Impossible Foods Makes Sustainable Dining and Burgers Hip Again
I’m in a bit of a conundrum at this moment.
A week ago, I locked lips with an Impossible Burger by local sandwich guru, Park Bench Deli. It was good, not the kind of mind-blowing affair that would leave you weak in the knees for days, but a refreshing change. When I got back, I stripped off my clothes, ran the water to take a long hot bath and rinsed my mouth thoroughly. I felt dirty. And ashamed, sullied and ruined amongst many things.
And then the sordid affair happened again. This time, my tongue did a passionate tango with Three Bun’s Impossible Cheddar; the trifecta of melted cheese, onion puree and ‘meat’ spurring me to undo the top button of my pants. Sweating a little off the grill, it held my gaze unabashedly over a shaken Gin and Passionfruit cocktail. I could feel my skin tingle. I held the burger with both hands, and after a little rumble, tumble and shake, finished it off with a bit of a parlour trick tossed my way. I pressed a napkin gingerly to my cheek to wipe up the evidence, a lick of lips around the mouth uncovering flavours that allowed me to re-live the erotic passion. My gaze falls on my forearm where through glazed eyes, I recognised an image of a beefy former lover. My mind reeled. Cheating was the last thing I had expected to do. And to make matters worse, said subject of affection didn’t even have a heart. “It’s a fucking plant! Jesus…”, exclaims Chef Adam Peeney. I know. How did we stray so far?
I’ll admit, I’ve always found it odd that I gravitated towards the meaty stacks. Just the sight of wax paper clung to those ripping hot curves alone will send me crawling across the dinner table in an attempt to lower myself (albeit quite aggressively) onto its lap. For me, they aren’t only a tasty fast food treat, they deserve a shrine. I reflect on the tangibles, juicy patties sporting a solid sear, soft cute buns, melty cheese for good humour —what’s there not to love?
Then along comes this dark horse—SoCal and in true stereotype, seemingly smug and your know it all hippie. Avocado ain’t got nothing on it. Why are we so smitten?
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this. Impossible Burger was the brainchild of Pat Brown, chief executive officer of multi-million dollar enterprise Impossible Foods. And their sole mission is to figure out how to replace animals as a technology for food production.
Like it or not, you can’t hide from the fact that the meat industry is unsustainable. Deforestation to make room for export markets, energy consumption of cattle starting from the infant feeding stages and extending into the twilight moments of refrigeration and cooking, agricultural waste from rearing; all these are just the tip of the iceberg. What Impossible Foods sets out to do is truly noble—developing a better, more sustainable way to produce food without compromising on the actual value of deliciousness. And in this case, the heme protein being the indispensable key in the equation.
So here we have a dairy and plant-based meat product that’s much more resource efficient—only using a quarter of the water, 1/20th the land, 1/8th the greenhouse emissions, so on and so forth. From the get-go, great for the environment (our great grandchildren are secured a possible chance of actually seeing these great beasts that once steered awesome burgers in history books). But have you seen the prices on these alternatives? Case in point, The Impossible Dream set at $27 whilst my all-time favourite Smokin’ B-oy fuelled by Black Angus beef patty and treacle streaky bacon, a hefty $23 at Potato Head Folk. How is this then accessible to the public? But what truly befuddles me is how Impossible Foods has managed to make eating mock meats (at a more far-out price tag) fashionable again?
Vegan sausage rolls and the emergence of plant-based meat may seem like a recent phenomenon, but meat substitute dishes are deeply rooted in Chinese cooking. The need for ‘temple cuisine’ deploying gluten, tempeh (soybean) or tofu as a replacement for flesh in medieval China. There are records from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) that depict lavish banquets serving imitation pork and mutton dishes made from greens. Medieval. Earth to y’all, fake meat isn’t a contemporary Western thing, it’s Chinese.
Fast forward a millennium and the market is starting to fill up with a new wave of entrepreneurs and investors in an R&D race to create meat substitutes for the world’s burgeoning population. Keep up will you? They’re not just for socialising under a strict ideological vegetarianism anymore, but for the sake of our dire global climate. Impossible Foods isn’t just targeting vegetarians, they are redefining meat and drawing in the carnivores in hopes that they will diversify their palates. It’s brilliant. The campaign’s extension to work with restaurants known for their meat dishes from White Castle in the states to luxe dining options like CUT by Wolfgang Puck and Bread Street Kitchen on our local shores; is an intellectual insight into their strategies. However, right now in its infant stages, the company is experiencing a trajectory whilst juggling managing technological costs with producing ‘meat’—hence, the exorbitant price tags. But we forsee, with greater economies of scale and supply chain efficiencies, prices will dip and they might just be able to pull off producing the ‘cheapest meats on the market’.
So this is my beef with Impossible Foods—a cross-section of the Impossible Cheddar, subtract the alluring nirvana of melted cheese and onion puree looked exactly like the real deal. Juicy innards still a blushing pink in the centre, either the work of a bleepin’ grill maestro or riding on the benefits of zero muscle fibres. Blindfolded (just the way I like it during foreplay), I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. Gratification and wet lips later, there was no need for pretending, much less time to develop a hankering for beef in the midst of the solicitation. Impossible Foods, you have challenged my personal limits to the fulfilment monogamy has to offer, and even the most solid of food relationships I’ve known is now on shaky grounds. We can talk about this till the cows come home, but for now, Impossible Burger has proven to be a strong suitor, one that won my mind (currently tango-ing with the climatic impact of my lifestyle choices), and more importantly, my mouth.