Having adopted a quasi-vegetarian lifestyle, I can finally join in: man, you meat eaters suck!

Ahem. Speaking of my quasi-vegetarianism … what’s the deal with soy sauce?

I’ve found that eating vegetarian in practice means eating lots and lots of Mexican (rice and beans) and Chinese (rice and veggies) food. When it comes to the latter, the standard practice seems to be frying some veggies in a wok, dumping them over rice, and dousing the whole mess with soy sauce.

Am I the only one, though, who’s vaguely grossed out by soy sauce? Isn’t it basically salty water? Yet it’s everywhere in Chinese cuisine and Chinese restaurants.

So, I ask you, Grist’s large and extraordinarily food-literate audience: what kind of alternative flavoring options are available for your standard Chinese food? Why is soy sauce so ubiquitous? Is there some context in which it’s not gross? What am I missing?

Soy sauce: discuss.

(Yes, yes, we’ll return to our coverage of depressing events momentarily.)