Yes, yes, I know the difference between a traditional vegetarian and a vegan. But until recently, I didn't know that there were vegetarians who liked meat-free dishes designed to look and taste like, you know, meat. Or, conversely, vegetarians who considered this practice anathema to the very concept of vegetarianism.
I should have known better. Years ago, I was extolling the virtues of an amazing meatless Reuben sandwich sold at the old Manna House Cafe on 95th Street and Nall. It didn't matter if it was delicious and tasted like the real thing, a vegetarian friend snapped at me. "If it looked like meat and tasted like meat -- it was meat!"
Yesterday, I had lunch with a vegetarian co-worker. We went to the Beer Kitchen in Westport, which offers a couple of meatless but meat-inspired meals: a meat-free meatloaf and a vegetarian shepherd's pie. A great shepherd's pie, by the way. And such a generous portion that my co-worker took most of it home. The next day, she told me that her vegetarian boyfriend had an interesting take on the pie, which is made with braised turnips, carrots, potatoes, peas and shitake-mushroom gravy, but no fake "meat."
"My boyfriend said it was too meaty for him," she said. "It tasted so close to the real thing that he didn't like it. He has this philosophy that if vegetarians want so bad for their meatless dishes to taste like meat, they should go back to eating the real thing."
She then asked me: "Is there widespread debate on this issue?"
Not being a vegetarian, I didn't know. Is there? Speak up, vegetarians (and those who tolerate vegetarians).
(Image via Flickr: Sweet On Veg)