A serial in which we compare manufactured vegetarian meat substitutes to the real thing. This week's contender: Veggie Patch "Meatballs."
Some vegetarians think eating faux meat products is creepy. I never felt that way. As long as it's not made of flesh, I'll try it. And it seems like there's a new attempt at meat substitution on the shelves every time I go to the grocery store. Many of these, however, are completely inedible. With this feature, I plan to try and seek out the best (and the worst) products the meat substitute industry has to offer. To ensure authenticity, I have enlisted a very opinionated omnivore to taste the real thing alongside the impostor and give us his two cents.
plant-based ingredients. Like my grandma's brisket, the aroma of which
taunts me every year when I go back to Detroit for Thanksgiving. But
my grandma also makes amazing meatballs. Meatballs I haven't tasted
since I hit puberty. So in homage to all the meat-centric family
recipes I'll never get to try, I'm kicking this little experiment off
with meatballs in hopes of eventually translating Gram's meatball
recipe into a respectable vegetarian incarnation.
Our subject: Veggie
Patch Meatless Meatballs. Veggie Patch is a company out of New Haven,
Connecticut that makes other faux meat products, but of all the
non-meat products at my neighborhood Met Market, these looked the most
appealing. We're comparing these babies to Metropolitan Market's own
pre-made beef meatballs; I've posted photos of both below. As
for process, I sauteed both in a little olive oil, then served the
meatballs with spaghetti and some homemade tomato sauce.
Main ingredient: TVP, aka Textured Vegetable Protein, which is a
substance that you can buy dried and soak to use as a substitute for
ground beef. It's a common ingredient in canned vegetarian chili.
Also, it's worth mentioning that these "meatballs" are not vegan, and contain both dairy and egg.
Calorie count: 120 for four meatballs. 40 of those are fat calories.
According to thecaloriecounter.com, 1 cup of real meatball (which
probably amounts to 2 or 3 generously-shaped balls) contains 284 calories, 117
of which are from fat.
Price: Around $7 for about 12 meatballs. On the other hand, six "natural beef" meatballs from the Met Market costs somewhere in the ballpark of $3.29.
The omnivore says: The texture is right; the taste isn't. Could benefit from fennel.
The vegetarian says: These are a decent fascimile-- and the calorie count is nothing to sneeze at-- but you'd probably have better luck making your own "meatballs" with Gimme Lean! sausage in a tube (a very fine product I plan to tackle later). But then, what isn't better if
it's made from scratch? I'd eat these again, but I'm willing to bet