STEPHEN JAR­DINE

Ve­gan food can be de­li­cious but for­get the meat im­i­ta­tions,

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective - writes Stephen Jar­dine

The av­er­age Scot has a life ex­pectancy of 79 years. Most of us eat three times a day so that means ap­prox­i­mately 86,505 meals in a life­time. I’m more than half way through that to­tal and as some­one who looks for­ward to ev­ery last one, that makes me sad. How­ever it also gal­vanises me into mak­ing sure no meal will be wasted. Why have cheese on toast for din­ner when so many bet­ter things take just a lit­tle time and ef­fort?

In the­ory, that same sen­ti­ment should quickly spell the end of the lat­est food fad. Pub chain Marstons this week in­tro­duced a ve­gan burger that ‘bleeds’ in 400 premises across the coun­try. Made with the oys­ter mushrooms, pea pro­tein and oats, the burger is sup­posed to taste and look like meat and even se­cretes squeezed beet­root to mimic the bloody juices from the real thing. Wow, doesn’t that sound ap­petis­ing?

Ve­g­an­ism is in fash­ion. Some es­ti­mates sug­gest more than three mil­lion peo­ple now em­brace a meat and dairy-free life­style. Within that num­ber are a solid per­cent­age do­ing it for sound eth­i­cal rea­sons. They don’t like the way an­i­mals are ex­ploited and treated just to sat­isfy our ap­petites and choose to opt out of that sys­tem. I ad­mire their prin­ci­pled stand and the fact that, un­like many meat eaters, they at least un­der­stand where food comes from. Happy eat­ing to them.

Then there are some peo­ple who just don’t like the taste of meat and I get that too. I’m now eat­ing much less meat than be­fore and many peo­ple say as they get older their ap­petite for it di­min­ishes. How­ever once in a while, for me, only a juicy steak, crispy ba­con roll or re­ally good burger will do.

Fill­ing up the rump is the new wave of ve­g­ans. Peo­ple too “woke” to eat a sausage. To them, ve­g­an­ism is as im­por­tant a life state­ment as al­ways hav­ing their re­fill­able cup on­hand when they go into their local hip­ster cof­fee shop for an almond milk latte. Their ap­proach is less about an­i­mal wel­fare and more about how good an av­o­cado and dukkah flat­bread looks on In­sta­gram.

The ve­gan burger that bleeds has been cre­ated specif­i­cally for this group. I’ve eaten plenty of ve­gan food and much of it was de­li­cious. If you need con­vinc­ing, pick up just about any cook­book by Yot­tam Ot­tolenghi. I in­ter­viewed him a cou­ple of years ago and was sur­prised to find he eats meat be­cause his food has made him one of the great­est cheer­lead­ers for veg­etable cook­ery. How about but­ter­nut squash with gin­ger toma­toes or roasted sweet potato with pecan and maple or corn cakes with beet­root and ap­ple salad? I want to eat all of that right now. So given food that good, why would you want to eat a bleed­ing ve­gan burger?

If I ever give up eat­ing meat, it will be to find de­li­cious new dishes I’ve missed out on so far. It won’t be to chase down poor im­i­ta­tions of what I ate be­fore.

Proper ve­g­ans are too busy eat­ing good veg­etable food to be both­ered by any of this, but the late ar­rivals to the band­wagon seem to be re­luc­tant con­verts still han­ker­ing for what went be­fore. So long live ve­g­an­ism but leave burg­ers off the menu be­cause no fake is ever as good as the real deal.

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