"It tastes like real meat, honestly. You'll love it!"
Thus spoke our earnest vegetarian dining companions. Pete had asked me tag along to a dinner, and seeing an opportunity to eat food that I didn't have to cook, I happily obliged. When I asked where we were going she said, "It's some vegetarian place where they have stuff that tastes and looks like real meat but it isn't." Hmmm.
While the others carefully pondered the menu, Pete and I sniggered at the illustrations. There was a photo of the chef with a big fake grin, his arms spread wide displaying his delightful range of big fake food. There were chicken drumsticks, prawns, spare ribs and even lobster! All carefully moulded into the appropriate shapes from tofu and whatnot.
There was something interesting on the menu called Mocked Chicken. Prepared fresh from their big vat of Mock out the back I suppose. Or as someone suggested, maybe the chef yells at the poor little fakeass chicken, "Oh you are crap! You're not a real chicken!" and that gives the dish its mocked goodness.
We let the vegetarians pick the dishes, but had to choose our own entree. I went with the Curry Puffs, nothing in those would need to be imitated. But brave Pete chose the "Chicken" Drumsticks.
And what a bizarre concoction they were. Layer upon layer of something that resembled a bandage wrapped around a paddlepop-stick drumstick. Pete ate very slowly and carefully and smiled very slowly and carefully.
"Isn't it great!" beamed one of the vegetarians, "It's just the real thing, the texture, the skin…" (… the paddlepop stick!)
"Yes!" said Pete with alarming conviction. "It really does taste like chicken!"
The mains were interesting. There was Honey "Chicken" and Mongolian "Lamb" and Asam "Fish". It was even moulded into a fish shape. I expected they'd put a thousand toothpicks inside it to simulate pesky fish bones, but no. It looked quite fishy, but no fish I know wobbles back and forth in spongy fashion when you try to cut it.
The "chicken" was actually alright, except for the way it dissolved in my mouth after one bite. The "lamb" wasn't very lamby but not too bad.
Then they urged us to try the Chili Mushroom dish. "This one is so wild and hot, you'll have really wacky dreams tonight. And it's funny, the mushrooms taste more like beef than mushrooms."
It was like a mouthful of shoe. Hot chilli shoe. Why did they feel the need to fake a mushroom? What's wrong with a real mushroom?
But overall it wasn't too bad. Before I knew it, the impatient waitresses had snatched our plates away and we were out in the chilly night, chatting away. I felt my stomach twinge slightly.
Back in the car, I asked Pete how did she like her drumsticks.
"They were fucking disgusting!"
"Oh! Thank god!"
"What about that bit where they said I bet you could put this food in front of a meat eater and they wouldn't know the difference!?"
"Ha! Yes! If it wasn't for the paddlepop stick, I wouldn't have known!"
We fled to the pub to cleanse our palettes, but this only increased the tumbledryer turbulence in the tummy. I feel much better today, but I think I am all Mocked out for the rest of my life.