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Reblogging this favorite post for all you folks who have vegetarians or vegans coming for Thanksgiving dinner. Cheers!

But Linnet, say my friends. How does a woman of your lusty appetites manage without meat? Don’t you feel… frustrated and deprived? 

As a matter of fact, I answer, meat analogs are like sex toys. They aren’t the real thing. They’re ersatz. Faux. Mock. But sometimes they hit the spot rather well. Especially if the real thing’s not on the menu. And like sex toys, some meat analogs are sui generis, good things in and of themselves, rather than inferior substitutes.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, and to my mind it is the best holiday of the year, both because it is non-commercial (in spite of the horrific encroachment of “Black Friday”) and because it is a gastronomic holiday, on which we give thanks for our food. In honor of the upcoming Day of Grace, I offer this contemplation of Tofurky and its cousins.

I gave up meat more than twenty years ago for ethical reasons. And I know what I’m missing. I was the kind of kid who, at the age of six, precociously craved not only rare Porterhouse steaks, but Underwood Deviled Ham, liverwurst and pepperoni. (Don’t get me started on pepperoni. It was the last thing to go.) Now, it has been so long that I don’t think of those things as options any more. I’m not tempted to whore after a big juicy steak, even if its fragrance makes me salivate. But… if chunks of savory, salty, umami-laden plant protein are on offer, I’ll be there to see whether they ring my bell.


Source: http://www.quorn.us. Click for their website.

Meat analogs, as I like to call them, have improved a lot since the old days. When I first tasted Quorn, I couldn’t believe how good it was. (We decided to stop eating it because the US version, sadly, contains factory-farmed eggs.) It doesn’t taste quite like chicken, which is fine in my book. It’s satisfyingly substantial and has an appealingly moist, non-greasy texture.


Source: gardein.com. They have a very good holiday roast, too.

Gardein vegan products are also excellent, tender and juicy. The most successful analogs are those that aim for a toothy bite full of subtle savor, but don’t strain to imitate meat. The beef analogs are far behind the chix in quality, though Gardein isn’t bad.

No, there isn’t any veal analog, gods be praised.


Click for source: tofurky.com

Tofurky, a much-ridiculed pioneer, has a tendency to become tough and rubbery, especially if overcooked. But when properly prepared, it’s better than many a slice of dried-out turkey breast. On the other hand, I’d say don’t bother with the Tofurky gravy. You must make your own mushroom gravy, preferably in mass quantities (roux + browned mushrooms + veggie broth and/or tamari + herbs and a hint of garlic). You can never have too much gravy!

I am extremely fond of veggie sausages, Boca being my favorite for breakfast (in bed, natch!). The big Tofurkey Italian sausages brown beautifully, and they add spice and heat to my kale soup. Everything made by Field Roast is utterly delicious. My favorite indulgence is the Hazelnut Cranberry Roast en Croute.


Click for source: fieldroast.com

When it comes to flavor, no meat analog of today is going to beat a Wagyu steak or a chicken roasted by that culinary alchemist Thomas Keller. But we humans have been perfecting our meat cookery for thousands of years. By comparison, we’ve only experimented with meat analogs for a microsecond. Eventually some chef-scientist of the future will come up with the plant-protein equivalent of the orgasmatron. I hope I’m there to sample its pleasures with a bottle of whatever the sommelier recommends.