Tofurky. For years, my knowledge of this longstanding but still somewhat controversial commercial vegan holiday festive protein lump was restricted to “hehe, funny word,” followed by endless conversations punctuated with the ultimate vegan diss: “Tofurky you!”
Last year, this changed. One of my best BC girlfriends and I picked up the Tofurky Feast–the soy and gluten-based roast, accompanied by a chocolate loaf I viewed with suspicion, a premade gravy I suspected I could make better myself, and the Tofurky Jerky Wishstix (a nod to the wishbone tradition that doesn’t actually involve snapping a formerly living creature’s sternum and hoping to get good luck out of it…more on the Wishstix later).
The directions said “thaw for at least 24 hours in the fridge”. My girlfriend is at least as hardheaded as me (perhaps more), so we got down to the culinary disobedience right away, and melted that bad boy to within an acceptable margin of thaw by pouring boiling water on it and massaging the plastic-wrapped lump for 15 minutes. Such renegades.
Perhaps treating an actual frozen turkey lump that way might result in some sort of bacterial tragedy, or not being able to get the giblets out of the cavity. Since our Tofurky was filled with wild rice stuffing, and not sticky innards and a fatty neck (thanks to teenage trauma from cleaning whole chickens, I remember too well that little treasure package in the centre of a raw bird), this wasn’t an issue. We cooked the Tofurkey in a hotter oven than recommended, seasoned it with more herbs than the box suggested, and started carving the ends off as soon as they began browning. And it was tastier than either of us expected, given very mixed (alright, mostly bad) online reviews, which we attributed to the fact that we:
a. know how to season food, and:
b. were very hungry.
My verdict back then: Tofurky was best smothered in the gravy, snuggled with cranberry sauce, and served with roasted sides (we did potatoes, onions, and apples). As for the other parts of the Tofurky Feast pack, the cake was better than it looked, quite moist and very chocolatey. The Tofurky Jerky wishstix were the nastiest thing I’ve tasted in a long time…bitter, overly chewy, and about as palatable as gnawing, well, an actual wishbone. The presence of the word “Jerky” was probably the hint I missed. My friend and I pulled the wishstix apart, and I got the biggest piece, which I thought made me a winner. Then I tasted it, and realized I had lost, and that no wishes were likely to come true there, unless you count her wish for a good laugh, which was granted as she saw my face gnawing leathery pressed soy.
With this mixed success as a backdrop, I decided to tackle Tofurky roast again this Thanksgiving, since schedules meant no weekend dinner with fella’s family, since my neighbourhood Choices put it on sale, and since fella uttered those dangerous words: “I’ve never tried that.” I got the roast alone, as I figured I could make my own darn gravy (with less sodium), didn’t need to eat half a chocolate cake, and couldn’t be paid to be within six feet of those wishstix again.
A solid two and a half hours of kitchen activity later, the resultant feast.
I broke out my Bahama Prints placemats, the two china plates I bought for the very first dinner I made fella, three years ago, and the Lingenberry sauce (like cranberry sauce, but much sweeter), a nod to his Svedish stock. And we chowed down.
I don’t think Tofurky roast is his new favourite dish, but he ate it happily enough, had a second helping, and rated it higher than seitan or tofu, which isn’t bad, since Tofurky is basically soy and seitan combined, wrapped around a stuffing, and shaped into a lump. I think that’s how Tofurky works. It provides a familiarish shape and vaguely reminiscent (if rather salty) flavour when a holiday rolls around, but an average cook can provide something much healthier and tastier from scratch, the rest of the year through.
All things considered, I’m calling Tofurky an okay-to-kinda-fun experiment, for adventurous diners, for novelty, and for those willing to season it with plenty of extra herbs. In the end, it left me thankful. For those extra seasonings. For a guy openminded enough to try a commercial vegan holiday festive protein lump. For the friend I first tried Tofurky with. For its funny and naughty-sounding but not actually banned on network TV name. And most of all, thankful that I didn’t have to eat wishstix again.