Meat but not animal is a concept that I’ve really got into lately. I spent the first 30 or so years of my life as a meat eater, and I did love me a good steak every now and then. So when I saw this product in my local Tescos I just had to try it out.
At the beginning of 2017 I decided to reduce my meat consumption to zero. I won’t go into the reasons why I decided to make this change in the first place, which were personal to me and likely not of interest to you. Although what I would like to do is occasionally talk a little about the ways in which a good understanding of human psychology can make the changing process in general a whole lot easier. No matter what you’re looking to change in your life.
We’ll check back in with the veggie steak a little later on.
Identity and meat consumption
Today I’d like to talk about identity.
Some of the best life advice I’ve ever received has been to store my beliefs separate from my sense of self worth. That way my beliefs can change as I learn more about the world, and my place in it, without the change completely destroying any identity that I might use to define myself.
It is important to me that I am a person that changes and not a person that’s just a bunch of labels set in stone.
As a wise internet man once said
“If you always want to be right, you need to always be prepared to change your mind”
And if you know me in real life I’m sure you can attest, being right about things is deeply, deeply important to me!
It’s firmer than a raw steak that’s for sure. Feels dense, like a thick yoga mat (boy do I know how to make things sound delicious)
Over the course of my life I’d heard a lot of arguments against meat eating. I was often able to bat most of these arguments away with some arguments of my own. At the time the arguments that I used always felt logical and reasonable but the more I brought them into the discussion the more I could see the hole in them, even if my non-meat eating friends could not (or were too exhausted by the conversation to point them out).
In 2016 I was starting to find it difficult to remain in the right and continue to eat meat. I felt that I had to make some sort of change.
In her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism Dr. Melanie Joy talks about the hidden ideology that the normal, everyday meat eating diet can often hold within it. We don’t perhaps feel as if we’re following an ideology while we eat but if we examine which animals are socially acceptable to eat and which animals are not, it quickly becomes apparent that the normal does have a structure to it that perhaps isn’t as strictly logical as we’d like to think.
The trouble with identity in my experience all lies in the social aspect. To build a sense of identity it’s important to look to others to see how they perform it. To maintain an identity you have a strong incentive to show others the right way to perform it because if there’s consensus then that’s validation. If you fail to live up to an identity or are new and get bits of it wrong it can feel emotionally painful.
Altogether these parts form a feedback loop where everyone is kept in line with a shared sense of who they are and what they are supposed do.
I thought I’d keep it simple (and lazy) just cooking it with some potatoes (in the oven) and some peppers. I keep wanting to touch test it like I would with a dead cow steak but this has no give to it. How do I know when it’s medium rare?
Breaking out of an identity therefore can feel like a threat to those others who are still within it and lonely for the individuals that leave. Meaning that it’s often easier to just stay with the status quo.
I was thinking about this a lot in 2016 when I was considering becoming a vegetarian. I worried about the identity aspect. What if I told people that I had become a vegetarian only to then not be able to maintain the behavioural aspect and relapse back into being a meat eater? What if I became a vegetarian and tried to maintain my identity by arguing with my meat eating friends in the aggressive way that I’d seen some vegetarian/vegans do in the past?
I didn't want either of these options so in the end I settled on defining the change with a focus on the behaviour rather than the identity.
And so, as I mentioned up top, at the start of 2017 I decided to reduce my meat consumption to zero.
Over time I became more comfortable with the label of vegetarian. Mainly because it was easier than having the following interaction each time it cropped up in conversation:
I’m still surprised how often I get push back on the choice I now find myself at but I’ve become much better at finding a way to talk about it that doesn't piss literally everyone off.
Ok food’s cooked now, lets see how steak-like this veggie steak is
It looks impressive, I’ll give it that.
More like a medium rare burger than a steak. This is made from soy by the way. Insane, right?
The review (I guess that's what I'm doing here??)
Well it’s not a steak but it’s impressive whatever it is. It falls apart like meat, similar in the way that pulled pork would. If I close my eyes and really concentrate it does have the texture of a steak, somewhere between medium rare and medium but completely uniform all the way through (i.e. no pockets of lovely fatty bits). The taste is still in the uncanny valley, close but not close enough for it not to be a bit of a weird experience. It was a little dry so I ended up having it with some mayo in the end. Needs blood, or maybe a peppercorn sauce.
The best thing about this is how incredibly not healthy it tastes (in a good way), it’s small but its dense and satisfying.
I wouldn't recommend this if you still eat meat, it’s not a converter that’s for sure. This was designed with someone like me in mind, an ex-meat eater that wants the taste of seared dead cow meat but without all that pesky suffering it causes.
My name is Richard, I blog under the name of @nonzerosum. I’m a PhD student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I write mostly on Global Health, Effective Altruism and The Psychology of Vaccine Hesitancy. If you’d like to read more on these topics in the future follow me here on steemit or on twitter @RichClarkePsy.
P.s. This whole post was a lie, I wrote it over, like, two days. Writing is dangerous when you’re trying to fry a veggie steak, I cannot in good conscience let you leave here thinking it’s a good idea!
All images included in post are my own.