Monday, August 13, 2012

Going Ground Beef-less?

Pasta? Yes. Tomato sauce? Yes. Grated cheese? Yes. Ground beef? Not quite...
Reading and writing can promote change. Sometimes it can motivate change on an historic scale such as the writing (and subsequent reading) of the United States Declaration of Independence. On an individual level, the influence of carefully read (and digested) information at the right time by the right person can also serve to influence the decisions we make. Two months ago, I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer, and despite my having seen films and read other sources regarding the topic, for whatever reason I felt more committed to reducing eliminating severely the amount of animal product in my diet.

Despite having been, at different points in my life, been a faux-vegetarian avoiding red meat (including the other white meat, pork) and chicken, it has always been a relatively short-lived experience. Following completion of Foer's book, however, I have taken it a bit further, attempting to eliminate all animal products such as fish, chicken, red meat, and milk. (Cheese is a very tough one for me!)

Following a period of simply adjusting my current meals by taking out at clearly animal products such as tuna fish, ground beef, and milk, I have begun looking for analogs or substitutes to add back in that might simulate the taste and (more importantly) fill me up in such a way that meals are more substantial. While I recognize the better way to go would be to move towards a whole foods/raw diet approach, I still feel the desire to taste (on some textural level) that which can be best described as "meaty."

Like many folks, I have taken advantage of some opportunities to sample meat analogs such as grain burgers, black bean burgers, even broccoli burgers, but my affair with meat substitutes has not gone too far beyond. A few days ago at the supermarket I bought a bag of BOCA Meatless Ground Crumbles with he intention of sample some possibilities for future meals. Nothing fancy, I assure you. I started by introducing a small portion of the crumbles to a jar of tomato sauce in an effort to make that bachelor classic (which I am not, but my cooking skills are not that much greater), pasta with ground beef sauce.

It looks real (sort of), but does it taste like "real" ground beef?

So, how was it? On immediate benefit to the analog was it's attempt to look aesthetically like real ground beef. The commonalities often fade once one goes deeper though. After preparing about 3/4 of a pound of pasta (some for now and some for lunches later in the week), and smothering a plateful (above), I sat down to eat and was surprised to find that it was pretty good despite the texture being chewier than ground beef. Much like my past experiences with chicken analogs, it was also slightly stringy (the best I can come up with to describe it) than traditional ground beef, though I've had similar experiences with beef of the "organic" nature.

If the purpose of eating meatless is to ultimately improve one's health, then a better alternative would be BOCA's Ground Crumbles Made with Natural Ingredients. The fact that the "regular" ground crumbles include artificial flavors and preservatives was a risk I was willing to take in the interest of moving toward a meatless diet. There are, however, better, cleaner, options out there. Until digging around BOCAs website I was unaware that there was a natural alternative as the local grocery stores stock only those BOCA items in the distinctive red packaging. It would seem that I quick trip to the local co-op is in order as I would be more likely to find that item there.

I am confident this transition to a meatless diet will stick, but a key contributor to that possibility will be to continue looking for diversity in the edible options available...

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