Have you checked on your vegan friend lately?

Try looking on cloud nine, just down the road from El Dorado, a few miles past the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Odds are, they’re still there – in paradise. Why? Because a pro-plant-based hashtag was trending on Twitter. Trending – during COVID-19, police brutality, protesting and heartache, on a platform subjugated by a sniveling, angry man in the high castle: #theendofmeatishere.

It all started when the New York Times story – aptly headlined “The End of Meat Is Here” – was able to briefly capture the ADHD-ridden spotlight of modern social media, leading to a whirlwind of pro- and (mostly) anti-vegan sentiment.

It did what others before it were unable: It succinctly and methodically laid out all the benefits of a plant-based diet while simultaneously dismantling several myths. Such as that we need animal protein (we don’t), or that farmers would suffer most if we allowed the factory farming system to collapse (they wouldn’t).

The part that struck me most, though, was its assertion around meat’s role in COVID-19 – and how the pandemic might not exist without it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 of 4 new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic – meaning they spread from animal to human, the primary avenue being consumption.

Remember the 2002 SARS outbreak? The World Health Organization linked it to some sort of animal, though its origin is uncertain. How about the bird flu? Swine flu? A mystery their source is not.

What’s more, our broken relationship with animal consumption keeps finding its way into our other foods. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration investigated factory-farmed cows as a source of a massive E. coli contamination of lettuce. E. coli is a bacterium that primarily lives in intestines.

According to a study of U.S. Department of Agriculture data on factory farms in Yuma County in Arizona by foodandwaterwatch.org, “Samples of nearby irrigation canal water tested positive for the same strain of E. coli that caused the outbreak. The canal is close to a CAFO that can hold more than 100,000 head of cattle at any one time.”

And while the industry has discovered clever workarounds for E. coli in the beef itself – mostly by washing the meat in ammonia before it’s shipped – we still deal with massive food recalls like clockwork.

That’s all to say, we can point to wet markets as the breeding ground for COVID-19 and other harmful bacteria. But why not call a spade a spade? Meat consumption is harming more than just the animals and the environment.

It’s harming our collective health.

I have just the solution to help ween you off a meat-eating diet: a vegan, meat-lovers sandwich with all the trappings and flavor of the real deal.

It’s a Cuban. And while I’m likely to lose a lot of my vegan street cred for offering a recipe with tons of “fake” products, I don’t care. It’s delicious, it’s plant-based, and it’ll (hopefully) satisfy that meat craving.

Vegan Cuban Sandwich

1 loaf French bread

Vegan butter

One package firm tofu

Sandwich-style sliced dill pickles

Vegan cheese (I prefer Chao Creamy Original)

Vegan deli meat (I prefer Tofurkey Oven Roasted)

Mustard

1 bunch cilantro

½ bunch parsley

2 cloves garlic

1 lime, juiced

1 jalapeno

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Salt

Start with the tofu and mojo verde sauce, a delicious, fresh and spicy sauce for covering the tofu.

Slice the tofu into ¼-inch slabs and leave on a paper towel-lined baking sheet for 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

While the tofu is baking, place the cilantro and parsley into a food processor. Slice the garlic and jalapeno and add them to the mix. Cover with oil, vinegar and lime juice, sprinkle a little salt and mix until soupy with no chunks.

Cut the French bread down the middle lengthwise, then down to sandwich sizes. Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and toast the inside of each section until it’s a light golden brown.

When the tofu is a light golden brown on all edges, removed it from the oven to cool, then smother it in mojo verde sauce.

Squeeze mustard on both slices of bread on the part that’s now brown from toasting, then layer tofu, deli meat, cheese and two slices of dill pickle on top.

Bring the same pan in which the bread was toasted back up to medium/medium-high and add the vegan butter. Place the sandwich in the pan until the bottom is light golden brown. Before flipping it over, butter the top slice of bread, as well.

Once on its top, press down – hard. The sandwich should be nice and flat – and the best vegan sandwich you’ve ever made at home.

Powered by Plants: No bones about it – A meatless world might lessen impact of COVID-19; vegan Cuban sandwich recipe

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