A Vegetarian at the Thanksgiving Table

The Huffington Post posted a slide show today titled “Thanksgiving Turkey Substitutes: The Least Appetizing Choices.”

This piece asks readers to vote on the pictures, “Rate the most outrageous turkey substitutes,” on a scale of 1: “I Eat That Daily!” to 10: “Is That Even Food?”

Now I realize that meat substitutes can be less than appealing, especially to an incredulous meat eater, but the Huffington Post’s piece was just plain offensive and in bad taste. (Excuse the pun.)

Some of the captions to the photos include, “Quorn, a substance that is meat free and soy free and made from mycoprotein, comes in these vacuum sealed bags. Kinda creepy?” and “Seitan is made out of gluten, but it looks a lot more like meat than like wheat… or maybe it just looks funky.”

The irony here is that these meals are emulating their meat counterparts. The chef’s took their inspirations from the meat eater’s kitchen; from the turkey roasts and roulades of the traditional Thanksgiving table. So in critiquing the palatability of the vegan and vegetarian substitutes, the Huffington Post is indirectly criticizing the food culture of the beloved meat eater. How is a thick slab of turkey flesh rolled around a filling any less appetizing than a grain formed into a malleable dough rolled around a similar stuffing?

Another issue with this piece is the disrespect to food culture. As we all know, food choices move far beyond the necessities of health and nutrition and into conversations of lifestyle, culture, and religion. In critiquing what or the way someone eats is an indirect, and sometimes direct, attack on that person’s integrity. Think of the racist insults that include food as an implication of degradation: fried chicken, rice, dog, etc.

The Huffington Post would certainly not post a slide show titled “Hindu Thanksgiving Turkey Substitutes: The Least Appetizing Choices,” or “All Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Meals: The Least Appetizing Choices.” Those pieces would immediately be tagged as racist and off-color.

But that’s exactly what vegetrainism and veganism are – food cultures. It’s a personal lifestyle choice; it’s a statement on morality and ethics; it’s environmentalism. So critiquing our food choices is no less acceptable than questioning the foodstuffs of any other culture.

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