Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Down With TVP?

With four days under my belt, I am starting to gain a bit of confidence in myself. Resisting meat has not been overly difficult. The irritants are few and far between: simple necessities like double-checking to make sure something is vegan-safe. Then again, I live in a silly age where that is considered a valid complaint. Checking labels is a minor vexation when one considers how a caveman used to obtain sustenance. Of course, I have the suspicion that a vegan caveman would not make it very far. Beating soybeans with a club until they yield Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) would be a pain in the ass.


TVP is a godsend. I cannot believe this magic substance has not been given proper exposure. Maybe I missed something, or maybe I’m just the last one to find out it causes dick cancer. Even if it does, it’s amazing and cheap enough for me not to care all that much. For approximately $2.50/lb at Whole Foods, I figured I would snatch a pound just to see if the instant-potato-looking-flakes were swallowable.

After our dubious purchase, my lovely fiancĂ©e tinkered in the kitchen forming what I figured would be miserable Asian-style-chicken-finger-mutant-bastards, not because she’s an inept cook, but because who the fuck expects deep-fried chunky cocaine to taste good? Sorry to buck your expectations, but this stuff is phenomenal in terms of meat-substitutes.

Aside from its tofu-like ability to soak up tastes, the greatest thing about TVP is its rigidity. When you bite into a TVP “chicken finger,” it feels like you’re actually biting into something. Not this “tastes okay but goes down like Jell-O” tofu bullshit. I am a texture guy. It’s a big part of the reason I was so picky for so long: if something doesn’t feel right to my mouth I’m not going near it again. That’s why I don’t talk to Chad anymore.


I would argue that going vegan requires a lot of expectations to be thrown out. You cannot expect a meatless burger or chicken patty to taste exactly like the real thing. It shouldn’t. And part of the lifestyle change for the successful vegetarians and vegans I know is getting past that need for those types of food altogether. There are fruits and vegetables and other natural things that just taste good. Tinkering with them and trying to impose a processed taste on them is part of the problem that veganism is supposed to be addressing. As a beginner, I recognize that I’m just not at that point yet.

What I find most surprising about this is what I miss from the realm of animal food. My illicit cravings aren’t for filet mignon or prime rib (although now that I mention them…); my periodic yearnings are for things I shouldn’t, and usually do not, eat in the first place. Depriving my tongue of meat-taste has awoken the deepest memories of childhood excess in my tongue-buds. I want grease and crispy skin and salty fat. KFC, Hardees, Checkers, etc. It sounds amazing and terrible and endlessly nauseating all at once. It seems to be a desire for a quick fix—I am an addict looking for a hit of something that I know will not benefit me in any meaningful capacity.


While I am on the subject of stomach issues, I must confess that a wonderful thing has happened on the way to the bathroom. Not only am I more regularly making the toilet my bitch in ways I never thought possible thanks to what I am guessing is a healthy detox period, I much more infrequently have to excuse myself from an elevator several stops before my floor. My ass is a goddamn secret garden and you are all invited. Smell that? No. You do not.

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