New York Times Exalts Vegan Frankenfoods

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

One silver lining to being more or less voluntarily confined to home during the latest phase of the pandemic is the chance it’s provided for reacquainting myself with Brooklyn’s outdoor greenmarkets (double-masked.) Since I’m avoiding public transit, I’ve confined myself to the nearest ones, located at in opposite corners of Prospect Park. The Grand Army Plaza market, the second largest of New York City’s  greenmarkets, behind the Union Square flagship, is held each Saturday; and the smaller Prospect Park West market, is open on Wednesdays and Sundays. If I’m not planning on buying much, I walk; for a bigger shop, my husband gives me a lift (as I cannot drive at the moment).

Having grown up in northern New Jersey, where Mom always had a big garden and we frequented local farmstands, I came to appreciate the summer’s fresh produce. Jersey tomatoes, just picked from the vine, really were something special then. I read an article – which alas I cannot locate at the moment –  that explained why that perception wasn’t a mere trick of memory. Something to do with the different varieties of tomato plants grown then- even just the standard Big Boy-type tomatoes, not the fancy heirloom tomatoes.

Winter supermarket tomatoes were a different matter entirely, shipped north from Florida, pale pink, spongey, packed three small tomatoes to each plastic cradle, one of the only things I recall from that period that was packaged in plastic. Their taste was as wan as their color and they really weren’t worth wasting money on.

Here in New York, summer fruit and vegetables are still at their peak and we’re still enjoying the season’s harvest. My husband and I are omnivores, but over the years, like many others, we’ve come to eat much less meat and more fish, and we try to incorporate more plant-based food into our diet.

One big downside of buying at the greenmarket is the cost. I understand why things cost what they do. Everything sold at the official NYC greenmarkets must be produced within a certain radius of the city; producers hail from NJ, NY, and Pennsylvania. So Big Ag can’t load up trucks in Mexico or California and ship their ‘fresh’ produce east. Not only is the local food fresher, but it has a much smaller carbon footprint than supermarket stuff. I’m happy to pay more to eat locally and lucky to be able to afford to do so; I’ve also found that the expense of the food has made me more mindful of not wasting it. Having learned to make fermented foods during the course of 2021, I now preserve something if it doesn’t look like we’ll get around to eating it while it’s still at its peak. Of course, I’ll confess, I sometimes miscalculate,  or even lose track of something tucked into a corner of the fridge. And I do pop into our local greengrocer for things like citrus fruits – or when I’ve run out of something. No matter how much parsley or coriander I grow in my herb garden, I always seem to run out.

I realize buying most of what we eat at the greenmarket puts me akilter to how most food is marketed and sold in the United States. Much of the floorspace in a typical American supermarket is devoted to processed foods that my grandmother wouldn’t recognize, and which are laden with salt, sugar, and unpronounceable ingredients. This week has been a busy one for writing for me, so I’ve spent less time cooking than I normally do. Monday we had leftover chile Colorado – which I only recently learned was named for the red color of the chiles and not the state. Tuesday I roasted various bell peppers, and layored them with a mixture of sauteed fresh corn, black beans, onion, and garlic, then capped that with sliced tomatoes and finally topped it all off with some bread crumbs, pecorino cheese, and basil. Last night, I’d intended to make a tart with some strange-looking mushrooms from the greenmarket. But I didn’t get around to starting the pastry in time, so instead I made an overstuffed omelette, the egg wrapper thin, like a crepe, and the filling mushrooms sauteed in butter and olive oil. On reflection, this was a far better use for these flavorful mushrooms – half lion’s mane, half chestnut –  than the more complicated tart would have been, and dinner was on the table in a half hour, rather than the two hours the tart would have taken.

What sparked this post was an article in yesterday’s NYT, Plant-Based Foods Expand, With Consumers Hungry for More, which exalts the trend of taking plant-based foods and processing them until they taste like something else entirely:

In the fall of 2018, Jenny Goldfarb suddenly had a craving for a corned beef and pastrami sandwich.

For Ms. Goldfarb — who grew up in a New York Jewish deli family — it was the classic sandwich of her youth. But her yearning came with a hitch: She is now vegan.

So she started working with wheat protein, adding beets for a “meat” color, and dipping the mixture into different brines and spices. After a couple of months, she had come up with a vegan substitute. She took her vegan corned beef from her home in the San Fernando Valley to a Los Angeles deli, which placed an order for 50 pounds. She cried tears of joy in her car.

These days, Ms. Goldfarb is shipping orders for up to 50,000 pounds of her Unreal Deli corned beef, turkey and, most recently, steak slices to grocery stores all over the country.

“We just got the green light from Publix,” Ms. Goldfarb said. “They want the retail packages, but also they want to put it in their delis.”

Ms Goldfarb isn’t alone in launching a successful enterprise to effect these vegan-friendly transformations. Per the NYT:

Riding the waves of success of soy, oat and other alternatives to milk, as well as vegan burgers made by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, a broad variety of plant-based foodsare showing up on restaurant menus and in grocery store aisles. And now more companies — from small upstarts to established brands — are looking to get in on the action.

This summer, Panda Express started putting orange chicken made with Beyond Chicken from Beyond Meat on menus at some of its U.S. locations. Peet’s Coffee is selling a vegan breakfast sandwich made with mung-bean-based Just Egg. A New York City soft-serve shop, 16 Handles, collaborated with the popular Oatly drink to create a line of vegan sweets in flavors like chocolate, chai tea and iced latte. And the Long John Silver’s seafood chain tested plant-based crab cakes and fish fillets at five locations in California and Georgia this summer.

The NYT reports that running along this transformational trend, the salesbasic fruits and vegetables are also up. Again, according to the NYT:

Restaurants and grocery stores are responding to the changing demands of consumers who are moving away from eating meat. Sales of fresh fruit in grocery stores have climbed nearly 11 percent and fresh vegetables 13 percent since 2019, according to Nielsen IQ. While only a small percentage of Americans are true vegans or vegetarians — in a 2018 Gallup poll, 5 percent said they were vegetarians — that’s not the audience these new companies and products are chasing.

But that’s not where the real money is. From the NYT:

Rather, they are going after the taste buds of the vegan-curious or so-called flexitarians, a much larger segment of Americans who are seeking to reduce the amount of meat they eat. Some are shying away because of animal-cruelty concerns, while others say the environment or perceived health benefits are factors. (Whether the plant-based foods, many of which are highly processed, are healthier is subject to debate.) [Jerri-Lynn here: my emphasis.]

“This is not for vegans only — that would be too tiny of a market,” said Mary McGovern, the chief executive of New Wave Foods, whose shrimp made from seaweed and plant proteins will be on restaurant menus this fall.

Ms. McGovern sees a much broader audience of millennials, flexitarians and others interested in trying new plant-based foods. “I’ve been in the food industry for 30 years, and I’ve not seen anything like the tectonic change we’re seeing in the market now,” she said.

So, the hot trend is to take vegetables and make them taste like meat or dairy. I don’t know why I found this whole exercise to be so amusing. Perhaps because I’m enjoying so much the pure tastes of summer: local fruits and vegetables, at their peak of freshness and flavor. The Grey Lady celebrates a different type of alchemy:

Megan Schmitt of Chicago shifted from vegetarian to vegan about four years ago and recalled her disappointment with the vegan cheese on the market.

“The stuff tasted like cardboard or rubber,” she said. “If you hadn’t eaten cheese in years, it would be fine, but it was not going to satisfy anybody’s taste buds that were switching back and forth from the real stuff.”

So Ms. Schmitt started fermenting a variety of nut-based concoctions, later moving to soy for her Cheeze & Thank You artisanal cheeses, including black garlic truffle fontina and dill havarti. They will be available in most Whole Foods stores in the Midwest this fall

“I like to view my cheese as a canvas,” Ms. Schmitt said. “It’s my form of art. I want my product to be a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.”

And what, for the NYT,  is the pièce de résistance, the apogee all this culinary wizard seeks to attain? Plant-based food that tastes like Spam. A food that in its original, non-vegan form is so processed that like the cockroaches, it might very well survive nuclear holocaust:

Reina Montenegro found herself in a similar situation. For six years she tried to create a vegan version of the Spam that she grew up eating. “Spam was the last thing I ate before I went vegan, because I knew it was something I would never eat again,” she said.

Then she heard about OmniPork Luncheon, plant-based oblong pieces that look like Spam and are produced by OmniFoods of Hong Kong. For the better part of a year, Ms. Montenegro said, she pestered executives at the company to get the product to the United States. Finally, in April, her restaurant, Chef Reina in Brisbane, Calif., which specializes in vegan Filipino comfort dishes, became one of a dozen restaurants in the United States using OmniPork products.

“Right away, we sold out of it,” Ms. Montenegro said. “The only thing that’s different with the OmniPork product is the sodium level — it’s lower than the real thing. But as far as taste and texture, it’s perfect.”

OmniFoods said last month that its vegan pork products were now available at Sprouts Farmers Market locations and that Whole Foods stores in 16 states had started selling some of its products.

Back to where we started. Per the NYT:

Ms. Goldfarb of Unreal Deli initially planned on introducing her vegan deli meats through restaurants. By early last year, she had deals to supply a variety of restaurants, stadiums and universities. But when the pandemic hit, she quickly planned to sell in grocery stores instead.

Now Ms. Goldfarb is back in talks with a number of restaurant chains, she said.

“The vegans and vegetarians, they’ll be in your corner. The flexitarian is who we’re working to capture,” Ms. Goldfarb said. “We’re trying to speak to someone who has been eating meat their whole life but now wants to have an alternative two or three times a week.”

She also has her next vegan deli meat target in sight: ham.

I realize I’d never have made it in the food industry. Tonight, I’m grilling some tuna, caught off of Long Island, purchased Sunday at the greenmarket and frozen when I realized I wasn’t going to have time to do it justice for that evening’s dinner. I hope it tastes like tuna. I’ll probably serve it with some salsa, made from cherry tomatoes that need to be eaten, and some celeriac that I fermented in salted buttermilk. It’s been bubbling away in a jar on top of my washing machine for the past week and I can’t wait to try it.

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  1. Gregorio

    We’re often invited to dinner at the homes of vegan friends, I don’t mind eating a plant based meal, except for when they try and make them taste like meat, then it’s almost always a fail IMO. The worst one I remember was the tofu turkey we endured one Thanksgiving.

    1. TimH

      As someone continually amazed by the endless variety of Indian veg recipes, I be confusulated by the need to change the flavour to ‘meat’.

      1. jrkrideau

        I must agree. Why would one want a fake hamburg when there are thousnds of real vegetarian recipes out there?


        1. HowlingDan

          Lol, confusulatedly bizarre is somehow fitting to describe the attitude of those who profess to be amazed that humans prefer foods they know…over ones they don’t.

      2. Basil Pesto

        I believe mock meat recipes go back a fairly long way in Chinese Buddhist cooking (usually using wheat gluten as a base like the ersatz corned beef described in the article)

  2. drumlin woodchuckles

    If the NYT audience is influenced by articles like this to eat the phood described in the article, then they are getting the phood they ask for and deserve.

    As to those of us who like real food, maybe enough of us will keep buying realfood from realfood producers to keep them in business against the raging flood of the fakephood industrial complex.

    What will we call ourselves? How about . . . . realitarians?

  3. BeliTsari

    When Azuri shut down (best falafel in NYC) and UWS lost Xi’an & one of it’s last Cuban Chinese cafes during the plague, we’d simply assumed that Yonah Schimmel Knishes & Russ And Daughters would be robotic grain bowl or iHop by now? I’d formerly traded Zabar’s pastrami cured salmon, for properly aged hog-maw and Amish honey-smoked sausage, crawfish boudin, kishka, venison kielbasa, sfogliotelle & Hazle smoked porkchops, driving back and forth to scary mill towns. And though, basically living off take-out, shoved into the back of our refrigerator, like a NOLA typhus mausoleum, we’d been trying to exhaust our COVID larder before whatever the heck wave this is and I’d read The Space Merchants enough times to loathe genetically engineered, malignant chicken protoplasm. So… don’t forget: chickpeas, gluten, oats, sorghum, buckwheat, barley… are all dessicated with herbicides, these days (not just Bt Maize, Stacked traits soy or Golden rice?)

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the oats,chickpeas, sorghum, buckwheat, barley, wheat, etc. are legitimately certified organic, then they are not permitted to be subjected to glyphosate dessication for ease-of-one-pass harvest. In fact, that should be true for any certified organic seed or grain or bean. There should not be any glyphosate dessication involved.

      Since you can’t spray glyphosate on a perennial plant without at least injuring it, I suspect all the tree-nuts are so far free of any dessicant poisons.

      1. BeliTsari

        With US’ food co-op & CSA community decimated by Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s (not to mention Bezos & folks like the Waltons), I’d watched PA’s remaining organic, regenerative and Amish farmers coping with fracking brine, flyash, mine drainage, pesticide, cross-pollination with GE & synthetic ag-chemicals (not to mention CAFO waste) interfacing captured regulators, dopplegangster ALEC state legislators “protecting farmers” by feeding them to multinational private investment firms. So, if I’m buying “organic” grains, seeds, legumes online, from say VitaCost am I like folks at Monterey Market, unable to believe their produce is irrigated with “produced water” from vertical wells & aquifers, streams or reservoirs affected by slick-water hydrofracking & ag chemicals? I’d watched fracking brine sprayed on icy rural roads, throughout the Marcellus, oiled county roads in summer. Started buying “organic” ales, since I can’t grow my own hops & 2-row, here. But have as little faith as I do in the CDC?

        PS: Russ & Daughters is a whole lot more expensive, now; smoked sturgeon, horseradish cream cheese & kasha varnishkes, all… simultaneously?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          ” We work in the dark, we do what we can.”

          I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which so far seems to be a ” food jungle” so far as I can tell.
          Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc. have not yet been able to exterminate the legacy hippie co-op that is still here in Ann Arbor, though they and younger generations of strongly non-hippie eaters have forced changes on it. It may yet go bankrupt.

          Some parts of the country have “more” of the contamination threats surrounding organic on every side that you mention and some have “less”. Since we don’t have a Marcellus-type frackable geo-formation right around or under us, we don’t yet have that particular spectrum of chemical threats , though we have others.

          One can still say this about organic ( if it really is true to its certification), that while it has the same chemical risks and contaminations that mainstream has, it at least does not adopt the further endo-contamination that mainstream deliberately fosters. So a certified organic grain/bean/seed grower will at least not pre-harvest desiccate his/her crop with Roundup.

          If you can grow any of your own food, that is a tiny island of trust which you can then work out from.

    2. lordkoos

      Russ & Daughters, a NYC landmark. I don’t live in NY but last time we visited our friends there we loaded up on their lox, an expensive, very occasional treat. I love that place.

  4. Joe Well

    The main point of vegan junk food is not to be healthier for the eater but for the animals and the planet. And the unhealthy effects of red meat have been established so often that being as healthy is a low bar to clear anyway.

    Amazingly, Vox has an infinitely better researched and thought out discussion of this.

    Quoting because they say it so much better than I could:

    For plant-based food to change the world requires producing huge quantities of it and selling it where consumers will want to buy it. And that, in turn, requires confronting the reality that consumers like fast food and that there’s real value in providing them with fast food that’s better for the world. The backlash to plant-based meat, when you look at it closely, is a backlash against our food system in general — mistakenly directed at one of the more promising efforts to make it a little bit better.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If the vegemeat in question is based on petro-corporate GMO shitcorn and petro-corporate GMO shitsoy, then the vegemeat in question helps make the food system even worse. So what will the mass market factory vegemeat be based on?

      If it leads to driving carbon-capture meat-on-pasture-and-range out of existence so as to turn that pasture and rangeland into even more petro-corporate GMO farmland for even more GMO shitsoy and GMO shitcorn for making even more GMO vegemeat, then it makes the food system even more worse.

      Some ( though not all) objection to factory vegemeat comes from a recognition of that basic fact, and that basic threat.

      1. Samuel Conner

        It would be more efficient to convert the fossil fuels directly into edible products.

        There was a sci-fi novel in the 70s or 80s in which, as part of the dystopian setting, this was how an overpopulated planet was fed. The tight oil, all that was left, was fed to bacteria, which were then processed into human food.

        I don’t recall the title of the book.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Maybe, till the fossil fuels run out. Then what?

          And now that I think about it, if no current renewable energy is involved in processing the fossil fuel derived chemicals into the final phood produkt, then the input energy is as fossil and unsustainable as the input matter-source. It begins to look to me like the efficiency is zero in renewable energy terms.

          Whereas if a meat-on-pasture or meat-in-permaculture system sucks down more carbon overall than the meat-animals on their own emit, then the system is at least skycarbon-relief beneficial, even if not totally efficient by some measure or other.

    2. EdWizard

      Thanks for making this point. Seems like the older people have got caught in the “back in my day” loop and aren’t considering very positive outcomes of convincing more people to eat vegetarian/vegan. My response to drumlin woodchuckles is that there is no way that veg meat is a net negative and if you don’t understand that you don’t understand the impact that the meat industry is really having on the planet.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If carbon-capture beef-on-pasture systems are replaced with carbon-emitting row crop systems for vegan feedstock input, the impact on carbon buildup is net negative right there. That is an easy enough fact to understand.

        Carefully confusing artisanal skycarbon-capture beef-on-pasture with “the meat industry” is typical of the sleight-of-mouth category switcheroo that “vegan” hasbarists perpetrate in order to advance the Bill Gates fake-meat agenda.

        Good luck convincing me that I am the one with the “understanding deficit”.

    3. PHLDenizen

      And the unhealthy effects of red meat have been established

      The “science” of nutrition is far from settled. And quite often nutrition in medicine functions like Russia’s Communist Party. The party leaders issue dictums, the subordinates nod their heads in agreement, and dispense the wisdom far and wide. Carbs are the problem! No, wait. Fat is the problem! Too much protein is bad for your kidneys! Young people need more protein than the elderly. 90% of doctors know fsck all about nutrition.

      Observational epidemiology is indeed a powerful tool in health sciences, but scarfing down red meat isn’t smoking. Examining the role of a single food in a multifactorial disease process has its limits. High meat intake is inversely associated with overall diet quality: low intakes of fibre, vegetables and fruit, and greater likelihood of smoking. And, of course, being fat.

      So is red meat the problem? Or is it sitting on your fat ass all day? Or is the increased colorectal cancer risks because of an aversion to plants? There’s the Oxford-EPIC study out of the UK which exposes the false nutritional dichotomy that a diet’s healthiness is defined solely by the inclusion or exclusion of meat.

      Being a former fat fsck who got sick and tired of being sick and tired, I can tell you my blood work improved orders of magnitude after shedding 90 or so lbs over a year. How did I manage that? Caloric restriction and running the Starting Strength program. How do you cut calories while maintaining sufficient amino levels to minimize lean tissue loss? You eat a lot of animal protein. Lots of chicken. But also a lot of lean beef like flank steak. And a lot of whey protein.

      Animal proteins are high in leucine. Leucine is the amino acid that stimulates muscle protein synthesis. To get 1.5g of leucine in almonds, that’s 100g of nuts and about 580kcal — 21g protein total, 50g of fat. 100g of flank steak nets me 2.2g of leucine, 28g protein total, and 8g of fat for the same 100g serving. The lean beef is also a mere 185kcal. And the beef is more anabolic.

      Then there’s getting old. Amino insensitivity increases with age, so you need more leucine to promote an equivalent amount of anabolism. Decreased lipid turnover and sarcopenia are also part of aging, but you can attenuate the latter by lifting and increasing your protein intake. To keep from getting fat, you need to swap out fats and carbs for protein so your diet is isocaloric. Again, when looking at maximal leucine density with minimal calories, whey, poultry, lean beef are your allies.

      I’m a firm believer of food = medicine. And sometimes that medicine is indeed animal protein as a means to stave off the accumulation of injuries in old age by maximizing the effects of strength training. As IM Doc can attest, diet and exercise interventions often work as well or better than kale, statins, and metformin. Cardio works amazingly well for fat oxidation and glucose disposal.

      1. Foppe

        Not really, the science is pretty settled, it’s just that there’s a huge disinformation campaign being run for most of the past century by the livestock industry plus everyone who wants to eat animals “because it’s the food of kings”. The livestock industry is a trillion dollar industry world-wide, and completely caught up in the US empire (see Michael Hudson’s Super Imperialism). Obviously it’s not gonna stand idly by while its business model is destroyed.

        If anyone wants to read a good book that solves the puzzle of why “nutrition” as a science *seems* fucked, read T. Colin Campbell’s Whole.

        (And to preempt everyone currently deluding themselves with low-carb/keto diets: yes, you will be able to find lots of facile attacks on his work from people who promote these insane diets. But the fact that keto diets is almost impossible to maintain long-term, and that the only populations who eat this way are people in extreme environments, should tell you something: humans are not meant to eat this way. Of course, that’s also what your body is telling you via your autoimmune response — constant eczema, rosocea, etc. — prior to premature death from renal, arterial or other organ failure.)

    4. nycTerrierist

      “Asked whether he turned vegetarian for his health, (Isaac Bashevis) Singer replied,
      “I didn’t do it for my health but for the health of the animals…

      People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times. ”

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If you care for the health of the plants, you will stop eating them too.

        Salad is plant murder.

        Bread is mass plant infanticide.

        1. Foppe

          Real charming that you’re advising others to kill themselves.

          I take it you’re one of these people who believes that plants also have central nervous systems, brains, and that they value their own lives, so that by harvesting plants, you’re “harming” them in exactly the same way you harm animals by killing them, taking their children; and that our choices thus are to kill yourself by not eating, or just eat animals because “fuck it, we cannot live without harming others anyway, so I might as well maximize the harm I do”?

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns.

  5. barefoot charley

    Jerri-Lynn, thank you for linking to Mr. Whole Food’s opinions. Unlike the NYT, he states the obvious, that highly processed foods are unhealthy by definition. As ur health-nut Adele Davis used to say, fortifying processed bread with vitamins is like stealing a dollar and giving back a few pennies. It’s almost touching that he takes credit for creating this industry, which he then blushes to bash by name. It’s an interesting argument that these are training foods, for weaning people off of all-meat meals, as if everything they eat must taste like everything they’ve eaten. Admittedly that’s easier than learning how to cook like you do–thanks for your introductory food pron!

    1. jr

      “ as if everything they eat must taste like everything they’ve eaten.”

      Well said. I would extend this to movies, popular music, and TV.

  6. Judith

    Jerri-Lynn, I grew up in NJ, long enough ago that the milkman delivered milk from the local dairy to our back door when I was a kid. And yes, the tomatoes were intense!

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      We had a milkman too, in the house we lived in in Sparta, NJ, until I was partway through the third grade. We then moved to Allamuchy for a bit less than two years and lived down a dirt road, 1200 feet off of Shades of Death Road. Allamuchy was still largely farmland at that time. Although my parents weren’t farmers – they were teachers- we lived in an old farmhouse, with 12 acres of land, one corner of which was cut off from the main parcel by route 80, which was just being built through that part of NJ at that time.

      1. Judith

        I grew up in Livingston when there was still farmland, woods to play in, and parents expected kids to play outside all day and come home for meals. Lots of local businesses, including a butcher shop with saw dust on the floor where they made their own cold cuts. My mom would send me on my bike to pick up bologna and as the butcher sliced it he would always give me a slice to eat.

      2. Skunk

        We also had a milkman who delivered not only milk, but also yogurt and other items. The truck came right into your driveway.

        1. Eustachedesaintpierre

          I was a mikman’s little helper in the early 70’s, back when the average was about one fat kid per class. He delivered pasteurised, sterilised, homogenised & the one that the blue tits loved best called Jersey milk which had a fine head of cream. Yoghurts became a thing & I recall that people were confused about how to pronounce that word. Queueing in a supermarket recently I noticed that a bottle of fruit quash was triumphantly announcing that it contained real fruit, which had me wondering what the hell is in the other stuff – I’m glad that i was a kid before they corrupted just about everything.

          Back in the 90’s when we often visited my stepson in London his wife would always present us with a fake Beef Wellington, which was actually very nice, but she is one hell of a cook.

          1. James Simpson

            I’m glad that i was a kid before they corrupted just about everything

            Clearly, you don’t know what was in ‘food’ in the 1970s when I was a child. There were far more artificial additives, preservatives, toxic colouring and all kinds of stuff that has since been regulated out of existence. Pretty much everyone ate white bread; wholemeal was close to unavailable.

            1. Eustachedesaintpierre

              I suppose that I was lucky then as my Dad whenever he could kept an allotment or had a vegetable garden. As for being regulated out of existence maybe they did but it appears to me that they replaced it with other shit – aspartame for sugar, trans fats, hormones & anti-biotics in livestock just off the top of my head. And as I pointed out obesity was not a problem back then either & shite food has to play a big part in that.

              Just one list & there are plenty of others –


      3. S Haust

        Jerri-Lynn and Judith,

        In case you didn’t know, those Jersey tomatoes can be had again. Quite some time ago,
        maybe 20 years or so?, maybe less, Rutgers U was able to revive some of the original
        varieties. Ramapo is probably the one you are thinking of. Large, juicy and delicious.
        There is also Moreton, tastier and smaller but too tender to ship. Also a Campbell’s
        variety and maybe others by now.

        Harris Seeds, to the best of my recollection, carries all of these or they can be had from

        I wouldn’t be too surprised if one or more of the markets you mention have a vendor
        specializing in these. Ask around and thou shalt receive.

        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          Thanks. I’ll seek these out. I’m a stickler for noting names of varieties, ever since
          sometime back in the mid ‘70s, when I told my Uncle Tom about my first tomato picking job, he asked me what variety of tomatoes the farmer grew. I didn’t have an answer. Tom grew up on a Texas farm, and then made his way to the Air Force, via Cornell, where he graduated first in his class – department maybe? – in engineering. I idolized Uncle Tom and from that conversation took away the message that one should pay attention to details. An important lesson to absorb as a new teenager.

          That being said, it’s not always possible to get a good answer. I asked the person who recently sold me some greenmarket plums what variety they were – and she confidently replied, “Red.”

          1. S Haust

            Glad to see you’ve enjoyed it.

            Then of course there is the “Rutgers” tomato, available fairly widely as
            a seedling in the spring. If you dig around among the farmers I think it
            likely that you might eventually find any of these.

            There is a web page:


            It deals with these and a few newer ones.

            The “Jersey” tomato varieties, in my recollection were bred in the nineteen-sixties
            as part of, well, a general desire for better tomatoes. They fell out of favor,
            not with consumers, but with wholesale produce operators when the Interstate
            highway program made it easy and cheap to truck from Florida those little
            cellophane covered cardboard trays, each with three identical square “tomatoes”.

            If you chat up some growers, at least the ones who seem knowledgeable, you
            may find some treasures. I hope you do. Also, there are some very nice
            heirlooms available. I wouldn’t buy any though unless the seller knows the
            variety and where they came from. A few of my favorites – Rose de Berne,
            Cherokee Green and Kellogg’s Breakfast.

    2. jr

      I can still remember the flavor of the tomatoes from my grandfather’s garden as a kid…just a sprinkle of salt. The flavor was so rich and fresh.

  7. Janie

    My favorite childhood dinners, served at noon in the small-town South, were corn with electric-churned butter, black-eyed or crowder peas (bought and shelled that morning), green beans, tomatoes I picked (Mother made the mayonnaise), fried okra. Maybe corn bread. I am so with you about the veg posing as meat! Oooh, almost forgot fruit cobblers, but maybe that was Sundays.

  8. Michael Fiorillo

    The Times seems to very techy and defensive, since they refused to print a very mildly worded comment making points similar to Jerri-Lynn’s.

    If you’re a news junkie, it’s hard to avoid the Times, but, jeez, you sure have wade through a lot of deck to find anything worthwhile.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The worthwhile is designed to get you to read the NYT long enough to absorb the dreck.

      The “anything worthwhile” is the delivery vehicle. The dreck is the payload.

      As long as one knows this, one can risk exposing oneself to the mixed worthwhile dreckload of NYT material.

  9. notabanker

    I live in Ohio outside of the suburbs of Cleveland and the local veggie stands are plentiful. And by stand I mean tents in peoples yards. Produce is cheaper than the grocery store which has gotten ridiculously expensive in the last two years. A $20 bill will load me up for a week at least. Tomatoes, peppers, cukes, squash, onions, sometimes beets and other in season for a week or two stuff. I buy dried chiles from the local Mexican market that I bet most locals are afraid to go to and buy fresh dried chiles for $5 a lb. I always have a big vacuum bag of them in the pantry. The local butcher is far less expensive than the grocery store, meats, especially beef has gotten crazy expensive. $20-$30 a pound for higher end cuts and god knows what is in the $4lb ground meat. The butcher has the same stuff for $10-$15 a pound and $5 a pound respectively.

    And here’s the beautiful part, if I have to interact with anyone or anything at all, it is people who have been doing this stuff for decades, are happy to see you come by their shop, will answer any question you have on choosing and preparing stuff. No freakin machines, barcodes, phones, id cards, coupons, plastic wrapping, carts or parking lots to deal with. It is spectacular.

    As far as making plants taste like meat or dairy, if it makes you feel better, whatever. I have plenty of wildlife in my neck of the woods and it gets killed and eaten by other wildlife. Only the deer have no natural predators, except cars, and 99 times out 100 they run straight into them. It has happened to me driving 70 mph down the freeway, one rammed right into the side of my car running full speed across three lanes of traffic. They are lovely creatures, but not the smartest.

    And btw, I learned how to shop like this overseas in the UK and Asia. The supermarkets were dreadful and super expensive. But the local markets, and later wet markets were better than any supermarket in the US. I still miss Jimmy the fishmonger at Tiong Bahru, hope he is doing well.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Hopefully enough other people will patronize their local artisan shinola-food outlets to keep them alive until the corporate shitfood system begins collapsing.

      Then perhaps society can begin growing an artisan shinola-food system out from its current “thousand points of eat.”

    2. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Notabanker – you’re lucky to have local sources for food that aren’t expensive and to be able to interact with people who can advise on choice and preparation. No plastic wrapping is an added bonus. I bring along my own reusable bags to the greenmarket and try to avoid unnecessary plastic.

      1. James Simpson

        Asda, my local supermarket here in the UK, stopped giving away plastic bags in the produce aisles last year. They sell some kind of reusable, washable substitute for 30p. That’s a win-win: more profit for their shareholders and executives, higher bills for workers. Oh, hang on…

    3. James Simpson

      From this position in NE England, you are a wealthy person with privileges beyond our dreams. I’d appreciate it if you’d not brag about your unearned wealth.

  10. Tokyognome

    Hmm. One guy is mashing veg to death in a misguided attempt at replicating meat. The other guy is gloating over the wonders of local markets in what sounds like an elitist rant. Leaves me hopeless. Neither appears concerned with the core issue: Food for the working class that is wholesome, affordable, and reasonably quick to prepare.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Shinola food will cost a shinola price relative to the equivalent shitfood, and it should. In the ideal world long run, the working class would be able to torture the system into paying the working class a shinola wage so the working class could afford shinola food at shinola prices.

      In the meantime, there are stopgaps and semi-alternatives more available to some than to others. If one is prepared and knowledgeable and patient enough to work with “from scratch” ingredients, like the primary beans/seeds/grains/etc. one can get “from scratch” ingredients which are affordable even at below a middle class income. But if one lives in the middle of square miles of food junkyard, one can’t get them at all.

      ” Easy to prepare”? Kurt Saxon, the creator of the word ” survivalism” did some writing and also collected the writings of others on cheap preparable food ingredients. Here is one of his articles.

      He also had zero empathy for people who “couldn’t do” what he could do with low money food.
      It is possible to feel more empathy that Saxon felt for some of the not-survival-capable people he wrote about in this second article. But who is going to work with the not-survival-capable people to make them survival-capable? Perhaps the same DSA action squads who are fixing peoples’ tail lights can start teaching people how to cook Kurt Saxon food.

    2. Quentin

      Tokyognome, You took the words right out of mouth. Thanks. At Naked Capitalism there is more and more ‘I, I and I’ every day. Personality and virtue singling galore.

    3. James Simpson

      Greens, as my experience in the Green party and Greenpeace here in the UK taught me, are well off members of the PMC who only read about workers in The Guardian. Such activists have the time and money to buy organic, fairly-traded produce and cook from basic ingredients.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Here’s some news you can use, reprinted from a comment above.

        ” Easy to prepare”? Kurt Saxon, the creator of the word ” survivalism” did some writing and also collected the writings of others on cheap preparable food ingredients. Here is one of his articles.

        He also had zero empathy for people who “couldn’t do” what he could do with low money food.
        It is possible to feel more empathy that Saxon felt for some of the not-survival-capable people he wrote about in this second article. But who is going to work with the not-survival-capable people to make them survival-capable? Perhaps the same DSA action squads who are fixing peoples’ tail lights can start teaching people how to cook Kurt Saxon food.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        What is your desired end-game here? Would you like to abolish organic, fairly-traded produce?
        Would you like to ban people from cooking with basic ingredients? How would you like to enforce that?

    4. jrs

      It seems to me in this case what we REALLY need rather than just food that is quick to prepare, is fewer working hours so there is more time to prepare food. Not that everyone needs to go all foodie and make elaborate meals, but not having enough hours free from work to do the basic things that make up a life is the problem.

  11. Daniel Raphael

    I think ‘Frankenfoods’ is a term misused here; in all my prior readings (as an animal-rights activist and long-time vegan), I’ve understood the term to mean animals that have had their DNA ‘tweaked’ for various reasons. Fish come to mind: I don’t see that combining any sort of food items for taste reasons has anything to do with ‘Frankenfoods.’

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Daniel Raphael: Thanks for your comment. I didn’t realize that Frankenfoods had such a narrow meaning, but when I looked the word up after seeing your comment, I saw that you’re correct. In future, I’ll only use the term to refer to genetically-engineered foodstuffs.

      1. GF

        A lot of the fake meat products are made with GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) plants if not specifically organic. Also, a large amount of dubious chemicals are used to alter the fake meat products to look and taste like what they are imitating. So, in most cases the label frankenfood may apply.

  12. drumlin woodchuckles

    Good point. We should reserve the word Frankenfoods for food invented by interspecies gene-engineering.

  13. .Tom

    Isn’t this all about shelf life? Processed foods have it while fresh foods much less. Shelf life improves profit hence the cost of marketing, including in NYT, is justified.

  14. John

    These meat simulacra are still generally stuffed with the basic Amrikan food groups, salt, sugar and grease. The ones I have tried are expensive, gross and generally unhealthy.
    Too many other good opportunities in non meat cusines.

  15. Kevin Carhart

    Yes but.. we just had a huge story on the PMC. Grey Lady temporarily suspends disbelief about the paper just because we popped on the ‘apolitical, valence free’ sunglass lenses.

    There’s this one called Oatly. They had tons of advertising on public transit. They engaged in hardcore murketing, sending people out to literally write oatly, oatly, and vegan slogans in chalk on the sidewalk in downtown Mountain View CA. This is dishonest because it’s fake-grassroots. The handmade medium is meant to convey that some kids took it upon themselves to write chalk messages not for an idea or an upcoming protest but for a successful enterprise embodiment of an idea. What is the spotlight being diverted away from?

    It does not mean that the oat milk itself can’t be useful or good, Same as my complaint over media people – TV, internet – talking covid and various things who suspiciously have a parallel track in selling an alternative medicine. The bottle of stuff is just a bottle of stuff when you finally get it home – that isn’t the point. I object to suspending disbelief about the millieu that is doing the projects, because when an organization has a tailwind that says they’re the earthly manifestation of a problem solution, it takes emphasis off the material aspects of what they do especially as they are forced to “pivot” by disappointments related to the money. Some of the time, they have a secret which will erupt a while later and when that happens, in hindsight it would have been better to leave the skepticism on all the way through. Successful enterprises often have a secret.

    1. JohnA

      That Oatly campaign sounds embarrassing, especially as Oatly is, or was, a Swedish invention and brand. Sounds like they are following the Absolut vodka trail when it comes to marketing. Yuk.

      1. ProudWappie

        On a sub-channel of the German public broadcaster ZDF on Youtube (ZDF besser esser – “better eater”), they went into more detail, when it comes to how that “milk” is made. They even visited the Swedish plant. It’s far cheaper to do it yourself, if you have a blender, and something to filter the product. Which is what they did in this program.

        As someone mentioned in the comments there, you can increase the amount of oats or whatever suits your fancy (almonds, soy, you name it), to improve the “milk”, you just created yourself. Lots of interesting and somewhat tongue in cheek short movies about all the trickery going on in the food industry in general.

        Example about oat milk and related:
        Besser esser in German on Oatly

  16. juno mas

    Those of us native Left Coasters are mildly familiar with the West’s Spanish names. “colorado” in Spanish translates to ‘of the color red’ in English. If you’ve ever been to the the Red Rock outdoor amphitheater you’ll understand how Colorado got its name. (I imagine the chile you were cooking with was red.)

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Yes – it was an obvious aha moment. The thought had merely never occurred to me before as to how the state got its name. I rehydrated 27 large dried red New Mexican chiles as I didn’t have the mix of three different red chiles that my recipe called for. But the chiles were reasonably fresh – e.g, not too desiccated – and the final result was delicious.

  17. Louis Fyne

    beans and rice, whether from Cuba or India or Japan, beats fake meat every day all day. And all without millions of dollars in R&D.

    IMO. Ymmv.

    1. BeliTsari

      Total agreement! (I’d add chickpeas, buckwheat, black-eyed peas, lentils, teff, millet, fava and a nice chianti). I’d ignored Impossible’s pretty intentionally GE, frankenfood pedigree, out of curiosity. That’s nice! I’m sure my neighbors eat this sneeringly Biotech BigAg shit up, but… I’m guessing all the COVID diaspora, who’d bought Israeli bullpup rifles, once ensconced in upstate “vacation cottages,” will eventually get around to discovering, they don’t actually field dress does tied atop their Tesla & GeelyVolvo EVs? I’m waiting for them to discover feral hogs and Pyrodex percussion-cap pistols and compound bows! So much for skiing, this year?

  18. James Simpson

    Tonight, I’m grilling some tuna, caught off of Long Island

    Caught from a sailing ship with no plastic parts, I presume, not a diesel-fuelled motor vessel. And your grill is solar powered of course, which means it works only on sunny days. You have batteries? Really? And where did the metals for them come from?

    I’m a lifelong vegetarian here in the UK and I don’t find this piece convincing. I delight in eating highly-manufactured Quorn and other ‘artificial’ fake meats which taste utterly delicious. I have no garden, living as I do in a tiny flat, so all food is bought from my local Asda which has plenty of produce both cheap and nutritious. Until the socialist Eden arrives, I make the best I can on Universal Credit (soon to be cut by £20 a week).

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      And I’m a lifelong carnivorian here in America. I’ve never grilled any tuna caught off of Long Island, but I’ve sauteed Copper River Sockeye Salmon, caught off the West Coast of Canada. And I will continue to do so as much as I like.

      “Vegetarianism” don’t impress me much. Certainly the moral pretensions of a movement with zero moral basis don’t impress me much at all.

  19. blep

    As a half-vegetarian/half-omnivore (by virtue of my wife being a pescatarian), I get split on the plant-based food. Most of it tastes best, like a lot of vegan food, with heavy seasonings/toppings/etc. to sort of mask the externalities in smell and texture. I know Beyond has a bit of an aftertaste, similar to like how diet coke operates re:coke, so it can taste funky in certain settings. Faux chicken has some decent options, but sum really, really miss the mark. I think there’s a pretty strong ethical argument to switching to plant-based entirely, even putting aside the obvious PMC moralizing. It’s not even really close in a carbon footprint sense and there’s just the plain ethical argument around putting non-human animals in something like our moral community. If my stomach had the ability to truly process wheat gluten properly I would consider it more seriously lol

  20. Dr. R.k. Barkhi

    “New York Times Exalts Vegan Frankenfoods”.

    There are a number of objections to this article?/Gossip?/Whatever.
    1st the title- the term “frankenfoods” has to my knowledge always and only been used to describe foods altered purposely via genetic manipulation. Merriam-Webster says “Definition of Frankenfood: genetically engineered food
    First Known Use of Frankenfood
    1992, in the meaning defined above”.
    I believe the writer isnt describing/discussingGMO foods,but plant based alternatives to meat based foods. So why the incorrect use if an emotionally laden word?
    2nd. After a verrrrry long blog the incorrectly described topic is introduced. After reading this i wondered why it was written,n why did this organization even consider printing it? I know the author regularly submits articles here but they are usually far better n more worthwhile than this.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Thanks for your comment. See my response above to Daniel Raphael’s comment about my use of the term Frankenfoods. I looked up the word in response to his comment and discovered that it indeed is used to describe foods altered purposely via genetic manipulation. In future, I’ll only use the term to refer to genetically-engineered foodstuffs.

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