This week, I'm doing something a little different. I'm pitting a fake meat product directly against real meat to see what kinds of differences I can observe. So here we go. I made two boxes of Hamburger Helper (Cheeseburger Macaroni), one with ground beef, the other with Boca crumbles. I did everything I could to cook them the same way, including browning the ground beef then removing it from the pan to cook the noodles and sauce separately, so I wouldn't over-beef the sauce and bias the results. The only thing I forgot is that the Boca crumbles are frozen, as opposed to the Smart Ground crumbles I had used before, so I overcooked the noodles a bit, waiting for the crumbles to thaw and warm. Oops.
I also had a few help me eat all this food. Two were the pescetarians who inspired all this, one is my best friend who also sometimes eats fake meat, one was my totally meat-eating roommate, and last, but not least, my wife. We each took some of both types.
I'll be honest - they looked fairly similar, aside from the fake meat crumbles being shaped a bit like cat food. A little off-putting to make that comparison, but we ate it anyway. Once we smelled it, or tasted it, however, the differences were totally obvious. There's no sneaking this fake-meat meal past a carnivore.
So we dug in, fully aware of which was which. No blind taste test here, I'm afraid. The consensus seemed to be that both were good but the real meat was definitely better. One of the pescetarians mentioned that if she hadn't had them side-by-side she maybe wouldn't have noticed that the fake meat one was as different from real meat. So that's a good insight into learning to eat fake meat - don't ever eat real meat, and you'll start to like the fake meat version more.
Texture - The Boca crumbles were a little chewier than real meat, or maybe chewier in a slightly different way. More rubbery, less, for lack of a better word, meaty.
Flavor - The flavor of the Boca Helper was definitely very soy-ish, which makes sense. Not bad, overall.
Real meat Helper: A
Fake meat Helper: B+