Fake Food
by Holly Varni
April 27, 2022

There have been many changes in my lifetime, some obvious, some subtle, some groundbreaking, and some rather confusing. I think the types of food available today fall into every one of those categories. Not only do we have access to diverse cultural food without ever having to travel or leave our house, but there is now an entire line of “fake food” that is, food that looks one way but it made of something entirely different.

I was recently at a restaurant and ordered what they called their “super” burger. I thought it was delicious and had no complaints until the waitress asked me what I thought of it. “It was super!” I replied. “Why do you ask?” She went on to explain how it was their new vegetarian burger and they wanted to know what customers thought. I frowned. “Honey, you shouldn’t have put the beef in there if you wanted it to be vegetarian.” I then got an education on the “fake meat” that I’d unknowingly ordered. Fake meat? I’d never heard of such a thing.

It happened again a week later when I ordered a pizza with barbeque chick’n and was told it was fake chicken. How do you make fake chicken? Where are they raised?

My trust in all eating establishments dwindled after that. When did things become so complicated? When I was growing up, we had basic foods that came from basic sources, and there were no imitations. The biggest food marvel at the time was the invention of margarine, and the people who came up with that were forthright about it not being actual butter. Now I question everything on my plate. Is that fish or some soy science concoction to make it look like fish? Is this really applesauce or some substitute that resembles applesauce? I’m having a late-life food crisis of sort.

I went to a friend’s house for dinner to lament about the chaos of the world of food and complimented her mashed potatoes. The comfort food brought me just that—comfort. It’s good to still have the staples in life. She smiled and told me they weren’t potatoes but mashed cauliflower. I nearly choked! Since when did we start disguising cauliflower as potatoes? I missed that memo. Healthier version or not, I want my potatoes to be actual spuds and served with genuine butter!

So now I’m in a tizzy about what’s real or not. Maybe I’m making a bigger deal of this trickery than it is. I’m sure the vegetarians who were sick and tired of being ignored are all doing a happy dance over finally having fake food choices. Does wanting the real stuff in my burger and on my pizza make me a fuddy-duddy? Perhaps.

People can eat anyway they like. As for me, I’ll stick the originals, like my Tofutti ice cream. It’s delicious. You should try it.