Meatless in Miami: To Analog or Not to Analog?

Some veggie folks are on the fence about "meat analogs" (AKA fake meat). Their main argument: I don't want to eat meat, so why would I want something that tastes like meat?"

Fair enough for some, but I like to think about it more in terms of logistics: the shape of the burger is convenient, it fits on a bun, is easy to handle, etc.  Why can't I have a patty made of not-meat?  As far as taste and texture are concerned, some are so close to the real thing they require double-takes.

More important is that any chef will tell you the majority of a food's flavor comes from the spices, rubs, marinades, and cooking methods. These days, there's not a whole lot of difference between a regular and a soy-based chicken nugget. Years ago, for a project in a college business class, I put together a proposal for a veggie drive-thru. I brought in fake chicken nuggets with dipping sauces for everyone to try, and the teacher could not believe they were faux nugs of tasty glory.

Health-wise, the pros of veggie meats are that they're lower in fat and saturated fat, and they contain fiber, which meat never has. On the con side, veggie meats tend to be higher in sodium, though most people don't consume analogs two to three times a day like a meat-eater. Then again, I've also heard of meat-eaters who put a veggie burger on top of a meat burger just for extra protein, nutrients, and to cut down their meat consumption. To each his own!

Here are some of my favorite commercially available analogs. Feel free to comment and/or share yours below:

Tofurky Deli Slices: Forget the name for a moment -- there's a reason why this stuff has been around since the '70s. A stack of Tofurky slices with Veganaise and some fresh greens on two thick slices of whole wheat or sprouted bread is a staple I'll never tire of. They have a nice, chewy texture and come in flavors such as Oven Roasted, Peppered (my #1), Cranberry & Stuffing, and "Philly-Style."

Lightlife's Gimme Lean Sausage: Available at most Publix supermarkets, this comes in a tube for easy shaping into breakfast patties, and there's a ground beef version.   These sizzle on a skillet, scarily close to the real deal.

Boca Natural Ground Crumbles: I have used this vegan ground beef to make hearty, comforting main dishes such as shepherd's pie, picadillo, lasagna, sloppy joes, Bolognese, and chili. My only suggestion is that they come in larger bags. By the way, thumbs down to Kellogg's Morningstar brand, which de-veganized its crumbles and several other products last year by adding egg whites and skim milk to them. Weak!

Field Roast Grain Meat: This ridiculously tasty line of meat substitutes makes slices, sausage links, and a football-sized roast filled with stuffing that is delectable when sliced and takes only a fraction of the effort of any other Thanksgiving option. Right now, as far as I know, Field Roasts are available only at Whole Foods or online.

Gardein: I've only recently begun to see these frozen and refrigerated products pop up at Publix stores, but thank goodness, they're wonderful! I especially love the Home Style Beefless Tips: chewy, steak-esque chunks that work in a variety of dishes. I made a vegan cheesesteak with onions and peppers, and my meat-eating cohort was begging for seconds.

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