I Switched My Family to Plant-Based Meat and My Teenage Son Still Doesn’t Know
And don't you dare tell him.
This story is part of The Food & Wine Guide to Plant-Based Meat.
A decade ago, when I started eating a health-conscious, plant-based diet, my six-year-old son was none the wiser. Back then, he was open-minded when it came to food and would eat anything I served. Tofu scrambles, Boca Burgers, and even "crab-less" crab cakes, he loved it all. My commitment to strict veganism came and went over the years, but I could always count on him to follow along with my flexitarian meals.
Fast forward to high school, and my son's teenage hormones and adult-sized hunger have kicked into full gear. His palate craves the Dollar Menu rather than the diverse array of healthy, flavorful food I'm inclined to cook (though I can always count on him inhaling the vegetarian Paneer Tikka Masala from Trader Joe's frozen section). He suddenly stopped liking fish—unless it was deep fried—and absolutely refuses to eat tofu. To pile on, my now-husband likes to eat healthy but vowed to never eat a restrictive, plant-based diet after our second date at a so-so vegan restaurant. I've found myself making multiple meals just so we can all enjoy dinner together.
RELATED: The Food & Wine Guide to Tofu
When the pandemic hit and we started eating every meal at home, I knew I couldn't keep up the routine of cooking something different for everyone. I started experimenting with Impossible, a plant-based meat that was introduced through restaurants that had become available at our local grocery store. I was thrilled. I started with something simple—sliders—which I seasoned just like I would beef. I added different toppings and condiments on each one to make them a little fancy. They were a hit, and my husband refused to believe it wasn't ground beef. And my son loved them, though I failed to mention to him that they were plant-based meat. Once the sliders were a hit, we graduated to tacos. I followed my gut, and seasoned and sautéed the Impossible meat exactly as I would if I were cooking ground beef for tacos.
The Impossible meat always seemed to be in short supply at my grocery store, so I would buy every single pack they had available at the store and loaded up my deep freezer at home. At the time, I was on a break from eating any red meat and, as we all sat down to dinner together, my son would make comments like, "Mom, I can't believe you're eating these tacos—what is this your cheat day?!" And there it was, I had that baby tricked. He truly believed he was eating "regular" tacos and my evil plan (muahaha!) had been a success.
In the months since, I've experimented with all different brands and types of plant-based meat, serving them as burgers, in casseroles and spaghetti sauce, dan dan noodles, and—the whole family's favorite—my not-so-nonna's lasagna, layered with a super-satisfying Bolognese-style sauce. My son, after second and third helpings, still has no idea.