Can you celebrate Thanksgiving without real drumsticks? I invited over three meat-eating yet open-minded friends to see if tofu could take the place of turkey.
I opened the green and white paper box and there it was, my first Tofurky. About the size of a cantaloupe, it was encased in thick plastic with metal ties on either end. Nestled beside it sat a container of frozen "giblet" gravy of a brown-gray hue.
Having never cooked any type of Thanksgiving feast myself—my mother usually does it all, with a real turkey—I was relieved to find detailed instructions on the box.
First I made the basting mixture, three parts olive oil to one part soy sauce. Then I lined a casserole dish with aluminum foil, placed the Tofurky in the middle, and surrounded it with cut-up carrots and potatoes (the instructions even explain how to slice the vegetables).
I drizzled half the basting mixture over the contents, covered them with aluminum foil, and baked them in my convection oven at 350 degrees for an hour and 15 minutes. Then I basted the contents again and let them cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
The Taste Test
There was no need to make dressing—the "roast" came stuffed with a seasoned mixture of wild rice and brown rice. As for the gravy, after two minutes in the microwave and some perfunctory stirring, it turned a warm brown color. It contained healthy-looking slices of mushrooms.
And the skin, or in this case, outer layer, of the roast had turned a nice shade of brown as well. Don't ask me how the Tofurky folks got it to look and smell like the real deal—they make it from tofu and wheat gluten seasoned with lemon juice and soy sauce.
The bewitching hour had arrived. I placed the casserole dish on the counter for guests to serve themselves. My friends Melissa, Sarah, and Emanuel took platefuls of the Tofurky, gravy, and cranberry sauce (not included in the Tofurky kit I used, which retails for $11.99).
I heard forks and knives moving back and forth, but my guests said nothing. They did, however, keep eating, a good sign.
"Well?" I said.
"This totally tastes like real turkey," Sarah said.
"I would have never known it was tofu," said Melissa. "I'm a dark-meat person. This looks like white meat, but it's more flavorful."
But Does It Make You Sleepy?
With my guests apparently happy, I took a plateful of the Tofurky and trimmings myself. Everything tasted great. The gravy and stuffing were almost as good as my mother's, and the roast could have fooled me.
Not everyone present was a fool for Tofurky, though. "This wouldn't have tricked me for a minute," said Emanuel, the only man in the quartet. "I could tell it's not turkey."
Nonetheless, 10 minutes later, he had cleaned his plate and gone back for a second helping. I think that says it all.
Click here to read about the growing business of creating vegetarian alternatives to traditional holiday favorites.
Click here to see a slide show featuring more vegetarian substitutes for meat and dairy products.