Friday, October 7, 2011

An Ode to Gardein

Fake meat is a pretty controversial topic in the vegan community. I've been known to throw a jab or two in its general direction in my day, but truthfully I'm a fence-sitter when it comes to meat analogs.

The Cons:

1) Depending on the brand, their ingredients lists can be quite terrifying and they often contain a lot of the very items that scared some of us into veganism in the first place.

2) They can be expensive and the better ones are always more money than the creepy knock-offs. This is often because the independent companies try and include organic, non-gmo ingredients if they can. That costs money.

3) Some might argue that while they themselves are cruelty-free, vegan versions of non-vegan items do nothing short of glorifying meat, promoting the existence of the real thing. These folks are also opposed to the faux furs and faux leathers many of us vegans (myself included) wear/carry. Furthermore, a lot of times these fake meat brands are owned by parent companies that do scary things to animals. I see the point and the giant can of ethical worms that it opens (all alive and happy, I promise).

Now let's talk about the pros.

1) Sometimes you drink a lot and then you get a hankering for chicken strips at 3am. I went vegetarian before their mass availability here in southwestern Ontario and had a craving hit back then I would have kept being vegetarian anyway. But what if there was someone out there that wouldn't have?

We can argue their ethics until we're blue in the face but it doesn't change the fact that we lose tons of vegan hopefuls every single day because they think veganism is too difficult or too restrictive. Just because I personally have never found veganism to be too demanding of me doesn't mean that others have had the same experience. Since my ultimate goal is preserving the rights of animals to exist for their own purposes, having the most alternatives available to people, regardless of their tastes and incomes, is what is important to me. As more of these items flood the market, veganism becomes more present in the mainstream and with that, prices of these items come down, making them more accessible to the masses, in turn making veganism all that more appealing. With time I have faith that these people will someday rip into a collard wrap with the same zeal they once reserved for chicken wings. Until that day I will defend their right to faux meats in all their glory.

Also, if you can keep a secret, today I defend them a little bit for me too, because I've found a faux meat company I am a little bit bonkers over - Gardein.

Gardein is to the faux meats what Daiya is to the faux dairy. It's a game changer. All over Oprah and Martha Stewart, Gardein is quite the vegan superstar.

This is mostly because it is alarmingly meat-like. I must have reached some new level of veganism recently because sometimes I come across vegan products that I have trouble eating because they are too much like real meat.

Exception is made for the chicken strips pictured above because they are just too good. And let's be honest, actual chicken strips taste absolutely nothing like chicken anyway so you get the authenticity without too much "meatiness". Growing up I always liked my strips/nuggets with honey, which I'm told is weird. The good news is that if you are also a weirdo, these Gardein strips go awesomely with agave nectar and taste very much like the weeknight dinners of my childhood!

You know what else is good?

I haven't bought veggie burgers in years. We usually just throw whole portobello mushroom heads on the grill and treat those as burgers. But a few weeks ago when we were at Kindfood in Burlington I saw these magical little circles in their freezer and knew I had to try them, at least once.

You know what they kind of remind me of? McDonald's hamburgers. For real. I don't at all mean this in a derogatory way because in my day I loved McDonald's. And they are so much like the thin patties you get in McDonald's hamburgers, just not gross. They are begging for a Big Mac veganization, let me tell you. If you are grossed out by this then I'd steer clear of these burgers. But if you are one of our fine Club Vegan membership holders that went vegan not because you hated the taste of meat, but because you no longer wanted to support a violent industry - these are for you. These are so for you.

Plants and whole grains always have been and always will be the foundation of my veganism. But because veganism is not a diet and is instead an all-encompassing lifestyle that I've chosen for myself, there is room for treats now and again. Life is short - eat a fake chicken strip now and again if you want to. Just not at the sake of your broccoli.


Sophia said...

I think the biggest pro's to meat analogs is that people who gave up animal products for the ethical reasons, but still enjoyed meat. So they can satisfy a "meaty" craving but keep animals alive, the way they should be!
I've never been crazy about meat analogs either, but Gardein makes some crazy good stuff!


CynthiaMcG said...

Great post! When I am really missing pub fare, I do up the wings and strips! Hits the spot once every few months!

Mandee said...

This is a great post! Every vegan has their opinion on mock meats but I think they're there if people want or need them and if you don't need them, that's fine too.

You burgers look SO good, I want to go to a bbq at your house!

Debbie said...

I love Gardein, but I find their burgers a little scary because they taste SO MUCH like real meat. Even before I went veg, I didn't eat beef, so they are a little disconcerting to me. Love the chik'n strips, though.

My feeling about faux meats is that they are fine occasionally. I didn't become a vegan because I didn't like the taste of meat (or chicken, I should say).

On the other hand, they are processed, and as such should compose a small part of our diets. And I agree that making veganism seem more achievable and less intimidating is a good thing. Faux meats can be a great way to start a cruelty free lifestyle.

The Tofu Princess said...

I love Gardein but, I don't eat it everyday. I like to think of products like Gardein and Tofurky as a texture substitute. Take the meat issue right out of the equation. I think wanting to eat the texture that 'meat substitutes' give is just like saying there's a particular flavour you like or crave. Liking a particular texture is not the same thing as liking a specific source of that texture.

Niki said...

Ooh, your Gardein is bilingual! How fancy! I love Gardein, I don't care what anyone says. Will I eat it every week, or even every other week? No. But there are times when it comes in handy and it is quite tasty.

Jenna said...

I always ate my chicken nuggets with honey too!! I've never met anyone else who did that! I still eat fake chicken with honey nowadays :)

Bliss Doubt said...

Can you tell I'm behind on my blog reading?

I tried these after reading your post. They are delicious, but it's funny that the nutritional info lists a serving size as two of them. I ate half the bag of 10, still pretty respectable, if you count calories, at 45 calories per strip.

For the longest time I turned up my nose at meat analogs, but I've come to realize that they help people try veganism without feeling like they're going to starve to death, or never have a naughty treat again, or like they have to become creative and knowledgeable at vegan grocery shopping and cooking overnight.

That said, I think I normalized years ago with frozen, battered fried products for those 3am post drinking cravings for hot, salty, crunchy, things you can throw in the oven, as you would those tenders, and get gratification in a few minutes, like onion rings, fried okra, fried eggplant, fried mushrooms, frozen french fries. I dip everything in sriracha.

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