In the name of good health and a good read, each week we'll be bringing you a health product, complete with review. We're calling this feature Crunchy Granola -- even though we doubt much of this stuff tastes that good.
Ah, yes. The infamous Tofurky. A product that has been a consistent factor in the vegetarian/vegan food scene since its small-town parent company's inception in 1980, all the while providing meat-lovers with a solid holiday gross-out. Shoot, its gotten to the point where you can "like" Tofurky on Facebook, or even get your fix with the new Tofurky and Gravy Jones Soda.
My search for Tofurky brought me to the frozen food isle in my local Whole Foods. The pleasantly helpful Whole Foods employee who lead me there stood next to me as we stared at the Tofurky-bearing bottom shelf for a couple silent seconds. On the way there, she told me that her family buys a Tofurky for her dad every year, and, after I told her I'd never tried it before, she assured me it really isn't that bad. "Whatever you do," she said, breaking her mock meat daze, "Don't overcook it." Thanks lady, no pressure.
Find out the vegetarian verdict, after the jump.
The Torfurky Vegetarian Feast will set you back about $25, and included in the flimsy box is the Tofurky roast (or log -- or even better, spherical meat analogue), "giblet" and mushroom gravy, cranberry-apple and potato dumplings, and Tofurky Jurky Wishstixs (take that, proper spelling). Needless to say, it is a weird mix, but I expect no less.
The process to make the Tofurky was pretty simple: Chop up some vegetables (I did potatoes and onions), make one of the quick basting sauces, and throw in all in a casserole dish with the Tofurky. As it is roasting (which takes 3 ½ hours if frozen -- thaw the log overnight for a much quicker cook time), you can prepare every thing else.
After getting the main course was squared away, the first thing I cracked open was the Wishtixs, mostly because they didn't involve any cooking. Two pieces of Turky Jurky were for some reason fused together in an X form, which is supposed to serve the same traditional purpose as a turkey wishbone. I'm all for giving those who abstain from eating meat the same holiday experience, but it's hard to break apart two thin strips of plastic-like Jurky when they fall apart as soon as you open the vacuum wrapped packaging. Perhaps more disappointing than the botched wishbone attempt was the taste of the actual Jurky. My sister, who was prepared to participate in the vegetarian-style wish making, put it perfectly: "It smells really smokey, like liquid smoke. But the taste ... It tastes how wet dog food smells." Oh well. On to the next item.
I dumped the contents of the gravy into a saucepan to heat it into a not-so-smooth liquid. Just the word "giblet" gave me the jitters -- why would you want to recreate one of the most offal parts of the bird? As it heated up, the smell of the gravy was awful, and the first word that popped into my head upon tasting it was "artificial" -- like a sad sweet-and-sour gravy impostor, further reinforcing the fact that there is absolutely nothing appetizing about Tofurky-style giblets.
The dumplings were a little more complicated to prepare than the gravy, but the end result wa much more worth it. The pieces of dried cranberry and apple hidden inside added a spiced sweetness to the doughy potato lumps, and I found myself wondering if they sell these separately (they don't). I scoffed at the box after reading that they suggest that, after pan frying the dumplings to crispy, golden brown deliciousness, you mix them with a little bit of gravy. No thanks.
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Three and a half hours, and the rest of the vegetarian feast later, the Tofurky was out and ready for tasting. I cut into it with my serrated bread knife, and reveled at its weirdness. Yep, there was the "turkey," injected with a stuffing of brown rice and whole wheat bread crumbs. I tried each separately, and was surprised by the Tofurky's turkey flavor; it was salty, and had a fibrous texture similar to processed meat. It wasn't that bad. When you factor in the flavorful stuffing (which is very Stove Top-esque, and just so happens to be one of my guilty pleasures), I was surprisingly not disappointed in the end result, and felt pretty accomplished that I both made and consumed the infamous Tofurky.
But let's get one thing straight: Could it replace this for my traditional, homemade holiday meal? Not a chance in vegetarian hell.