Five vegetarian meals

At Whole Foods today, looking for interesting frozen meals, we came across whole cases full of items designed to appeal to vegetarians (or vegans). Of special interest to me, since I’m preparing some postings on the etymological fallacy, originally inspired by complaints about the expression meatless meatballs, that it was contradictory (how could balls of meat be meatless?) and therefore unacceptable. Some on-the-spot photos by Kim Darnell, starting with this example:


This is getting a bit ahead of the story, but cooked balls of ground or chopped stuff wouldn’t have to be made of meat, and in some culinary cuisines they aren’t (think Indian koftas). What people complain about in foods like #1 is entirely an issue over the name meatball.

Then two items labeled as Vegan N, where N is a meat name:



Here you can complain about the name, but you can also be uneasy about the attempt to create foods that look like traditional hunks of meat: a roast turkey, a cured leg of pork. Granted, they’re sliced, but they’re still conceptualized as standard meats (and, presumably, flavored so as to imitate turkey and ham, respectively).

Next, an entry that doesn’t pretend to mimic any specific meat, but is a generic “grain meat”, though it’s presented as an awful lot like a stuffed turkey roll:


Finally, an item whose name, for a change, is not apparently oxymoronic — in fact, the name Chickenless Nuggets is supposed to count as truth in advertising — but whose appearance is a direct steal from a meat item, namely chicken nuggets. In turn, chicken nuggets are either (in the old-fashioned variant you can make at home) pieces of chicken breast, breaded or battered, then deep-fried or baked; or (in the fast-food variant) shaped dollops of meat slurry treated this way. In any case, they’re recognizable meat items, and Chickenless Nuggets look juat like them:


Chicken nuggets are almost entirely a textural experience, bland in taste, with just a hint of chicken (primarily achieved by herbs, I think) — something easily mimicked with beans and tofu.

But of course ground or chopped legumes and tofu, merely shaped into balls, sticks, patties, or whatever, won’t reproduce the experience of eating meat, which is what Chickenless Nuggets aspire to do.

3 Responses to “Five vegetarian meals”

  1. Kim Darnell Says:

    I am still profoundly disturbed by the superficial parallel between noun phrases like “turkey bacon” and those like “vegan ham.” Although I don’t eat meat, I certainly find the notion of partaking in slices of “bacon-like turkey” more appealing than doing so with slices of “ham-like vegan.”

    Then, of course, there is the paradox that ham — or turkey — made from vegans would simultaneously be vegan and not vegan. Schrödinger’s vegan?

    The existence of vegan turkey and vegan ham begs the question: Where are the ranches where these vegans are being raised? Are they cage free vegans? Free range vegans? (For some reason, it seems especially important that their rearing and harvesting be cruelty free…)

  2. chrishansenhome Says:

    In the Chinese restaurant HWMBO and I frequent they do a very good Ma Po Tofu dish. The diced tofu is stuffed with ground beef and prepared in a spicy sauce. The only oddity is that this dish, complete with the ground beef stuffing description, is placed in the “Vegetarian” section of their menu. When I asked them why this was, the waitress said, “It’s tofu. Tofu is vegetarian.” Oh.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Very entertaining. The idea is that the dish is basically a tofu dish, and tofu is vegetarian; the dish just happens to have some beef in it. Compare Sichuan / Szechuan dry-fried / crispy green beans, which classically have bits of fried pork in them; but it’s basically a green bean dish, so many restaurants list it as vegetarian. (There *are* genuinely vegetarian versions of the dish, using meaty mushrooms instead of pork, but the standard version has pork, and so is neither vegetarian, halal, nor kosher.)

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