Commentary: Holiday expose

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One of the best features of the holidays is getting to enjoy all kinds of culinary treats during parties, family gatherings and other seasonal celebrations.

Equally entertaining—in an intellectual, if not culinary—sense is reviewing some of the vegan specials that the veggie believers tell themselves are wondrous substitutes for the traditional holiday recipes.

For example: How about this featured dish form the folks at Vegetarian Times magazine, it’s called Vegetables Wellington, and it proposes to be an entrée worthy of being the “centerpiece” of a seasonal get-together.

“Adorn your table with this wow-worthy dish baked in a loaf pan for a spectacular presentation,” the recipe’s authors proclaim.

Only one huge, glaring problem—well, two, actually: A number of the required ingredients would not normally be available to most Americans in the middle of December. After all, “natural” and “local” are supposedly the twin pillars of the enlightened vegan lifestyle, and when a recipe calls for asparagus, bell peppers and fresh spinach, we’re talking a seriously large carbon footprint.

Veggies Wellington also calls for a large egg and close to a pound of goat cheese, so to label this concoction “vegetarian” is to slice that definition with as thin a paring knife as possible.

Bottom line: Vegetables Wellington is no more ecologically friendly, and certainly no less dependent on modern food production technologies, processing efficiencies and distribution infrastructure than any traditional holiday entrée, yet it’s touted by its proponents as a way to “live longer, healthier lives, reduce pollution, preserve Earth’s natural resources” and serve as an alternative for people “who love animals and are ethically opposed to eating them.”

The secret sauce

Or consider the other angle veggie activists always play, the “we’re way healthier than conventional foods” card. A great example of that is “quick and easy” Vegan Club Sandwich.

As all good veggies believe, “Classic club sandwiches are meat-laden, mayonnaise-slathered, three-layer creations that contain enough fat and calories for an entire day.”

Right—which is why they taste great.

However, the “secret” to the vegan alternative isn’t just the substitution of slices of “meatless, low-fat bacon strips” and “meatless deli-style smoked chicken,” it’s also the inclusion of Vegenaise, the “world-famous, egg-free, all-natural” product with real mayo taste—despite being lower in total fat than ordinary mayonnaise, egg- and dairy-free and absolutely no cholesterol, hydrogenated fatsor transfats.

Really? Let’s compare Vegenaise to Kraft brand Real Mayo.

Vegenaise is made with water, canola oil, vinegar, soy protein and sweetener. It provides 9 calories per 14-gram serving, with 89% of those calories coming from fat. Vegenaise has zero fiber, zero protein and zero vitamins and minerals.

Kraft Mayo is made from water, oil, egg yolks, food starch, sugar and vinegar. A 15-gram serving provides 80 calories, 90% of which are derived from fat, and it also offers zero fiber, protein and vitamins and minerals.

Basically, both products are strictly condiments designed to enhance the flavor and mouth feel of a somewhat dry sandwich in need of a little flavor zip. With either product, you’re basically eating fat and flavorings.

The big difference it that Vegenaise lists “filtered water,” “expeller-pressed canola oil,” “apple cider vinegar” and “non-GMO soy” on its ingredients statement. That’s why a 16-oz. jar retails for $4.49, or 28 cents an ounce, versus Kraft Real Mayo, which goes for about $5.49 for a 30-oz. jar, or 15 cents an ounce.

So whether Vegenaise users want to admit it or not, they’re basically eating a high-priced, upscale version of a very similar product, with a virtually identical nutritional profile as conventional mayonnaise. They can call themselves foodies, a veggies or whatever holier-then-thou label they prefer: The Vegan Club isn’t a whole lot different than the original product from which it was derived.

The only real differentiation is the shameless posturing in which its manufacturer indulges.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.


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