Friday, July 20, 2012

Who wants to eat a fake chicken?

I do want to say before I dive into this topic that I really appreciate all the support and response from my last post on vegans who for whatever reason, stop being vegan.  Even those who question my logic and comparisons challenge me to think. Thank you.

And now on to something a little lighter. 

Fake chicken?  No, I'm not talking about those goofy rubber chickens used in an old school comedy routine.  I'm referring to plant proteins processed in such a way as to have a similar taste and texture of animal meat.
Now, I have encountered online and in person more times than I can count the question of why in the world would vegans or vegetarians want to eat something that reminds them of meat if meat disgusts them so much?  Well, there are A LOT of assumptions behind that question.  First of all, vegans and vegetarians are by no means a monolithic group.  People come to this decision for many different reasons and motivations.  Some for health reasons(in which case you could say they eat a plant-based diet), environmental, and for the desire to no longer participate in the exploitation of animals in any way, be it for food, clothing, entertainment,etc.

One of my absolute favorite vegan authors Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, makes the point that just because vegans decided to stop eating meat doesn't mean we no longer enjoy chewing.  And her quote from an interview with Edible East Bay drives home the point that the word "meat" does not only refer to the flesh of animals. 
 " The word “meat” originally meant “that which was eaten (solid food) to distinguish it from that which was drunk (beverages),” and we still use the word when we refer to such things as “nut meat” or “coconut meat.” I absolutely abhor such words as “fake” and “faux” and “alternative” and “substitute” to talk about plant-based foods. "

I'm starting to think more and more like Colleen. Although I do often slip back in to calling veggie burgers, chik patties, ribz, and the like fake meat. It's going to be a hard habit to break. Old expressions die hard.  :-)

I grew up on soul food. Lots of fruits and vegetables( I was raised by a farmers daughter after all).
But also lots of meat too. Fried chicken, baked chicken, ribs, steak, pork chops, fried fish, you name it, I ate it.
And as a kid I loved it all.  In fact, my dad used to say to me as I filled my plate," make sure that you don't make a meal out of just meat!".  Ha ha, well wasn't that prophetic??

So fast forward several years and I am one of those vegans who loves a good grain or soy based meat. (lookie there, It was hard, but I didn't even use the word faux or fake. Colleen would be proud.)  Not every day of course, but often.  And no, I don't have some secret desire to tear into the flesh of animals because of some primal need that's going unfulfilled.   I guess the foods of my childhood are just familiar and I like to enjoy them on occasion. All without having to cause another   living creature the torture and slaughter necessary in order to make it possible to end up on my plate.

So, as a result of my long love affair with vegetable based meats(did it again! I'm so good. lol),  I keep my nose to the ground for new products on the market or soon coming to the market that widen the choices for those like me who enjoy this stuff.   And guess what??  There is a great product that's just been released.  And I didn't have to wait too long to try it.   The closest major city from us is several hours away, so new things tend to take a while to make it up here to us. But not this time.

I know, I know "just get to it Val, what is it?"

It's called Beyond Meat and it looks a little too much like shredded chicken. It's crazy what they can do in food science these days.  But, I didn't think I'd see it anytime soon unless I took a trip down to the Bay area to a Wholefoods Market or something.   So, imagine my surprise one day as I was perusing our local co-op and came upon THIS:
And at $5.89 a pound it's much cheaper than most meat substitutes.  Oops, I slipped up. Well, I can't be perfect all the time, sheesh. A little grace please? lol

It was in the frozen bulk section of the store. So, I got myself a good pound or so and trotted happily home, excited to try it out.

Here's how it looked before I cooked it:
Crazy, huh? A warning to my vegan friends who never liked animal meat anyway or have happily given up eating anything that looked like or reminded them of it; this stuff may gross you out a bit.  It's that convincing.  Even more than the Gardein products I think.  Except the Beyond Meat product is unflavored and doesn't taste like much before you season or cook it.

So, what did I do with it?  I thought I'd throw together a modified version of Chef Chloe's Alfredo recipe.  First, I sauteed the veggies and the Beyond Meat product.
Sorry, the lighting isn't the best over my stove.

Here is the finished product with the Alfredo sauce on it.

Oh, and that's Daiya vegan cheese sprinkled over the top in case you were wondering. Yummy stuff.  In hindsight, I think I got a little too liberal with the sauce.  (or didn't cook enough noodles) I kind of drowned everything to the point that the veggie meat is barely visible. But, it was good. Really good.
I plan on getting more soon.  Well, that is, whenever they get more in stock at the co-op.
When I went back a couple of days after discovering it, that container was scraped empty!  I guess word got out.

Now, a note to my friends who avoid soy. I'm sorry, this product is not for you. If you eat soy, but cannot tolerate wheat or gluten, you're in luck, there is none.  A bonus for a good friend of mine who's not vegan by any means, but is always open to trying good alternative sources of protein, but cannot tolerate wheat.

Here's a great article and video with food columnist Mark Bittman on Beyond Meat.

I also love this quote from him as it makes nothing but sense to me.

"..Really: Would I rather eat cruelly raised, polluting, unhealthful chicken, or a plant product that’s nutritionally similar or superior, good enough to fool me and requires no antibiotics, cutting off of heads or other nasty things? Isn’t it preferable, at least some of the time, to eat plant products mixed with water that have been put through a thingamajiggy that spews out meatlike stuff, instead of eating those same plant products put into a chicken that does its biomechanical thing for the six weeks of its miserable existence, only to have its throat cut in the service of yielding barely distinguishable meat?
Why, in other words, use the poor chicken as a machine to produce meat when you can use a machine to produce “meat” that seems like chicken?"  -Mark Bittman

Sounds good to me Mark..


  1. Awesome post, totally agree! I think I would have struggled going vegetarian initially if it wasn't for the convenience and familiarity of veggie meats... I have since grown to really love meals based on tofu, tempeh, chickpeas and lentils; but when it first occurred to me to go veggie, I had only recently heard of the wide variety of soy-based patties, sausages and the like that were available, so it seemed like something that was easy to do.

    Later I went through a phase where I found veggie products mimicking meat to be gross... I think I felt like it reminded me too much of eating the body parts of animals. Perhaps because it's now been such a long time since I have eaten animals, I enjoy veggie meats for what they are and not because they resemble something else. They are tasty, filling, have a nice texture and add variety to my meals; with none of the cruelty required to produce animal based meat.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Therese! Tasty and filling, I couldn't agree more!

  2. I've had your vegan food and it is DIVINE. Yum!

    1. Oh, you're just sayin' that.. *blushing*
      Thanks,you're the best!

  3. Great post Val. I loved meat! Loved it! I just couldn't be part of the cruelty anymore but I gave it up with great reluctance (in fact, my blog post today is all about that...great minds...) and I miss it. Yes, 4 years later, I still miss it.

    I was lucky enough to try Savage River last October at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary's ThanksLiving. It was cooked by Terry Romero and it was incredible.

    People need to realize that we are not all the same. We don't all have the same tastes or motivations. Some of us might be disgusted by any product that tastes like animal meat and others might be very grateful for getting the taste they loved in a cruelty-free way.

    What bonds us is our desire to stamp out animal cruelty and that's all that matters. And bravo for not using the word "fake" or "faux." I have a whole essay about that too :) Thanks!!

  4. Thanks Rhea! And happy veganiverssary to you! ( I made that up all by myself. lol)

    I'm jealous that you got to try the Savage River product last year, and cooked by Terry Romero no less!
    I need to read your post on fake and faux. Off to hunt it down! :-)

  5. My faves are tofu, seitan and tempeh because they are less processed, but I will use some of the meat style products from time to time, for a change or because I am lacking in inspiration, or because I can't get the others, depending on availability.

    After more than 20 years without meat it certainly isn't because I am missing it or want to eat it. Pretty much like Therese's point which summed it up really.

  6. Wow, that looks looks good. I think I'll check my local market to see if they have this. I guess it's safe to assume that the soy is organic, right? Lol. I hope that's not a dumb question.

  7. Not a dumb question at all. It's a good one! :-)
    On the site, it doesn't say the soy is organic, but it does state that it's non-GMO.

  8. Ohhhh ... this is very exciting. Must try!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Christy! Have you seen the Beyond Meat product in your area? I'd love to hear how you do with it. :-)

  9. Valerie, this is an awesome post, and both the chicken alternative and the dish you made look delicious! Cheryl and I would have had a very hard time transitioning to vegetarianism if it weren't for some quality meat alternatives. We especially love the Qorn brand, but would love to try something like this as well! Ben

    1. Hey Ben! Thanks for the feedback. If you can get a hold of the Beyond Meat product, I think you guys will like it a lot. It's pretty versatile. I bought some again this past week and made a tasty curry. :-)

  10. I just found your blog...I buy my Beyond Meat at the same cop-op as you do! Love it...I first came across it at Whole Foods while on vacation, and have re-created their Sonoma Chik'n Salad and it's fabulous! Hadn't thought to cook with it, just use it as I would have used cooked chicken (before becoming a Vegan). Am looking forward to your blog.

    1. Hi Pat! Thanks for stopping by.
      Sounds like we're neighbors. Are you part of our local vegetarian society?