Friday, November 30, 2012

The Tofurky Roast & Gravy Kit!

Ever wondered what was in one of those big, green shoeboxes? Well, wonder no longer, Internet…


I’ve seen the Tofurky Roast & Gravy kit in the organic section of my local grocery store for the last three Thanksgivings, and this year, I decided to bite the proverbial, tofu-and-soy-based bullet and finally buy one of them.

As something that sort of resembles a vegetarian, there’s not a whole lot of meat-centric foods that I can say that I miss - barring pepperoni, for some inexplicable reason. In my last six meat-less years as a consumer, I really can’t say that I have said to myself “hey, you know what I miss? Turkey!” at any point in time - but seeing as how I’m a dude that obsesses over the most trivial, insignificant of consumer matters, I reckon it was only a matter of time until I plopped down my $9.99 in American dollars for some good old fashioned tofu-gobbler.

Before we move on to the set itself, I guess I need to say a few things about vegetarian-meat substitutions. I’ve tried, and for the most part, enjoyed, some of Tofurky’s other products - and rest assured, vegans, vegetarians and omnivores with REALLY out there tastes - there’s a ton of pseudo-meat on the market for you to sample and most likely abhor. On the general subject of tofu, I acknowledge that most people on the planet hate it with a passion, but what can I say? I’m a dude with rudimentary tastes, and by golly, I like its literally formless, shapeless, texture-less and for the most part, flavorless qualities. And in case you’re wondering, yes, vanilla IS my favorite ice cream flavor, too. I am THAT white bread, apparently.


In assessing Tofurky as a comprehensive product, you have to begin with the packaging itself. As you can see, it’s quite green, and comes with this really neat-looking sticker that says “100% Vegan,” because let’s face it, we all own at least one spiral notebook that could be aesthetically improved by such an adornment. The box tell us that the product is, among other things, “gourmet,” “meatless” and “delicious,” which to me, sounds just a bit cocky. The box also promises that it serves at least five people, but I don’t know - this is a pretty small box to feed that many people, and in case you forgot, goddamn, are American folks some real fatsos.


As far as the rest of the box exterior goes, you’ve got the basic stuff: ingredients, cooking directions and some photos of people that, for reasons which may never make 100 percent sense to anyone, decided to take pictures of themselves holding Tofurky kits while visiting world monuments. Yeah, you laugh now, but admit it: after a really great candy bar, you just know you’d wave that shit in front of the Sphinx, if you could.


Oh, but you don’t know how awesome this stuff is UNTIL you actually open up this thing. Even casual bystanders have at least wondered what actual Tofurky resembles, and the results do anything but disappoint.


The first thing you’ll notice is a paper insert asking you to adopt a real-life turkey. And you better believe, it gets better from there.


The insert gives you a website URL to check out and lists a few facts that are really, really hard to find scientific research behind, like the factoid that turkeys have an emotional spectrum on par with those fostered by cats and dogs and that most turkeys actually have the mental faculties to do simple fractions. Well, I may or may not have made up that last one, but if I was trying to get people to adopt birds that kind of look skinless Predators, I’d be giving the general public as many fantastical facts and figures as I could dream up.


Oh, and on the flip side of the insert? An offer for a Tofurky tee-shirt and a whopping SEVENTY FIVE CENTS off Tofurky-branded products. I like the fact that, by placing the two on literally opposite sides of the same card, the company is FORCING people to make major moral decisions between saving the lives of hideous creatures OR saving almost a dollar on vegetarian salami. I’ve heard of ethical dilemmas before, but this is ridiculous!


And I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the “hidden” advertisements for some of Tofurky’s other products, which are printed on the tucked-in paper flaps that you can only see once the box has been opened. There’s nothing too exciting here - unless tofu ground beef and soy sausage is your idea of heart-pounding - but there does seem to be an all-faux-pepperoni pizza on sale, which I will assuredly be taste-testing at some point in 2013.


As far as the contents within the Tofurky box that contain calories (wait, do corrugated  boxes themselves contain nutritional bric-a-brac?), you’re basically getting two towers of scientifically modified food facsimiles.


The Tofurky roast itself comes wrapped in a plastic ball, about the size of a small cantaloupe. At first glance, it doesn’t look all that heavy, but once you actually lift it, you’ll realize just how hefty the dish really is. It’s not quite bowling-ball-dense, but yeah, you could potentially bludgeon someone with it, if worse came to where.


The gravy, I guess, is a little less intriguing. It’s basically just a plastic cup filled with frozen brown stuff, but once you actually microwave the stuff, you’ll detect a savory odor that, shockingly, seems to smell sort of like gravy.


The back of the box offers a couple of different recipe variations, but I’d advise you to just baste the dish in olive oil and cook as is in a nice, thick tuxedo of Reynolds Wrap. All in all, it’s not a bad wait time - about an hour and a half for a dethawed vegan-friendly butterball - so it gives you plenty of time to whip up other tantalizing entrees, like Spa-Chili and Thai Pizza, in the downtime.


And the final product, shockingly, looks kind of like a roasted turkey chunk. It ends up turning a nice light brown hue, and is stuffed to the gills with a really nice stuffing mix, that tastes just about as good as any “real” stuffing mixture I’ve ever tasted. The gravy is also pretty darned yummy, sort of comparable to the brown gravy you’ll find at KFC. As far as the side entrees go, this Tofurky roast is shockingly similar to a “normal” Thanksgiving banquet; hell, some of your non-vegan friends might even find it edible, for about five minutes, at least.


Which brings us to the Tofurky roast, as a comprehensive dish. One of my friends gave me the absolute best description of the roast’s taste when she said that it tastes just like those Salisbury steaks they used to give you in the cafeteria around Thanksgiving-time back in elementary school. I really can’t say that the Tofurky roast tastes like actual turkey, but it at least tastes like some sort of digestible, quasi-palatable meat-stuff, that, if absolutely nothing else, ought to give you nice, warm, fuzzy thoughts about being eleven again.

As a whole, the Tofurky Roast & Gravy set, surprisingly, isn’t all that bad. The gravy and stuffing is downright phenomenal, and while the roast itself may not taste exactly like a turkey, it at least has a rich, filling texture and flavor that does a good enough job aping some kind of meat as to be edible.

For omnivores, whether or not you’ll dig the dish is a 50/50, but I think most vegetarians and vegans will probably enjoy it. Hey, it’s either this, or just paper plate after paper plate of cranberry sauce, ain’t it?

BONUS TOFURKY VIDEOS! 

My official Tofurky Roast & Gravy unboxing...in high definition!

The unwrapping of a fully cooked Tofurky Roast...also in high definition!

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