Doppelgänger Dinners

IMAGE: All photos by Steph Goralnick, via Studiofeast.

Last week, Mike Lee of Studiofeast, who long-time Edible Geography readers might remember from the Landscapes of Quarantine dinner team, served a seemingly identical seven-course dinner to twenty vegetarians and twenty omnivores. And, although the meat-eaters ate meat, and the non-meat-eaters didn’t, the vegetarian dishes were interchangeable with their meat all the way from tartare to marrow on toast.

What’s more, the vegetarians didn’t have to make do with substitutes — Quorn, Tofurky, Texturised Vegetable Protein, and the like. And, just to make this Doppelgänger Dinner into a real challenge, Lee and his partners did not allow themselves to repeat ingredients across pairs, so “if we used basil puree in the veggie dish, then we had to use parsley puree in the meat dish.”

In other words, for each course, Lee composed a dish, and then used completely different ingredients to assemble its equally delicious visual analogue. This is cookery as the counterfeiter’s art: dietary restrictions reframed as sensory surrogates.

The pair of dishes served at each course is shown below, although it’s up to you to decide which is which.

IMAGE: The amuses-bouche: vegetarians enjoyed spherified apricot puree in a coconut soup with mint; and ominvores were served salmon roe in Vichyssoise.

IMAGE: The twin tartares: for vegetarians, a spherified yellow pepper puree on a tomato, with a smudge of basil puree; for omnivores, smoked egg with beef and parsley.

IMAGE: Marrow on toast: an incredible 45 hand-carved Yukon Gold potatoes filled with caramelised onions and miso butter on the vegetarians’ plates; the omnivores got real beef bones, with duckfat.

IMAGE: A noodle soup, and this time it is the omnivores who have the stand-in, with the vaguely alarming-sounding Activa-bonded shrimp paste extruded through squeeze bottles to create their version of the vegetarian’s hand-pulled La Mian noodles.

IMAGE: Duck breasts served with celery and sweet potato; watermelon, compressed, cooked sous-vide, and grilled, with fennel and carrot.

IMAGE: Vegetarians were served carved tofu-cylinders with green beans and kimchi; for omnivores, sea scallops with garlic scape and red pepper.

IMAGE: Desserts by Micah Phillips of Compose: uni, lobster, corn, and licorice for omnivores; blueberry, frikeh, woodruff, and birch for veggies.

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  1. David
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    I’d prefer the veggie option for photos 1, 3, 4, and 7, and the omnivore option for 2 and 6. I could go either way on 5, but the grilled watermelon thing is pretty intriguing. Am I doing this wrong?

  2. Brilliant. Love the creativity here.

    Amazed at the hate for vegetarianism though. How peculiar!

    On a side note – if you’re ever in Cork, Ireland, subject yourself to Cafe Paradiso. Highly creative vegetarian dining – in fact, some of the best I’ve ever seen. I ate here in July ’11 – and there’s no disclaimer required as I have nothing to do with the restaurant. 🙂

  3. Man, who would’ve thought such hateful, generalizing, and misinformed comments could come out of such a great post? I love the idea of this, it’s really clever and well done.

    But come on – “Vegetarians are not real people.” (eugenics, much?) “I’m vegan that eats meat” (no, you’re not vegan) “Those are dietary restrictions based on religious traditions, versus a cult-like following of uninformed animal-rights activists that are doing far more harm to animals by their own dietary choices than even the Standard American Diet.” (this comment almost made me laugh out loud, if it weren’t for how terribly unaware it is. and the rest of that person’s comment is useless – this article was about how we can alter food to the point where there’s little difference. vegans don’t eat spherical peppers on a daily basis, we eat whole grains, beans, vegetables, and on and on. this comment overall was so incredibly uninformed and defensive. get a life bro.)

    Why don’t you all just go back to your own kitchens and make some delicious food, instead of hating on a movement you know nothing about? I know that’s what I’ll be doing, and my life will be more joyful for it.

  4. Alexis
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    I like the idea and find it visually appealing but I feel like some of the choices seemed off… why shrimp paste noodles? why not just serve regular noodles in a beef broth?

  5. Christine
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    (laughs) Maybe avoiding meat does something good for your mood? I can’t help but notice the comments from the vegetarians/vegans are a lot calmer than the ones from the people who oppose them.

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually *met* a vegetarian who was intolerant of their omnivore friends. Heard legends of them, sure, but I’ve never met one. Meanwhile, it’s not hard at all to find an omnivore who’s just randomly *furious* at the concept of avoiding meat. I think it’s kinda funny 🙂

  6. Very creative! It’s hard to differentiate between the veg and omni. Brilliantly done!

  7. Matt
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    Poochie- if you “eaten better, with more variety and more beautifully (not to mention more compassionately)” as a vegan vs an omnivore then you were a pretty lousy omnivore. I’m vegan that eats meat, I have all the variety (and more) than you have in a diet. More beautifully, compassionately? Again, not even in the same ballpark. And then top it all of with simple nutritional superiority of a omnivore’s diet… poor vegans, at least you have your so-called ethics to stand on.

  8. Kyle
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    Kay, why should this be so? Those are dietary restrictions based on religious traditions, versus a cult-like following of uninformed animal-rights activists that are doing far more harm to animals by their own dietary choices than even the Standard American Diet.

    Sorry, but the claim that the vegetarians are not forced into substitutes is wrong. Aside from the strange shrimp noodles, each omnivore dish is comprised of real food in traditional combinations that actually make sense culinarily, while the vegetarian dishes all try to emulate (unsuccessfully) those same omnivorous variants with bizarre ingredients in even more bizarre combos. Compressed watermelon cooked sous-vide?! Spherified pepper puree?! This is artistic license to the extreme. Call it art, if you wish, but to call it food is an embarrassment to the real thing.

    Stop this political correctness of holding your tongue and respecting people’s choices. If those choices are based on lies, misinformation, wishful thinking, and downright idiocy, then speak up and tell the vegan hordes about their flaws.

    “Faith is believing in something you know isn’t true.”

  9. db
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    I wonder why vegitarians try to make some of thier food look like meat? Veggie “burgers” etc…

  10. Maleficarum
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    Vegetarians are not real people. In the animal kingdom… they are known as prey. Anything that has to be processed to resemble real food should not be eaten… that holds true for vegans as well as omnivores and carnivores.

  11. Karsten
    | Permalink

    The artistry is primary here, not the omnivore vs. vegan.
    Not everything has to be a controversy.

  12. Neil
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    They should include the nutritional profile of each dish for comparison, too.

  13. Lobster for dessert? Shrimp paste instead of noodles? I’m not entirely vegetarian but that doesn’t mean I want meat in everything I eat!

  14. A wonderful experiment and an artistic one at that ! Being vegetarian or vegan should be accepted as a dietary requirement and not as a choice – just like Kosher ,Hallal etc.

  15. Nicole
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    that’s right. eating animal products is totally unnecessary if you have time to hand-carve potatoes and “spherify” everything. I commend this experiment for showing there are alternatives to processed animal-free meals. But, I wont be trying this at home.

  16. Neat idea but I’m really tired of the whole vegan-food-is-inferior tone (“one person — usually the omnivore — compromising to suit the mutually agreeable meal.” ) I’ve eaten better, with more variety and more beautifully (not to mention more compassionately) since going vegan than I ever did in all my years eating animal based foods.

    If anything, I’d like this to showcase how unnecessary it is to eat anything that comes from an animal – mean, eggs or dairy – because there is a much larger, healthier and tastier world out there that doesn’t cause any harm.

  17. Porker
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    🙁 recipes should be public domain.

  18. this is so exquisite. such a clever concept! and these dishes look divine.

  19. Georgia
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    Yay, the thoughtful vegetarian meal!

  20. fucking ace! (excuse my expletive)