Meat grinder: We live in a Golden Age of fake meat, graced with the likes of Soyrizo and Soy Loaf, Tofurky and Field Roast. That has Anneli Rufus ― author and sometime East Bay Express food critic ― fretting. Is fake meat, she asks in a longish essay on AlterNet ― is fake meat the equivalent of the blow-up sex doll and the Rock Your World vibe? (Somewhat NSFW link here.) Caution: You'll need a WetNap at the conclusion of Rufus' argument:
It is a testament to human genius and human chicanery that we make fakes to fool parts of ourselves. Some we adopt in secrecy and shame and desperation: sex dolls, say, or Rolex knockoffs. Others, such as fake meat, we embrace for reasons ethical, medical, psychological, political and philosophical. Eating fake meat, becoming carnivores in pantomime, summoning skin, blood, bone, organ and offal without skin, blood, bone, organ or offal, we do the equivalent of squinting, squirming, sighing, sliding back and forth against something which we do and do not want to remember is not real. It plays its part. It flexes, gushes, yields.
The question at the heart of Rufus' essay is whether fake meat, since it seeks to be a reasonable simulacrum of animal flesh, represents cheating on vegetarian principles. She sort of scoffs at the idea: Humans are hard-wired for the kill, seeking out plausible substitutes even when "enlightened":
Were you served slices of Quorn and not told it was made from Fusarium venenatum, a fungus first discovered in Buckinghamshire, England, you would swear that it was turkey breast, juicy and savory and fibrous-firm. You'd swear that something had to die for this, and your paleo-brain wants it that way. Paleo-brains sighs for that sacrifice, that knowledge of some other creature's suffering that feels to a paleo-brain like victory, because even your teeth believe it's meat.
In other words, we're wired to crave the flesh ― at the table and in bed.