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Why do vegetarians want to eat meat flavoured stuff?

On the Toronto board, someone is asking about where to find "vegetarian shrimp"?

It's always puzzled me why vegetarians want to eat animal-flavoured stuff. If you look about, there are all kinds of products on the market aiming (with various degrees of success) to approximate meat (bacon, ground beef, cold cuts - tofurkey!) - but in veggie form.

If you're a veggie, what's the appeal with eating meat-flavoured stuff? Why doesn't that idea repulse?

I acknowledge that I sometimes eat soy cold cuts, but that's because I'm actively trying to get more soy into my diet... if I had sworn off eating animals, I can't imagine wanting to eat stuff that tasted like animal??

Anyone?

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  1. hahaha, I have been wondering the same thing for a long time....

    1. As far as I can tell, it's mostly people who are trying to reduce meat in their diets for health reasons. They use these as transitional foods as they try to become accustomed to living on tempeh and seitan and other "strange" vegetarian foods. BTW, I don't think any of those foods actually taste like meat or chicken or shrimp because the smell doesn't bother me (I've been a vegetarian for 30 years) . Also, vegetarians can get bored with their diets and use those fake-meat products for variety. As for me, if the food seems too much like "the real thing" I have no desire to eat it!

      1. as a former vegatrian who used to consume all sorts of vegetarian 'meat substitutes' å la seitan, tofu, etc, i can tell you this...

        1) none of these products actually 'taste' like meat [if they did, i never would have been able to get them down]
        2) at least for me, it was simply about broadening my choices in terms of textural variety, versatility of preparation, and nutritional balance.

        1. I didn't eat meat/fish for ten years, and I just recently started eating fish. The reason I did it though, wasn't so much because I don't enjoy meat, I really like meat, but instead I was making some sort of *statement*. I realize[d] that it wouldn't make a tangible difference, animals would still be killed with me eating meat or not, but I was making the point that killing animals cruelly isn't good. So I think the meat substitutes are probably for individuals like myself or, as a poster above me suggested, for people who don't eat meat for health reasons.

          That said, meat substitutes, for the most part, don't taste anything like meat. One of the biggest aspects I've noticed lately is that everything within them is so homogeneous. Now that I am slowly switching back to real animal proteins, I am finding it strange that fat, and such, is heterogeneously distributed. I suppose those who don't like the texture of meat might appreciate fake meat as well.

          1. Not a vegetarian, but I do enjoy the various varieties of Chinese vegetarian foods that are made to resemble meat. It's different from eating meat and has a different flavour, but it's still good.

            1. Veggie products really don't have the taste of meat - just ask any carnivore who has tried them!

              I love a BLT made with great bread, tomato, lettuce and veggie bacon strips. I also like veggie hot dogs/tofu pups with saurkraut and mustard. Ditto for veggie patties with tomato, lettuce and dill pickle. I do not eat these regularly, but they are nice alternatives for cook-outs and summer sandwiches.

              They are not animal, do not taste of animal, and getting more soy into the diet is an added plus.

              1. First of all they are not "meat flavoured". Second most of these faked meat products are Chinese Buddhist vegetarian food with long histories of Buddhist vegetarianism. I guess they are there for the lay people who sometimes spend months in Buddhist temples and cannot totally forego of the earthly pleasures of meat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PeterL

                  IIRC a hungry Buddha was travelling through the countryside on his way to enlightenment when he was taken in by a group of monks. They fed him what he at first thought was meat by the way it looked —shape, color, etc. After tasting it, he realized it wasn't meat at all. Bingo! All life is illusion, etc.

                2. Hi Rabbit, I followed your link from the TO board

                  For my family, traditional Chinese with many vegetarian members for various reasons, these faux meat products are substitutes for many ancient custums. For example in Chinese New Years, it is customery to always have one Fish dish and one stewed Meat dish on the table, so these soy products are the perfect candidates. Likewise, it is also hospitable to have 'meat' dishes when cooking for guests.
                  Do they taste like meat? Not at all, as pointed out by other posts. In fact to me, they all taste the same: spiced glutens with soy sauce and sesame oil. Yum :)!

                  1. I noticed when I worked in natural foods stores that they were frequently purchased by people who were cooking for recently become vegetarians. There is a learning curb for the meat eaters who love you too! They aren't used to thinking in vegetarian terms and these items fit with their concept of a main dish when they are having you over for dinner.

                    They also work well for those in transition. They are changing their diet and finding a meat substitute a good first step in learning a new method of cooking/eating/living.
                    These products are also useful to prove to a "meat & potatoes" type that they can have a satisfying meal that doesn't have meat.

                    1. We get asked this question periodically.
                      I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not because I dislike the taste of meat (I don't). I don't live exclusively on meatlike veg foods, but variety is nice, and some of these things (like the gardenburger riblets) taste pretty good on their own terms. I'm not repulsed by it because no animal was killed to produce it. Besides, some of these products allow me to participate in food-centered family traditions (like the matzoh ball soup at seders) from which I would otherwise be necessarily excluded.

                      Whippet

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Whippet

                        ditto!

                        the 'meatier' the fake meat product, the more i like it! if i ate real meat though, i'd probably want to throw up because i know where it came from and the thought would repulse me (and/or my body would have trouble digesting it after all these years). i have no problem with something that is fake because i know it's made with vegetable proteins or soy, even if it tastes or seems meaty.

                        1. re: helenhelen

                          i TOTALLY agree. i can never get over why people just don't understand this. i LOVE the taste of meat. i just don't love it more than i care about animals. whippet could not have said it better. there is no contradiction here. you can like the taste of something even if you don't think it's worth killing an animal to eat it.

                        2. re: Whippet

                          Yup! I agree.

                          I've been a veggie since 1984, after reading about the horrible practices and suffering of animals in the meat industry and the environmental impact of raising beef. But I still miss many of my mother's superb meat dishes. If I could figure out how to replicate her Coq Au Vin recipe without chicken, I'd be cooking it right now! Oh, how I miss it!

                          Also, back in 1984 when I started eating a vegetarian diet there were absolutely NO convenience foods for vegetarians. I can't tell you how happy I am to be able to purchase a package of "Chickun" type product and saute it up with some veggies for a quick dinner, or throw a veggie burger on for a weekend lunch. There were no options like this for veggies until recently and we are just as busy as everyone and don't have time to cook every single meal from scratch!

                          As everyone else mentioned, there are the issues of variety, texture, taste, etc. And, the meat substitutes really are nothing like real meat (as far as I can remember)!

                        3. Perhaps they like ingesting all those nice chemicals, and addititves that the producer uses to try to recapture the natural taste of the item they are trying to copy. ; )

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: swsidejim

                            ...except there are a ton of additives and preservatives in meat burgers too (unless you buy organic). most pre-packaged foods have them, sadly.. not to mention the hormones they feed to cattle to plump them up that you also digest, unless you buy organic, free-range meat.

                            1. re: helenhelen

                              you forgot the antibiotics.
                              70% of the antibiotics produced in the U.S are fed to livestock/poultry.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                would you rather eat a sick cow?antibiotics are use for a reason,the bovine live outside in any weather (unlike house people ie acand heaters)they tend to get illit happens and the popular media will grab that and make it seem "bad"to those not in the know.antibiotics are not bad .

                                1. re: howlin

                                  Howlin, I hope you are joking.
                                  No one needs to eat a sick cow, and no one needs to routinely feed antibiotics to livestock if they are properly cared for.
                                  Routine use of antibiotics in US livestock is implicated as one of the factors in the rise of drug resistant bacteria.
                                  In Europe this practice is forbidden and their livestock industry seems to do fine (from what I read).

                                  1. re: Rasam

                                    It has been reported by several sources that although slaughter houses are not supposed to, they have been known to process sick cows along with those that are not sick (I purposely did not say "healthy")

                                    http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=421...

                                    1. re: Teep

                                      Yes, there was some horrendous footage of this in Food Inc.

                          2. People are vegetarian for many different reasons. Some like meat but choose not to eat it, hence the development of veggie burgers, etc that taste like meat. Back in college a vegetarian friend of mine and a group of vegetarians tasted tested a new meat-tasting veggie burger. They all hated it. None of them thought to have the tasters be people who liked meat!

                            1. I'm not a vegetarian, but that being said, there are some meat flavoured veggie products that I really enjoy, most notably breakfast sausage patties. One day when grocery shopping, I decided that I'd like some sausage patties, and reading the labels of the meat ones, they all contained high levels of MSG, which I can't consume because of a health condition that is extremely exacerbated by it. In a nearby fridge case, I found some veggie ones, and while they didn't seem very appealing to me, I decided that since the ingredient list was safe, I would give them a try... and while they tasted distinctly different from the meat patties I'd eaten in the past, they were utterly delicious and I found I actually preferred them!

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: vorpal

                                What's the veggie sausage brand that you like?

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  I wish I could remember... I used to buy them all the time when I lived in DC, but I moved back to Canada a few years ago and they don't sell them here. They actually came in a large tube; you'd cut a piece off, shape your patty, and cook it with a bit of oil.

                                  1. re: vorpal

                                    that sounds like "gimme-lean". it's my favorite too.

                                    1. re: nc213

                                      I made sourdough dressing this Thanksgiving with Gimme Lean, lots of celery, and Bell's seasoning. It was great!!

                                    2. re: vorpal

                                      there's a brand that sounds like this called 'gimme lean'. you can find it at dominions supermarket around here (toronto)

                                      1. re: helenhelen

                                        Ah - I eat gimme lean when we're at the New England house... I didn't know you could source it in Toronto... thanks!

                                        1. re: helenhelen

                                          Thank you! I haven't seen it at Loblaws, but I'll drop in at a Dominion soon to look for it!

                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                        Morningstar Farms breakfast patties (more difficult to find than the links) are delicious

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          The Publix in-house "Greenwise" brand makes a really good frozen sausage patty.

                                      3. In Chinese culture, some people have vegetarian meals only on the first and fifteenth of each (lunar) month, due to religion. The belief is to stop killing animals on those days. They don't have any problems with the taste, they just do not want blood on their hands. The tradition of have "fake" meat may have started from this, so they can still feel that are having a regular meal. And, some Buddist monastaries have fantastic kitchens that produce wonderful dishes with fake meats, to entice meat eaters, so that fewer animals are killed.

                                        Also, it's a chance for vegetarians to have a dish that was created as a meat dish. Example: "Squirrel fish" - instead of having a sweet/sour sauce over a real fried fish, they use taro paste, mold it into a fish shape, fry it, and pour the same sauce on top. This has nothing to do with the taste of the dish, just a visual substitution. And now, it's a fad to have fake meat because it's assumed it's healthier, but actually some of them are still loaded with fat and additives.

                                        Finally, there is a saying in Cantonese: "Being vegetarian in your mouth only" (not in your mind), meaning you eat something vegetarian and pretend it's not, to deride those people who say they've stopped doing something but still think about it all the time, a hypocrite.

                                        1. I was raised vegetarian so a lot of those flavours are familar to me, even though I eat meat a lot now.

                                          A Buddhist eating gluten is probably using the term 'meat' as a shortcut for protein since the flavouring isn't meaty but more the flavour of the sauces that are traditionally used with meat. Today I had Sweet & Sour "chicken" and BBQ "pork" at a buddhist vegetarian place -- both were gluten, neither was really 'meat' flavoured but the name referred to the familiar saucing flavours.

                                          I do love Stripples (fake bacon) and Prosage (fake sausage) as fun/tasty foods, too. Not because they are 'meat flavoured' but because of their own unique taste.

                                          1. Just to add another perspective... Sometimes stuff that looks and sort of acts like meat acts as a social conduit-- it makes everyone a bit more comfortable. Although being a vegetarian can be a highly political thing, sometimes you want to downplay that aspect and blend in a bit more. At a backyard party, having veggie burgers and notdogs helps everyone. Hosts don't have to feel stressed about what to feed veggie guests (the fake stuff cooks up about the same, uses the same bread and takes the same condiments) and veggie guests get to participate in the full experience.

                                            1. I have this conversation all the time with my meat-loving husband. I rarely eat meat and love vegetarian meat substitutes for their taste alone. I grew up in a meat-eating household but my church-based school only served vegetarian and many of my childhood friends grew up in vegetarian households. I developed a taste for vegetarian fare and as I've gone through adulthood, have gradually limited my meat intake. I don't crave meat and prefer vegetarian food.

                                              When I was a child, yes, the veggie substitutes tasted nothing like real meat and to non-vegetarians were mysterious and unappetizing. Nowadays, it is possible to find veggie burgers (Morningstar) and Loma Linda hotdogs that taste much more like the real thing. That isn't important to me; I'd rather that the vegetarian substitutes taste good in their own right and for the most part, they do.

                                              1. For me, a former heavy carnivore...I like the texture and taste of meat and I can have it without having to contribute to cruelty.

                                                I love my vegi dogs and Gimme Lean sausage and Veat 'salmon'

                                                And, my cholestrol is way low as is my weight and I don;t have to cause pain and suffering...also use waaay less resources as a consumer not eating a meat based diet...different thread there though!

                                                1. It's not the flavour of meat substitutes that attracts those who don't eat meat, it's their utility in recipes. A vegetarian who has a great beef-stir-fry recipe can have all of the wonderful flavours of the non-flesh ingredients without having the animal.

                                                  1. vegetarian here. There is NO appeal in eating meat-flavored stuff for me.
                                                    Every once in a while to satisfy my husband's whim I'll let him add a new variety of vegetarian sausage or what not to the shopping cart. Not a single item has made me (or him) want to try it again. Our universal opinion: YUCK!

                                                    1. Because people are veg for a lot of different reasons. As a former vegan, I still continue to eat "meat" products particularly b/c I just like the taste. Veggie dogs being one of my faves and clearly more healthy for you than the real thing.

                                                      1. Here are three rather recent MSG threads with lots more about MSG sensitivity and/or allergy and the incidence of glutamates in foods with no added MSG:

                                                        You'll find MSG where?!?
                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/412802
                                                        MSG
                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/415757
                                                        Autolyzed Yeast Extract - MSG?
                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/412771

                                                        1. The flavor without the grease and also the ecological advantage of eating lower on the food chain.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Snackish

                                                              I can't help it...this is a pet peeve of mine. I don't think commercially manufactured faux-meat that arrives in plastic via truck from a long distance should be claimed to be "ecological." I give major props to vegetarians who ditch meat from the "grain uses less water and fuel than cows do" angle, but it's not fair to lump tofurkey into the same category as an honest-to-goodness vegetable.

                                                              1. re: Vetter

                                                                if that is your beef, by the same token, non-organic, non-local, non-seasonal produce are also something vegetarians should avoid entirely. i sure hope you avoid everything not local, not organic and not seasonal, otherwise you are a big hypocrite.

                                                            2. Vegetarians don't want to eat "meat flavored stuff". Why would we want to eat anything flavored with meat?

                                                              Maybe your questions should be "Why do some vegetarians want to eat faux meats?"

                                                              I wasn't raised vegetarian so I still like traditional dishes with a faux meat. It makes me feel like I'm still eating the same only healthier. Plus, a lot of faux meats taste really good (that'd be the main reason).

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: grackel

                                                                Who said eating vegetarian was healthier??

                                                                DT

                                                              2. My husband and I are long-time vegans and avoid restaurants that serve fake meat. It does repulse us. We do eat Sunshine burgers but they don't taste like meat.

                                                                I think that it depends a lot on why the person is vegetarian. There are people who are vegetarian for health reasons, those who are veg for animal rights reasons, a combo, etc. I bet you would see a pattern based on people's reasons for being veg

                                                                1. Vggetarians don't eat the stuff fo get a fake meat taste, they eat it for nutritional value. All those products have the protiens that would be otherwise missing from their diets.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                    "Vegetarians don't eat the stuff fo get a fake meat taste, they eat it for nutritional value"

                                                                    I think that is too broad a statement. There are many ways for vegetarians to get all the nutrients they need without eating fake meat. Many eat the fake meat because they enjoy the taste. There are many reasons people become vegetarians and there are some that enjoy the taste of things that reminds them of meat. Texture also comes into play.

                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                      Some may but not us. There are lots of healthy sources of protein which have nothing to do with fake meat or animal products: black beans, pinto beans, garbanzos, fava beans, walnuts, pecans, peanuts or peanut butter, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, hummus, etc, etc, etc.....

                                                                      1. re: lgss

                                                                        yes, but you have to eat a LOT more nuts etc to get your daily allowance of protein.....if you are also watching calories, that makes that one tough.

                                                                        1. re: im_nomad

                                                                          Why just eat nuts? Protein comes from legumes, soy products, grains, and even vegetables. Americans eat way more protein than necessary and I don't think it would be very hard for an educated vegetarian or vegan to get enough protein in their diet without having to eat the fake meat. What do you think is in the fake meat to make it any more nutritionally sound than the sum of it's ingredients that can be consumed by any vegetarian?

                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                            I don't eat just nuts. I eat nuts, soy products, grains, dairy, eggs and beans and such.

                                                                            I agree that people eat more protein than necessary, a few ounces of fish or meat would suffice for a meat eater. There are far less grams of protein in nuts and beans than people probably think. I am an educated vegetarian and I find that on days i eat these things, i have to make sure i eat several sources throughout the day. From what i'd read, i need about 45 grams of protein a day.

                                                                            Just as examples, a cup of cooked lima beans has 12 grams of protein, and two hundred calories. A tablespoon of peanut butter has 4 grams of protein, and about a hundred calories. An egg has about 7 grams of protein. You do the math.

                                                                            Something else worth noting, is that many protein sources are also carb laden. My neice, who happens to be vegetarian, can not rely as heavily on beans for her protein.

                                                                            Also I did not suggest that "fake meat" is any more nutritionally sound. I prefer whole, real foods for the most part but these foods are convenient and provide a bit of variety.

                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                              just read an article that links high protein intake with osteoporosis.
                                                                              supports your contention that people are eating more protein than is healthy.

                                                                      2. I haven't eaten meat (with the exception of a very occasional KFC splurge) for about 30 years. I do like faux meat, but like many others in this thread I wouldn't say the stuff tastes like meat. I eat veggie burgers, Morningstar Farms dogs, and some of the "nuggets" and 'Wings" for variety, and because the frozen stuff is so easy to throw in my lunchbox and nuke at work. I've also helped others quit stressing about me at a cookout by bringing burgers/dogs for the grill--it's all about the condiments and chowing in the open air with a cold brew, anyway.

                                                                        To me the appeal of faux-anything isn't "Wow! This tastes just like (fill in the blank)!" I like the soy stuff on its own terms, and if it tastes nasty (Tofu Pups, Tofurky, fake bacon, etc.) it'll never get on my plate.

                                                                        1. These days, I don't eat a very "western" diet for lack of another word to compare, so i'm not necessarily looking for something to have on my plate next to my potatoes and veg. My family still feels they have to have this for me at thanksgiving and such, and that's ok, but otherwise i would not buy the fake chicken cutlets and stuff, but thats just a matter of taste.

                                                                          I do, however, still love a good sandwich or burrito on occasion, and the veggie burgers, ground stuff and luncheon slices fall into this category. AND I also need protein, and those substitutes pack a lot into a small, relatively lower calorie package. Particularly on days when i haven't been conscious enough of it to eat proteins at every meal.

                                                                          I never liked sausage back when i ate meat, and i think part of it was the grease. I can say i now love a fry up of veggie sausage, caramelized onions and fennel. I have yet to eat a veggie hot dog that tasted better than the package it came in.

                                                                          I agree with many other posters who state it's not meat flavoured. Most cold cuts and such themselves are not all "meat flavoured", and some of what people love about them, is the various spices and smokiness and such. I like THAT same flavour in my protein sources.

                                                                          I also agree with many that it's a good transition food for many. I know when i first started not eating meat, I didn't know enough to do anything except eat peanut butter.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                                                            Another name for the typical "Western" diet is SAD "Standard American Diet".

                                                                            1. re: lgss

                                                                              If you'd like, I'd be happy to make up a pejorative name/abbreviation for whatever diet you follow...

                                                                              1. re: xanadude

                                                                                I didn't come up with it, just passing it along.

                                                                            2. re: im_nomad

                                                                              At my workplace they post health- and diet-related articles in the restrooms -- not the first place I'd care to study food but hey, it's something to read. Anyway, one of the suggestions this month to get more vegetables into one's diet is "Have at least two vegetables with dinner." Huh? I usually have at least two vegetables AS dinner...

                                                                              I've found options expand rapidly when one stops thinking of a meal as a chunk of meat with 'sides'.

                                                                              As for peanut butter, I have a veggie cookbook from the '70s that actually has a recipe for peanut butter 'roast'. No wonder some people think vegetarians are strange!!

                                                                            3. that stuff does not taste like meat, I eat all that stuff like a boca burger will have the grill taste but not the flesh taste, its just people are use to the words like burger, bacon, chicken etc, so you can use them the same way you already know. believe me I can even taste suttle animal fat in foods like soups and snacks, again its just wording.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: fenwayfan1

                                                                                This all reminds me of someone I knew back in colledge who was a "militant vegan" (defined as one who wanted everyone to be FORCED to be vegan). Besides no real animal products, he also wanted there to be no fake animal products, his logic was, if there is fake meat and dairy around that people will grow up still craving the tastes of meat and dairy and should they be unalble to find the fake stuff, they might return to the real.

                                                                              2. I don't eat meat because I really dislike the thought of putting a dead animal in my mouth. It really grosses me out. I can't help it. I'm a pretty healthy eater but that's not why I cut out meat five years ago (when I was twenty).

                                                                                I am about ten minutes away from sitting down to dinner: a wrap with homemade hummous, "Greek" salad (cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, Italian parsley and feta with lemon juice and olive oil) and mock chicken. I bought mock chicken just to try it, but I've actually found it to be a bit of a burden in my fridge because I'm not used to planning "protein"-centric meals. The mock chicken doesn't taste bad (it's pre-marinated "Mediterranean" flavour from President's Choice / Superstore in Canada) and I don't mind the texture or anything, it's just less fun than most of the other things I cook.

                                                                                1. Hey Rabbit,

                                                                                  I think I can clear this up. I am a vegetarian and I like to eat. I like to eat hearty food with full flavor as I imagine you do. I am a vegetarian for ethical, societal, humanitarian and environmental reasons, but all of that is boring, really.

                                                                                  Fake meat is not great and doesn't taste much like meat from what I remember, but I like it from time to time. Nothing irritates me more than going out for a dinner or a BBQ and being served a piece of bread and a salad. I'm not on a diet; I'm a vegetarian. Most cooks are fairly disinterested in learning to make a great vegetarian dish with full flavor and some substance. So, I am thankful to get some soy chorrizo or the like.

                                                                                  I like the smell of bacon. I'm honest. I remember how good it was. Some vegetarians find it gross (most say they do), but I am secure in my vegetarianism to admit that meat tastes good. There I said it. Ex-smokers remember cigs fondly. Alcoholics miss booze. You get the idea. I don't drink non-alcoholic beer or decaf coffee, but I would if I gave up on alcohol or caffeine.

                                                                                  So, if YOU gave up meat tomorrow, and I offered you 2 sandwiches. One is a veggie burger with cheese and the works- just the way you like a burger but meatless. The other option replaces the meat with cucumbers or even some slimy lentils. Which do you want.

                                                                                  Meat eaters have a misconception about vegetarians. We do like good food. We just don't want to kill for it or endanger the environment or deprive others of having enough to eat in order to have food that doesn't taste like &#*%. Hope that helps. Cheers.

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: chinaski241

                                                                                    Well said, chinaski!

                                                                                    As a vegetarian of 13 years, I can say that I eat faux meats for three basic reasons:

                                                                                    1. As stated above, in order to have something substantial to eat at a cookout

                                                                                    2. Nostalgia: Sometimes I just want to eat something that reminds me of thanksgiving dinner (Tofurkey) or my mom's cooking from when I was little (cabbage rolls with fake ground beef, then, or faux-chicken bread soup)

                                                                                    3. Experimentation: I love cooking food from different cultures and often there just isn't a food vegetable substitute for the meat. So, for example, maybe I want to try my hand at chicken fessenjaan... I use Quorn. Does it taste exactly the same as the real deal? No, I know it doesn't. But it lets me have some fun, and enjoy the end product.

                                                                                    That being said, I do try to avoid eating too many fake meat products because of the high levels of weird chemicals, etc. that are in them.

                                                                                    1. re: chinaski241

                                                                                      I just had one might fine tofurkey italian 'sausage' that is one of the best replacements i've had (probably because it's not low-fat), and challenges the "not great" description of fake meats......in addition to a couple of the veggie burgers, so i'll take those over cucumbers any day. Fake chicken breasts....not so much.

                                                                                      Your post sums up some of my apprehension over "vegetarian restaurants". Like you, I want good food, not necessarily sprouts and something that went splat on a plate. (I do love beans, tofu, sprouts and stuff , but done right) Thankfully I have found a couple of outstanding vegetarian restaurants over time that would put a few regular joints to shame, and realize that not everyone is dining there because they're seeking uber-healthy / low-fat / non-sugar / low-salt etc.....

                                                                                      I admit that I do still enjoy the smell of cooking bacon or roasting chicken, but I don't remember what meat tastes like (ten years for me), and I honestly don't miss it, that's just not the way I eat, and I tend to eat mighty good. Enjoying the smell stops there for me, i've no desire to bite into it. Feast away if you do, however. Fill your boots.

                                                                                      There are many cuisines and dishes that seem to make the jump from incl.meat to meat-free quite easily, like many asian dishes. Others, not so much.

                                                                                      But I like me a great sandwich,so don't be hatin' ! :D

                                                                                      ....but if it would make the meat-eaters feel a little better, I can refer to my sandwich items as cylindrical or flat soy protein products. ....who wouldn't want THAT !?! ;)

                                                                                      1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                        I am heartened to learn that I am not the only non-carnivore who likes the smell of bacon, even though I wouldn't eat it. I also like the smell of lipstick, and I wouldn't eat that, either.

                                                                                        1. re: small h

                                                                                          consequently, my love of smoked cheeses, smoked salts, smoked paprika...etc ..and even bacon bits....has increased exponentially.

                                                                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                            Calvin Trillin wrote once that his wife decided that what he craved was not the taste of barbecued meat, but rather the taste of hickory wood smoke.

                                                                                    2. The comedian Jim Gaffigan does a great bit in which he asks, "You know who's obsessed with meat? Vegetarians." He then mimics the ordering of a veggie fake burger topped with veggie bacon and veggie cheese -- "And can you serve it dressed as a cow?"

                                                                                      He finishes with the vegetarian saying, “I don’t like meat, I just like to call meat late at night and hang up. Let’s drive by meat’s house. Does meat ever ask about me?”

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: jmckee

                                                                                          His Hot Pockets routine is also hilarious.

                                                                                          1. re: jmckee

                                                                                            You know who's obsessed with faux meats for vegetarians? Meat eaters.

                                                                                              1. First, the question implies that people stop eating meat for the taste. This is usually the last reason, there are political, health, and environmental reasons to stop eating meat. Some of my vegetarian friends claim to be recovering meat addicts who love fake meat, I imagine its like Nicorette to them. I've been vegetarian for almost 15 years now, and have been able to maintain my diet because I largely don't like the taste/texture/idea of meat, so for me most part, meat substitutes haven't enticed me. However, I'm finding the longer I give it up, the more nostalgic I feel about food I used to eat, or maybe its just wanting to be normal. As a result I'm making more veggie hot dogs, Boca burgers and even homemade sweet and sour pork (that turned out surprisingly well). I also get very excited when I see options beyond garden burger on a menu. I'm in heaven if a breakfast place offers fake sausage, or a hot dog stand gives me a veggie option. Not because I think either of the products is that tasty, but its great to be able to order like a normal American. I also don't understand why restaurants don't keep fake meat products in the freezer so my local sandwich shop can whip together a fake meatball sandwich along side the real deal. It reheats easily, doesn't cost much, and one vegetarian can make a whole party of diners choose another venue if they don't have options. Note to restaurateurs, vegetarians are tired of Gardenburgers/salad/pasta primavera. First there are plenty of creative things you can do for them with vegetables, herbs and spices, but if you don't know what to do for them look around and see if you can add new and creative fake meat to your menu, its easy to substitute for regular menu items and I bet you'll see an enthusiastic response.

                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: seegie

                                                                                                  "political, health, and environmental reasons to stop eating meat."

                                                                                                  No they aren't.
                                                                                                  Unless a certain meat that you're eating is making you sick, you're designed to eat meat so not eating it is not healthier.
                                                                                                  Political and environmental issues can be avoided.

                                                                                                  DT

                                                                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                    DT: unless you are a vegetarian, you can't speak for vegetarians.

                                                                                                    For vegetarians, environmental and ethical reasons are often very important in not eating meat. We do not avoid these issues, so please don't speak for us in this regard.
                                                                                                    Politics underlies every kind of food situation in our world so there is no avoiding that, only remaining willfully blind.

                                                                                                    You believe that humans are "designed" to eat meat (whatever that means to you) and are unhealthy without meat.
                                                                                                    I know that our bodies can get all the nutrients they need from a plant based diet (and the American Dietitic Association agrees). And flourish and be healthy AND revel in a very tasty and rich diet (no deprivation narratives here).

                                                                                                    Re the OP and the OT (original poster and topic): why do non vegetarians care why vegetarians like fake meat or not? Eat what you enjoy.
                                                                                                    Other responses covered the terrain so I won't repeat them.

                                                                                                    Personally, I like some kinds of fake meat as I like junk food: I know it's a concoction, but once in a while, what the heck.
                                                                                                    I never feed these dishes to guests any more than the omnis on here would feed chicken nuggets to a guest - no need to when there is so much richness and variety in real food.

                                                                                                    1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                      Well, I was a vegetarian for 20+ years before becoming an advocate of whole foods and sustainable agriculture & farming. I've also since learned a lot about our biology and what meat supplies our bodies. So, that being said:

                                                                                                      To environmental and ethical reasons - 99% of the vegetarians you talk to about this continually and ONLY refer to factory farming methods. I'm completely against these, as well. What I support and the only meat I'll eat is the type of meat where the animals are treated with respect and eat/graze the way they are meant to. On a fully functioning, smaller scale farm, these animals play a vital part, down to the very small details of simply turning the soil in order to keep it aerated, fertilized, and crops growing. I don't believe that real sustainable agriculture would be possible in a world where everyone was vegetarian.

                                                                                                      For OPTIMAL brain function, animal fats are required. (Read: Real Food, What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, she goes into good detail about the role that animal fats & meat play in keeping our bodies running. Animal fats & other good fats are especially important for pregnant women and babies (AND women who want to become pregnant, it's thought that one of the major factors in fertility issues is the low fat diets that so many people are obsessed with.)

                                                                                                      Being someone who is now so enmeshed in the real food world - It grosses me out, now, to think about how much "fake meat" and soy products I ate for 20+ years. The fake meat is mostly processed foods & weird chemicals (have you ever looked at a label? NOT GOOD.) And I won't even get into the soy rant (sorry, soy is DANGEROUS when consumed in large quantities NOT in fermented form - such as tofu.)

                                                                                                2. I am one vegetarian who IS repulsed by the taste of meat, as well as the texture and look of faux meat products. I understand that there are many who gave up meat for ethical or health reasons, not because they hated the way meat tastes, looks, smells, and feels. I do. The thought of eating a fake hot dog or hamburger makes me gag!

                                                                                                  1. I am veg and I don't crave meat flavored stuff. Everyone is different ya know. Why do meat eaters not want to know how their "meat" was killed or what it was fed or the treatment it received it's entire life? I can't eat something that suffered so terribly. Ya know slaughter house workers can be pretty sadistic when working the kill line. I hear so many people say "I don't want to know..." I guess by not knowing their conscience is clear.They can chomp away and think all is well in down on the farm. Go visit a slaughterhouse sometime. I have and it was one of the most life changing experiences ever. Yes, I used to eat meat at one time.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: at24

                                                                                                      Well, everyone is different ya know - not all meat eaters DON'T care. I care very much and know the source of every bite of meat I take. I only buy meat from farms where the animals live & eat as they're supposed to and are treated well during their lifetime. In fact, I plan on getting a turkey, this Spring, to raise myself - because I believe that if I eat meat, I should be able to raise & kill it myself. I have the utmost respect for the animals that wind up on my plate.

                                                                                                    2. I am an almost vegetarian and I don't like fake meat products. I used to eat them when I was trying to cut back on meat, but I learned to cook so many good meat free dishes, I stopped having them. I think they are really easy for new veggies b/c they can make the same meals but just use meat substitutes. Maybe some people aren;t into cooking and so subs are convenient.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                        But for those of us who *are* into cooking, using the fake meat products is not a convenient substitute, but a substitute that requires more thought, anticipating the flavors and moisture content (god, I miss drippings) that greatly affect a meat-based dish.

                                                                                                        As to the, years-old-now OP, I don't really think this is a fair question. This is chowhound, and I am loathe to put my have to explain part of my diet in such a way that might make anyone else feel defensive about their own. But that is exactly what this question has made me feel, so I'll answer, as briefly as one prone to OT chatter and over-explanation (as I am) can.

                                                                                                        I abstain from pork, chicken, and beef for ethical reasons, as the result of a truly terrible situation that took place in my own (shared) backyard, involving animals. Until then, I was an unabashed omnivore, and, at heart, still am. But I realized, as I persuaded someone to *not* abuse animals, to change their behavior and their way of thinking, that my own diet made of me a hypocrite.

                                                                                                        I can't afford a free-range anything without giving up something else. I still crave meat, and sometimes feel a little sucker-punched when I realize that the craving for buffalo wings that made me giddy a moment ago *isn't* going to get fulfilled. When I stopped eating the Big Three, I didn't itemized every single thing I was giving up, and there are always these moments when I check yet another thing off the list of things I have to say goodbye to. I can't afford to stick my freezer with humanely raised whatever, but I can *afford* a two dollar tube of TJ's soy chorizo. And if I can use that when I have a craving, and make a successful meal out of it, then why should I feel as if I'm committing some kind of unnatural act?

                                                                                                        And sometimes that fake meat is just . . . good.

                                                                                                        1. re: onceadaylily

                                                                                                          "God, I miss drippings" may be the best line I've ever read about vegetarianism.

                                                                                                      2. i have been a vegetarian for 13 years. i have never understood why it matters to anyone what i choose to eat or not eat. why is it any different that i choose to not eat meat than it is to not eat mayonaise or eggplant or marshmallows? it is merely a choice. that said, i drool when i smell bbq pulled pork...still, after so many years. and yes, i do eat faux meat. i also eat tons of raw kale and avocados. i like variety and i like food and i never fail to find it amusing that choosing to be a non meat eater makes so many people uncomfortable!!! also i think chinaski summed it up perfectly :)

                                                                                                        1. I would say that people who are vegetarians because they don't like the taste of meat wouldn't want meat flavor, but I only know a few people who are vegetarians for that reason. I was a vegetarian for ten years and I missed the taste and texture of meat a lot. Vegetarians don't necessarily dislike meat itself; often it's more that they dislike cholesterol, cruelty, and pollution.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: occula

                                                                                                            Bingo -- I am not a vegetarian, but my meat (and cheese, sigh) consumption is way down purely for health reasons.

                                                                                                          2. Because it's delicious in own right. There's a very long tradition of Buddhist vegetarian cooking in Chinese cuisines with highly evolved techniques in flavour and texture control; tofurkey might not necessarily fall into this category, but there are many dishes that do. In addition, vegetarian duck/goose and related dishes are canonical dishes in Shanghainese cuisine.

                                                                                                            I'm a meat eater, and I actively seek out excellent examples of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine and the above mentioned Shanghainese dishes. Should also add that deep frying is a commonly used technique in Chinese veegtarian dishes, and thus not necessarily a healthier option.

                                                                                                            1. vegetarian shrimp can also be desirable for people with seafood allergies, cholesterol issues or folks who keep kosher.

                                                                                                              That said, I'd try it, if it wasn't just konjac.

                                                                                                              Tofutti ice cream, a dairy free dessert, is for the kosher market, by the Mintz company.

                                                                                                              1. I tried some veggie "Italian Sausages" a few months ago, not because I'm a veggie but as an attempt to boost my veggie intake. They weren't bad at all! Nicely seasoned and a good texture. I would eat them again.