There’s no denying the veggie movement is on the rise. Whether it’s for perceived health benefits, or ethical reasons, even die hard carnivores are adding a little something veggie to their diet. Meat Free Mondays, Veganuary, they’re all adding to the change in our diets.
My only grumble, and I say this as an omnivore (I really do eat anything – except fresh tomatoes or rice pudding, those are broken relationships that are never going to mend), is the more evangelical are very much that. Their promotion of the lifestyle can be aggressive, and intentionally confrontational – serving only to drive people away. I appreciate the arguments, I am willing to listen. But for now, I’m not willing to change my diet. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a vegan meal or several on a regular basis, because as you’re about to read, I can and I do.
Part of the reason I won’t switch is the lack of availability. Street food in the city, and Grub’s Plant Powered Sundays have done much for this. As has chef Jackie Kearney, and the prevalence Asian food, but it’s still only slowly easing it’s way into menus. You still have to trawl for veggie options, let alone vegan. It can still mean that dining with a vegan friend can still be a minefield.
Then there’s VRevolution. Somewhere plant eater and meat eater could maybe dine together. Burgers and fries, hotdogs and fried ‘chicken’. I admit, I have my issues over plants pretending to be meat (please be one or the other), but there is much to be made for satisfaction in textures of food. So when a vegan friend visited from London, it was of course, my first suggestion for lunch.
The menu reads like any fast food joint. Macaroni cheez (no dairy here), loaded fries with baecon and beefy chilli. The meat substitute here is seitan – made from wheat gluten, it’s high in protein, low in fat, and is a popular alternative to tofu or tempeh.
I selected the ‘Go Ahead, Mac My Day’ a mac and cheez loaded hot dog with baecon, whilst my date opted for the ‘Jerry Zinger’ fried chkn, cheez, hash brown with hot sauce, salsa, lettuce and mayo. Oh and then I ordered fried pickles with ranch dressing as a side. I can’t resist fried pickles.
Was everything different to ordering a ‘normal’ hot dog? Well yes. It’s going to be. It’s not the same ingredients. The bacon was smoky, but quite soft, but the hot sauce deliciously astringent. The bun was lacking in the richness you’d get with egg and butter and sure the dog was a little more chewy than the meat version, but still with that ‘dog’ flavour. The bit that blew me away was the mac. Sure it’s not real cheese, and the pasta was a little softer than the egg filled kind I’m used to. But it was pretty damn good. So much so, I’d happily order a bowl of it next time I’m in.
Was the chicken like real fried chicken? Until someone finds a way to mimic muscle fibres using seitan, then that’s not really going to happen. Was it crisply coated and satisfying? Yes. Were the fries proper fries? Yes.
Were the deep fried pickles sharp, sweet and a little crunchy? Yes. Was the ranch dressing ranchy? Yes. Could you tell the difference, yes of course, it’s a little thinner, and there’s a less creamy flavour, because, well, there’s no cream in it.
And that’s the thing. It’s not going to be the same. I even expect the Impossible Foods burger may not taste quite the same to a meat eater.
But that’s kind of not the point.
Does it provide good food for vegan diners? Yes.
Does it provide a fully vegan menu for vegan diners? Yes.
Is it making vegan dining accessible? Yes.
Does it taste good? Yes.
Would I eat it again? Why yes, yes I would.
And that to me, is more the point.