I’m so excited to share this month’s guest blogger! It’s my pure privilege to introduce my friend and fellow vegan, Eric Lindstrom, also known to many as the Meaty Vegan, to Cowgirls & Collard Greens. Though Eric and I have never met, mostly due to the fact that he lives about 3,000 miles away in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York (could you live any farther away Eric?), I feel like we have known each other for years. Eric and I became acquainted earlier this year when he kindly featured me on his ever so popular blog (check out the interview here).
Eric is brilliant. He’s always creating amazing new ideas that spread awareness of factory farmed animals, promote the vegan message, not to mention, most of his blog posts are hilariously witty and satirical. And, I’m not done yet…Eric is a great cook as well. His food photos alone make most drool over their keyboards! Additionally, Mr. Meaty Vegan is one of those lucky folks who gets paid to do what he loves everyday as the director of Thank Tank Creative, a marketing and design firm whose primary focus is to help and support vegan businesses succeed. Yup, Eric gets paid to be a vegan! Dream. Come. True. And, because he’s is a connoisseur and expert on meat, the vegan kind, I’ve invited him here today to chat about that very topic. Welcome and take it away Eric!
Ah, meat. The byproduct of so much suffering and murder. Delicious meat. Torn from the bones and ribs of so many. Or is it? Omnivores don’t own the word “meat” and I have no intention of handing it over. So much so, that I think it’s time we stop calling fake meat “fake meat” and call it what it is. Meat.
While the dictionary (remember those?) defines meat first as “the flesh of an animal (especially a mammal) as food,” the third dictionary definition is “the edible part of fruits or nuts.” So there.
Packed with protein and filled with flavor, vegan meat never once had to put up a fight.
I know, I know, there are still many vegans who are opposed to anything that may be called “meat” and many consider vegan meat as bad for their health as animal meat (I disagree). So, for the sake of this blog post, I am going to sort vegan meat into two categories:
- Pre-packaged, off-the-shelf, commercially-produced meaty deliciousness, and;
- Home-made, from scratch, organic, whole food, vegan meat.
We all know many of the popular brands of off-the-shelf vegan meat products: Tofurky, BeyondMeat, Field Roast, etc. and I personally know many vegans who claim to stay away from these very same products. First, because they claim they are over-processed and not healthy or, in some cases, actually don’t eat these products because it reminds them too much of “meat.”
This is baloney. Invite me to your next vegan potluck and let me bring some of my spicy “chicken” wings with vegan bleu cheese dipping sauce, or my soy chorizo burritos with oozing vegan cheese, or, my famous “meat” lovers’ gluten-free, vegan pizza and let’s see which goes first: my dishes or the kale salad.
For the record, I love kale salad and often use it as a filling in my jackfruit, pulled “pork” tacos.
I’ve been to so many vegan potlucks and vegan events and have seen this phenomenon firsthand. I remember one year when I was attending Vegetarian Summerfest, the largest event for vegans in the northeast and was standing in line (a very long line) for the pizza bar which was serving pizza with vegan meat toppings. There was probably 300 people in line at the pizza bar and 3 people in line at the salad bar. Whether they are willing to admit it or not, and I am, vegans love vegan meat and swarm toward the most decadent and savory dishes.
Now, I am also willing to admit that there is a valid argument for the second category of vegan meat: homemade. I get it, if you want to avoid processed foods and any over-packaged products that are “non-vegan,” however this argument is erased when the vegan meat is made from scratch. All whole food ingredients, vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Spicy black bean burgers, jackfruit pulled “pork,” shiitake mushroom bacon, and even carrot hot dogs; all made from organic, non-GMO, farmers’ market ingredients and all a very welcome part of any vegan (and omnivore’s) meal. Many of these recipes, and more, are online and, over the past year, I’ve customized them in my own kitchen.
There is nothing I love more than experimenting with ingredients to produce a vegan meat that is so spot-on, that even omnivores want to try it. Recently I created my vegan meat masterpiece when I created spicy Mexican-style chorizo out of steel cut oats. Tastes exactly the same as its south of the border counterpart but it’s actually good for you and no animals are harmed in the making of it. Sautéed onions and peppers mixed with organic tomato paste and the exact spices blended with the cooked oats. The color and texture and taste is perfect and this makes an excellent filling for tacos and burritos and a delicious topping on vegan pizza or a filling in a Mexican lasagna. Don’t forget to squeeze on the sour cream.
Earlier this summer, I made the jackfruit pulled “pork” recipe (shown above) and brought it to a cookout with grilled onions and peppers. The unripened jackfruit has little flavor and the meat of the fruit tears apart when the outer hard edge is removed. Like the steel cut oats recipe, you start with a flavorless texture and build up your ingredients from there. Grinding in smoked spices, molasses, and BBQ sauce into the jackfruit creates an incredible likeness to pulled “pork” and, when served on a Kaiser roll with peppers and onions and vegan cheese, I am further reminded that there is never a reason to eat animals.
Probably the most well-known vegan meats remains the classic veggie burger. While there are many available at your local grocery, making them is so easy and fun, I am sure you’ll always want homemade after trying this. A can of organic black beans (drained) smashed with the back of a fork (it immediately takes on a ground beef look). Add 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, finely chopped onion, finely chopped green pepper, pressed clove of garlic, and your favorite spices and herbs (salt and pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, etc). Smash all of this together until completely incorporated. Now, add flaxseed meal converted into two vegan eggs (there are many egg substitutes on the market but flaxseed meal adds so much nutrition, it’s what I use in nearly all my savory recipes) and form into 3 inch balls.
Now, the key here is that you have to fry these first. A little sesame oil heated in a frying pan and the bean ball dropped in. Press with a lightly oiled spatula until the desired diameter and fry crisp on each side for 3-4 minutes. These can then be refrigerated for up to two days in advance of your cookout or eat them right away topped with all your favorite toppings.
There are as many vegan meat options out there as there are levels of vegan. Explore all of them to find what you love the most. And, set aside the fact that what you are eating may not always be great for you, but it is always great for the animals.
Eric C Lindstrom is a global marketing, design, and social media expert and an ethical vegan. In 2014, Lindstrom founded ThankTank Creative, a socially-just, environmentally-conscious, and vegan design and marketing firm that targets like-minded businesses around the world. For more information, please visit ThankTankCreative.com or like them on facebook.com/thanktankcreative and follow on Twitter @ThankTankCr8. Lindstrom also writes for HappyCow.net and the popular MeatyVegan.com blog and lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife, two children and vegan dog.