Columnist for Thursday, 2/15 - jims

Meat is good food.

Just recently, I wandered home to hear my housemates talking of ordering pizza for dinner. Their idea was to pick up plain cheese pizzas from Papa Murphy's and add their own toppings. The idea, in itself, has merit. However, one of my housemates, known for his odd tastes in food, made the suggestion of picking up vegetarian pepperoni and vegetarian chorizo from Safeway. Being Santa Cruz, vegetarianism is pretty common. The idea, however, of vegetarian chorizo just goes one step too far.

People adopt a vegetarian diet for any number of reasons -- personal ethics, dietary restrictions, maybe they just do not like meat. More power to them. One practice that I just have never understood though is fashioning foods for vegetarians to mimic their meat counter parts. If you enter any of the 'natural food' stores in the city, you can find a laundry list of such items. There are veggie patties, tofurkey, tofu hot dogs, just to name a few.

Who, in their right mind, would want to develop veggie chorizo? Chorizo, for those who are not aware, is a spicy pork-based sausage. You can find any number of recipes for it on the web and in mexican cookbooks. A typical ingredient list may include - garlic cloves, vinegar, chili powder (lots), tequila, salt, ground pork. In more traditional settings, chorizo ingredients are just like any other sausage, the left overs -- lips and assholes, essential good stuff.

Reading the wrapper for that heathen faux-meat, the spices look just like many of those listed above. In place of meat, however, is this substance fondly known as TVP. TVP, doesn't it sound like something you would use while laying pipe? TVP stands for textured vegetable protein. It is basically a sponge that absorbs the ingredients of the things it is cooked with, having no real taste of its own. In a sense it is a filler.

Sausage, as it is made today, is likely to have any number of items for filler -- rat droppings, paint flecks, just about anything that falls into the vat. I would not be surprised to find a high number of creative additives in any of our processed foods. Since this particular veggie chorizo was contained within a sausage casing, did it suffer from the risk that other sausages do? Namely, was there an involuntary expansion of the ingredient list? Is it false advertising if a rat falls into the processing vat and a bit of him makes it into the mixture?

Maybe I am being hypersensitive. The package of chorizo that my housemate did purchase, from that fine natural food store known as Safway, was made in City of Industry, California. I have no doubts that the conditions underwhich it was made are more comparable to clean rooms of Silicon Valley chip fabrication plants than the conditions under which most sausage is mass produces. After all, it was made in the City of Industry.

Don't even get me started on Veggie Jerky.

All hail meat.


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