Opinion: Ottolenghi versus Tofurky

Yotam Ottolenghi versus Tofurky

I’ve never warmed to Yotam Ottolenghi, the Guardian food columnist and chain restaurateur. Maybe that’s because he’s a meat eater who did the ‘vegetarian’ column in the Guardian for a while, or because his recipes don’t appeal to plant eaters, with their reliance on egg and dairy. After reading his opinions about Tofurky, my aversion has only grown:

Opinion: Chris Dixon, veganoo.net

If you’re not a Guardian reader, don’t worry, you can read the article here (no paywall). Like many a flesh-eater before him, Ottolenghi seeks to belittle cruelty-free alternatives to meat. As a vegan, how many times have you heard the line ’if you don’t like meat, why do you eat stuff that tastes like meat?’ Yup, it’s No. 6 on the Vegan Bingo card.

Yotam is a classic carnivore: 'I don’t understand why vegans don’t just eat vegetables'; 'why do vegans eat food that tastes like meat/cheese'; 'why don’t they just eat my black quinoa dishes'? Well, Yotam, you’ve answered your own question really - only one of your quinoa dishes is plant-based. The rest rely on animal products.

You see, plants are great and all, but they get a bit boring after a while*. Yotam can’t manage a single page of recipes using just plants, yet we’re supposed to live a lifetime with just those flavours and those textures. Animal products and their cruelty-free analogues provide a wider variety of flavours and textures. It doesn’t matter that Tofurky’s Italian Sausage is not on a par with the pig flesh version (yet**), what matters is that it’s pretty tasty sausage, without killing the pig.

It’s OK to shun fake meats and cheeses if you’re vegan. It’s not OK to say vegans should live without those flavours and textures, when you so heavily rely on them in your own cooking.

*Some vegans will disagree with this, but not many who’ve been vegan for 20 years or more.

** I also disagree with Yotam that analogues 'never will be' as good as animal products, when current research suggests they will.

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  1. Each to their own I say. I stopped eating fake meat, dairy and eggs. I see it as, what is the point in eating what your trying to avoid! I never liked the taste of fake alternatives anyway and it made me crave the real thing.

    I'm a vegan because I see health benefits with this type of lifestyle. Other people who turn vegan because of animal cruelty should eat the fake products.

    Why does it matter what people say about vegans?

    1. Thanks MrsToddSmith, indeed each to their own. That's why I took offence to the original article of a meat eater disparaging what vegans eat.

  2. People with these opinions obviously think that vegans are vegan because they don't like the taste of meat. The majority of vegans I know, including myself, were brought up eating meat/eggs/dairy... I used to love yogurt, but I hate animal cruelty, so if I can buy something that tastes like yogurt but doesn't involve ripping a calf from its mother and stealing its milk (thanks, alpro!) then that's great!

    It's the same issue I have with people telling me off for eating big hearty stews with dumpling crust, vegan pizzas, and pasta dishes because "I thought vegans were healthy!" I'm vegan because I love animals. I also love warm bowls of comfort food! sure, if somebody is vegan and wants to just eat raw, unprocessed food then that's their choice and go ahead!

    The only thing I disagree with is people like MrsToddSmith1 who are "vegan" for health benefits. Sure, you eat a plant-based diet with the side-effect of helping animals/the environment, but I don't believe you're vegan if you're only doing it for your health. I presume people doing it for health will still buy household products/clothes/etc that aren't cruelty free because it's nothing to do with their diet.

    1. Thanks for the comments. There are vegans that live off chips and sausages... Can't be healthy though...

  3. Wow, what a comment that is a mirror to mine. That is your opinion on me not being a vegan based on your assumption. Who gave you the right to decided on what vegan is anyway? For your information I use natural "household products/clothes/etc" I make at home with minimal to no chemicals. So do I get a vegan pass from you vegan police? Just because I state I am a vegan for health purposes and choose not to eat faux alternatives does not give you a right to brand people that go vegan for health reason.

  4. I don't eat a lot of vegan meat substitutes, though I have in the past.
    I don't often have cheese substitutes either, but I have been craving cheese on pizza & pasta dishes recently so I bought some again just recently.

    I think the point though is that if you're reaching for the tofurkey pizza you're having a "cheat day" or a lazy day. Not necessarily that you're eating like that every day.

    Very few people eat healthily all the time. Sometimes you just don't have the time or the inclination to cook or stand around preparing a meal. Sometimes you're out of fresh ingredients and so it's quicker or easier to reach for a vegan meal from your fridge or freezer.

    I eat healthily most of the time IMO, eating mostly organic and mostly home made.
    Last night I had a home made ratatouille consisting of courgette, red pepper, mushrooms, spinach, celery & garlic in half a jar of organic pasta sauce that needed using up. I also added some grated Violife pizza cheese that also needed eating (I had most of it on home made veg-topped pizza last week).
    Tonight I had roast potatoes, carrots, parsnip, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, leek & spinach with gravy.
    Not sure what to have tomorrow, Thursday I plan to use up some of the veg and make a home made veg curry (completely from scratch, make my own sauce with spices, tomatoes & coconut milk etc, I don't buy it).

    But occasionally it's handy to have some 'meat substitute' and be able to have a quick or easy meal of that plus oven chips & baked beans or something.

    For me things like vegan cheese on pizza can help stop me from craving 'the real thing'.


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