Morningstar Veggie Bacon Strips [review]
My original intention was to to do a compare/contrast between bacon and fake bacon. Actual pork belly vs. soy-composite vegetarian bacon. Totally an unfair fight at first glance, but I went into it with an open mind. How bad could the fake stuff be?
The fake bacon is worse than you can possibly imagine.
First impressions: when you open the packaging, you're hit by a pretty assertive synthetic aroma, an almost-but-not-quite right recreation of the meaty, smoky bacon smell. This eerie sort of Bacon Uncanny Valley continued into the visual — check out the pictures, this fake bacon just looked like unchewed sticks of gum. It made me anxious — some primordial fear inside me clicked on, because the stuff just does not look like food.
What It's Made Of
This product is basically egg whites, soy protein, corn starch, wheat gluten, and vegetable protein—oh boy!—and then, through the magic of science, it's turned into this white, malleable strip with pinkish-red grainy texturey stuff applied to the surface. For fun throw in some food coloring, artifical and natural flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives. Om nom nom?
It Burns So Quickly
The instructions on the packaging read, "Fry over LOW to MEDIUM heat, turning occassionally. DO NOT OVER COOK" — and boy do they mean it. I don't know what that pinkish-red grainy texturey stuff is, but if you're not careful, it goes from cooked to burnt in an instant. I accidentally burned the hell out of the first batch. To make it even more unappetizing, when cooked, it somehow developed these weird-looking bubbly pimples. When you cook it, it ends up as a dry, thin, crispy cracker.
How Did It Taste?
I'll admit: it tastes like bacon. But compared to regular bacon, it's bad. Really, really bad. Not even close. It's too square, too artificial, too manufactured. This is supposed to be bacon, where the point is meaty, fatty, salty, smoky flavor.
There's some crazy shit out there—bacon salt, bacon mayo, and fake bacon—none of which, deplorably, has any real bacon in it. [Ahem. I personally think Bacon Salt is delicious, and buy it as gifts for all my poor benighted vegan friends. –Ed.] Trying to ride the hipness that is everything bacon, they use the word "bacon" on the packaging, but it's all a sad sham.
I mean, holy crap, look at that ingredient list. Some mad scientists in New Jersey have figured out how to synthesize a facsimile of the smell and flavor of bacon using "natural" and "artificial" flavors. It brings to mind the line by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
So completely disconnected from the true item, and so repulsive, I couldn't recommend this product to even my worst vegetarian enemy.
Ingredient List for Morningstar Veggie Bacon Strips
EGG WHITES, SOYBEAN OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, TEXTURED SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, WHEAT GLUTEN, HYDROLYZED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (CORN GLUTEN, WHEAT GLUTEN, SOY), CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF GLYCERIN, SALT, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SODIUM CITRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, SUGAR, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS FROM NON-MEAT SOURCES, TORULA YEAST, CARAMEL COLOR, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVOR, MALIC ACID, GUAR GUM, YEAST EXTRACT, LOCUST BEAN AND GUAR GUM, SODIUM SULFITE, CARRAGEENAN, RED #3, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, NIACINAMIDE, IRON [FERROUS SULFATE], AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, NONFAT DRY MILK, YELLOW #6, VITAMIN B1 [THIAMIN MONONITRATE], VITAMIN B6 [PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE], VITAMIN B2 [RIBOFLAVIN], CITRIC ACID, CYANOCOBALAMIN.