When a vegetarian loves a steak
Is it the sizzling sound or the aroma that renders us weak to the taste of meat? Our mouths water with craving, but for some, knowledge of slaughterhouse conditions makes eating meat a tough choice.
Fortunately, a table has been set by vegetarian chef Bonnie Antonini, graced with animal-rights integrity and seasoned for the meat-lover’s palate. Her Vegetarian Cooking for Carnivores online cooking show caters to those who long for the flavor of meat, but choose not to consume it.
Antonini grew up with meat on the table three times a day. Although she admits her first tofu hot dog was “awfully really awful,” she feels her show is a wonderful beginning for anyone thinking about moving away from a diet that includes meat.
Do you promote products on your show?
I am not promoting any products. I’m not sponsored by anybody. Taste is subjective. I say, “Here is what I use. If you don’t like it, try another one.” We are carnivorous beings. I just think we eat so much [meat] that it promotes the abuse of the animals.
So you don’t have anything against steak?
No, I like meat. That’s just it. I like the taste of it. If you want a steak, you have to have a steak. There is no fake steak.
When you decided to be vegetarian, did you research the treatment of animals?
I was an animal lover. I started hearing about how the chickens were cooped up and how [slaughterhouses] were killing the cows. … I don’t want to be a part of that. I didn’t do huge research. It just made sense. I should stop participating in this.
Do you have a favorite recipe book you turn to?
No, I have a ton of books. I haven’t seen anybody do this. I know there are a lot of vegetarian cooks out there, but what seems to be lacking is the vegetarian cook that’s incorporating meat, imitation meat, into their dishes. Vegetarians often want to really disassociate themselves from the animal world, but I don’t want to do that. You are not eating real animals, but if you like the taste, why not incorporate the imitation stuff? Some of that sausage is really good. You can’t tell the difference.
What separates your dishes from other vegetarian dishes?
People who are carnivores, meat lovers; we like the taste of it, the texture of it. We want it in our food. The important thing about vegetarianism is to stick with it, you have to be happy with it. If you feel like you are sacrificing when you’re doing it, you’re probably not going to stick with it for long. You are going to get lured by a beef taco somewhere. But if you find an imitation product to satisfy that little urge, you’re going to stick with it. Hopefully.
What’s your most prized recipe?
One of my absolute favorites, and the one the kids have always liked, is the corn-dog recipe. I make my own dough and wrap it around the hot dog, and it put it in the oven.
What is the best burger recipe you have?
I like the Grillers by MorningStar [Farms]. I like the Boca burgers. The imitation burgers are meant to taste like hamburgers.
You don’t make your own?
No, I don’t. They would be hard to do. There are nut burgers. It has nuts, obviously, garbanzo beans and other ingredients. It looks the same, looks like a hamburger patty. A nut burger is just more creamy, and it tastes like vegetables.
Is imitation meat more fattening?
I don’t look at the calories. It’s just like anything else, watch what you eat. I don’t eat too much of any one thing.
If someone is just coming into this vegetarian way of thinking, what would be your first suggestion?
In a chicken Parmesan, for example, what you are really tasting is the cheese, sauce, breading. Take an imitation breast, dip it in egg, put it in the bread crumbs, put the mozzarella and marinara on top. It’s going to taste really good. It’s a combination of flavors. If you start thinking about recipes you like, you can insert the imitation products.
What is your most indulgent food?
Anything chocolate is my favorite. I have been a chocolate lover since day one.
What’s the one kitchen tool you can’t live without?
I would have to say the Cuisinart, the food processor. I love my food processor. I make all my doughs in there.