I once heard an interview with a guy who was somehow deemed the worst player in Major League Baseball. When asked how this felt, he replied,”It’s better than being the best player in the minor leagues.”
Now do me a favor. Suspend your better judgement and replace “minor leagues” with “fake meat aisle,” and think of the Majors as “all the food that isn’t pretending to be another food,” and you’re primed to understand my feeling about Gardein meat-free products.
Gardein is the best player in the minor leagues.
As a self-proclaimed anti-fake-meat crusader, I’ve found myself procrastinating on writing my Gardein review. (Thanks, Gardein, for sending me some to try.) By this late time, chances are you’ve probably seen several (favorable) Gardein reviews floating around the blogosphere. And this one’s favorable too, for what it is. Gardein is the best fake meat I’ve ever tried.
So if you’re trying eat less meat, go plant-based, or just want to try something new, it can be a fun option.
What really separates Gardein from the rest of the meat-imposters is the ingredients: On multiple occasions, I’ve picked up buffalo “chicken” tenders from other fake-meat brands, only to put them back down after reading the ingredient list, longer than a steriod-juiced homerun and teeming with all variety of manipulated soy products. For comparison, check out a Gardein ingredient list:
water, soy protein, vital wheat gluten, ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet and kamut), natural flavors (from plant sources), potato starch, expeller pressed canola oil and/or safflower oil, pea protein, modified vegetable gum, carrot fiber, organic beet root fiber, organic evaporated cane juice, yeast extract, vinegar, sea salt.
Not bad, is it? Sounds shockingly like real food.
The most amazing thing is that Gardein gets these techno-food-free ingredients to look and feel nearly identical to meat and to taste inoffensive, if not nearly as flavorful as real meat.
I tried three Gardein products: Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (tossed in buffalo sauce, of course), BBQ Pulled Shreds, and Chick’n Filets. The first two were really good—though I can’t say they really tasted like meat, they really did “seem” like meat. And with breading on the tenders and bbq sauce on the shreds, both of which were actually very tasty, it was easy to forget that what I was eating didn’t come from a slaughtered animal. To me, the guy who once drove seven hours through the night for a Carolina pulled pork sandwich and whose biggest worry about going vegetarian was that he’d never again get to eat buffalo wings, this came as a pleasant surprise.
The Chick’n Filets weren’t as good; they had sort of a slimy texture and a very fake taste, perhaps because there was nothing to mask it. Gardein recommends that you serve them in pasta or with a sauce, so maybe this would have helped.
So that’s where I stand on Gardein. Every once in a while it’s fun to go to a minor league game, and if you’re going to go, you might as well see the top draft picks play, or perhaps former stars who are shells of the players they once were, hanging on now for the sheer love of the game. (In this rapidly-devolving metaphor, that’s supposed to be buffalo chicken and pulled pork.)
But as nice a diversion as a minor league game is, it just doesn’t compare to the bigs.