Posts Tagged ‘plant-based’

Life With or Without Bacon is Possible

Monday, February 10th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos  

The Impossible Whopper ... bacon soon to come

The Impossible Whopper … bacon soon to come

“Two Impossible Whoppers with cheese, please. No onions on one.” 

   “OK. You want bacon?”

   Back to bacon.

   Apparently, despite my best efforts in a previous column to argue otherwise, (http://zestoforange.com/blog/?p=14971) it is impossible to live life without bacon in America, Even when you order a burger intentionally produced without meat, meat is offered as a topping. You’re confusing me, Burger King.

   My partner and I became fans of the Impossible Whopper at first bite. It’s tasty, juicy, filling and satisfies an occasional craving in a diet that does not include beef. Or bacon.

  The bacon option was not the only surprise at the drive-up window. Burger King is now offering two Impossible Whoppers for six dollars, the same as its regular Whopper special offering. Our two with cheese came to eight dollars. A good deal. But, really, doesn’t the bacon option kind of miss the point of the Impossible?

  Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, creators of plant-based alternatives to meat and chicken, have sparked a surprising mini-revolution in the way at least some Americans eat. Plant-based diets in general are becoming more popular daily, While vegetarians and vegans may not be rushing to try the new non-meat burgers, those who would like to eat a little less meat because it’s healthier for them and also because it would help slow global warming are welcoming this focus on eating more plants.

    Beef producers are not. They’ve gone to court to sue over the use of the word “burger” for plant-based, uh, burgers and an ad that ran in the Washington, D.C., area during the Super Bowl warned viewers that the Impossible Whopper contained an ingredient contained in laxatives. Subtle.

    It does. But both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union say the ingredient, methylcellulose, is safe for human consumption and has no known negative side effects, And the amount contained in both the Impossible and Beyond burgers is below the amount contained in a tablespoon of laxative.

     But expect the misleading major media and social media campaigns to continue, with so much money at stake and so many consumers these days willing to accept at face value any official-sounding statement that reinforces their prejudices. The real fake news.

     It turns out the company that placed the Super Bowl ad, the Center for Consumer Freedom, is notorious for defending wealthy clients (including a wide swath of food industry clients) against competitors or critics it routinely portrays as phony do-gooders out to deprive people of the right to make their own choices. It describes itself as “a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices.”

     “We believe that the consumer is King And Queen,” its website preaches as it lobbies against what it calls phony health claims and holds up extreme groups like PETA as representative of the campaign for giving consumers more healthful, plant-based choices. It has argued that the cause of so much overweight in America is not overeating, but lack of exercise. Again, it represents a wide range of food producers.

      I am not a shill for any company. I didn’t tell that guy who asked me, “You don’t eat bacon?” that he should maybe at least follow his doctors suggestion to eat a little less of it for his heart’s and his children’s sake. I am increasingly concerned, however, that too many Americans are reluctant to try something that might be good for their well-being because it means doing without something they enjoy that may not be so good. Besides, they’ll argue, “Those fake meats aren’t really more healthful anyway. They’ve got nasty stuff in them.” Or, “They said they’re vegan, but they’re not.” Or, “So what if I like bacon? It’s delicious.”

    Yes it is. In fact, forget beef. Pork is the most widely consumed meat worldwide, according to Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods. He ought to know. While doing battle with the beef industry in the United States and Canada, Brown says his company is about to launch the Impossible Sausage. Beyond Meat has had a Beyond Sausage breakfast sandwich for enjoyment at Dunkin’ Donuts for months, but Brown says his company wanted to make sure it got its recipe the way it wanted before releasing it for public consumption.

    In addition to Burger King, White Castle was one of the first to offer a plant-based option, with Impossible Sliders. McDonald’s is testing Beyond Burgers in Canada, KFC is testing Beyond Fried Chicken and Starbucks recently said it plans to introduce plant-based breakfast items. So the alternative meats are not going away, misleading advertising or not.

    But the best news — soon, we might be able to say yes when asked if we want bacon on our Impossible Whoppers. Brown says Impossible Bacon is in the works, if not yet on the grill. So, impossible as it sounds, we’ll be able to have life without bacon, with bacon.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Enjoying the Impossible, Without Guilt

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

 

 

By Bob Gaydos

The Impossible Whopper ... lives up to its billing

The Impossible Whopper … lives up to its billing

 

    If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.

     I’m talking about the Impossible Burger, obviously.

     In a recent column about a young man who couldn’t believe I didn’t eat bacon (not fanatically, just practically, for health reasons), I ventured into a discussion of the new plant-based burgers that have quickly become popular and promised to write a review as soon as I found a place that served them.

      Thank you, Burger King in Warwick, N.Y. My partner and I do not frequent fast-food establishments, but we recently had some unexpected time to kill and went to the nearest Burger King, specifically looking for the Impossible Burger to satisfy our curiosity.

       There it was on the menu — the Impossible Whopper. Two please, with cheese. No fries.

       The first reaction will be hers, sitting across from me in the booth:

       Bite.

       “Incredible.”

       Bite.(

       “It looks like meat.”

        Bite

        “It acts like meat.”

        Bite.

        “It tastes like meat.”

        … “Delicious.”

         I agree. If you didn’t know it was a meatless burger, you wouldn’t be able to tell. We were satisfied. It’s possible.

          My partner hasn’t had a beef hamburger in more years than she can remember. She also doesn’t eat red meat. But if we have a yearning for a burger, she’s hooked. We now know where to go to satisfy it without feeling guilty.

          However, some vegans and vegetarians, the ones you might think would appreciate this culinary development the most, are not thrilled with this “meaty” hamburger concocted in a lab. Strict vegetarians, in fact, are reportedly turned off by the taste of the Impossible Burger. They say it tastes and acts too much like real meat. It stirs up feelings of guilt and worse.

        And some vegans are upset — even feel cheated by Burger King — because the Impossible Whopper is cooked on the same grill as the beef burgers. To them, this is an unacceptable mingling of beef product with plant product. One customer has even filed a lawsuit against Burger King for false advertising, although it doesn’t appear that the company has ever advertised the product as vegan.

      Burger King did say at the introduction of the new item that the Impossible Burger would be cooked on the same grill as its beef and chicken products, but customers could request that their Impossible Whoppers be cooked by a “non-broiler option.” The oven. The company says this offer stands. But until this lawsuit it was not well-publicized and most customers are probably not aware of it. In truth, most customers don’t care.

      And there apparently are a lot of customers for the new product. The Impossible Burger, the Beyond Meat burger and other new, plant-based meat substitutes are growing in popularity with a group of people to which I may belong – flexitarians. Who knew?

        I came upon this new category in my research on meat substitutes. It’s apparently a real word that was coined in the 1990s, a combination of flexible and vegetarian. One online dictionary tells me that a flexitarian is ”a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish.” 

        According to that definition, I am probably a flexitarian wannabe, since, while I eat plenty of vegetables, I eat poultry or fish more than occasionally.

       Another source says that, basically, flexitarians are omnivores who are trying to reduce the amount of meat in their diet, for health, environmental and/or ethical reasons. These are not people who don’t eat red meat or won’t eat burgers, but are happy to be able to enjoy the taste of a burger without the beef from time to time.

        It’s about being flexible (or balanced), which to me is a recipe for good health. The meatless burgers are processed, offering less protein and less fat than beef burgers and, like beef burgers, probably too much sodium if consumed regularly. The Impossible Whopper’s calorie count is about the same as regular Whoppers, about 630. Beyond Meat burgers, which are rumored to be coming to McDonald’s sometime in the near future, are non-GMO. Impossible burgers do contain GMO‘s. If this matters to you, take your pick. Flexibility.

        Right now I’m curious to compare the Impossible Whopper with the Beyond Meat burger and, while we don’t have a Burger King in our neighborhood, we do have a McDonald’s. As a wannabe flexitarian, I’m willing to share the appreciation.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

         

Life Without Bacon? Not Impossible

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

0CD2917D-060B-4C71-8A2B-AF13775EFA6D

Bacon on a burger. Can plants taste the same?

   “You don’t eat bacon!?”

   “The look of incredulity on the speaker’s face matched the tone in his voice.

     “No,” I replied. “I don’t.”

     End of conversation. At least the out-loud part.

      “What, are you a commie? Un-American? A vegan!?” I said silently to myself, imagining I could read his mind.

      Then, out loud again, “I don’t eat red meat either.”

       “Yeah, my doctor told me I shouldn’t either,” Mr. Incredulous offered. “Not good for my heart.”

        I nodded knowingly.

        He went back to his slice of Buffalo chicken/bacon/ranch pizza and I dove into my taco salad (with grilled chicken). By looks of the size of the guy and his relatively young age, I surmised his doctor was probably right. But not for me to say, at least under the circumstances (in public, others at the table and none of my business).

        I don’t go around making a big deal about what I eat and try not to comment on what others eat, or should eat. But I notice. I notice that a lot of Americans seem to have  difficulty making the connection between how they eat — what they eat, more than how much — and their general well-being:

       — “Yeah, I know I shouldn’t eat so much sugar, but I love cookies and candy and cake and soda …” 

       — “I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger deluxe, but leave off the lettuce and tomato. No pickle, but I’ll take the fries.”

       — “Diet Coke, please.”

       — “I hate salad.”

      And of course, there’s an out-of-shape, orange-skinned septuagenarian in the Oval Office who lives on burgers, fries, fried chicken, steak and ice cream. He has also effectively disbanded the President’s Council on Fitness and ended Michelle Obama’s Healthy Hunger-free school lunch program.

     So what the heck, if it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for us, a lot of Americans have apparently decided. Man or woman cannot live on kale alone, right?

      Right. But man or woman is likely to live a longer, healthier life if a few greens and assorted vegetables were a more common part of their diet. The chief rap on bacon and red meats, healthwise, is that they’re loaded with saturated fats, which are linked to cancer, heart disease and stroke. That’s why the doctor told Mr. Incredulous to lay off the bacon.

      But a lot of people (myself included) don’t like to be told to do what’s ultimately good for them. In fact, they will often do the opposite. There’s a lot of that going around these days in this age of anti-science and constant accusations of “fake news.” Willful ignorance is now brandished the way a gold star from the teacher used to be.

       So how do you get people to do what’s good for them (and also, by the way, the planet)? How do you convince people to occasionally eat more healthful food when they are hooked on beef, bacon and burgers?

       Well, maybe you figure out a way to blend a bunch of plants together and make them look and taste like a beef burger.

        Welcome to the Impossible Burger, now available at Burger King. Or the PLT Burger from Beyond Meat, about to get a test run from McDonald’s.

       What’s different about these and other new, plant-based burgers that are causing a stir in fast-food lines as well as the stock market apparently is that — unlike the well-meaning veggie burgers that have been around for years — these Whoppers and Not a Burgers actually look and taste like beef burgers. Juice and all. But they’re vegan. No animal byproducts at all.

      I’m thus far unable to provide a personal review of one of these plant-based burgers because I haven’t found a place serving one yet. When I do, I will.

       But it is worth pointing out that the plant-based burgers themselves, even if they turn out to be juicy and yummy are themselves a mixed bag, health-wise. For starters, they have been heavily processed to attain the desired taste and texture and the jury is out on the health effects of a lot of the additives. Also, they can be high on calories and tend to be heavy on salt, which is definitely not a health benefit. They also have less protein than animal-based burgers and, while they contain no cholesterol and have added some vital nutrients, they may have some saturated fats from coconut.

      So why bother? For one thing, eating even a little less red meat is good for one’s health. For another, relying more on plants, less on animals, for food, is good for the planet. Livestock farming is a major contributor to global warming (greenhouse gasses, ammonia) and a major consumer of water and user of land. People who believe in science think global warming is the major issue of our time. (As we know, the Oval Office burger-muncher is not a science believer.) And for some, there is the benefit of knowing that no animals lost their lives so they could enjoy lunch.

        I’m no purist in this area. As I said, my taco salad was topped with chicken. I also eat seafood, including sushi. But I don’t run from salads, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and love non-dairy frozen desserts as well as frozen yogurt. My favorite non-beef burger thus far has been a black bean burger. Delicious, especially with sweet potato fries.

      I guess my point, which I wrote about several years ago when a doctor told me it would behoove me to cut down on the sweets, salt and red meat, is that it is entirely possible to enjoy eating and also enjoy good health. Take fewer meds. I tried to follow the doctor’s suggestion. She said most don’t. Insurance companies have reaped the benefits. Medical costs have soared.

      I still do the best I can. Lost a bunch of weight and I am in pretty good health for an old curmudgeon. No meds. Wear a size 36 belt. I don’t feel deprived because I avoid bacon. Oh, in a weak moment, I might actually grab a piece. I haven’t yet, but that’s all it would be. A piece. It’s all about balance. Given my usual diet, it won’t kill me to have a slice of bacon. Then again, between you and me, it wouldn’t kill Mr. Incredulous to try a nice Greek Salad once in awhile. Or at least an Impossible Burger.

rjgaydos@gmail.com