Friday, February 22, 2019

Fake Burgers

Place: White Castle
Lunch (for Breakfast): Four original Sliders, one Impossible Slider, one Sausage, Egg and Cheese Slider, Orange Hi-C Fanta Orange

I navigate the menu on the Coke Freestyle to Hi-C Orange.  I push the button.  A little bit comes out, then it quits and the whole line of Hi-C everything goes to "out of stock" mode.


So I keep what it poured and filled the rest of the cup with Fanta Orange instead.

This is an increasingly rare example of a company manufactured White Castle.  PSB (Porcelain Steel Buildings) Company was a White Castle division that manufactured everything from the building structure to the kitchen equipment to the fixtures you found in a White Castle from 1934 until maybe the last decade or two.  Truck it all to the site and assemble.  PSB was sold off just a few years ago, along with a spinoff that made fertilizer spreaders.  White Castle wasn't PSB's exclusive client...they built lots of non-associated restaurants and those metal gas stations you remember from the mid 20th century.

I used to know someone who's brother was a vegetarian.  One day, he ordered a cheese quesadilla and was given a ground beef and cheese quesadilla.  He decided to just make it vegetarian himself by scraping off the ground beef.  This, of course, doesn't really work because the whole thing is still contaminated by the animal fat.  So naturally, he found the resulting quesadilla to be the greatest thing he'd ever tasted.

We'll get back to that.

There are meat lovers, and there are meat haters.  The meat lovers love a good burger.  The meat haters love to eat something that looks like a burger to...I don't in?  But what they're eating is a mashed up glob of vegetable and potato starches that tastes awful and has the texture of cardboard.  It's no wonder they seem so angry when they yell at you for having the audacity of enjoying your delicious, juicy slab of ground up dead cow.

But there’s two new players in the game said to improve on the non-meat burger experience, and they’ve gotten themselves in the door of some familiar fast food chains.  Their approach is referred to "plant-based meat".

Colorado-based Beyond Meat uses a patty that is primarily pea protein. It has beet juice to give it its red color and sort of its ability to “bleed” like meat.  Critics claim there's too much sodium and too many highly processed ingredients.  Among its many ingredients is coconut oil. You know, that crap they use in theatre popcorn that, depending on who you ask, is either the healthiest stuff in the world or is killing us all at an alarming rate.  Beyond claims their product differs from traditional veggie burgers by looking, cooking, and “satisfying” like a beef burger.

Carl’s Jr has started selling the “Beyond Famous Star”, a version of their signature burger with a Beyond Meat patty. I recently ordered one of each, dressed identically, to do a side-by-side taste test.

One of these is not like the other
Well, they look the same. They don’t quite smell the same. I take a bite of the Beyond version.

Well, it’s doesn’t feel like cardboard. The texture has improved, but it’s still not beef-like.

But does it taste like beef?

No. No it doesn’t.

Okay, but does it taste good?

No. No it doesn’t. It’s sort of a bean-tofu type taste that lingers. It’s still no more edible than older veggie patties. If you made me choose between Beyond and a traditional veggie patty, I would say make which ever one you wish because I am just going to remove the patty and eat the rest.

Actually, make it the veggie burger.  The aftertaste of the Beyond patty still lingered ten minutes after leaving despite the fact I only ate a couple bites and then ate a whole regular Famous Star after and drank two Cokes. Even my hands smelled like it. And after washing them a half hour later, they still smelled kind of like wet dog.  I don't recall that problem with any regular veggie burger (though it's been years).

If you really hate life, you can substitute the Beyond patty on any burger in their lineup for a $2 upcharge.  Del Taco is also selling a Beyond Meat version of their taco.  What are the chances I’ll be trying that?  Literally ZERO.

A similar product is creating a similar buzz.  The Impossible Meats people claim their stuff "delivers all the flavor, aroma and beefiness of meat from cows."

Uh huh.

Impossible is made primarily of wheat and potato protein, colored by heme.  ("What's heme?"  "Here, watch a video.")  There's some other stuff related to binders and fats (yes, including coconut oil.)

Which is why we're at White Castle this morning.  White Castle has made available an Impossible Slider. 

Original Slider, Impossible Slider, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Slider

The first thing you'll notice is the Impossible Slider is way more impressive looking with a patty twice as thick as the Original Slider and lacking the five holes in the patty.  It's also topped with a slice of cheddar.  Nice.

But does it taste good?

*bites in, chews, spits out almost immediately*...OH GOD!  EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW EW!!!!  THAT'S DISGUSTING!  *guzzles Fanta*

But does it taste like beef?

Are you kidding?  It tastes like an indescribable horror.  Having said that, it actually did have a beef-like texture.

Here's the's clear to me vegetarians who claim this stuff tastes like meat have no idea what meat tastes like in the first place.  It goes back to the guy who fell in love with the animal fat saturated cheese quesadilla.  He had no idea what he'd been missing.

The real question, however, is why do vegetarians want to look like they’re eating a burger to the point of putting themselves through this nonsense?  Just order the burger without the burger patty.  Have a condiment and veggie sandwich.  Even I could eat that.  I have a friend who orders her tacos with beans substituting for beef at Taco Bell all the time.  She's not even vegetarian...she just prefers them that way.

So what's next?  Lab meat (or "clean meat") is essentially meat grown in a lab using animal cells.  That's right...they're growing burger patties.  It's not commercialized yet, but it's coming.  They've even attracted investors who are in the real meat business.

Yes, I'll probably try it.