Yes, that’s spaghetti.
But that isn’t ground beef, nor is it sausage.
Longtime readers know that I dabble with vegetarianism occasionally, and that I enjoy me a tasty boca burger from time to time. Meat substitutes intrigue me. Some of them are better than others, and some of them are just good on their own merits. Boca chicken, for example, tastes enough like chicken for me, but Boca burgers don’t taste like meat at all. They’re still good, because lots of things that don’t taste like meat are good.
Some of the Subways in Chicago had a veggie patty that was goddamn delicious, but none of the ones in Indiana seem to have it. It’s very depressing.
Anyway, a couple of months ago I suddenly saw a bunch of articles all in a short period of time about Beyond Meat, a company that was so insistent that their plant-based meat substitutes were indistinguishable from meat that the CEO was insisting that, chemically, they actually were meat. I can’t find any of the articles now, unfortunately, but this page on their website makes a similar claim. Key to their definition: you have to call it “meat” because of what it is, not what it comes from.
Available at Whole Foods, starting in January. Well, OK. There’s a Whole Foods in town, and I’d needed an excuse to go pop in anyway, so I used part of my free day off yesterday to go check the place out. I came home with some Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles, which were around $5 for about 11-12 ounces.
Preparation was exactly the same as ground beef; I tossed it in a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil and sautéed it. I made the tomato sauce from scratch, and after tasting and seasoning it a bit I tossed it into the tomato sauce and let the meat and sauce live together for a little bit.
So here’s the skinny on Beyond Meat: It looks and cooks basically exactly like meat. I don’t think anyone would look at that picture and not recognize ground beef or sausage. And so long as you season it and put it with something, it tastes fine. But you know how whenever you make a meat sauce with pasta, your last bite is always just the meat, because the pasta is always gone first? Okay. That bite’s gonna be weird. The primary ingredient of Beyond Beef Beefy Crumbles is pea protein, and that last bite’s gonna getcha a little bit. The texture is a little– just a little— off, still, and you can sorta taste the pea even through the tomatoes and the oregano and rosemary and thyme and all the other stuff I had in my tomato sauce. Mixed with some spaghetti, though– basically anything else to chew on— and I would have fooled you.
Not quite perfect yet, in other words. But I’m keeping an eye on this company, and I’m curious about their not-chicken, because for whatever reason chicken seems to be easier to fake than beef.