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We're not vegetarian, but we're cutting down on our meat intake in an effort to be healthier. Quorn was recommended to me as a high-protein chicken and beef substitute. It tastes exactly like chicken/beef, so spake the recommendation sources.

Quorn ("kworn") is a mycoprotein product manufactured by Marlow Foods in the UK. Mycoprotein is a fungus, but it's not a mushroom (as Marlow Foods originally described). Very quickly: fungus is a class of things to which mushrooms and other organisms belong. Because it has a lot of the same properties as protein, it forms strands that look a lot like meat. I don't think it's yucky; I have no problems eating anything that is deemed "food" or "safe for consumption", whatever it happens to be. But in reading about what it is, I'm a bit uncomfortable with it.

The very fact that it's a meat substitute makes me hesitate. I have two issues with that.

First of all, there's no sense in that kind of dishonesty and self-trickery. If I were to make the decision to not eat meat, it would be incredibly lame of me to purposely seek out something that tastes exactly like it, but isn't. Setting the clock way ahead to avoid being late is a behaviour that also falls into this category. To me, "lying to myself" is a sign of lack of self-discipline which I view as a weakness that is to be overcome.

My ass-backwards personal judgments aside...

Secondly, from the sounds of it, Margarine, Aspartame, Olestra and other simulations/substitutes have been really bad news.

Since learning about nutrition and general health issues, I have learned to evaluate new foods with the questions: "Is it naturally occurring?" and "Were we meant to eat it, as harvested, with little to no processing?"

Mycoprotein is naturally occurring; it was discovered in the soil in Marlow, England, sometime in the 60s when there was a perceived worldwide protein shortage. My understanding is that scientists generally point and laugh hysterically at this hypothesis now.

But mycoprotein is a saprobiont, which (I think) means it is a microorganism that feeds off of non-living or decaying organic material. It belongs somewhere in the process of decomposing organic waste and turning it into something that enriches soil... or ruins the soil, I dunno. With the little understanding I have as to its role in the small scheme of things, it doesn't sound like it was meant to be eaten directly.

But I suppose you could say the same of bread, butter, cheese, pasta and beer. Incidentally, all of those cause problems in excess too.

With respect to the processing, it's manufactured through a fermentation process that Marlow Foods says is similar to the process to make yoghurt. How much trust do I have in a company that tried to say mycoprotein is a mushroom? That's like saying a Chevy Tahoe is a compact convertible. I have trouble with their use of the word "similar".

It's very easy for the marketing/business side of things to overcome any principles of health and nutrition.

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Comments

( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
karinakarina
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:04 am (UTC)
i don't think of it as a "meat substitute" but an "alternative soruce of protein."
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, we may try it one day, if I can find it.
ntang
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:18 am (UTC)
I tend to feel the same way about fake meat. If you're being a vegetarian and giving up meat, then just give up meat. And if you can't live without dipping into the meat (or meat-like) pool, then get off your damn high horse about it all.

But hey, I'm fundamentally opposed to the concept of being a vegetarian, heh. It just seems wrong to limit yourself that way. I mean, c'mon. All life is beautiful, and God created chickens to be eaten. Why the hell do you think he gave them drumsticks? Why are cows made of steak? Same thing. God wants us to eat them.

Damn.
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:21 am (UTC)
That's exactly it. Look at our teeth: it's very obvious that humans were meant to eat meat.
pne
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:30 am (UTC)
How much trust do I have in a company that tried to say mycoprotein is a mushroom?

*shrugs* That sounds to me like putting it into terms that (a) the general public is more likely to have heard of and (b) the general public, if it knows both words, is less likely to have an averse reaction to (since "fungus" to me sounds more like "athlete's foot" or "mould", even though I know logically that edible mushrooms also belong in there). I think it's merely an overgeneralisation, not necessarily intended to mislead.

My experience with Quorn itself is limited to having eaten it a couple of times in Switzerland, since Stella's father's wife buys it.
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, I hear it's been in Europe for over 10 years. We might try it just to see, but personally, I'd give it a while in North America.
(Deleted comment)
diannadinoble
Feb. 10th, 2005 12:55 pm (UTC)
Olestra - *cringe*

I think I may have had a weaker digestive system, the results were ... not good to say the least and spare the details. Your're dead on about the additives in a 'meat substitute', mass produced subsittutes have scary-long lists of ingredients. I prefer sticking to the tofu based substitutes that the processing is focused more on the texture than the taste. TVP and the like is usually pretty low on the ingredients and processing scale.

Bride: ""Is it naturally occurring?" and "Were we meant to eat it, as harvested, with little to no processing?"" That's a pretty good rule of thumb!

Totally unrelated, by the way, I have suddenly found myself making those 'ants on a log (?)' as a snack as inspired by a post of yours a year or more ago. We had celery in the fridge for some reason and I instantly remembered the picture you posted when you were trying to get Husband Guy to understand that it's an actual snack.

anyhoo, moving right along...
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 08:48 pm (UTC)
spare the details

*scrunch face* I'd heard the same thing in other articles as well.
bride
Feb. 11th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
It's fatty acids that cannot be digested.

I think that's what bothers me about Olestra. If it can't be digested, why on earth am I putting it in my mouth and swallowing it? And even if it's not digested, I'm not entirely convinced that it can't do harm to my body with or without showing symptoms.
(Deleted comment)
bride
Feb. 11th, 2005 02:07 am (UTC)
It's not as if I go out and eat Olestra chips all the live long day. I tried one bag and that was enough to sate my curiosity.

I know, I wasn't slagging you, just offering my reasons =)

1. Dietary fibre is naturally occurring in food that is not processed [much] and we demonstrably need it in the right amounts to function normally. It does cause health problems if we don't get enough.

2. I don't think taste should take precedence over health and nutrition. And I know I'm in the minority on this one. Taste of food is not a priority at all to me.

3. It's general knowledge that you're not supposed to swallow gum. Olestra is marketed as something you're supposed to swallow.
(Deleted comment)
bride
Feb. 11th, 2005 06:46 am (UTC)
Ever drink a diet soda? Cheezits? Any kind of processed food? Fast food?

Never, nope, not anymore and not anymore. And I've always avoided milk of any kind (I involuntarily gag at the smell and taste). I think I've kicked coffee for good now that I'm in acupuncture and it would be readily apparent if I did.

Dear, it's just the world we live in.

But rather than resign to it, we can do our best from here on out and make our decisions with the information we have.
jenny_rambles
Feb. 10th, 2005 09:41 am (UTC)
I really like a lot of the stuff I find in the veggie section of the freezer stuff. They have these black bean burgers (All black beans and onion and stuff) that are awesome. :)
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
Ooo, black bean burgers... that sounds interesting, thanks =)
science_vixen
Feb. 10th, 2005 05:09 pm (UTC)
Actually the tiny bits of quorn work quite well as replacement ground meat in pasta sauces and the like.

Another recipe I used to do with quorn was to cut a paprika in half (and clean it out), fill it with tiny baked quorn bits, add a little olive oil and place a plaque of cheese on top. about 10 minutes in the oven. YUM! ^^
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
That sounds good, I should try it some time, thanks =)
science_vixen
Feb. 11th, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
Mind you, the tiny bits taste a lot better then the larger pieces.
kaseido
Feb. 10th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC)
I've been vegetarian for a *very* long time - not for moral reasons so much as my system just really lost the ability to handle meat.

I also thought that the meat substitutes were ridiculous in principle. But Allie started getting them, to get more protein into my diet. I've come to like them quite a lot, not as "substitutes" for particular foodstuffs I have no interest in, but as their own tasty things.

Quorn I've found sort of nasty, but I'm a big devotee of the Morningstar Farms products. Frex, I never really cared for sausage in my carnivore days, but I find their veggie breakfast sausage to have a very nice blend of spices, and an interesting texture. One of my very favorite foods is their spicy buffalo wings - which bear no resemblance whatsoever to the staple bar food, but are a terrific finger snack for working evenings.

I *still* don't like the "fake duck," etc. in some vegetarian Chinese restaurants - there the fakery just strikes me as too absurd. But with the veggie products, I can take them as their own category, rather than as an attempt to recreate something else.

Hope that makes some measure of sense -
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC)
So, you've essentially become allergic or intolerant to meat? That's very interesting... That could be a major evolutionary step. You're a more evolved monkey than the rest of us! =)

But Allie started getting them, to get more protein into my diet.

I wonder if there really was a need for that because it seems like a lot of vegetarian-friendly foods contain protein anyway... unless you're also lactose intolerant, that would cut down on the things you can eat by quite a bit.
kaseido
Feb. 10th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC)
So, you've essentially become allergic or intolerant to meat? That's very interesting... That could be a major evolutionary step. You're a more evolved monkey than the rest of us! =)

LOL! Now, if I could only eat toxic waste or spam emails, *that'd* be a real evolutionary breakthrough! XD

There are definitely enough veg-friendly protein sources - but you have to graph them against variety and laziness with respect to prep time! :-)
bride
Feb. 10th, 2005 08:34 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see =)
athanata
Feb. 15th, 2005 07:56 pm (UTC)
QUORN is baaaaaaaaaad baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad news. it's more mold then fungus and it makes some people (my friend megan's fiance for one) VIOLENTLY, VIOLENTLY ill. stay aweaaaay from the fungus

step baaaack from the fungus.
bride
Feb. 16th, 2005 01:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, I've been reading that it causes really bad allergic reactions in some people.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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