Yesterday my copy of Bon Appetit Magazine arrived. I was interested in the article amalgamating Chapel Hill and Durham into America’s Foodiest Small Town. We used to live in Hillsborough, which is smack in the middle of Chapel Hill and Durham and were part of the Timberwood Organics CSA. The article cited a lot of area farmers, but Ray Christopher (aka Rama Dasa) owner and main farm hand at Timberwood Organics, was not included. I was hoping to see his name as some sort of relief from the meat-factor in my hand (Ray is a vegetarian and Bon Appetit, as hip looking as it is, is a pean to meat).
As I was looking at the meat shots, I quickly became defensive of all the seitan I’ve been cooking up lately. Some people refer to seitan/wheat gluten as a “meat substitute,” but I prefer to think of it as a “vegetarian treat.” Staring at the pictures of actual meat furthered my resolve to disabuse the masses about the misrepresentation of seitan as vegetarians’ illicit affair.
Just look at these pictures.
These are pictures from the October issue of Bon Appetit (which does, by the way, have a nice spread on home canning). And these pictures are all of various kinds and cuts of meat. Now, I do agree that seitan is “meaty.” I will give you that. But so is an eggplant. But meat is, well, “fleshy.” That’s the difference, and it is a huge one!
Here is a little experiment. Take some seitan, a slab of meat and a cut of your own flesh or the flesh of someone you know and love*. Not something small like a sliver off the tip of your finger but something substantial, like a nice chunk of butt or thigh. Alright. You have all your experimental samples in place. Now prep them each exactly the same way to cook them, be it a nice herb rub or a tomato based glazed. Whatever suits your fancy. Now broil them in separate pans (so the “juices” don’t mix) in the oven or better yet, grill them over some nice dry mesquite.
You still with me?
So after you have achieved the desired doneness, take the trays out of the oven or remove the samples from the open grill, being careful not to singe your eyebrows. Right away you should notice the wafting smell of burning flesh coming from two of the trays, while one remains innocently singed-flesh-scent free. Press the three samples with the back of a fork. You will notice “natural juice” coming out of two of the samples, also known as blood (please don’t use kosher meat or flesh from people on a high sodium diet for this experiment). The seitan sample is expected to perform the same way, however, since no blood ever pulsed through the veins of the seitan, since seitan has no veins, you can be confident that the natural juice it emits is sauce-based. Now take a bite of all three samples. The seitan will yield a meaty bite, but the animal meat and human chop will both posses a fleshy chew, completely unique to the non-vegetarian samples.
Ok. So where am I going with this? The point is that seitan and meat are not the same. They are not even related, except for the fact that the dead animal on the plate probably was fed grains at some point in its prematurely ended life. So please stop making me feel all grody for making “fake meat.” I don’t want fake meat in my life any more than I want fake chocolate (which carob is not!!!).
*Disclaimer: Don’t really do this!!!!