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Best of PETA Prime–Soybean Fear: to Tell or Not to Tell?

Posted by at 5:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

tofuThis popular article was originally published here on PETA Prime on September 8, 2008. We wanted to make sure that you didn’t miss it! Let us know what you think–should you tell or not?

When my family and I go to a potluck with meat-eaters, we always have a dilemma: Should we tell the other guests that the spaghetti sauce is made with fake meat or should we just put it on the table and see what happens?

I used to think it was best to tell everyone right up front that the spaghetti sauce was vegetarian. I always expected people to say, “Oh, wow,” and ask me for the recipe. But it rarely happens that way. Instead, they avoid my sauce and want to know where it came from and exactly how it was made. If I mention soybeans, tofu, or TVP (textured vegetable protein), they get panicked looks on their faces and suddenly declare that they are too full to even taste it.

When I don’t say anything, people often come back for more and ask for the recipe. It is so simple to make great vegan spaghetti with fake meatballs. In the summer, everything that we use in the sauce, except the fake meat and the mushrooms, comes from our garden. We make our own tomato sauce and add green beans, carrots, green onions, basil, and oregano. For the fake meat, we use various meat substitutes, such as vegan Italian sausage or the vegan Boca burgers, which you can get at Costco or your local supermarket. In the winter, after we’ve used up our frozen garden tomato sauce, we often just open a jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce and add mushrooms and fake meat to it.

I don’t understand people’s fear of meat substitutes. No one ever asks questions about the meat dishes on the table. No one asks if it’s real dead pig in the homemade pork and beans, how loudly the pig screamed when it was killed, if it was cooked hot enough to kill E. coli and trichinosis, or if it perhaps came from corpses from the Mississippi River flood or road kill on the side of the highway.

I think that maybe we were brainwashed by the fourth-grade school health books that were filled with information most likely furnished by the meat and dairy industries. Those books told us over and over that we needed meat and dairy three times a day to be healthy, and if the food we were eating wasn’t one of those two foods, it couldn’t be trusted. I sure hope that kids these days are not told those same old lies.

So, what do you think? Should I tell people at potlucks the true origin of my dish?

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  • Leigh Anne says:

    Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I wouldn’t say a word. When they love it and ask for the recipe, you can shock the britches right off them and hopefully change their way of thinking!

  • Amy Brown says:

    i myself would only tell them if they have allergy or after they eat it. I just started becoming a vegan after being forced by my parents to eat meat (I tried to be vegan as a child several times). Even my grandmother is against eating vegan. She called me the other day and asked my what I was doing. I told her i was drinking a glass of palmagranet juice. and she said “I wish you would get off this veggie kick. It’s not healthy.” I tried to explain that it is and all she could say is that I was too skinny(even though I just went to the docters last week and my weight is 112– within normal weight range of a woman that is 5′ 2″) Is there somthing wrong with eating healthy and looking out for the right of animals to live?

  • Mary Susan says:

    All points are valid and I have enjoyed reading them all. My family is slowly converting over to veganism, but you see they want to believe they went first. Food allergies are rampant in our household, but I am thankful not to soy. The most recent thing I, have found is that cancer to female reproductive organs is perpetuated by soy products. So you may want to add that to the list of people you tell about soy meats. I, on the other hand have replaced mushrooms with egg plant and do not use the fake meats at functions. I take macroni and “cheese”, always made of rice products and can never take enough. If it is familiar comforting food, I have never had a problem with people eating my food, just never have enough!
    Great to see the numbers are growing! Keep up the good work PETA!

  • AprilMay says:

    Well My Friends would all know because they know I’m Vegan but Honestly I would tell people. Its pot luck or bring a dish to pass so that means what ever you fancy right? So tell them let them decide to try or not and at least you know there will be some thing you can eat. LOL Most of my Friends and Family are coming around to the idea asking questions and trying alot of my dishes they even suggested I host a party and make all Vegan dishes so they can try them. I just turn Vegan this past Nov. and I have to say My Mom had more fruit,veggies,veg. baked beans and we took a Tofurkey! Got to love your veggies

  • Ana says:

    i think u should let people know right after they give u all those great compliments for the great sauce. Let’s see if they retract on themselves. Don’t give up slowly we’ll get there.

  • Veronica Dickey says:

    No way, don’t tell the people what’s in the food! Let them eat it, ask for seconds, state how much they love it… When it is time to leave, stop them and say, “I have a secret, the food you loved so much contained no animal suffering since it all came from vegetable sources.” Now you just might have a few converts or at least less cynical friends.

  • Jadey says:

    I dont tell people that they are going to eat vegetarian or even most likely vegan if they eat at my place and usually they dont even notice that there is no meat involved and ask for more, people dont bother warning you that there will be meat if you eat at their place right? why should we bother warning them that there will be no meat?

  • oh well! that’s an interesting thing!
    well I really think that we must tell to the other guests the truth about our dishes after they try it…..that way they would try it again if they liked it!

    great article!

  • kayla shaw says:

    I think you should let them try the food first and then tell them. If they have a problem with it, give them a little speech about animal cruelty and how the fake meat is perfectly healthy. You can also say that they would have never have known it was fake meat if you hadn’t told them.

  • David says:

    I wouldn’t tell them if I were you. Just let them try it for themselves and, if they like it enough to ask you for the recipe, then you have the option of saying something like, “I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I make it with tofu….” If they don’t enjoy it or don’t even want to take a bite just to be courteous then, hopefully, you won’t have to hear about it.

  • Sharon Logan-Smith says:

    I don’t eat meat, but I think you should tell because soy is a common allergen, and many people, like me, feel pretty awful after eating it.

  • Bonnie says:

    my only concern would be food allergies but most likely anyone with a food allergy would ask first anyway.

  • Kathy says:

    I normally would never tell as I too find when people try it (without knowing) they do like it, however, since becoming vegan I have found a lot of people are allergic to soy products. My girlfriend’s lips swell up and she has a reaction. So, she is to avoid all soy. If someone that is highly allergic eats the stuff, they could end up in the hospital or possibly worse, so I do tell people now just in case.

  • Elaine says:

    No! Tell them it’s from your Macbeth Recipe Collection. Full of hidden surprises.

  • Jamie says:

    I say let ’em gobble it up and then till them it was the most ethically sound meal they had ever eaten (and maybe one of the healthiest).

  • Dawn Morris says:

    I am in total agreement. When we have potlucks at work, my food is avoided because it contains “the weird stuff”. It hurts my feelings as i’m a really great cook, and the ones that do venture to try it are amazed. My daughter in law gets mad at my son when I offer them anything vegetarian, like she’s against it! I always think like in the article above, “Oh, I’m sorry it’s not dead flesh…THAT’S a better texture?!?” I just make food, if people want it, great, if not, more for me and my husband…and I don’t take anything to the potlucks anymore. Bummer.

  • Todd says:

    It’s a great question, and one I too have wrestled with.

    My only concern is that there are people with serious soy allergies. (After all, most people wouldn’t expect a spaghetti sauce to contain soy products.)

    So I ask first if anyone has any food allergies. (I do the same any time I make something containing nuts.) If they don’t have any, then I wait to tell them the secret ingredients.

    There is great satisfaction in seeing a non-veggie try something vegan and really love it, but at the same time, accidentally killing them would probably defeat the purpose!

    Great article!

  • Nancy says:

    I will tell people the ingredients of my dish if they have an allergen problem or their religion prohibit them from eating vegetables.
    Meat-eaters consume vegetables, too. Why warn them about vegetables in the dish in advance? I feel it’s like telling them that my dish welcomes only vegetarians.
    I won’t tell people that my delicious dish is vegetarian unless they ask. My sister and I used to entertain our friends with vegan meals and they are so surprised that they’re so delicious and made of vegetables only.
    It’s really so easy being a vegan in a place where the supply and variety of vegetables abound!

  • Bonnie says:

    I have never felt the need to tell people that are non-vegetarian that my pot-luck dish is “vegetarian” prior to serving. I make great vegetarian food and a really great 4 bean chili that could be in a chili cook-off (really!) that is good for potluck. and I would rather have my food be tasted and judged fairly. As you said, most often reaction is shock, fear or some sort of negative gasp, etc….I usually tell them after with a big smile and happy eyes….there is no denying good food. I never thought to ask them about the “meat” in their dish in the terms you listed, but what a great comeback. Thanks for the story. Take Care 🙂

  • Shannon says:

    Don’t waste your breath. If they don’t eat it you get to take the leftovers home. What could be better than that!

  • Brianna says:

    I think you shouldn’t. Most of the time non-veg people don’t reveal what is in their dishes until I outright demand to know. What people don’t know can’t hurt them and in this case definetly won’t! The may actually, gasp, like the food. It’s like a kid with vegetables, to get him/her to like them you have to first disguise them and then reveal what they liked so well. Let people make a decision based on taste and not presumptive ideas.

  • Gail Richardson says:

    I agree, Kerry. When my parents were still alive, my mom told me that she made a dish using veggie burger crumbles and didn’t tell Dad what was in it. My Dad (born in 1914) was always one to insist, “I HAVE to have meat!” My mom (born in 1919) had the example of her mother, my Nana, who was vegetarian for most of her life because she didn’t believe in killing/eating animals. Mom ate some meat, but less and less as she got older. She always said she’d be completely vegetarian if she had greater willpower or different habits historically. She gleefully reported to me about her recipe, “It was great!–Daddy thought it was meat!” I congratulated her and we laughed together about her fooling him. It didn’t hurt him, and he really enjoyed the meal. If he’d known that it was vegetarian he would still have eaten it, but would not have liked it as much, and likely would have complained that it wasn’t filling or satisfying enough….My Daddy was wonderful and I loved him, but this is the same man who was disgusted with a friend who was enjoying eating some “chocolate” candy until she was told it was really carob, and who then stopped eating it and declared, “Oh! Carob! I hate carob! Yuck!” He told this story to show how stupid this friend was. If he’d known Mom’s dish had veggie burger instead of meat, he’d probably have had a similar reaction. Happily, she saved him the trouble by not telling him it wasn’t a meat dish. People are so funny!

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