So I just wrapped up a Whole30. Don’t @ me. Cleanses are bullshit but it’s not a bad idea once in a while to remind yourself that at least for a month you CAN make all your own meals, skip the soda, eat enough vegetables, and drink liquids that aren’t bourbon. And tomorrow I’m having a fucking pizza and root beer because I’m an adult and I’ve done this often enough to know that I don’t have food allergies.

When you’re on a restricted diet you spend a whole lot of time on Pinterest looking at shit labeled “Paleo Brownies – no really they’re just like the real thing” and “unbread” and “sweet potato waffles.” OK, the sweet potato waffles were pretty good (I also added spinach and cayenne), but here’s the thing. They weren’t waffles. They were hash browns, cooked in a waffle iron.

I genuinely don’t understand the need that people have to pretend one food is another food. Your “skillet bread” is a souffle. It’s eggs and like a tablespoon of flour and it rises and fluffs into a solid and MAYBE it’s a frittata but it has baking powder, so I’m going with souffle. Turkey bacon isn’t bacon. It’s turkey with some salt and wood distillate byproducts. “Chik’n” does not taste or feel like delicious McDonald’s nuggets in your mouth, even if it is made with egg whites. There is no Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny is a colonized remnant of a fertility ritual. The jury’s still out on the Tooth Fairy, but I think that was my dad. Probably. My dad’s pretty sneaky.

Why can’t we just let food be what it is, and embrace that? I don’t need “zoodles.” Just say “put some spaghetti sauce on zucchini, it’s delicious.” Did you know that spaghetti sauce on zucchini is actually a real dish with a real name? Italians love a squash. Google Googoots/Cucuzza sometime. I AM NOT FOOLED BY YOUR SPIRALIZED BULLSHIT. THAT IS A SUMMER SQUASH. I love summer squash. I love spaghetti. But I know the difference and so do you.

Pretending that one food is another, delicious, food, is just going to disappoint you. Bean brownies taste like goat shit, people. Yes, even the ones that some sad sack on Pinterest has labeled “gosh these are even better than the real thing.” But you know what’s actually ok? Beans with mole sauce, which is BASICALLY the same ingredients. Why set yourself up for disappointment?

Fake food is the carefully angled, arranged, filtered Tinder photo of dinner. Be vegetarian if you want! God, yes! It’s not the best thing for the planet (eating almost whatever you want, sourced locally, is) but you do you, boo. If you can’t bear the idea of eating Bossie, that’s fine. I knew a guy who only ate meat if he’d killed the animal himself, and I still think that was a lovely, respectful gesture. As well as being kind of the most Oregon thing ever. But don’t tell me nutritional yeast is cheese. Chreez. Chisze. Whatever you want to call it that won’t get you sued by the dairy farmers’ lobby.

Also, like, not to get all judgey on you, but if you’re going to be vegetarian, just embrace it? Don’t pretend like you’re still eating meat. There are a bajillion vegetable dishes out there, why are you sitting around pretending to cook one of the same 5 dishes you grew up eating, knowing that it’s going to be disappointing? Because it is. Smart Dogs aren’t Hebrew Nationals. Quorn patties aren’t a McChicken. Eating veggies dressed up as meat is kind of like when that one kid who went to your high school kept coming back and sitting in the cafeteria at lunchtime. It’s kind of weird, and sad.

You know who’s not disappointed in fake food, though? People who’ve never had the real thing. Holy crap, when I was a kid I would have cut you for a carob star. Or one of those weird Sorbee’s sugarless candies. Honey stick? yes please. If you’ve got a kid who’s got a meat allergy and needs to feel normal, for fuck’s sake throw that smart dog on the grill. But you’re an adult and you know better, so put the turkey bacon back on the shelf, make yourself a vegetable dish and eat it like a goddamn adult.

Nutritional yeast is great on popcorn, though. Try it sometime.

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