Vegan foods reviewed – part 6 (USA edition)

I recently came back from LA due to some family responsibilities and while I didn’t get much time to explore the full gamut of vegan offerings while there, I did make sure to try some new stuff at the grocery stores.

If you’ve tried and loved Follow Your Heart products, I was delighted to find that they started as a restaurant/store decades ago and that place happened to be near where I was staying. (This was more of an anecdote because I was excited to visit their awesome restaurant…I’m not reviewing their food this time around! 😛)

This entire aisle is vegan food; a mind-boggling vista if you’ve ever been to a normal grocery store!

Anyway, today we have some fun offerings from Daiya, Clean South, Sweet Earth and So Delicious.

These reviews are particularly geared towards former omni eaters who are keen to have that meat or dairy favourite available as a tasty cruelty-free equivalent.

About the ratings system: Ratings are for what I consider the important elements of an appealing food product, with “Texture” being one that you might not normally see for other food reviews, but to me it is quite indicative of the success of a meat or dairy substitute. I choose “Value” over “Price” as vegan foods are generally more expensive than their meat or dairy counterparts (or rather, the latter are unreasonably and irrationally cheap given what they are) so I choose to focus on how good they are for the amount you pay.

On to today’s reviews:


PRODUCT: CLEAN SOUTH – VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS
Type: Prepared meal
Country of origin: USA
Clean South




clean south wings

Whenever I see things with “buffalo” flavouring, my mouth instantly starts to water. Back when I had an omnivore diet, hot chicken wings were my guilty pleasure. While I now think about how abhorrent it is to consume the little wings of young chickens, the desire for that flavour doesn’t leave you and I am forever on a search for the perfect buffalo wing replacement. Enter: Clean South’s Vegan Buffalo Wings.

I am not prone to using OMG to describe foods, but O.M.G. these were good. I honestly couldn’t even be bothered heating them for the first half of the box, but then when I did and paired them with Daiya’s dairy-free blue cheese dressing, flipping’ ‘eck bro, things got crazy-good. Now, in restaurants I have tasted some darned good vegan ‘wings’ but this was the first packaged ones I’ve had that just nailed it. Texture, chewiness, beautiful tangy and hot sauce (and plenty of sauce), tasty and addictive. I’m a big fan of Franks’ Red Hot sauce inspired hot wings sauce, so this was just right for me.

Being that I was in the US and this was a local LA product, I kind of expect things to be a wee bit cheaper, but no, these were quite expensive at US$9. I’m happy to support a local, small producer that is banging out awesome food though. I desperately wish I could get these in Australia, but I’ also glad as I’d be broke.


 

More to come….


Vegan food shopping pet peeves

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Being vegan ain’t always easy. Actually, a lot of the time it gets me either really sad or truly angry. That is actually rarely about the food itself and more about the politics of raising animals for meat and dairy, the inherent cruelty of our animal agriculture system and the wilful destruction of our planet to feed people so-called “food” they don’t actually need to eat in order to survive.

When it does come down to the food though, there are so many great options, who can complain, right? Well, now… 😬   Here come my pet peeves (of today):

Unnecessary infiltrators

There could be SO MANY more vegan-friendly foods if companies that make an otherwise vegan product either slip “milk solids” or something stupid in there, or have a “May contain” list that includes dairy, eggs, etc even though the product doesn’t have those things in it. This happens far more often than it should!

Who decides on what the “perfect” hot dog is anyway?

There is a perception by meat-eaters and vegans alike that a vegan product has to faithfully reproduce the best version of a meat or dairy product or else it will be deemed unsuccessfully. The scrutiny is unfair and besides, who’s standards are we going by? In any food discussion, you’ll have people who swear by a certain thing, and someone else who thinks it is terrible. There is almost no gold standard for anything so we may as well get creative. If something “isn’t quite a meat item” but tastes awesome and looks very different, does it matter? If taste is paramount, then it should win out no matter what it looks like, even if the mock-meat is grey or a funny shape. If it looks weird AND tastes bad, well, that’s different. However, if it tastes “wrong” because someone was trying so hard to make that, say, blue cheese equivalent look, smell and taste identical, then maybe we need to address why it can’t just be it’s own thing. We need a new food category where foods are totally new but independently taste great without comparative scrutinising.

Making the food secretly vegan

Products that don’t mark specifically that they are vegan, nor dairy free and yet on the ingredients they have no animal products. If it isn’t on their allergens list (which they legally need to have) then it should be fair dinkum vegan, right? If so Food Company, why not just put vegan-friendly or dairy-free on the box?? Why make vegans hunt around and then take a risk or have to waste time contacting the manufacturer? You’re missing out on a growing market here people!

“Green-washing,” vegan style

Why is the vegan equivalent of a meat or dairy-based product by large companies still charged at a higher cost than the original meat/dairy item? Bigger companies are actually saving money on their core ingredients and their R&D departments are already well-funded and aren’t needing to recoup their development investment the same as a boutique company might justify their higher prices.

I am aware that animal products are heavily subsidised plus farmers are paid a pittance for what they do (which, in turn, results in the animals getting treated horribly in order to keep some profit margin). But pulses, veggies, grains and so on are cheap…

Of course, as I’ve been told before, the price of meat and dairy in western nations is unsustainably competitive. The “true” tally of our grocery bill should be about 2-3 times higher than it is, so maybe vegan foods are closer to the “real” cost. So while this one is a pet peeve because I just want to pay the same as everyone else, I could understand this price inflating if that were the real reason. However, I think it is just good old fashioned gouging.

Vegan options all in one spot

This one is more of a wish than a pet peeve I guess, but it would be utterly fantastic if vegan-specific products either got a special coloured tag at grocery stores or were all clustered in one area of the store. At the moment, the cool and frozen products tend to be together in their respective sections (albeit sprinkled together with vegetarian and gluten free and low fat – all things very much not vegan or just irrelevant to veganism) but the other products are often dotted around the store. Probably the former idea of a bright tag would be better as you cruise around the store, but either way I’m sure there are countless products that I simply miss which is unfair to the producer….and to mah belly! 😂

To end on a positive note though, I’m very thankful for all the people that are doing their best to give vegans a growing bounty of options! One day soon we’ll see a real respect by stores, food companies and the general public alike in accepting vegan foods as a genuinely profitable area worth exploiting at the benefit of our planet, our animals and us. 😊

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