Tuesday, 19 August 2008

A disturbing confession

This is a post I thought I would never write. I had always vowed that anything grown under laboratory conditions would not pass my lips (see this, rather frightening, vision of the future: lab meat) let alone form even the smallest part of my diet. This included Quorn and Textured Vegetable Products (TVP) such as soya. I have no problem with vegetarianism or veganism, people have the right to eat whatever they wish. Indeed, over the last few months I have found that my own meat consumption has fallen significantly.

We can’t afford to eat quality meat (by which I mean humanely reared) on a regular basis and so we eat it with less frequency rather than accept a dip in quality. This is our own personal choice, much it is personal choice that convinces a person that they do not wish to eat meat at all.

What I do have an issue with is non-meat products that attempt to emulate something that has come from a living, breathing creature. If you make the choice to exist solely on legumes and pulses then make the commitment. Don’t fill your shopping basket with meat free bacon or TVP chicken style pieces. That’s just wrong and leads us to dark and murky places where I think we should not delve (see link above on lab grown meat).

Anyway, back to Quorn. Quorn is a manufactured fungus that was developed back in the 1960s. After being grown in a vast Petri dish, it is then processed into various forms that resemble animal products that we know and love: minced ‘meat’, chunks of ‘chicken style’ pieces and other such culinary abominations.

For some inexplicable and bizarre reason that still defies all rational explanation, a packet of these ‘chicken style’ Quorn pieces managed to find themselves in my freezer. In MY freezer alongside chunks of lamb neck, a bag of pig’s trotters and a frozen tray of game including pigeon, pheasant and venison. They were discovered as I was making room for a bag of ice and a bottle of Stolichnaya and were sacrificed so that we could enjoy some cold vodkas and tonic later in the evening.

They weren’t just sacrificed. In what may be deemed a slight over-reaction, they were deftly flicked towards the bin where they sat, slowly defrosting into their weird fungal form.

But in the spirit of adventure (don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, et cetera) and frugality (credit crunch cooking – don’t bin it, eat it) I removed them from their rubbishy grave soon afterwards and handed them to my girlfriend who insisted that they were, in fact, ‘quite nice.’

To me, ‘quite nice’ has never been a ringing endorsement. ‘Quite nice’ is how my grandmother might describe an album of pan-pipes music or an episode of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates. Other foods that fall into the ‘quite nice’ bracket include mild cheddar, aubergines and Salt ‘n’ Shake crisps. None are offensive but neither are they worthy of praise and my world would not be a worse place if any of them ceased to exist.

For the Quorn, we decided on fajitas – my rationale being that almost any foodstuff, even one as soulless, soggy and pathetic as Quorn, can be rendered edible with the addition of copious amounts of hot sauce. It’s like balls in a bottle, just waiting to kick some poor, unsuspecting ingredient up the backside and render it a fully-fledged psycho like drill sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

We added an onion and a sliced courgette, one of the many that are invading our kitchen thanks to a very productive vegetable patch, and then in went the Quorn. I was surprised to see it caramelising in a similar way to meat, albeit considerably faster. The smell, too, was pleasant. Not necessarily meaty, but certainly not fungal either. The sauce went in (from a jar. I know. I know. I know. But I can’t make everything from scratch) followed by a tin of black eyed beans and it bubbled away for a few minutes whilst we heated the wraps.

Once the tortillas had been filled with the mixture (which was looking disturbingly meaty) they were topped with a little tomato sauce, some cheese and then the whole lot slid into a hot oven.

It pains me to say this but they tasted good. Granted, there was a considerable amount of Who Dares Burns brand hot sauce dribbled into my fajita (I’ve just re-read that and it sounds incredibly rude. Oh well) but the overall flavour was good. Don’t get me wrong, there is more chance of Ellen DeGeneres being caught in a threesome with Siegfried and Roy than me renouncing meat and all its fleshy glory but perhaps I won’t be so fast to judge next time.



Anonymous said...

In my opinion, so called 'meat substitutes' are a lovely addition to any diet. So long as you forget that they are marketed as something to replace meat. And have plenty of condiments available. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Next step... soylent green... :)

Cheeky Spouse said...

And to think that Quorn was a food originally developed by scientists to feed the starving millions of a future earth.
What with impending food shortages and declining bee colonies (no bees + no pollination = no food) we may all have to resort to eating it.

Thistlemoon said...

We all eat things sometimes that we "swore" we never would. Like you, I am much more apt to go the route of frugality once in a while over throwing something away just on principal - unless it is poison - like Splenda or some other equally offensive material.

I would have done just what you did in this instance, and I adhere to the same principles that you do as well.

Alicia Foodycat said...

You need to try salt & pepper aubergine. Then you can move it off that list and onto the "god's gift" list. Or nasu dengaku - kick arse aubergine in sweet miso dressing.

I had vegetarian flatmates, so I have eaten all the soy schnitzel etc I am inclined to.

dp said...

I lived with a vegetarian who didn't like vegetables. His diet consisted of all sorts of Franken-foods. Some I liked, but mostly I didn't because I've got issues with textures. If I want a meat substitute, I'll stick to tofu, thank you.

Just Cook It said...

Anon - I am slowly coming to accept that they may have a small (but very small) place in the diet, as long as you do something with them, of course.

Tom - I'd not heard of soylent green until you mentioned it. I looked it up though - what a terrifying prospect

cheeky spouse - I know, a little scary isn't it?

Jenn - I'm glad to know that I'm not alone! Thanks.

foodycat - I think soy schnitzel falls under the bracket of 'foods that pretend to be something they are not' which places them off my radar.

dp - tofu is something that I am totally unfamiliar with. I am hoping to use it more often in my cooking though and totally agree with you.