Has anyone else ever had these? If not, maybe you can relate..
I remember always walking by the ‘soy/vegetarian/vegan’ section at the grocery store. More often than not, I’d stop for a moment, pick up a few packages, examine them curiously and then decide, “eh, no, not today”. A few times I even managed to pick up a tub of extra-firm tofu or soy cheese, but they always seemed a disappointment.
I think my reluctance stemmed from an unpleasant experience probably about ten years ago. I’m pretty sure it was a Boca Burger, and one of the first commercially available incarnations of the ‘meatless patty’. Long story short, it was AWFUL. It tasted like cardboard with a seriously unpleasant aftertaste. I didn’t see how anyone could incorporate those terrible things into a regular part of their diet.
It wasn’t that I had an aversion to soy, itself. On the contrary, I was always rather fond of edamame (soy beans), and tofu – the latter on condition that it was properly prepared. Floating in sharply-angular pillows in bowls of miso soup, marinated and fried or steamed in Chinese and Korean concoctions.. Just the stuff at the grocery store always struck me as ‘ick’.
Anyway, this past week I was out at the grocery store shopping. I was instructed (as usual!) not to spend too much money and just get stuff we ‘need’. I tend to spend about $50 a week on groceries, a large part of that budget being consumed by the kosher poultry we buy (unfortunately priced at twice or thrice the cost of ‘regular’ product).
Prompted by a desire to be ‘cheap’ (or should I say ‘frugal’?), I decided to take a second look at that ‘meat substitute’ section of the store. The ‘meatless crumbles’ looked non-threatening and I figured I could drown any ‘ick’ flavor out of their little soy bodies by long-term immersion in boiling, heavily-flavored sauces. At about $3.50 for a box, versus at least $6.00 for the smallest package of chicken (lasting one meal), or $4.00 for non-kosher or non-halal turkey sausage (which I almost always feel guilty about) – the ‘fake-o’ meat was a steal.
Upon getting home, I was excited about the meatless crumbles and compelled to experiment. I decided to put them to the ultimate test – my husband.
I had a little less than half an hour before he was due home, so I thought I’d whip up something quick. Sauteed an onion in some olive oil, added some red pepper flakes, garlic, diced green pepper, celery, and about 1/3 of the meatless crumbles. After all was cooked to my liking, I added some chopped tomatoes, a bit of tomato sauce, salt, pepper and oregano and left it to simmer. In a separate pot, I prepared some whole-wheat fettucini. It all came together quite nicely and was ready before my husband even walked through the door.
After he had settled in, I offered him his dinner. He happily took it and started to munch away. I looked at him as he was eating and he really didn’t seem to notice anything was amiss. He actually asked for seconds.
At this point, I still hadn’t tried it yet, myself. I had already eaten a bit earlier and wasn’t quite hungry. I don’t always taste my food as I’m cooking it because I’ve gotten to the point where I kind of know how most things are going to turn out without even tasting them (a useful trick during Ramadan!). As I was getting my husband his second helping, I decided to get a small bowl for myself.
Eventually I did taste it. It was good, really good. If no one had told me, I wouldn’t have known either. The only possible give-away is that the sauce didn’t take on a ‘meaty’ flavor, and there wasn’t that sheen of oil or fat on the plate after we were finished. Those are good things!
After I had tasted, and my husband was still tucking into his plate with gusto, I asked him if he noticed anything unusual. His answer, “no, why?”. I told him that it was soy crumbles instead of meat, and to his credit, he didn’t look annoyed or disturbed, he just kept eating. I asked him if he minded if I kept using them and he said, “I wouldn’t even notice”.
I ended up using the remaining 2/3 of the package this week. In total, it served us through three dinners, all making enough for left-overs. There was the fettucini bolognese I already mentioned, a meaty, albeit meatless chili, and a concoction consisting of potatoes, cubanelle frying peppers, long hot peppers, tomatoes and tomato sauce, and of course – meatless crumbles, invented to rid the fridge of potentially soon-to-decay vegetables. They were all excellent (if I do say so, myself).
I AM A CONVERT!
This is good on so many levels:
1. It’s cost-effective. For about $3.50, I had enough ‘meat’ to make three meals with enough for several left-overs each time. This is a considerable savings over the $6 a pack chicken, which only lasts one meal or so.
2. It’s significantly lower in fat and calories than ground beef. I also don’t have to deal with inept halal meat counter workers who get annoyed if you ask the fat content of their ground beef. (FYI – always the same answer: “I don’t know”. A real pain in the you-know-what if you’re calorie counting, since you have to assume the worst)
3. As long as it’s vegan (and most if not all of them are), they’re always halal or kosher.
4. You can keep quite a few (if not all) meals in your house happily vegetarian or vegan without complaint.
5. It keeps the taste of the food ‘clean’ without the sometimes overpowering taste of meat. This really allows the other flavors to shine through, keeping things complex as opposed to simply ‘meaty’.
6. It’s guilt-free and contributes to your good karma. You can rest assured no animals were harmed bringing that food to your table.
There are plenty of reasons more, but I don’t want to get preachy. I’m not a vegan, hell, not even a vegetarian.. I do wish I could be, though. (I’ve had fantasies about being a raw-foods diva or a fruitarian, ha!)
In closing.. If you haven’t tried these soy crumbles before, I’d certainly recommend that you do. If they worked for a person like me, and if they passed under the radar (even earned the approval!) of my notoriously finicky husband – I’m sure they’d work for you. Give ’em a shot!