not miss the meat.” If your reader is the sort to whom this must to be told, they will most assuredly miss it.

2. The regular description of certain plants as “meaty” is misleading. Mushrooms are common victims; so are nuts and certain legumes. As in point #1, those seeking a truly meatlike experience will only be disappointed, while those for whom meat holds little appeal will likely find the comparison, well, unappealing. Moreover, we all generally know what a mushroom tastes like and are unlikely to be conned into eating one because a blogger claims hen-of-the-woods tastes like chicken, or porcini like pork.

3. The proliferation of polyhyphenate modifiers to one’s vegetarianism is getting out of hand, and I propose a simple plan for de-escalation: a subject (recipe, restaurant, acquaintance) can be vegan, vegetarian, or neither, full stop. End of list. No more ovo-lacto-pesco-hi-ho-the-dairy-o-vegetarianism. Ovo and lacto are well within the bounds of standard vegetarianism, pesco is not. Avoidance of ovo and lacto, in addition to pesco and all the other carnos, is veganism, which, until the coinage of the term, in the 1940s, was known as “strict vegetarianism.” Which brings us to–

4. For confused parents trying their best to understand: “vegan” rhymes with a villain on The Walking Dead or a member of the comedy duo Key and Peele; it does not rhyme with any characters from Oliver Twist or consiglieres from The Godfather.

5. Simply because something is dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, carb-free, sugar-free, or free from hydrogenated oils does not make it healthy. Many industrial solvents, for example, contain none of these things.

6. It is absolutely acceptable for plants to taste like plants. A butternut squash can taste like a butternut squash, even though it contains neither butter nor nuts (unless these things have been added during the cooking process, which can be quite good). In the same way that mushrooms need not taste “meaty,” other plants can be just fine without tasting “creamy,” “nutty,” or “buttery.”

7. For everyone’s sake, let’s give it a rest with the “awesomeness” and “deliciousness” of these “mouthwatering,” “craveworthy” “eats.” And don’t get me started on “mouthfeel.”

Suggest a correction