In Praise of Imitation Meat
We take a brief departure from deeper subjects to devote a post to food.
Many years ago, when I was an undergrad at the University of Southern California, I had the pleasure of taking classes with Prof. Robert S. Ellwood. Ellwood is an expert on the religious and philosophical movements that sprang up in Southern California during the 60’s; in his classes we visited various groups and cults around Los Angeles. Some of these were rather strange, but one of the more ordinary outings involved visiting a yoga ashram in Santa Monica. After the tour, students (being always hungry) availed themselves of a natural foods deli run by the ashram. I had a “vegetarian chicken sandwich”, which replaced chicken with a textured soybean product. I was amazed at how good it tasted — *exactly* like chicken. At the time it seemed likely that within a few years everyone would be eating textured soy instead of meat. While so far that hasn’t exactly happened, a few products have become so popular now that you can find them at your local supermarket.
In case you’ve tried meatless bacon or veggie-burgers, you’re in for a surprise, because the products mentioned below are in a completely different class.
I have gone for years at a stretch basically eating these products every day instead of meat. I found that they kept me healthy and energetic, supplied plenty of protein, and never lost their taste appeal.
Here are some of my favorites.
For a long time the best products available were deli slices by Yves veggie cuisine. They’re still an excellent choice, and come in a variety of flavors; the ‘Meatless Turkey’ and ‘Meatless Smoked Chicken’ are, in my opinion, the best. If you place these in a sandwich with the usual pickles, lettuce, and mustard, you’d be unable to tell that these aren’t meat. The only drawback is that lately prices have gone up.
Not to worry. Tofurkey Deli Slices by Turtle Island Foods taste even better and cost less than Yves deli slices. The best flavors are “Hickory Smoked” and “Oven Roasted” (though fewer stores carry the latter). For a while I could only get these at Trader Joes, but now I see Safeway is carrying them.
The same company makes several varieties of imitation meat sausages. These are a better bargain, since they cost the same as the deli slices, but supply two meals whereas a package of deli slices is about right for a single dinner entree (for an adult male). Another benefit is that you can cook or heat the sausage products.
Again, the sausages come in a variety of flavors, though the Italian Sausage is all I’ve been able to find locally.