Ok, so I’ve been trying to explore vegan options, in hopes that I might be able to avoid harming animals while being healthy and still enjoying comfort foods similar to those that I grew up with.
The idea of technological progress enabling moral progress is not new. Slavery was commonplace in ancient times, but as technology progressed and machines started to do the things that slaves could do, people started to find slavery more and more offensive, and eventually we got to the situation where it’s essentially been extinguished. My suspicion is that something similar will happen with animal slavery and killing – once we’re able to get sufficiently healthy and delicious food via other means, a moral “tipping point” against animal suffering is not far away.
Anyway, I’m intrigued to be on the forefront of this wave, so I’ll eat a few vegan meals made with high-tech foods and write about my subjective experience. If I can adapt to these foods, I might end up going entirely vegan. (But that’s probably a long way away!)
OK, so this isn’t a comfort food. But it’s worth reviewing since the tech is relevant to veganism. I received a one-month supply of Soylent (www.soylent.me) a few weeks ago. Soylent is not quite vegan because it uses fish oil to supply a few nutrients, but it’s so close that I’ll round down and call it vegan. (You could use canola instead of the fish oil and be truly vegan, but I don’t know what the nutritional impact is.)
Soylent tastes like cake-batter-flavored chalk suspended in water. You can make it as thick or thin as you like. I make it a bit thinner than recommended because it goes down easier.
The first few times I had Soylent I thought it tasted too much like artificial sweetener. However, though it is still too sweet, I stopped noticing the “artificialness” and now it tastes mostly bland.
I would certainly not call Soylent delicious. But it is drinkable, and not particularly distasteful. It’s also, I suspect, quite healthy, and it fills me up very effectively, easy to prepare, and so on. So it’s definitely going in my high-tech vegan diet.
I had some intestinal issues the first time I had Soylent but they don’t seem to be an issue anymore.
I made a sandwich. Bread, vegan mayo, tofu-based “chicken salad”, vegan cheese and pickles. At Whole Foods I was hoping for “Just Mayo” from Hampton Creek – http://www.hamptoncreek.com/just-mayo – it was recommended by my friend, but didn’t find it, so I got the Whole Foods brand instead.
Whole Foods Vegan Mayo
The Whole Foods vegan mayo has a similar flavor to normal mayo but a slightly different texture. More similar to light mayo than normal mayo, I’d say. Overall it seems like a reasonable substitute, and I shall not waste more words on it since mayo is a small component of my sandwich. I don’t think I would have noticed a difference if you swapped it out without telling me.
Whole Foods Vegan Chicken Salad
It’s okay. The tofu chunks are pretty chewy, more so than chicken. It definitely doesn’t taste “satisfying” like chicken does. However, I could live on this.
Daiya Dairy Free Cheddar Style Slices
This is where the real technology comes in. I’ve always been skeptical of vegan cheese substitutes. I skipped past all the lo-tech soy crap and jumped to the “good stuff”, or what my friend told me was the good stuff. Daiya is the brand.
Unfortunately, Daiya fell pretty flat. I could tell where they were going, and they didn’t quite make it. The texture and flavor were both noticeably off, and this was for a major component of the sandwich. The texture was odd, maybe a bit gritty? Cheese shouldn’t be gritty, it should be smooth. It was pocked with tiny holes, which was weird but not particularly offputting.
The main issue was with the flavor. It tasted strongly of artificial cheddar, like the flavor of “Flavor Blasted” Cheez-its. Way too intense.
That said, I think there’s substantial promise here, and maybe the next brand will come along and nail it – it’s not so far off that it was hopeless.
Also, I’ll definitely try making a grilled sandwich with this cheddar another day though. On the box they make big claims about the meltability so I think there’s a chance it’ll work better that way. I may try the swiss or provolone versions for sandwiches and see if they’re any better.
Sandwich Overall – my sandwich held together as a comfort lunch decently well. The pickle and bread were normal sandwich ingredients that I’m used to. The pickle flavor successfully overwhelmed the other flavors so it was easy to eat despite the kinda gross cheese flavor. I could definitely eat this sandwich again and not be too sad compared to meat and cheese sandwiches than I normally eat. But there’s a lot of room for improvement.
- 120 cal from the cheese, 240 bread, 180 chicken salad, 90 mayo; total 630.
- Protein: 2g cheese, 6g bread, 16g chicken salad; total 24g.
- Cost: $.50 cheese, $.66 bread, $1.75 chicken; total $3. Definitely not bad.
SO Delicious Cultured Almond Milk
This is a vegan yogurt thing. Came in a single serving package.
I really like this. It’s better than yogurt. Definitely doesn’t quite taste the same, but I like it more than normal yogurt. The difference seems to be a sort of “puffed”/”whipped” texture (imagine whipped cream cheese vs. normal) – it’s got a more airy texture, and seems “drier”. The flavor is great. Unfortunately it looks like they don’t sell it in larger packages, and this package was $2.19 for a single serving (110 cal; 2g protein) so I probably won’t get it again except for special occasions.
I made a grilled sandwich with the Daiya cheddar cheese (same as last time) and some tofurky tempeh and avocado.
I discovered that the melted sandwich was a LOT better! This cheese is no good un-melted, but it melts realistically, and it’s definitely a lot more palatable when melted. If you like grilled sandwiches then definitely get this Daiya cheese - http://us.daiyafoods.com/products/dairy-free-cheese-slices/cheddar-style-slices
Maple Smoked Tempeh Strips
The tempeh tastes okay. Certainly not bad – it smells pretty appealing, and the texture is fine, and the taste is fine. It’s not a bacon or a meat, that’s for sure. But it adds to the overall sandwich.
Tempeh, though, is a lot less nutritious than the tofu “chicken salad” from last time. I’m mainly just using a lot less volume of the “meat”. Instead of the 16g protein from the chicken, I’m using 3 strips of tempeh, which is only about 5g and 50 cal. So the sandwich comes in at 600 cal and 13g protein.
The other drawback is that the sandwich is a lot of work to prepare. Grilled sandwiches take more than 10 minutes, mostly waiting for the cheese to melt – you can’t grill it too fast. And the tempeh wants to be grilled as well to be delicious.
Still, it’s pretty tasty and I would definitely recommend that vegans try the Daiya cheese grilled, if (like me) cheese is important to your sandwich experience.