Normally, I write about deep, serious issues, like the rise of fascism, relations between conservatives and liberals, imperialism and racist double standards in reporting, and transphobia.
But sometimes, you just gotta vent.
I think Impossible Foods is hopelessly overrated. And I’m a vegetarian. Here’s why.
The idea behind Impossible Foods is simple: “Make vegetarian meat analogues that taste as close to the genuine article as possible.” But what does this actually lead to in practice?
I’ll tell you:
- Vegetarian menu options that taste like blood.
- The removal of vegetarian menu options that don’t taste like blood.
While I appreciate that a large proportion of the goal with rolling out Impossible products (and similar “so-realistic-you-can-even-taste-the-blood-and-gristle”) meat analogues is “let’s get non-vegetarians eating veggie”, for a lot of us vegetarians, this is actually rather disgusting. And it’s certainly insulting.
I used to truly enjoy the BK Veggie, which was basically “a Burger King burger, but made with a Morningstar Farms veggieburger patty”. It was tasty. It was salty, savoury, full of protein; it hit the spot. It was my go-to fast food entrée.
And it didn’t taste of heme.
Then along comes the much-lauded Impossible Whopper™, and suddenly I lost most of my interest in eating at Burger King. Because they got rid of the BK Veggie, and that meant the only sandwich they sold that I could (as a vegetarian) actually eat tasted of fake blood. It had that distinctive iron tang of heme— something that I hadn’t tasted in almost two decades of vegetarianism (absent the times I’d bit my own tongue or licked my own wounds).
After so long as a vegetarian, I don’t like tasting blood, or simulated blood. It was never my favourite part of meat dishes even before I went veggie. So, now, I spend a lot less money at Burger King.
Put plainly, the vegetarian market in the US is so miniscule that most food chains feel “well, if we offer one vegetarian option, that’s more than enough.” A lot of chains don’t even offer that; McDonald’s, infamously veggie-unfriendly, doesn’t offer a veggie burger at all. (In fact, even their fries, while fried in vegetable oil, also include natural beef flavouring derived from good ol’ dead cows.)
Meat-eater at BK? You can choose from several varieties of beef patties, crispy chicken patties, regular chicken patties, chicken nuggets, spicy chicken nuggets, chicken fries, or fish patties. Have it your way.
Vegetarian at BK? You’ll get the Impossible Burger™ and you’ll fucking like it. One choice. That’s all you get. And they probably think they’re being magnanimous and progressive.
The problem isn’t just limited to Burger King. Increasingly, it seems, adopting one of the new “ultra-realistic” meat analogues seems to be the way in which food chains are attempting to introduce vegetarian options.
Yesterday, I ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut with Beyond Meat® sausage. I thought I’d like it. I love veggie sausage; I often have Morningstar or Boca veggie sausage in my freezer.
It was revolting.
While Beyond Meat doesn’t use the “bloody taste” ingredient heme in their foods, their goal again seems to be “make things taste just like meat, including the gross parts.” And the gross parts turned me way the hell off of this otherwise decent pizza.
The sausage had a sickening bite to it, like it was made with real intestinal casing (which, of course, it wasn’t). It tasted of simulated gristle and simulated connective tissue. I usually can devour half a pie in one sitting; this time, I had trouble getting down two slices. In the end, I left the rest of the pie to my meat-eating roommate.
I know I’m weird; in fact, I’m very weird. But I strongly believe that I’m not the only vegetarian who thinks this way. When I eat “fake meat”, I don’t want it to try to slavishly replicate all the grossness of real meat. I just want it to taste good.
Beyond products and Impossible products… I taste them, and they’re actively offputting.
I understand why hardcore carnivores would demand a meat substitute that has fake gristle or fake blood.
But me? I’m out.
And when they stop selling conventional Morningstar/Boca-style veggie burgers and veggie sausages? I guess I’ll just fucking eat tofu. It’s all you meat eaters seem to think vegetarians eat anyways.