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Tofu me once, shame on you, tofu me twice shame on me.

So maybe some of you can help me understand this. There is one of those people in my office that doesn’t eat meat. Actually it’s not only eating meat or fish or milk or cheese it’s pretty much anything that has anything to do with any living thing. What are they called; Vegans? I was actually shocked; she looks just like one of “us”, you know us normal carnivores. While I don’t mean to poke fun at anyone’s personal belief’s (ok maybe poke a little fun) if you feel there is a significant health benefit or have some moral belief against eating meat or meat byproducts etc. so be it.

I am not of that belief, I am a proud carnivore and nothing appeals to me more than red meat. I love steak, right wrong or indifferent I love it. However, with this vegan hanging around I have decided to be more “adventurous” lately and I have opened my palate to trying many vegan dishes. I will say I’m rather impressed with the tastiness of much of what I have sampled. Between dishes from home which she has made and from a local vegan restaurant, which I believe is a chain The Loving Hut.

Let’s cut to the “meat” of my topic (pun intended). I have had a vegan cheese burger (obviously void of any burger or cheese), I have had a vegan cheese steak (obviously void of either cheese or steak, I have had a wonderful shrimp dish (obviously void of any shrimp) as well as a few other dishes. All have been remarkably tasty, and in all honesty if I didn’t know it was “tofu”, or a vegan dish, you could have very easily fooled me into believing they were “normal” meat, cheese and shrimp.

My question is this……apparently the source of all these dishes is tofu, which is a bean curd that obviously is very flexible with its texture and flavor. Why imitate the antithesis of what being Vegan is all about? I kind of find it hypocritical that vegans want to eat “burgers” and “cheese steaks” and “shrimp”. If tofu is soooooo flexible in its appeal and flavor why not create completely new genre of food. Why not make a tufo burger to be blue in color…..and not have such a “chopped meat” consistency. Make it something completely new and different. While I really did enjoy the dishes, afterward I was just left a little empty. That was good but not as good as a real burger or cheese steak, just a little off, so why bother?

Am I making sense? It’s a great replica…….but it’s still a replica. Why not create something all new? Something completely different than what is out there, it seems silly to keep trying to replicate the carnivore world. I have also had some tofu in Asian/Chinese/Thai dishes….which seems to be much blander just taking on the taste of whatever sauce they are in. It seems to me if I were really into this vegan thing I would want all new tastes and flavors….instead of both mimicking in look and flavor many of the staples of a carnivore diet.


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  1. Though I can't speak for vegans, there is a long tradition in Asia of 'Mock Duck' etc. But there are also many dishes which do not imitate meat. IMO tofu has *no* flavor, so it needs all the help it can get, sort of like veal.

    3 Replies
      1. re: ricepad

        On its own, it reminds me, in taste and texture, of cooked egg white. I prefer it sauteed or in some sort of sauce.

        1. re: ricepad

          Fair point. You may well have eaten superior tofu to what I have tried. And your palate may be more discerning.

      2. Here's an old thread on the topic, with lots of thoughts.


        On still another thread, where this inquiry was just an aside, I explained myself thusly:

        I eat fake meat, myself, and the reason won't confuse anyone. I like the taste & texture of (some) fake meat, and I don't like the taste & texture of (any) real meat. Which is why I don't eat tofu hot dogs - I find them too hot-dog-like.

        1. I guess it's the equivalent of wearing fake fur? While I lurve meat like the good little T-Rex that I am, I think fur coats are gross. But I'd wear a fake.

          I recognize the hipocrisy here and am completely comfortable with it.

          1. Why are hamburgers and pizza so overwhelmingly popular when there are countless other options available. Sometimes people just crave familiarity.

              1. I get what you're saying, fry a square plank of tofu, put it on a bun and call it a tofu patty, forget naming it a MOCK WHATEVER. I have a friend who is a vegan and every time I make a pasta dish, he loads it with parm, go figure. BTW - Who's to say veggies aren't living, what happens to Vegan now?

                8 Replies
                1. re: treb

                  Your friend is vegan and eats Parmesan? Is s/he not aware that cheese is a dairy product? Huh.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Friend is not religious about being Vegan and has his weaknesses, like the good taste of food!

                  2. re: treb

                    Are you sure he's a vegan? Why not ask him about it? It could make feeding him in the future if you find out he's in fact a vegetarian and not a vegan. I'd sure want to know.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      He tries to remain Vegan as much as possible but.....he's human. I always prepare a Vegan entrée for him but, he often will eat what everyone else is having. Oh well, he tries.

                      1. re: treb

                        I have a friend who became a vegan a couple of years ago for health reasons and it's helped her enormously. But she'll partake on occasion and if only then, her health issues remain at bay.

                          1. re: EWSflash

                            A Vegan In Progress! It's a journey.

                      2. I have gone back and forth between omnivore and vegetarian in my life. I actually have some fabulous tofu dishes I can make. Love the stuff. But I have also been puzzled by the need to dress up non-meat based protein and turn it into a simulacrum of a meat based dish. Vegetarian food can be remarkably good. No need to pretend its not.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: Bkeats

                          Yea, I don't get why it can't be called what it is.

                          1. re: Bkeats

                            Well, some of these so called fake meats taste nothing like meat, while others are exactly designed to imitate meat like the Tofurky, veggie burger and veggie hot dog.

                            Meat is very much ingrained in many societies and cultures, like having a turkey during Thanksgiving or a hot dog during July 4th. There are many reasons, but one of the reasons is to for people to feel that they can actively participate events without being being a burden to others or seen as odd. These vegetarian meats are ways to be inclusive and be accepted. While your friends are having meat hot dogs, you can also have a veggie hot dog, which look, cook and eat the same way. You are not limited to have a bowl of salad while your friends are chewing hotdogs. It is easier for the host and for the guests.

                            As for why people do what they do. It is their choices and their decisions. Ultimately, it is about greater food variety for vegetarians.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                You miss my point. Vegetarian food is great on its own. It does not have to be called fake or mock meat or look like meat.

                                I would bet large sums of money that most of the veggie dogs, nuggets and burgers sold are not being bought by people who are having cookouts and want to include their vegetarian friends with the meat eaters. Most of that product is being bought by vegetarians who buy them and take them home and stuff them in the freezer. I prefer not to eat the stuff when I'm in vegetarian mode as part of why I eat vegetarian is to avoid heavily processed foods. When I read the ingredient lists on those products, it blows my mind. Many of them will have 20+ items listed. Isn't that what you don't want to eat? Sure its not meat, but you have no idea what it is. Most of us have some idea what is in a meat hot dog, but what the heck is in a veggie dog? It sure ain't salad greens.

                                So when I have vegetarian friends over, I prepare food that they and the omnivores are happy to eat as opposed to something that's only for one subset of guests. The fake meat is not about variety (unless you refer to the variety of ingredients), its all about convenience.

                                But I do lapse at times. I buy the vegan corn dogs from TJ's. My son loves them. Prefers them to the meat version. Go figure.

                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  There are all sorts of people who buy "fake" meat products, observant Jews, Muslims, some Hindus, Seventh-Day Adventists. It's not solely a vegetarian-by-choice product. Even then, where's the harm? Eating should be fun and filled with variety, even if that variety is sometimes simulated.

                                  1. re: ferret

                                    Ok. I understand. But I prefer to avoid anything that has an igredient list that looks like this

                                    Vegetables (Mushrooms, Water Chestnuts, Onions, Carrots, Green And Red Bell Peppers, Black Olives), Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy Protein Concentrate, Wheat Gluten, Water For Hydration), Egg Whites, Cooked Brown Rice (Water, Brown Rice), Rolled Oats, Corn Oil, Calcium Caseinate, Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Wheat). Contains 2% Or Less Of Onion Powder, Corn Starch, Salt, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, (Corn, Soy, And Wheat), Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors From Non-Meat Sources, Sugar, Soy Protein Isolate, Spices, Garlic Powder, Dextrose, Jalapeno Pepper Powder, And Celery Extract.

                                    Plenty of variety for sure.

                                    What's the harm? I have no idea what some of the ingredients are. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein? Autolyzed Yeast Extract? I've read that's a acronym for MSG. Lots of views about that ingredient. I personally don't have a problem with it, but others do. My issue with this stuff is that I have no friggin clue what it is made of. You avoid up something you know for something with a list of ingredients that sound like they came out of a lab.

                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                      Gotta say those ingredients look pretty good. Not altogether dissimilar to what you'd use if they made them yourself.

                                      The HVP is essentially MSG. Used in many cultures for generations. Some people avoid it, some fear it and others embrace it.

                                      I get the fear of stuff that "came out of a lab". I mean I understand that there are people who fear it but I don't understand the fear.

                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                        The MSG issue drives any chemist crazy -- because glutamate is glutamate -- no matter whether it comes from bacterial fermentation, or from mushrooms, or whatever -- it's the same thing.

                                    2. re: Bkeats

                                      <Vegetarian food is great on its own. It does not have to be called fake or mock meat or look like meat.>

                                      Just because it does not have to be, it does not mean it cannot be.

                                      There are chicken hot dogs as opposed to the traditional pork based hot dog. You won't say: "Chicken is great on its own. It does not have to be called chicken hot dog or look like hot dog." Some people make hot dog out of chicken, while others make it out of soy.

                                      <Most of that product is being bought by vegetarians who buy them and take them home and stuff them in the freezer. >

                                      Why do you think that? I have attended plenty parties with veggie burgers and veggie hotdogs, and meat lovers and vegetarians eat them too. How much money can be made by stuffing freezers?

                                      < I prefer not to eat the stuff when I'm in vegetarian mode as part of why I eat vegetarian is to avoid heavily processed foods. >

                                      I think you are projecting your own situation. A lot of people become vegetarians for different reasons. Most people that I know do so for "not killing animals" -- either from an ethic point of view or a religious view. I know very few people who become vegetarians in order to avoid eating processed food. In fact, I know none. Eating meat is not the same as eating processed foods. As for your statement about 20+ items....etc. This is the same thing for non-fat yogurt vs full fat yogurt. Non fat yogurt usually has more ingredients to make up for the lack of fat:


                                      Do we question people choice of eating non-fat yogurt because of the additional ingredients? It is their choice.

                                      <The fake meat is not about variety>

                                      It is about variety of choices. It may not be your final choice or my choice, but it is still a choice.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        "traditional pork based hot dog"???

                                        Obviously not a Chicagoan.

                                        1. re: ferret

                                          Beef? :) Nope, you are right. I am not from Chicago. Are you?

                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          You should read Michael Pollan. I'm not a follower as such, but he makes a lot of good points. I don't think I'm projecting a personal sui generis view.

                                          "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

                                          If you think people are vegetarian only for religious or animal treatment issues, you should meet more people.

                                          I'm going to sign off from this thread as I fear the direction in which it is heading.

                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                            <I don't think I'm projecting a personal sui generis view. >

                                            Well, you are projecting why people make their decisions afterall, and saying that they are stuffing their freezers. I don't know why you are making these statements. You do understand that these statements imply a negative attitude toward people who make these choices.

                                            <If you think people are vegetarian only for religious or animal treatment issues, you should meet more people.>

                                            Ok, now you are assuming that I don't meet people. Do I say that to you? Let's try this. Most Indians are vegetarians. Most Indian friends I have do so for religious reasons, and they make up much of the vegetarian population in the world.

                                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Ground beef does not agree with my husband's digestion... but he tried the Morningstar veggie burgers and liked them. We had one batch that I liked too, then we bought the 'vegan' ones (because you can buy them in bulk at BJs so they're much cheaper) and I HATE them - they have the exact texture, flavour, and consistency of a beef burger and I hate beef! But he's happy with them... I much prefer the veggie burgers that are obviously vegetable. Their 'Mediterranean chick pea burgers' are fantastic. (no I'm not a vegetarian, I just don't eat much beef).

                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                          < I HATE them - they have the exact texture, flavour, and consistency of a beef burger>

                                          You hate them because they taste like a real beef burger? You know many people will kill for that, right? :)

                                          However, I do understand what you mean. Sometime, I prefer veggie burgers which taste and feel different than a real beef burger.

                                    3. While I'm decidedly not a vegan I am vegetable centric , eating seafood, poultry, and other meats except red meat. Tofu is right in there with all the other food I love. It's made with soy milk and the process is similar to cheese making. The tofu/bean curd recipes I've cooked are mostly Asian: Vietnamese, and Chinese from the Hunan and Sichuan provinces. So, my introduction to tofu cooking has been influenced by 2 great cookbook authors: Vietnamsese - Andrea Nguyen, and Chinese - Fuchsia Dunlop.

                                      Neither of those authors call tofu anything but what it is namely Tofu. or Bean Curd, No fake anything. It's a food in its own right, not a "replica" of anything else. I'm by no stretch of the imagine an expert on the stuff. But I do know that with the proper preparation a dish utilizing tofu in combination with savory ingredients is appetizing, delicious, and enormously satisfying.

                                      There are several different types of tofu: Silken, soft, medium, extra firm, fermented. Each has its own purpose and a few can be interchanged. Do a little research, on the Home Cooking board in the COTM threads of the authors I mentioned. You'd be amazed at how different and wonderful this food is than what you've described.

                                      1. After Mrs. O declared herself vegetarian (not vegan), we explored some of the fake meat possibilities, and continue to do so as the opportunity presents itself. Some of the tofu-based items are quite good - Morningstar Farms and Boca Burgers, Trader Joe's No-Chicken strips and No-Beef "crumbles" - and some are good in a limited way. The few "fauxsages" we've liked, for instance, are okay when the dish is fresh, but go from flavorless to just nasty upon further re-heating.

                                        I've had more luck simply coming up with dishes using tofu as tofu, usually of the extra-firm variety. Simply cubed and stir-fried with stuff, or marinated and used in curries and things, it's a whole new and delicious kind of food for us. I do have a sort of recipe - more of a simple description of how he did it - for making a nice ragù using the "crumbles" (or what we just called "TVP" back in the '60s) instead of ground beef, from a carnivore friend with a vegetarian daughter, and I'm about to give that a whirl.

                                        8 Replies
                                          1. re: Sharuf

                                            Textured vegetable protein. Not a healthy product. But whole or fermented soy foods are.

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              <Textured vegetable protein. Not a healthy product>

                                              ?? Why not healthy?

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                It's artificial, created in a laboratory.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Health concerns have been raised about the potential for isolated and concentrated soy isoflavones as well as residual hexane from processing. It's been years since I read the literature on this, but I seem to recall a concern about a possible link to dementia in men, thyroid issues, and endocrine effects. None of the risks seem to occur with fermented or whole soy, I think it's the concentration of isolated components.

                                                  When you eat whole soy, you get a bunch of water, fiber, other components to sort of lower the dosage of active hormones in the soy food.

                                            2. re: Will Owen

                                              Have you tried TJ's frozen meatless meatballs? Their flavor and texture are quite meat-like. To me, they taste more "real" than the rubbery spheres that are TJ's frozen turkey meatballs.

                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                at some point, i think they changed the formulation of those meat balls. they have started to taste intolerably salty to me.

                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  We eat those maybe once every other month, when I'm craving spaghetti and meatballs and will be sharing them. Yes, they're much nicer than the turkey ones, though my problem with fauxsages applies here: they get all loosey-goosey when reheated. I amend that a bit by splitting the remaining balls, spreading the pasta in a gratin pan, and then arranging the half-balls on top with a good sprinkling of cheese. About 15 minutes in a fairly hot oven sort of crusts over the meatballs and heats the spaghetti enough

                                                  I've not had them lately, so I can't speak to the saltiness issue. I'll just have to get some and see. If they are too salty, I'll just use them in sauce and add no extra salt.

                                              2. Tofu and wheat gluten have enjoy a long history in Chinese cuisine. There are many dishes of these.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I thought of this thread today at the Chinese supermarket, where they have a small section of canned fake meats made of gluten: mock chicken, mock duck, mock abalone, mock charsiu, mock sweet and sour pork. I would have bought some but I was already overloaded.

                                                  I also regularly buy fake spicy beef jerky and fake pork floss, both made from mushrooms. Not only are they really tasty, they also cost a whole lot less than the meat versions.

                                                2. Totally agree with you on the "fake meat" thing.
                                                  (Don't get started on "near beer" and "sparkling grape juice"!)

                                                  Vegetarian for over a quarter of a decade now.
                                                  If I ever find myself with a craving for bacon, I'll eat pig!

                                                  p.s. I actually *love* tofu. I can slice of a chunk "raw" and enjoy it unadorned. Sometimes I crave it.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: pedalfaster

                                                    try dipping it in some thai peanut sauce.

                                                    1. re: pedalfaster

                                                      ". I actually *love* tofu. I can slice of a chunk "raw" and enjoy it unadorned. Sometimes I crave it."

                                                      So do I. I really, really like tofu, even right out of the container. Omnivore, not vegetarian. I'd like to try stinky tofu one day.

                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                        < stinky tofu >

                                                        I think you may like them. It is not as stinky these days. They have gotten milder over time to appeal to a greater and younger generation.

                                                    2. I have tried to do the vegetarian thing but I am a die-hard omnivore. I have tried some tofu based dishes which i enjoyed very much (Amy's Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas are scrumptious).

                                                      1. i have observed that when a person first becomes vegetarian after having eaten meat their whole life, they still are drawn to the flavors and textures of their childhood. most of the time these are the flavors of meat and of the gunk that most people call "comfort food."

                                                        after a person has been vegetarian for 10 years or so, they usually move on to types of food that started out as being vegetarian (dahls, curries, bean salads, bean chilies, etc).

                                                        p.s. much of the fake meat is made with wheat gluten

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: westsidegal


                                                          This is something heavily misunderstood by many from the outside.

                                                          In addition to religious or personal beliefs, for being vegetarian, some don't have much of a choice. For example there are those of Asian descent who have been carnivorous or omnivorous for a while, and suddenly have to switch to a vegetarian diet due to a health directive from their physician. It's a drastic lifestyle change. Thus mock meats offers them that means to do so, and eases the transition a bit.

                                                          The other thing is that some mock meat dishes are actually served in Chinese restaurants that are non vegetarian, simply because it is part of the cuisine style. In Hong Kong Shanghainese restaurants, vegetarian goose, which consists of primarily yuba and mushrooms (with seasoning) is a pretty amazing dish texturally and is a common appetizer item. R&G Lounge in San Francisco has an amazing vegetarian abalone dish that tastes close texture wise to the real thing.

                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                            < much of the fake meat is made with wheat gluten>


                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                              Actually, for many Chinese, becoming vegetarian is more of a religious obligation - i.e. when one becomes a more devout Buddhist at a certain (adult) stage in life. Therefore, gluten was used to replicate all those meats (pork, chicken, fish, shrimp, etc.) which they missed. They did *not* really want to give up on their meats.

                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                The other factor is that the cooking a recently converted vegetarian is used to is often meat based. Using substitutes lets them adapt familiar recipes to a meatless diet - throw a veggie burger on the grill, use TVP in chili, substitute seitan based fake meat in a stew.

                                                                And as others have said, a lot of the fake meat dishes in Asia aren't actually made with tofu but are made with wheat gluten.

                                                                There are also people who like the taste of meat, but don't eat it for purely ethical/health reasons.

                                                                One thing that I find confuses westerners is going to an East Asian restaurant and being served a dish that contains both tofu and meat. I"ve heard vegetarians railing against this - how can they put *meat* in my tofu dish. I explain that while in Western cuisine, tofu is a thing that vegetarians eat instead of meat, in Chinese or Japanese cuisine it's just food, and mixing tofu and meat is no weirder than having beans and meat in the same dish.

                                                              2. If I can ever figure out human beings, I will have evolved or devolved past them.

                                                                I figure fake meat is the entry level drug for the voluntary non-meat using part of the population. For those who enjoy the PETA videos on the web and use them as justification, fine. Not worth getting my knickers in a knot.

                                                                I enjoy cooking for any challenging constraint as it expands my culinary horizons. But I will have to buy 2 new sets of cookware if I should every have the pleasure of serving Orthodox Jews.

                                                                10 Replies
                                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                  I didn't realize that orthodox Jews necessarily kept kosher. Wouldn't you also have to have a separate kitchen?

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    One of the tenets of Orthodoxy is keeping a kosher home. This is true for many Conservatives as well. Reform Jews do not. The advent of Conservative Jewish practice (it's the newest form of Jewish practice, just over 150 years old) was based on a return to Kosher observance in addition to other factors.

                                                                    1. re: ferret

                                                                      Thanks for that. I'm always learning about more than 'just' food here.

                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                      Some people do have separate kitchens, if they have the space and can afford it, because it makes life so much easier. But most don't, and they just have to be super-super careful about which pot/pan/dish/utensil they've used for meat or dairy.There will be separate or double sinks. If they make a mistake about which sink and the sink is stainless steel, they can scrub it, leave it unused for 24 hours, and then pour boiling water over the sink and faucet. They have to replace the strainer.

                                                                      Most Orthodox authorities hold that you can not use the same dishwasher for meat and dairy utensils, even if they are washed at different times. Some liberal authorities hold that one may use the same dishwasher (provided its interior is stainless steel) for meat and dairy utensils provided that they are washed at different times and an empty full cycle, only with dishwashing soap, (using the hottest water that your dishwasher provides) must be run in between meat and dairy. Some hold that the dishwasher must be left unused for 24 hours before running this cycle.

                                                                      Some authorities require that the (stainless steel) dishwasher be given a thorough cleaning (including the strainer) and that separate racks must be used between meat and dairy cycles.

                                                                      Meat and dairy utensils and dishes and pots can never be washed in the same dishwasher at the same time.

                                                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                        Wow. I knew there were a lot of rules but didn't think about all the ins and outs. So realistically it's highly unlikely that someone who observes all these rules would be able to eat at anyone else's home or restaurant unless those people and places were observant also. Thanks for that great explanation.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          That's correct. Most Orthodox Jews will not eat at restaurants except the very few that are certified as kosher. It isn't just the food. It is things like being open on the Sabbath. Conservative Jews, on the other hand, may eat out but simply not mix meat and dairy, not eat shellfish or pork. As in any religion, people obey the rules they want to obey, to the extent they want to obey, and find work-arounds for some rules. Eating at someone else's home is a problem if that person does not follow the rules as strictly as you do. Yes, there are a zillion rules. Rules about eggs (no blood spots). Rules about vegetables (you aren't supposed to consume insects), and certain vegetables such as legumes can't be eaten during Passover (though this depends on whether you are Ashkenazi or Sephardic - -it is not a biblical prohibition - it has cultural origins). And it is a whole separate set of dishes for Passover.

                                                                          1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                            Sounds like strict observance is not for the faint of heart :) Any data that show how the groups break out?

                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                            I know one person who is EXTREMELY observant Orthodox... she won't eat anything that she's not absolutely certain of, so don't bother offering her any food or drink that doesn't come directly from the store in a sealed package (and it has to be a CERTIFIED Kosher store just in case there's any contamination). Putting it on a paper plate won't do. It seems like an overly complicated and restrictive way of life to me, but I'm not Jewish... She used to travel a lot when she was younger, and sometimes she'd just not eat because she ran out of Orthodox food and didn't know where to buy more. When she came to see us, we had to jump through hoops to find an appropriate restaurant to take her to, and she vetoed the first three choices because she wasn't 100% certain they were Jewish enough... but she was also starving because there wasn't an orthodox store anywhere near her hotel.

                                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                                              The "orthodox store" thing is a misinterpretation. There are items that observant Jews will likely not buy outside of a kosher-observant and certified store (baked goods and meat) but there are NO religious restrictions about purchasing sealed, commercially-produced products that have an approved Kosher certification (OU being the most prominent). A large metropolitan grocery store will undoubtedly carry many hundreds of products that have Kosher certification.

                                                                              Orthodox jews will shop at any large grocery chain for most items, including produce. There are increasingly more kosher sections (and there are tons of items in stores without kosher sections that are still certified kosher) in large grocery chain stores located in highly-populated Jewish communities. Even certain Costco locations have kosher packaged meats, cheeses and other goods.

                                                                              I know many, many Orthodox jews at all levels of observance and none would think twice about buying food at chain grocers.

                                                                              Restuarants, on the other hand, are different because there can be a number of supervisory organizations or persons who oversee the management and food preparation of restaurants, even in the same area, and they can have differing standards.

                                                                              1. re: ferret

                                                                                The one really observant Jewish family we know is headed by the son of an only casually observant family, and his wife was raised Catholic. They married after she had converted, and they set up there kitchen with full separate sets of everything. After two or three years of this, they decided simply to go vegetarian, and either sold the duplicate stuff or put in storage for backup. They're stuck with the extra sink, but that's a "problem" most of us wouldn't mind having!

                                                                                As the woman has been cooking very well most of her life, a meal with them when we're in town is always a special treat. But it's hard to believe that she used to go home to Wisconsin and bring bratwurst back to us!

                                                                    3. I have often wondered exactly the same thing. Why eat something that looks like it came from a living thing?
                                                                      "Vegans! The Hezbollah of vegetarians!"

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                          How can you know if someone is a vegan? They'll tell you!!

                                                                      1. I eat mostly vegan and I agree with you 100%. I do not buy/eat any of those mock-meat, tofurkey, fake whatever things. I buy/make/eat various tofu dishes that are not intended to resemble animal proteins.

                                                                        1. My best guess is that the move to tofu for health reasons is relatively recent trend compared to the weight loss movement known as weight watchers. The weight watchers program focussed on replacing high calories dishes with the same dishes in low calorie form, rather than on creating new, healthy and tasty dishes. One example I remember, which I thought was absolutely nuts, was recreating egg rolls substituting rolled out pieces of white bread for the egg roll skins.

                                                                          When using tofu became a food trend, the same thing happened. In addition, MorningStar already existed to serve Seventh Day Adventist and other vegetarian clientele with their substitute bacon, hamburgers, etc.

                                                                          Most Asians who grew up eating tofu know that it comes in many forms besides the blocks, which can be sliced and eaten with soy sauces or cubed and added to dishes, including those with meat. For example, Chinese cusine uses dried sheets which are softened and added to soups and dishes with gravy. Japanese cuisine uses a fried version called "aburage." There's also fermented versions used for seasonsing.

                                                                          To summarize, in Asian cuisines, the eating of tofu is not necessarily associated with being a vegan or vegetarian and is eaten in many different forms.

                                                                          What I think is great about the West's interest in tofu becoming main stream are the new ways of using tofu, such as some very tasty recipes for chocolate mousse or fruit smoothies using very soft tofu. Also in the use of edamame, which are soy beans, in salads or as snacks.

                                                                          1. My 19 year son has been home from college this summer. He is dabbling in vegetarian. I dont mind, but i do mind when its "recreating" i would just rather cook tofu how tofu shines. Seitan... if you can help me there, please do. I cant make that palatable in any form

                                                                            1. Not vegan here, but I often use silken tofu as an excellent substitute for cream in sauces and soups. That, or cashew cream. I like the fact that I can have cream of broccoli soup or a creamy pasta sauce and not feel bad about it.

                                                                              1. I think the concept behind vegans or other groups trying to imitate meat products or dishes, in general is from the basis if we can show them a good alternative they may be more willing to accept it in their diet. Meaning that hey you dont have to give up your burger to be vegan, come on over see it tastes good still.

                                                                                I also think that in general our culture, food eating habits, and recipes are centered around meat dinner dishes and hence they want to emulate or give alternatives to what most people eat, at least in the west.

                                                                                I would also agree that Tofu is its own thing, many eastern dishes do focus or celebrate tofu for its own thing and do not imitate other meat dishes. Do you have any idea how many kinds of tofu there are in china? I enjoy tofu, soy and soy milk quite often. I find often it tastes better then bad meat, its much more affordable and healthy in general, and I am not a vegan or vegetarian at all. I find myself eating less meat often because the price for quality is so out of whack that I just don't enjoy it.

                                                                                I do suggest seeing a series "A Bite of China" (think it was episode 2) to learn a bit more about the east and its relationship to soybeans.

                                                                                All that being said I would have to add this thread:

                                                                                Survey Says...60% of vegetarians ate meat yesterday!

                                                                                1. I eat meat now not much but I eat it. I was a strict vegetarian for about 8 years. And in the first year I lived on frozen veggie burgers (Boca) loved them. As I discovered how to cook different things the "burger" were less and less. I think when people are first trying to go vegetarian it's easy to go for things they know "hot dogs", "chkn patties" "burgers". Learning to cook without animal protein is a process. I relied on those fake meat less as I discovered to cook with beans grains and all kinds of veggies.
                                                                                  A lot of vegetarians I know don't hate meat but choose not to eat it. And at times crave a burger. So those frozen things help without having to do something they find immoral.