Friday 6 January 2023

Veganuary - Why is it impossible to get a decent vegan burger?

 I stopped eating meat from 1984 until around 2000. For the vast majority of the time, I didn't particularly miss it. You may ask why? There were two reasons. In December 1984, I had a serious stomach bleed, which nearly killed me. This was caused by an adverse reaction to the antibiotic Erithromycin, although bad diet and alcohol had also played a part. It was a wake up call. I ended up seeing a dietician, as I wanted to make damn sure it didn't happen again. I stopped drinking for six months and he advised me to avoid a whole range of foods, including pizza's, fried processed meats, orange juice, crisps and other similar snacks, fried onions and hot chilli's. He also gave me a bunch of tips about sensible eating, which I largeley follow. I eat fruit and porridge in the morning and I try not to eat too late at night, when I have a curry I fish the onions out as best I can, although I love an onion bhaji. For a couple of years I kept a food diary and noted adverse reactions. I've managed to stay out of hospital for stomach issues since, although I do take Omnaprazol. I took Zantac for many years, which it turns out is carcinogenic. I can only wonder if that contributed to me prostate cancer? 

When I worked out the rules for my new diet, I concluded that cutting out meat would be a simple rule to remove the sausage rolls and bacon butties. The second reason was a mate of mine persuaded me that not eating meat was a more eco friendly way of living. He was passionately against inhumane factory farming methods and when he went through it, I concurred. I very ocassionally had a drunk lapse at a barbicue, when I was hungry and a stray sausage may have been enjoyed, but that was rare. It was made easier as Clare, who I met in 1995 was a non meat eater.

In 1985, getting decent vegetarian food, let alone vegan food was a nightmare, especially if you avoid pizzas. That is one reason I ate a lot of curry. A Bhuna Prawn Masala ticked every box and I never felt like I was missing out. One of my favourite fast food treats was a "Spicy Bean Burger" from the local Wimpy. This was a delicious patty, spiced and with items such as kidney beans. It didn't pretend to be meat. It was probably the best veggie option in the UK at the time. I was a passionate advocate of the Wimpy Spicy Bean Burger. I told all of my friends to try it. They all agreed that it was a damn fine tasty treat. Sadly, they couldn't do without the meat, but didn't want to miss out on the beanburger, so in Mill Hill, the famous Stanleyburger was invented. This was a Wimpy quarterpounder and a beanburger in the same roll. I never tried it, but was assurred that this really was the greatest burger of all. 

Wimpy Spicy Beanburger
My biggest regret for my veggie years was the lack of decent sausages and burgers for a barbeque. I love a barbeque, but until Linda McCartney came along, there was no such things as a vaguely edible veggie barbeque option.Things have improved. Wheras the only veggie option in English retaurants in the 80's, nw there is a wide range of options. What bugs me is that what was the only decent option has long gone. When we recently visited Battersea power Station, we had lunch in Clean Kitchen, a vegan burger joint. I'd read their propoganda and the bumf implied that the burgers were as good as meat burgers. They weren't. The sauces etc on them were nice enough, but the nearest they got as meat burgers, is to a bad cheap own brand meat burger. In my opinion, they've made the mistake of trying to make the burger taste and feel like meat. Wimpy got it right. They knew the beanburger wasn't meat and it didn't pretend to be. Instead there was a nice spice and the recognisable texture of beans and a pleasing crunchy coating.

Presently vegan eating is a big growth area in dining. I hate to say this, but I am yet to visit a European style decent vegan restaurant. The food is invariably bland and seems to be designed for people who are allergic to flavours. It is crazy. Indian vegan restaurants are great. In Italian restaurants, there are half decent options, my pasta of choice is Penne Arrabiata, but there is so little imagination. 

At home, I have a whole tranche of burger recepies that work really well without animal products. Decent home made spicy beanburgers are cheap and easy to prepare. Large flat mushrooms can also be adapted to make great barbeque'd burger fillers. I wil take out the stalks, get some smaller fried chopped mushrooms, green onions and aubergene, with chilli and tomato paste and topped with dried fried onions, and then stuff the mushrooms with these. They can be topped with vegan cheese if that's your thing and baked.. These are delicious. Oyster mushrooms also can be chopped up and made into nicely textured burgers. I use these with red lentils and chilli. You cook the lentils until they are dry enough to be molded, add fried chilli, onions, garlic, green onions and chopped oyster mushrooms to taste, tmold into a patty, dip in deep fried, dried onions or panko breadcrumbs and then simply fry them. If I am barbequing, I'll give them 60 secs each side to finish off. 

If I can figure all of this out, why can't the fast food vegan burger joints and vegan restaurants. I'm happy to share my secrets with them (for a fee). 

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