The Plant-Based Patty That Even My Carnivore Parents Can’t Get Enough Of

published Aug 4, 2020
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Ever since I abandoned eating meat in 2017, returning home to my parents’ house has meant sitting at our traditional Southern family dinner table surrounded by grilled burgers, ribs, and bacon-laden side dishes — while eating takeout. 

“Why would you possibly do something like that?” my mother always asked me about my decision to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle, afraid I’d “never be able to eat anything.” In her eyes, I was setting myself up for a bland diet of limited options (especially proteins), and she worried about my overall health.

Over the past three years, however, I discovered just the opposite on my own, and fell into a rhythm of Mediterranean tofu scrambles, vegetable curries, and other meatless-yet-protein-packed meals. I’ve even managed to reach a point where I no longer miss the down-home, meaty dishes of my Southern childhood. 

My family, still confused by my decision to go meatless, didn’t join me on my trial-and-error journey to find yummy vegetarian meals. So when the spread of COVID-19 became increasingly worse, and my option to live alone in a pricey Washington D.C. apartment wasn’t looking as good, I was worried about moving back in with my meat-eating family. Would I ditch the vegetarian diet that I’d worked so hard to grow comfortable with over the years? Would moving down South again mean having to become the family meal disruptor? 

Upon moving back home, however, I stumbled upon a certain meatless “chicken” patty in the frozen aisle at the grocery store that somehow helped to bridge the gap between our two worlds. Who knew MorningStar Farms’ Buffalo Chik Patties could unite vegetarians and carnivores alike?

Buy: MorningStar Farms’ Buffalo Chik Patties, $3.67 for four at Walmart

Credit: Tori B. Powell

My family was having regular chicken sandwiches for dinner, so I decided to make a faux one of my own. While the bag recommends cooking the breaded discs in either the oven or microwave, I pan-fried one over medium heat in order to maximize its crunch potential. Once pan-fried, I paired the Buffalo-spiced patty with Aldi’s Tuscan Garden’s Spicy Ranch (because my Southern roots call for serious heat). To cool things off, I added fresh spinach leaves, sliced tomato, pickles, cheese, a bun, and avocado on the side. (Photo above!)

While I wasn’t eating the same exact dinner as my family, I didn’t feel bad in the slightest. They had their own chicken burgers to enjoy, why would they need faux ones? I guess their curiosity was piqued though (maybe because my sandwich looked so good), because soon enough my family put their meat-loving pride aside and decided to taste my Chik burger for themselves.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for them to taste it. I hadn’t had meat in three years and wondered if I had lost my ability to judge comparisons to real meat. As fried chicken experts, I knew that my family would be tough nuts to crack, but shockingly rave reviews poured in. 

“That tastes real!” my once-critical mother exclaimed. “Are you sure this is plant-based?” my unbelievably picky sister asked. 

After the sandwich surprise, I think my decision to become vegetarian began to make a tad bit more sense to my family. A simple frozen meatless patty was the quarantine catalyst that not only provided me with another wildly good meat alternative, but also opened up my family’s eyes to the idea that vegetarian food can be both yummy and sustainable. 

Have you given these a try? Is there another meat alternative that’s so good it surprised you?