Tis the season, for many vegans and vegetarians, to feel excluded. The Tofurkey is supposed to bridge the gap, providing a meat alternative that mimics the flavor and texture of turkey, but is cruelty-free. As with most imitation meats, the Tofurkey is quite frightening-looking. It resembles a giant pinkish sausage, studded with herbs. It looks like the kind of thing you’d find on the back wall of an adult bookstore: definitely not appetizing. It can be cooked on a grill, in the microwave, in the deep-fryer … though these methods aren’t supported by the manufacturer. As with a turkey, a Tofurkey should be roasted, basting periodically to prevent the soy-wheat tube from drying out. (If this sounds like a criticism, isn’t not. Consider the non-vegetarian alternative.)


The first bite is highly textured, resisting the teeth. The soy base separates, as the threads of a bird’s cooked muscle do. The outside of the medallion is firm, the pieces of rosemary and pepper adding some crunch. The deluxe Tofurkey is stuffed (of course) with wild rice and bread crumb stuffing. Gravy can be bought in a separate package, heated, and smothered over the pieces of “meat.” Some people, when serving, go so far as to shape the Tofurkey into a more realistic shape, further copying the standard American dish. It’s all about prompting memory, about figuring out which buttons to push (in the brain as well as on the tongue) that will stimulate satisfaction. This is the point of all holiday food, the simulation of meals past, to prompt memory and refresh tradition. However, does the Tofurkey succeed? It has the right color, the right texture, most of the right flavors, and it smacks of dietary purity. (Purity not being something usually associated with holiday meals.) Covered in cranberry sauce, it’s passable imitation turkey.


But, as with all things related to family, holidays, and celebrations, the level of satisfaction is directly related to what one is willing to give up. If you absolutely must have the real bird, then Tofurkey will not taste right. Its flaws will overshadow its strong points, and no amount of gravy will cover up what you think you’re missing. But if the suggestion of flavor, texture, and chewiness are sufficient, then it is the ideal compromise. Again, not unlike the holidays, or any family celebration for that matter. (CRF)



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