One concept of the vegetarian aesthetic is that one should create satisfying vegetarian dishes that are completely divorced from the idea of meat. “In a good vegetarian restaurant I want to eat dishes where I don’t miss meat but I am impressed with creative ideas around fresh produce,” says honkman.

But sometimes vegetarians “want something that has the shape and consistency of a food that is relatively isomorphic with a meat analogue,” says notjustastomach. Sometimes you want the subtle flavors of perfect in-season produce, but sometimes you just crave spaghetti and meatballs—and there’s nothing wrong with satisfying that craving with seitan or soy. luckyfatima notes that many of the meat-based dishes brought to India by meat-eating Mughals or Brits were later adapted into vegetarian versions, such as “meatballs” made from gourd or pumpkin mixed with chickpea flour, or “kabaabs” made with cottage cheese or potatoes mixed with lentils.

“What is wrong with appreciating the idea of a dish, but making it within the boundaries of your own dietary restrictions?” wonders luckyfatima. “I mean, that is the height of culinary creativity.”

China has a time-honored cuisine centered around mock meats. “Culinarily speaking, there is nothing illegitimate about mock meats,” says notjustastomach. “To make them, and then cook with them, requires at least as much skill as working with fowl, or purchasing a slab of meat at a grocery.” Josh adds: “Some of the fake meat items I’ve bought at Asian groceries are marvels of texture and flavor.”

Board Link: Mock Meat and Vegeterianism

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