At a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, flesh-eating hosts and guests eye their herbivorous tablemates with mixed feelings. Pity, chagrin, puzzlement -- are you getting enough to eat? Fear of offense, as blades shear meat from bones, and gristly joints go pop. Used to this, vegetarians help themselves to salad, potatoes, and dessert, though vegans have a harder time of it. That butter thing.
Sidestepping the specter of flesh is all well and good when herbivores are running the show, but another option is the bogus bird: A range of products now on the market and hitting stores this month mimic turkey's look and taste -- totally meatlessly. Showing up with one of these to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner may weird out a few of the more conventional guests, but not so much as a plate of eels would. Besides, your fake bird will probably make a better conversation piece than the real thing.
The soy-based UnTurkey, originally formulated by the founders of San Francisco's Now & Zen Foods, is now supplied to stores nationwide by San Rafael-based Green Options, which recently acquired the now-defunct Now & Zen. Looking and tasting remarkably like real roasted poultry, this oven-ready marvel comes complete with a stippled "skin" crafted of yuba (soymilk), and the package includes its own vegan gravy and bread stuffing. It's available for $24.95 at Whole Foods in Walnut Creek.
Made of mushroom-based, fermentation-spawned mycoprotein, the meatless "turkey" roast from Britain's Quorn company also includes whey and egg whites, so it isn't vegan. It comes plain and unadorned for $5.79 at Berkeley's Whole Foods (not all Whole Foods stores carry the same products), so you'll have to supply your own gravy. The Quorn bird is log-shaped and thus not really stuffable, but it replicates white meat so convincingly, requiring a fork and a knife, you'll hardly believe it comes from fungi.
Fresh Tofu Inc. (FreshTofu.com) offers a product called Tofu Turkey, a one-pound, ten-ounce block of tofu molded in poultry bas relief, marinated in tamari, garlic, and ginger, then baked golden-brown. For the moment, unfortunately, it's still an exclusively East Coast thing, so unless you're visiting Aunt Gladys ...
And finally, for that day-after-Thanksgiving feeling: soy- and gluten-based Tofurky, hailing from the smokehouses of Oregon's Turtle Island Foods, trumps just about all nonflesh cold cuts. If you've forgotten what a real turkey sandwich tastes like, these chewy slabs -- $3.19 per package at Andronico's -- bring it all back.
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