We’re trying to eat more thoughtfully these days. I still like Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” My brother has been trying to follow a mostly vegan diet for a while now, and while I don’t think I want to give up meat entirely, and I know for a fact I don’t want to give up dairy and eggs, it has made me think about including more meat alternatives in our weekly meal plans.
It has not gone unnoticed. A week or so ago, one of the boys walked into the kitchen and eyed a few pots and pans full of a new recipe I was trying out. “Is there any meat in this meal?” he asked with not-so thinly veiled suspicion, and a very slight linguistic thump on the word meat. One week I had so many misses in a row that I stopped on the way home from work one day to pick up hot dogs and Doritos for dinner by way of apology and to mollify the masses before they started a revolution against the cook.
And then, I crossed a line. I admit in hindsight that it was a mistake, but give myself high marks for optimism. I thought I could pass off veggie dogs for “real” hot dogs. Spoiler alert: epic fail. Epic. But more about that in a minute.
It actually took me a bit to find veggie dogs. I don’t know where they hide them in my regular grocery store, and I had to ask for help finding them in Farm Boy. (If you don’t learn your lesson in my cautionary tale, you’ll find them in the dairy aisle.) So I pick up a pack and I know the name brand is one that I’ve seen folks speak poorly of, but there’s only one brand available and I figure I’ll give it a whirl. I take a look at the ingredient list and I’m troubled. First, it’s about 50 ingredients long. Second, I can identify very few of them as actual food. So now I’m conflicted. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” But you never know if you don’t try, right?
The minute I tear open the package, I know I’m doomed. There is no. way. these are going to masquerade as regular hot dogs. The texture is… wrong. The edges where they pressed together in the package are too hard and the corners too sharp. Hot dogs should not have sharp corners. But the grill is preheated and everything else is ready to go, so I forge ahead.
The situation does not improve. They don’t behave like hot dogs on the grill. I’ve had turkey, chicken, beef and pork variations of hot dogs on the grill, and these don’t cook like any of them. They don’t FEEL like any of them.
So I figure maybe if I char them real good, it will hide the “not dog”-ness of them. And then, to my dismay, they don’t really char evenly so much as develop carbuncles.
Not dogs indeed.
Well, I’m in too deep to quit now, so I serve them up. I’ve let Beloved in on the secret, but casually deflect the boys’ questions about the provenance of the not-dogs. “Is this a new kind of hot dog, Mom?” and I nod, traitorously ambiguous.
And then I take a bite of one and it’s – wrong. So wrong. I mean, I am not a hot dog or sausage purist by any stretch of the imagination, but I know for a fact I should not have to work that hard to get through the skin of the wiener and the texture is… wrong. A level of wrong even I cannot overlook. And they’re utterly flavourless. The boys have been taught not to be overly critical, and if they don’t like something, their feedback should be along the lines of “this isn’t really to my taste” as opposed to “ewww, gross!” I would have forgiven them if they transgressed, but their comments are carefully equivocal: “I find the texture a little offputting” and “are you sure these are hot dogs?”
The asparagus I’ve grilled to go with the not-dogs disappears quickly. Buns are picked off and eaten. Nobody reaches for a second helping. When I confess later, the boys are outraged in a hilarious and understandable sort of way. This experience has become a bit of family lore that I suspect will stay with us.
And so we learned. Yves brand, at least, is “not to our taste”. I’d be willing to try again (shhhh, don’t tell the boys!) if you have a favourite brand of veggie dogs or sausages that mimic at least a little bit more closely the experience of an actual hot dog or sausage. And, ideally, have more actual food bits in the much shorter ingredient list.
I’ll have to bide my time, though. That’s okay, I can be patient and ply them with real hot dogs until their sense of trust is re-established. I’m in for the long haul.