Thursday, November 29, 2012

Edible Animals Win at Hide-and-Seek

A while ago I went to a yogi pot-luck. Knowing the group was full of specialized eaters, I brought a little label for my salsa: Gluten-free, Vegan, Raw, Organic. To my surprise, a fellow guest made the comment, "Isn't all salsa vegan?"

For all of you who may think that it is; no. No, it is not. In fact, the first salsa recipe I ever committed to memory was simmered for 15 minutes in chicken stock. That's pretty common for traditional salsas.

The recipe was my father's and when I last visited, he had made a huge vat of the salsa, knowing I love the enchiladas he makes smothered in the stuff. When I reluctantly admitted that I really wasn't going to eat the salsa he was befuddled. "Why? There isn't any meat in it."he retorted. "The stock, Dad." His face contorted into a grimace as if the recollection of adding the stock had been a repressed memory, now back to traumatize him.

I felt horrible and it reminded me of a gluten-free friend (she wasn't gf as a 'thing.' She could literally die from eating gluten) who was invited to a boyfriend's house for dinner. Knowing the restrictions, the mother carefully selected a soup to serve for dinner. The soup remained gluten-free right up until a moment before it hit the table when the mother noticed the soup was a bit thin and, without thinking, threw in a handfull of flour. Poor Rose watched in horror as the flour left the quick-flinging woman's hand, leaving Rose in the awkward position of not eating her specially prepared supper.

I won't die from eating meat, heck, I have even been so desperate to try a food that I will pick around chunks of bacon, pretending that animal fats stay on their relegated pieces, much like smoke knows to stay in the smoking section of restaurants. Still, I like knowing what I'm eating in an almost obsessive way. Here are a few foods you might* be surprised to know have meat in them:

Salsa: We just covered this, beware of the cooked ones, they can be simmered in stock. Likewise, simmer-sauces can contain meat.

McDonalds French Fries & Hash Browns: "In 2002, McDonald’s agreed to donate $10 million to Hindu and other groups in the U.S. to settle lawsuits that accused the chain of mislabeling french fries and hash browns as vegetarian. The vegetable oil used to prepare the fries and hash browns had contained traces of beef for flavoring purposes." — The Washington Post. To be fair, I am not sure if they still use the 'seasoned' oil. I don't really care either. McyD's is known for using a scary number of ingredients in foods. Take a look at the Oatmeal they've been advertising as 'grown.' Grown my left butt-cheek; the list is 21 items long. Last I checked, sodium stearoyl lactylate did not sprout from a branch.


Refried Beans: Not really a shocker because there are cans labeled, "vegetarian." The ones that are not have bacon-fat in them. Be careful when eating out. The really wonderful greasy-spoons are more traditional and traditional means animal fat.

French Onion Soup: Beef base flavors this otherwise veggie caramelized goodness.


Cows are good at hide and seek

Cheese Soups, like Broccoli: If it's not one, it's the other: chicken base.

Packaged Side-Dishes: Rice, beans and pastas often have lard (animal fat) or animal stock in them.

I will touch on only one not-really-vegan food for this post. As far as I can tell, animal derivatives are in everything. I couldn't eat this keyboard and claim it vegan (For real. There is more cat hair in it than there is on my cat.).

Stout Beer: Not vegan. To be a "stout" the beer has to be filtered through a fish bladder.** Sorry all you hipster-vegans. Party's over.

But let's end on a good note. One surprisingly VEGAN food:
Bac-os®: They are made from soy!

* If you are a passive meat-avoider. Strict vegetarians will already know this.
** I had originally stated that it was a fish-bone. Thank you, Baleeteen (on reddit) for the correction!

13 comments:

  1. Have you seen barnivore.com? It has a pretty exhaustive list of whether a beer, wine, or liquor is vegan. It's awesome! (German beers are all safe, because of some purity law they have allowing only grain, hops, and yeast (I think only those 3).)

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    1. HA! I love it! I haven't seen barnivor before. Thanks for sharing! I am not vegan myself (I love my stout) but information is always worth the read. I will also be passing this on to my growing horde of vegan friends. Thanks!!!

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  2. It's not true that using stock in salsas is traditional. Both cooked and raw salsas are made from vegetables. This may be one isolated (and rather bizarre) recipe that uses chicken stock, but it is far from the norm.

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    1. Yes, cooked and raw salsas are made from vegetables but some of the cooked ones also contain stock. While I can not assert myself as a salsa authority I believe I can safely say that, although caucasian himself, Rick Bayless has proven himself an authority on the subject. Several of his super-market enchilada sauces and, I believe, one of his salsas contain stock. Also, the recipe I referenced above, although quite possibly bizarre, came from a traditional cook-book. All this points to the statement I was trying to make, you should read labels rather than trusting that the jar of salsa or enchilada sauce is vegetarian.

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  3. So I'm a passive meat-avoider. (Love that term btw!) I just try to eat lots of mostly fresh/raw stuffs, but I still eat some animal products if the mood strikes me.

    Sort of on topic: After a week or so of diligently avoiding animal products, chicken/chicken stock always tastes disgusting to me. I've also gone through this phase where cheese tastes just like what it is: rotten milk. Does anybody else have this?

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    1. Not quite the same thing but I've found that after a while without them cheeses taste like fat and meat can smell rancid. I don't get the effects after only a week though. I usually go two or three weeks between eating animal flesh.

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    2. Ah, glad I'm not the only one. Cheese is mostly fat, so that makes complete sense to me. I've never gotten the rancid smell from meat, but eggs - oh my! I cannot stand eggs from the grocery store anymore. My future parents-in-law's neighbors have a few chickens and I still enjoy their eggs. Makes me wonder how old the super market eggs are and/or what the chickens are fed :-/ Urghs.

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    3. HAHA! You are absolutely right! Eggs taste different when they are raised right. You can even tell spring eggs from winter eggs. It's something our society is missing with factory farming.

      PS future in-laws? When is the date?!?!? Congrats!

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    4. Thank you, Kate! It will be on 9/9/2013 :)

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    5. A September wedding. It will be beautiful! Hugs all around!

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    6. Thank you so much! It will be on a deck overlooking a private beach (Lake Michigan) so nature will be sure to make it beautiful <3

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  4. Just like french onion soup hides beef base so does most onion dip. Especially if it has that perfectly caramel color.

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    1. Oooh, that's a good one, Jason! Thanks!!!

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