THE GOCHISO GOURMET: ‘Diet for a Small Planet’


columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALFrances Moore Lappe’s groundbreaking book, “Diet for a Small Planet,” is now 50 years old. It argued that world hunger was not caused by lack of food, but by lack of effective food policy. And while I’m not vegan or even vegetarian by any means, I agree that raising animals just for consumption expends a lot more resources than we get from eating that steak.

While Anthony Bourdain was one of my heroes, I disagree with his assessment that “vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”

Hey, I’m not recommending anyone totally switch from a pure animal-based diet to a pure plant-based diet, but shifting more of your edibles to plant-based choices will probably improve your health, as well as the planet.

My Old Standby
Morningstar Farms are among my go-to plant-based options, as they are readily available at any supermarket and frequently on sale. The Grillers Original Burgers taste just like regular burgers at those conglomerate fast-food chains, while the Chik Patties give you the satisfaction of chicken nuggets with a lot less fat, and you know they aren’t filled with chicken nerves and gristle. I also use the Veggie Breakfast Sausage Links, either sliced for a vegan dressing at Thanksgiving or finely diced for a vegan sausage gravy, using soy, oat or macadamia nut milk in place of cow’s milk. Ms. S has also discovered the delights of the Spicy Black Bean Burgers, so we usually have several bags in our freezer.

As the MorningStar Farms products are all frozen, they are handier to store; you’ll always have some on hand, unlike fresh ground beef, pork or turkey. However, the main drawback is that you need to rotate your products as they tend to dry out if stored too long. I tried remedying the situation by microwaving the patties in a very damp paper towel. However, once the patty cools, the consistency goes right back to cardboard.

Here’s the recipe for my vegan Thanksgiving dressing that I created years ago when my sister was still a vegan. I demonstrated it back in 1997 on “The Electric Kitchen” television show. Because Hawaiian Electric didn’t want to promote specific brands, my recipe simply lists vegetarian breakfast links, but the only product I use is the MorningStar Farms Veggie Breakfast Sausage Links.

Vegan Dressing
2 packages (8 oz size) vegetarian breakfast links
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced celery, including leaves
1 cup diced onion
8 oz fresh mushrooms, diced
1 cup diced roasted chestnuts, optional
3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can (14 1/2 oz) vegetable broth
1 package (13 oz) unseasoned stuffing mix

Chop links. In a large sauce pot, heat the oil. Sauté the links until lightly browned. Add celery, onion, mushrooms and chestnuts; cook for five to seven minutes. Stir in poultry seasoning, rosemary, salt, pepper and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add stuffing mix and stir until thoroughly moistened. Use as a stuffing or serve as a side dish. Makes 10 servings.

Almost Chicken
The Tofurky line of products includes a plant-based, Lightly Seasoned Chick’n that we always stock in our refrigerator. You see, workweek lunchtime meals have one purpose: to carry you through the rest of the day. And if a meal exists simply for sustenance, it might as well be healthy. I’ll reserve those potato chips and charcuterie for the weekends. More often than not, that means we opt for a lunch of cooked vegetables and fruit.

Of course, you do need a little protein to avoid that postprandial bonk, so that’s where the Chick’n comes in. I often braise about two large heads of cabbage, perhaps with chopped celery, onions or broccoli after briefly stir-frying two packages of Tofurky Chick’n for that added protein. It’s fast, healthy, full of fiber and as an added bonus, I’m helping the company that usually co-sponsors the annual Soy and Tofu Festival!

Tofurky also produces plant-based cold cuts, several varieties of sausage and ground products to mimic ground beef or chorizo. And I’m sure that plant-based proteins aren’t just fringe products anymore, as my local Safeway stocks the full line of Tofurky products.

A GOOD BURGER ­— The Very Good Burger is a tasty plant-based option. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

The New Find
While perusing the Internet, I stumbled upon a link to The Very Good Butchers. However, these “butchers” based out of Victoria, British Columbia simply butcher beans. I placed an order and have sampled the Very Good Burger. It has the same consistency as ground animal protein and gives off the aroma of bacon while it heats, though there’s no animal product in the patties. The Ribz have the flavor and mouthfeel of pulled pork, probably due to the added jackfruit, while the Pepperoni is reminiscent of Nduja or spicy, spreadable salami. I’ll probably reserve the Very British Banger and Smokin’ Bangers the next time I cook cabbage for our workweek lunches.

A 180 Degree Shift Isn’t Necessary
I’m not recommending an about face with your dietary habits; simply consider reducing your consumption of animal products, shifting to a greater consumption of plant-based products for better health and being a better steward of the planet. You may have noticed that I didn’t even mention that new trend with plant-based burgers that even the national fast food chains are offering.
While any plant-based product reduces the environmental impact on the planet, part of the reason why I consume these plant-based products is also for its health benefits, as many products supply a good dose of protein plus dietary fiber and are low in saturated fat. However, some of these plant-based burgers try to mimic ground animal protein so much that they “bleed” red juices (to mimic blood) as you cook them, but they also carry a fair share of saturated fat (usually from coconut oil) to mimic the mouth feel of ground beef. So, I’ll simply continue purchasing and consuming the products I’ve already mentioned.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at Views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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