I finally went to Kind Kitchen by Green Common, a restaurant in Hong Kong that serves only plant-based food. It serves dishes like cucumber spaghetti salad with avocado and JUST scrambled eggs, Omnipork “meatless” balls, the Beyond Burger and more (their menu). The food was tasty, I admire their mission, but I could not stop thinking about Michael Pollan’s writings during every bite.
Michael Pollan said,
Don’t eat anything your great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
Imagine how baffled your ancestors would be in a modern supermarket: the epoxy-like tubes of Go-Gurt, the preternaturally fresh Twinkies, the vaguely pharmaceutical Vitamin Water. Those aren’t foods, quite; they’re food products. History suggests you might want to wait a few decades or so before adding such novelties to your diet, the substitution of margarine for butter being the classic case in point. My mother used to predict “they” would eventually discover that butter was better for you. She was right: the trans-fatty margarine is killing us. Eat food, not food products.
While I get why the faux meat movement is meaningful, particularly around its potential positive impact to the environment, I cannot convince myself that we are certain this kind of food is absolutely healthy for us. History has shown us that we suck at discerning what’s good and what’s bad for our bodies. Margarine was good, eggs were bad, fat was terrible, while corn syrup was “Verbal” (sorry, couldn’t help to drop a “The Usual Suspect” reference …).
Then about 10 years ago here in Asia, the news around fake eggs from China went viral. This video captured some of the emotions during that time.
Obviously the deception made people angry at these heartless thieves. At the same time, how those fake General Tso’s eggs were made stoke the fire even further. In fact, in the same video, one could see how they were made. I have spent a bit of time and summarized some of the key ingredients:
Alginic acid, gelatin, resin, cellulose, calcium chloride, sodium benzoate, food coloring, calcium carbonate (for the egg shells) etc.
Some of these things seem terrible to eat.
Then, let’s look at the ingredients of JUST eggs:
JUST Egg Ingredients:
Water, Mung Bean Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Contains less than 2% of Calcium Citrate, Enzyme, Gellan Gum, Natural Carrot Extractives (color), Natural Flavors, Natural Turmeric Extractives (color), Onion Puree, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Preservatives (Nisin, Potassium Sorbate).
Ok. Let me use the ingredients from the G.Tso’s fake eggs, drop the egg shell, put on my 2018 hippie medium writer hat, and “plant-base” it:
BUDDHA’S Egg Ingredients:
Pure Water, Brown Seaweed Algin Acid, Agar-Agar (to replace gelaltin, which is actually from real food … just not plant based), Amber tree resin, cellulose from cell walls of organic plants, natural sodium benzoate from Bilberries (seriously), salt, Natural Turmeric Extractives (color).
I am not trying to be a smart ass here (cool if you thought i was smart though). I genuinely struggled every bite of the way. I also am certain that I will stick to this 👇🏼 for my kids.
Finally, I think I will stick to Michael Pollan’s advise for now. The advise?
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Just for fun … Here are the ingredients of a piece of Beyond Burger:
Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract (to protect quality), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Beet Juice Extract (for color), Acetic Acid, Succinic Acid, Modified Food Starch, Annatto (for color).