Marks & Spencer
Vegetarians will tell you (usually when asked, not bleating on and on spoiling pure silence like vegans) that they made the switch to a plant-based lifestyle because they don’t want to be a part of the suffering of animals and the destruction planet and yada-yada. Yet they’ll snuffle about looking for a meat substitute that looks and tastes exactly like meat, and if their vegetarian burger doesn’t taste exactly like a meat burger they’ll throw it back on the plate and declare it to be shit. I know because I do it all the time. Because of this, I begin my quest to find the perfect meat alternatives for those who’re trying to cut down on meat, or vegetarians/vegans who just can’t let it go.
Up first is the M&S Plant Kitchen – No Pork Streaky Bacon as the bacon sandwich is one of the quietest plates one has as a carnivore, but the loudest after making the switch to plants. Believe me…
Upon opening the vacuum-packed plastic coating, the trapped smell that escaped and flooded the kitchen like a secret ghost invoked a very strong image of Play-Doh covered in maple syrup. Not hugely appetising, but I’ll take it over the constant thoughts of a human foot after being put through a deli counter meat slicer from bottom to top, therefore making human foot insoles for your shoes, which is what I kept thinking.
I slopped the odd material into a pan and began cheffing it up trying to replicate the plant-based bacon strips on the front of the packaging with its glossy sheen and crispy American-style bacon crunch – not my preferred style of bacon, but the realisation that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ has really hit hard at this point. Things seemed to be going well as the oil was sizzly and the vegetarian feet meat was smelling like bacon whilst not burning to a cinder, but the nano-second I took them out of the pan and onto an awaiting plate, the now-transformed slices of bark had lost all heat in a stunning display of treachery.
My dreams were to have a vegetarian bacon sandwich. One that would fool a builder. Sadly, the result of a simple act of frying left me with these rattly dried tongues clanging about my plate sounding like a ceramic box filled with tissue-wrapped metal in the back of a car tumbling down a hill.
I, of course, expected the worst when biting in. Visions of my teeth splintering off into the walls of my mouth as I bit down too keenly on these thin slabs of pink and white concrete, causing fragments of myself to pierce right through me. Instead, the plant-based bacon had a dull crunch exterior and a bouncy interior, which really cemented my previous ideas of it being a human foot.
The M&S Plant Kitchen bacon did nothing to not make me initially think that this was a vacuumed packed sliced foot, nor did it alleviate those concerns by becoming what I was hoping it would be – a bacon alternative – with its plastic taste and ‘meat-foam’ texture. Alas, my search continues.