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

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The Vegetarian Meat Market: Meatballs

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.

Sadly, there are some meat dishes you just can't replicate with

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

there's a better specimen out there.

Now: think you can guess which is the real McCoy?

Specimen A:

fauxmeatballs367.jpg

Specimen B:

realmeat584.jpg

 
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