‘Flexitarian’ diet considered

My all-time favorite meal is a starter of thinly sliced Scottish smoked salmon, lightly topped with a squeeze of lemon and a fine dusting of freshly ground pepper.

That is followed by a fish course of Dover sole, and then a meat course of medium well-done filet mignon, with a side dish of fresh asparagus and a drizzle of warm butter.

To enjoy this repast, a salmon, a Dover sole and a cow must give up their lives. That’s OK with me.

I have long recognized that, being born into the human race, I automatically occupy a place at the top of the world’s food chain. And I have nothing against the mass harvesting of commercial fish and the humane treatment and painless slaughter of food animals.

I also appreciate the motivations of vegetarians, who shun the consumption of “anything that has a face,” (meaning eyes and mouth). Vegans, on the other hand, have a lifestyle that requires them to exist exclusively on just plant and plant-based food. These food choices can be best understood by remembering the old saying, “different strokes for different folks.”

When a recent physical exam revealed an elevated level of blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol, I agreed to reduce my consumption of red meat. I would rather treat those anomalies through diet and exercise, rather than pills.

There has been an abundance lately of news stories that describe food products that are made solely from plants. These “fake foods,” it is claimed, have the same taste and texture as real meat or almost so. I decided to experiment.

At my local grocery store, the meat section had what was labeled “Beyond Meat, Plant-based Burger Patties.” I bought a packet of two ($5.99), along with eight plant-based hot dogs ($3.79). From the outside of the packaging, they looked like usual beef burger patties and hot dogs. I also bought a half-gallon of “plant milk,” in an opaque container that masked its slightly brownish color. The taste wasn’t off-putting, and it mixed well with coffee, but I don’t think dairy farmers have much to fear from this product.

I cooked a pea-protein patty and joined it in a bun with mustard, lettuce and tomato. If I didn’t know better, I would have proclaimed this a beef burger. It had the look, taste and consistency of the real thing. I used the second patty as the filling for some tacos, with similar good results.

The plant-based hot dogs did not have the crunch of real dogs but looked and tasted like the real thing. These products have about the same calorie-count as their real-beef counterparts, so they will not help in a weight reduction effort.

I have read studies that caution against feeding plant-based substitutes to pets. Dogs are more likely to tolerate a plant-meat diet, but the digestive systems of cats will rebel. Cat lovers, and you know who you are, beware.

I don’t think I will ever become strictly vegetarian, but I could become what I have seen described as a “flexitarian,” someone who drifts between eating real meat and plant meat. I know that’s a wishy-washy option, but I’m a wishy-washy kind of guy.

James Wentz writes a monthly column for the Mirror.