Remember the height of the anti-fat craze, when butter was considered so bad for you, and we hastened to switch to fake butter and to substitute sugar and carbs for the fat in processed foods? That didn’t work out so well for us in the health department, or in the taste department. I couldn’t quite handle Parkay Margarine, but I do remember buying little tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!
I ate fake butter. I drank watery, nonfat milk. I cooked with tofu at least twice a month. I even tried a recipe or two with that TVP (textured vegetable protein) stuff, the original fake meat. Once was enough. I didn’t even like TVP when I used it to stretch actual meat. And a friend made the wise remark, “It’s better just to eat things for themselves, not things trying to be other things.”
I bring all this up because one of the hot food trends of 2019 is fake meat. What exactly is this newest version of fake meat? Good question. Take the meat-ish product produced by Impossible Foods, Inc. If you watch the promotional video, as I did, you’ll learn their “beef” is made of wheat and potato protein, mixed with amino acids, binders, sugar, coconut oil, soy, and—the magic ingredient—”heme.” Heme is the protein molecule found in hemoglobin (and other places) that turns blood red and carries oxygen around.
They certainly look more appealing than TVP anything, and since I’m not averse to black-bean burgers occasionally, I definitely will give one a try in the future. At a recent gathering of about 120 people, I asked for a show of hands: who has tasted this latest trend of fake meat? About five people, or, 4% of those present. Not bad for January 15.
The rationale for fake meat is environmental. Conventionally-raised cattle take a hefty environmental toll, and all the corn they’re fed makes the meat not so good for you either. Of course, the pastured meat we are privileged to buy at the Bellevue Farmers Market is exempt on both counts: no crowded feedlot and no corn, soy, or antibiotics. But there’s no denying that old-fashioned pastured meat is expensive and not a global possibility anymore. As a meat fan, I fully intend to keep eating meat, the good stuff, for as long as I can afford it. But, as a planet fan, I don’t mind eating vegetarian a couple times a week (more, when I ship the teenage boy off to college).
So put “try fake meat” on my 2019 to-do list. It just may be possible to have our burger and eat it too.