Picture this: It’s 1999. You are a child. Your family doesn’t eat meat. At every BBQ or pool party, you’re stuck munching on a hot dog bun filled with slices of American cheese and ketchup. The only school lunch you can participate in is pizza day. Your only fast food option is french fries. Rough, right? Well, that was me at age six.
Then, one day, my mom found something at the grocery store that changed my life: Morningstar Farms veggie burgers. There they were, sitting in the freezer section of Publix, waiting to be discovered. The bright green packaging looked cool and unlike any vegetarian product I’d seen before. It wasn’t labeled “healthy” or “low calorie.” They didn’t resemble a block of tofu or vegetables formed into patties. They just looked like real burgers.
I had eaten good veggie burgers before, but only at nice vegan restaurants on special occasions. Those veggie burgers were typically discs of beans and grains and nuts. To put it nicely, they were rustic. Nothing ever looked or smelled like the real hamburgers my friends were eating. Until Morningstar Farms came into my life.
A Morningstar Farms veggie burger was my first taste of fake meat. The brand’s chewy, meatless soy protein patty was the best thing I had ever tasted in my entire six years of life. It looked like a hamburger, smelled like a hamburger, and tasted how I imagined a hamburger tasted. You might be asking, “Was it actually that good?” No, it probably wasn’t! But it was different and new and exciting, and I absolutely loved it.
The newfound object of my culinary affection ignited something inside me. I was like a monster in a movie that had tasted human blood for the first time. Nothing but that wonderful imitation meat could satiate me. It didn’t matter if it was the peak of texture and flavor; it had stolen my heart. Plus, it was the ‘90s! Most packaged foods weren’t actually “good.” Remember Lunchables?
Today we are living in the age of fake meat. Science has transformed plant-based products from dry, flavorless pucks of grain to uncanny meat doppelgangers. You can find a vegan-friendly version of almost every meat product, from shrimp to pâté to sausages with authentic, snappy casings. Often considered a luxury product, faux meat has earned the respect of chefs around the world and appears on menus at all kinds of restaurants. Plant-based living is so widely accepted these days that not eating meat is practically as easy as eating it.
But while I appreciate all the new, delicious, high-end fake animal products on the market, I admit I’m still partial to the low-brow grocery store classics. Morningstar Farms has come so far and offers such a wide array of products, but their OG veggie burgers still have my heart. They were there for me in my time of meat-less need, and for that, I will always be grateful.