Years ago, when I first went vegan and got very worked up over anything anyone said about veganism, I had a really heated argument on Facebook with a high school friend. She posted a short question: "why do vegetarians eat fake hot dogs and fake burgers? why don't they just eat the REAL thing? it's so much yummier!"

In my eyes, food=food. There's nothing fake about it.* In this world, you can make food taste good, no matter what it is. In the high-dining atmosphere, or at least if you look on Top Chef or Chopped, you'll see "eggs" made of daikon radishes, or "purses" made of phyllo or pastry. These people aren't making substitutes for eggs or purses, they're being creative with food. When someone makes a flourless cake, they aren't "trying" to be a wedding cake - they're exploring what tastes good, with new techniques and ingredients. 

(*Certainly, though, some food may be more processed than others, but those can be found in the meat and dairy section just as often as their vegan counterparts.)

Whether vegan or not, you see this everywhere in the world. There is always more than one way to do things. Outside of food, you'll see backpacks made of waxed canvas instead of leather, or rope made of hemp instead of cotton or synthetic fibers. You wouldn't call those cheap imitations of the "real" thing - they're just different methods of creating. I wouldn't consider my friday night pizza parties with lots of maple-roasted vegetables, fresh marinara and cashew-macadamia cream a cheap imitation of a $5 Little Caesars pizza - it's a new perspective on it.

When it comes right down to it, vegans don't necessarily dislike the taste of bacon or cheese (at least, most of the ones I know), most vegans grew up with (and are accustomed to) these flavors, textures, and the social situations they come in. What vegans dislike about burgers and hot dogs is the method of which that flavor comes from. Animal-based foods and products come from a system of violence and environmental waste, or simply a person might want to abstain for health reasons. A lot of new vegans, especially, may miss the physical taste and texture of meat or milk and there are now a lot of good substitutions, whether whole foods or not. At a family BBQ, a homemade black bean burger is a great way to still be socially involved and not suffer with a limp, watered-down salad. These are not really trying to impress meat-eaters, although many burgers are amazing, they're just a new kind of food to try.

While I don't usually like the super-processed meat & dairy substitutes, I do stand by the necessity to replace (not just remove) what we've always known and loved from our diets. Not only is it more healthy for vegans to cook what they know, but it's more fun, challenging, and expands our knowledge of we previously thought food could be. Now, go cook something! 

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