Do gourmet tacos – the kinds served at events in mobile carts – require animal products? They don’t if you use the right vendor.
Chalk this up to companies that know their market – vegans in California in particular are more numerous than just about anywhere else – as well as the advance of food supply companies that are developing great products.
Driven by concerns about human health as well as the health of the planet, meat and cheese alternatives are finding their way into both food stores and food vendors. When a catering company that provides vegan tacos competes with animal-products alternatives, it needs to deliver on taste, texture and overall appeal. Fortunately, a handful of companies have learned how to do this very well.
They take the key nutrients found in both animal and vegetable products – amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and water – but source these things only from plants. For example, a not-chicken strip can be made with protein isolates, peas, sunflower oil, soy, carrots, vinegar, spices, garlic and onion (as well as flavorings, salt and colorings). The result, nutritionally speaking, is a complete protein in quantities equivalent to those in a comparable-size portion of chicken.
Tacos are often made with ground beef, and there is a vegan substitute for this as well. With half the fat of ground beef, a crumble-like ingredient is made of peas, oils (canola, sunflower), rice, tomato, spices (marjoram, basil, pepper, thyme, rosemary) and lemon juice.
Vegan cheese must meet taste, texture and “stretch-ability” expectations of diners, whether in tacos, pizzas or other preparations. Again, pea proteins are typically mixed with other ingredients (tapioca starch, palm fruit oil, brown rice syrup, seaweed/carrageenan, among others) to achieve diner expectations.
In each case, the differences between food service companies that fail to offer vegan choices and those that do are meaningful. A vegan generally is so for reasons that go beyond personal diet: it’s about how animals are treated, how they are raised, and the amount of the earth’s resources required to raise livestock. A vegan considers the prodigious use of agricultural land required to raise cattle, pigs and chicken as hugely outsized relative to that required to grow vegetables. And with increasing information on the over-use of hormones and antibiotics in feedlot conditions (where cows, pigs and chickens live, particularly in the weeks immediately preceding slaughter), the vegan is concerned with the amount of those factors entering their body and the waste stream that follows. By patronizing the company with vegan taco catering carts, the diner knows they are working with an enterprise that shares their values.