Food Geek Friday: Vegan Challenge

Admittedly, I don't watch Oprah regularly. Haven't in years. (even if I am in an article on her website) However, there is occasionally the show on real food and I always make sure to watch. After Food, Inc. was released she did an episode with Michael Pollan and the state of the food industry. This past week, she had an episode that was premised around a challenge to Harpo staffers to become vegans for a week. Michael Pollan was back, as well as a general manager for a Cargill plant and vegan cookbook author, Kathy Freston. I watched this episode A) because real food is a major passion of mine and B) I've always been curious about veganism. Not from an ethical or health standpoint, but rather from a culinary creativity standpoint. It's easy to create a meal centered on animal proteins. It's easy to throw in some butter, cheese or bacon to add flavor. But what about when you don't have those things?

In an effort to keep this post brief (I could go on forever with thoughts on the entire show as well as the real food movement), I'm only going to focus on my gut reaction to the vegan portion of the show. (The entire show is worth watching, though. Let me know if you caught it.)

Overall, I'm going to admit that I was quite disappointed with the way veganism was presented to the staffers as well as the menu plans laid out on the website. Sooooo many items were processed - even after the author expressly stated that she was against processed foods. They mention that this is a healthier way to eat, but how is that the case when so many processed, faux foods (meat and dairy) are involved.

I think it's important to know where your food comes from. As Michael Pollan says, if you're not willing to see what happens to your food before you eat it, then you shouldn't be eating it. I also personally feel that it's healthier to have real foods that were treated properly and raised in a manner that glorifies their essence (as Pollan says, "They had really great lives with one bad day.") rather than processed faux foods. I was genuinely interested in this and curious to take on the challenge myself, but would have been more inspired if faux meats and cheeses weren't the crutch of meals as animal products can be in the traditional diet. Plus, if the diet were truly based on plants then it would have better represented the health claims they were touting. 

Do you have any recipes or know of any cookbooks that have delicious, food-geek quality recipes without the use of faux food? Please, share them here.