I've been vegetarian for 22 years this month. When I first adopted the lifestyle, I came across recipes with names like "no-tuna salad," and "eggless egg salad." Yet they were vegan, plant-based foods. There was no tuna, there were no eggs. It made me wonder why those words were attached to the recipes. Yet I continued to use them for a while, repeating what I had read and heard others saying. Yet it continued to baffle me.
Over the years, it has become a pet peeve of mine to hear people calling vegan foods animal-based names. It honestly makes no sense to me at all. It's not no-tuna salad, it's chickpea salad. It's not eggless egg salad, it's tofu salad. We need to stop labeling these vegan foods with animal names. When I've expressed my dislike of this I've had people tell me that doing that helps meat eaters to want to try the foods. I disagree. If a meat eater or someone new to plant-based eating tries a dish called "no tuna salad," they are expecting it to taste like tuna. When they try it and it does not taste like fish (because chickpea salad doesn't taste like fish), then there is a good chance they will be disappointed. They may walk away from their vegan food experience with a bad attitude. They expected chickpeas to taste like fish, because the name tuna was in the title.
A few years ago, my friend brought over a dish to a potluck that was amazing! She said it was "vegan fried chicken." Huh? I was dumbfounded. Why on earth was she calling this delicious dish vegan fried chicken? She explained that it was fried seitan, but that it looks like fried chicken and that's what it reminds people of. So I asked her why she was not calling the dish "fried seitan" then? It was her turn to be dumbfounded. She didn't know why she wasn't. From that day on, she decided that's exactly what she would call it.
I've had numerous people over the years suggest to me that vegetarians and vegans like to eat "mock meats" because they really want to eat meat. They think it's silly. Problem is, it's the industry that calls the products things like "chick'n,' porkless, beefless, etc." Personally, I wish they wouldn't do that. I'd love it if they stuck to names like veggie burger crumbles, seitan bites, etc. I would prefer they come up with more creative names that help distinguish what type of plant based food it is, rather than trying to pull off the animal-based switcharoo, hoping to fool people and hide the plant-based goodness. And please, stop saying it "tastes like the real thing," as if the only "real" food is animal-based. One of my favorite vegan celebrities has said that numerous times and it's sad, because it's saying that the plant-based food must be fake, an impostor, a mock something or other.
People tell me that having those animal names in there helps those who are transitioning to plant-based foods. How? If they are transitioning to plant-based foods then they should be looking for plant-based food dishes, not plant-based foods that are named tuna, chicken, etc. Am I to believe that if someone comes across a picture and recipe of chickpea salad that they will not be interested in trying it because the word "tuna" wasn't in the title? That's nonsense. Why do they have to have the word tuna there, when they are trying to find plant-based foods? Yes, the plant-based dishes are different, but that's okay. They are trying a different diet, so let's show them how different the food is, how delicious it is, how healthy it can be.
When we continue to call our vegan foods titles with the words chicken, tuna, eggs, etc, we are associating these animals with being foods in the first place. I for one, don't consider these animals to be foods, so I don't want to have them associated with food dishes. In addition to continuing to associate animals with foods and setting people up to think the dish should taste like that animal, there are other reasons I think it's better to not attach these words to the foods. One being that you don't get them to associate the tastes of those foods with plant-based vegan ingredients. If they taste chickpea salad and like it, then they found a vegan dish they like and they will know it's chickpeas. Using the animal terms to label foods is akin to hiding the veggies, as if they are not good enough to be on their own. It's as if we must disguise them and make the person believe they are "like" eating animals. Ridiculous.
Let's call it tofu salad, chickpea salad, and fried seitan. That way people taste and judge it on its own merit, rather than feeling as though it was supposed to taste like tuna, eggs, or chicken. That way we also stop implying that these animals are food or associated with food. I don't see one good reason for attaching animal labels to plant-based foods, and many good reasons for no longer doing it.
Stepping off my "words matter" soap box... :)