When it comes to the plant-based food business, I’m confused. Don’t get me wrong, I was buying veggie ground round 20 years ago — before it was fashionable. Anybody who hasn’t been in a time capsule for the past few decades gets it: Plants, veggies, ferns, fronds, seaweed, strange green things hanging from your houseplant are good for you. Duh.
What confuses me is the modesty among the lentils, yams, mushrooms and beans. Why are they pretending to be something other than their glorious selves? Packaging themselves as burgers, wings, chicken nuggets (and then, in teeny tiny print, the admission that they are veggies) is denying who they really are. Almonds and oats pretend to be milk, even though they have never been near a cow. (Neither have I, come to think of it.) Vegan, dairy-free cheese is promoted as being particularly desirable because “it even has mold.” Geez Louise. Shame on you, dear veggies and beans. You shouldn’t lurk in the background as also-rans in the food race.
What’s going on here? Are plants the peasants, while beef, pork and chicken rule the roost? I object! Uriah Heep, one of the most memorable, and least likeable, Dickens character overdid the “humble, humble” routine. It is even less admirable in a veggie that should have more substance.
Why not go a different literary route, and quote Popeye, who knew his spinach from a sausage? “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.”
Calling all vegetables, tubers and pulses! Stand up and roar, “I am a mushroom, not a meat patty! I am a lentil, not a lamb chop!” You’ll need to work on your self-esteem. Huddle together in the crisper and recite affirmations. Veggie Power! Bean Beauty! The Glory of Garlic! And remember what e. e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
These days, authenticity is a measure of quality. So, hey veggies and pulses, stand up and be proud of your heritage, your looks, your value. Don’t let anybody put you down for being yourself. Speak your truth.
I can get sentimental over a lentil, mushy over mushrooms, finding recipes that show off their personalities. Personally, I draw the line at making aguafaba whipped cream, but that’s just me. I’d rather have hummus.
Bonus: In addition to a self-righteous pride in eating an irreproachably healthy plant-based diet, we can also exercise some patriotic zeal. Buy lentils and support Canadian farmers. And beets, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, fiddleheads when you can find them. I am not against meat or poultry or fish. I am just saying there should be room for all at the table, and none of them should be wearing phony name tags.
Oscar Wilde was right: “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”