Making veggies look like meat: A vegetarian's dilemma (apparently)

Why are some vegetarians and vegans putting so much effort into making veggies look like meat?

I’m a flexitarian, well on my way to becoming a vegetarian. I’ve chosen this way of eating for ethical and—above all—for environmental reasons, as I’ve explained before. Many of the people I know, and definitely most of the artists I follow, are vegetarian or vegan. I’d like to say first of all that I’m not judging anyone’s diet here, just pointing out some interesting practices among plant eaters.

Recently, I’ve seen a number of vegetarians and vegans go to great lengths to make their vegetables look, taste, and feel like meat or fish. I’ve seen recipes for fakin’ bacon made with strips of dried coconut and liquid smoke; carrot-based “smoked salmon;” pea-protein faux chicken nuggets; tempeh shaped and flavored like chicken strips; tofu sausages, etc…

Better this than to eat an overabundance of animal protein, without a doubt. And if this is a gateway into vegetarianism, fantastic! But I do wonder about the use of additives and preservatives that are not necessarily healthy (the liquid smoke for instance, or certain food colorings). And sometimes it seems the effort it takes to make veggies resemble known forms of meat detracts from their actual beauty, taste and texture. The debate has been ongoing here in the US following the success of the (saturated-fat-rich and maybe not so environmentally friendly) Impossible Burger.

My illustration here is tongue-in-cheek of course. It was fun to think about the various ways meat can be dressed, and to try to reproduce them with vegetables instead. My favorite is the carrot, which was actually based on a siamese twin carrot. Because I had four illustrations to draw in a limited amount of time, I decided to change my style a little for something less photo-realistic and more textured.

In the end, I’m not sure how I feel about making veggies look like meat when you’re vegetarian or vegan. But if it means that globally we are moving ever so slightly closer to a plant-based diet, then it’s a good thing.