13% of Americans identify themselves as Vegetarian or Vegan, creating a whopping $1.6 billion market for soy and plant based alternatives to meat.
One major player in the meat alternative industry is Loma Linda, who produces a line of plant protein based meat analogs, and is popular among Seventh Day Adventists due to the denomination owning the company until it sold to Worthington Foods around the early 1980s. Later the company would be owned by Kellogg, who through it’s Battle Creek Sanitarium Food Company had invented the plant based meat analog in 1896.
With such history and market demand, I decided that Loma Linda’s Fried Chik’n would be a great entry into my exploration of the world of meat analogs. I mean, who couldn’t like a good fried chik’n?
I was so wrong… Upon opening the can, I unleashed a series of horrors that afflicted a majority of my senses.
The can contained what appeared to be wet dog shit floating in water from the Citarum River. Oil pooled and floated along the top of the watery thin, brown gravy. In a large enough quantity, it would be the perfect habitat for the Death Star’s trash compactor dwelling dianoga.
It smelled just as bad as it looked. If you can imagine what the color brown would smell like, you’re probably on the right track. Somewhere between an abandoned porta-potty and a hot compost pile.
The can gives the instruction to heat and serve. I chose to heat the chik’n in a pan, hoping to crisp the chik’n and reduce down the gravy a bit to a more gravy like consistency instead of what looked to be diarrhea water.
The chik’n did have somewhat of a crispy exterior, but the interior was akin to mushy lawn clippings. It tasted of steamed carrots, if you had taken the carrots after steaming them, and burned them in a tire fire. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it at the time, but there was a hint of bitter dejection creeping through to the front of my palate. And much like umami enhances great savory flavors, the brown gravy’s salty gym bag flavor enhanced the feeling of shame inside me, like going from the moment you know you’ve got a bad report card, to the moment your parents know you’ve got a bad report card.
Seriously vegetarians… Just accept the fact that there are few things that can come close to delicious delicious meat. The fake stuff is just a sad bastardization of the ingredients making up the meat analog.
There is no redemption here… Not only does the Chik’n taste horrible, but it looks just as bad.