Now that the last die-hard carnivores are slowly turning towards the vegetarian section at the supermarket, we can safely say that plant-based eating is no short-lived trend but a movement that can no longer be stopped. The flood of documentaries and reports about the impacts of the meat industry on the environment and animal welfare have certainly played a part in this. We are also becoming increasingly aware that not only meat and fish, but also most other animal products, like dairy and eggs, have a less than positive impact on the planet and our health. The number of vegans has skyrocketed. I call myself a flexible vegan or a 'flexi-vegan'. If I consciously skip meat, then I choose a completely plant-based option which also contains neither cheese nor eggs. My kids, once the biggest meat eaters in their age group, are now giving it their best shot too. They too understand that something has to change if we want things to be reasonably pleasant on this planet in the future. For them, meat substitutes have been a positive development, and they have turned into serious food critics. Over the past few months, we have tried all different types and flavours. The idea behind meat substitutes is that they imitate the flavour and texture of meat, even becoming crispy when fried. In the past, nearly all vegetarian burgers, schnitzels, mince and sausages were made from soya. This is not the best meat substitute, in my opinion, because soya has to be imported from far away, and there are quite a few health concerns associated with eating (too much of) it.
Fortunately, methods continue to improve and we are now experimenting with many different raw ingredients as alternatives for meat, including lupine, seaweed, mushrooms, (chick)peas, nuts and grains. This has produced many fantastic products that my kids and I can truly appreciate! The latest trend in meat-replacing ingredients comes from a large fruit that grows in Asia, South America and Africa called the jackfruit. This fruit grows on trees and can weigh up to 35 kilos. The flesh of the fruit is firm and readily absorbs other flavours. It is also good for you, as it is a source of fibre, starch, vitamins B6 and C and potassium. Thanks to its meaty texture, you can use jackfruit to make an excellent substitute for pulled pork or pulled chicken. That is good news for any meat eater who is looking for a healthier, more plant-based alternative! And if everything goes well, we can all have a taste of pulled jackfruit at our restaurants this summer! That is something flexi-vegans like me can all look forward to!