The Vegetarian Times


Last weekend I cooked a pork roast.  I also read the latest issue of the Vegetarian Times.



Yes, I know. 



But here’s the thing: I am not the carnivore I used to be.  I go meatless two or three days a week at least.  I like very much Mark Bittman’s compromise: be as meatless as you can be without driving yourself crazy.



There are some good recipes in the most recent issue of the Vegetarian Times. I intend to try the black-bean-and-sweet-potato enchiladas, and maybe the stuffed mushrooms, and the nice Hungarian crepe-and-jelly dessert. 



But there is also a whole mindset to this vegetarian thing, a fiery self-righteousness.  One reader wrote to complain that a recent article might actually encourage people to eat sweet corn, which – gasp! – might be genetically modified.  The editors duly apologized.  References to obscure food items – tempeh, kombucha, chaga, spelt – are everywhere.  It’s like any other club: the members really don’t want you to understand what they’re talking about. 



It’d be helpful if they relaxed a bit.  It’s not a religion, after all; it’s just a way of eating.



I was especially bemused by references to something called Quorn.  Evidently it was a meat substitute, but I had no idea what it was; I assumed it might be something like soy. 



But, oh my, it’s ever so much better than that!



It’s a mycoprotein: a substance produced by a fungus called Fusarium venenatum.  The fungus produces strands called hyphae, which resemble the fibers in meat.  If you grow this fungus in a vat and harvest it, you can moosh it up and turn it into a meat substitute.



I have no problem with this; I’m Polish on my mother’s side, we love to eat fungi.  But the nice people at Quorn were concerned that people might not like their product, so they started telling little white lies.  They said, for example, that Quorn was “mushroom protein.”  (Our friend Fusarium is a fungus, but not all fungi are mushrooms.  Fusarium, to be frank, is a mold.  It is probably not good for sales to say so out loud.)  If you haven’t seen Quorn much in the USA, that’s because a couple of other companies screamed loudly that Quorn causes dangerous allergic reactions in a significant percentage of consumers.  (It appears that the claim is vastly overblown, and that Quorn is no more dangerous than, say, mushrooms.  Or peanuts, for that matter.)



And who funded the anti-Quorn campaign?  Why, a company called Gardenburger.  You may known them.  They make meatless products. 



See?  Vegetarians aren’t necessarily nice people.



This makes me feel better, because I know I will never be a nice person, vegetarian or not.




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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