May 11, 2012

I’m Cheating on my Bacon with my Tofu. ~ Jess Bender

I love bacon and I love beef, but there are zillions of reasons to enjoy vegan food. I’ll name seven for you.

Confession: I don’t have the perseverance or willpower in me to ever go vegetarian, let alone vegan. Drool-worthy fish tacos, miso-glazed salmon, and bacon-wrapped-anything are my current foodie obsessions, and you can never let me part from any of them. That being said, I adore and appreciate stellar vegan cooking.

I lucked out by living in New York, because Manhattan and Brooklyn are filled with dozens of mouth-watering vegan restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. Ever since my beau introduced me to Café Blossom in the Upper West Side a few years back, I’ve been absolutely addicted. Pistachio-crusted tofu; pop that right in my mouth. Chili-grilled seitan; I could nom-nom-nom on you forever. Hell, even soy bacon cheeseburgers are better than the disgustingly-greasy ones I tend to get at some of my favorite joints.

Tragically, a lot of meat lovers are turned off by anything vegan. The common assumption is that vegans are nothing but preachy tree huggers who joyfully chew away on grass in a meadow like cows. A few herbivores are like that, but the vast majority aren’t. In fact, tons of vegan food can be universally tasty. I’m living proof of that fact, after all.

Doubt the deliciousness of vegan food right now? Even if you’re not fully convinced that it’s possible, your curiosity will be slightly piqued by the time you finish reading why vegan food is kinda, really amazing.

1. Tofu is a flexible protein. Looks are deceiving—tofu is a wonder food. Its sponge-like consistency absorbs anything you cook it with, so you get a burst of flavor with every bite. Tofu also gives you the opportunity to get in touch with your culinary side. Want some Chinese? Take some veggies and make a spicy stir-fried dish. Craving something sweet? Grab some black sesame and make some Japanese sweet tofu. The possibilities are endless!

2. Tons of cultures specialize in vegan cooking. Bored of the typical Texas BBQ and Velveeta cheese sandwiches that are beloved to Americans’ hearts? Countries around the world love playing with their food and many of their most well-known dishes are vegetable-based. Indians love their veggie tandoori and saag, people in the Middle East chow down on falafel and baba ganoush, Italians can whip up stellar vegan pastas and pizzas, and the list goes on and on.

3. A lot of vegan desserts are better than their non-vegan counterparts. When it comes to making the perfect dessert, vegan bakers like to get creative with the process. The perfect example of this is the oh-so perfect Babycakes (located in NYC, LA, and Orlando). Despite not using gluten, wheat or eggs in their desserts, their cute-as-a-button cupcakes and brownies pack a uniquely sweet punch. You won’t even feel bad downing their goods by the handful. The bakers at Babycakes use agave sweeteners and coconut oil in their baked products, and both have tons of health benefits.

4. If you’re an at-home cook, you’ll be saving tons of money. Buying tons of chicken and pork will set you back a couple of bucks at the supermarket or greenmarket. Veggies and grains, on the other hand, is only a fraction of the cost. Who needs chicken parm when you can swap it out with eggplant and save more cash?!

5. You’ll be saving the environment if you back off meat for a bit. Let’s be real—your love for lamb gyros and ice cream sundaes isn’t doing the planet any favors. Producing meat uses tons of pesticides and chemicals, and Earth can’t afford to supply all of that without suffering a bit for that much longer. To get even more scientific, working with meat and dairy generates tons of greenhouse gases (about 13 times more than plant-based proteins). If you want to keep your relationship with Mother Nature intact, I suggest you back off a bit before you really piss her off.

6. Vegan proteins are perfect for frying. So this isn’t the healthiest of suggestions, but at least it’s better than frying some chicken or a candy bar.

7. Vegan dishes are perfect fodder for food porn. Just search ‘vegan’ on Food Gawker. Chances are you’ll be gazing at the most beautiful food for the next couple of hours. Your boss may not thank me for killing an entire day instead of working, but your eyes will.


Jess Bender is a freelancer who loves to combine her passions of non-profit work and cracking jokes at unexpected times. When she’s not busy writing and editing her heart out, the native New Yorker can be found cooking with her friends or reading in the park alongside the Hudson River. She loves meeting new Twitter friends, so follow her at @blessthisjess.



Editor: Alexandra Grace

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