Tofurkey, vegeburgers, vegan bacon, meatless meatballs, and other non-meat versions of meat dishes can all taste ok, even good. But the eater, especially someone who isn't a vegetarian, will be inevitably be comparing the meatless version with the real version. And most of the time, the fake meat won't live up to the real thing. Disappointment, and at least an unconscious conclusion that vegetarian food is second class.
In India, things are turned around. Meat restaurants are labeled non-veg. Veg is first. When you start with vegetables, you create recipes that take advantage of the flavors, textures, and colors of the various fruits and grains and leafy bounty of the earth. Indian cuisine marvelously combines all these gifts of nature in such delicious variety that one would never need to eat flesh.
Of course, when one is raised on meaty meals, habit and emotional attachments give meat an allure that is hard to give up. The connection, for example, between Thanksgiving and turkey is hard to overcome. My casual vegetarianism allows me to eat a little turkey.
Evolutionarily, humans are omnivores. We have canines in our tooth collection. Eating meat is natural for humans. But so is eating vegetarian. A turkey-free Thanksgiving, in my view, is better than a fake turkey substitute. The key ingredients in a Thanksgiving dinner are family, friends, and appreciation of all we have to be thankful for, not the turkey.
[This was originally posted Nov. 27, 2014 at 8:27am, but Feedburner didn't pick it up and update blogrolls, so I'm reposting in hopes it might get onto blogrolls.]