What's for Lunch: Chicken Chips

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October 22, 2007

A while back, I was having drinks with friends and noshing on some of the most delicious potato chips I’d ever tasted. When I asked what kind they were, I was told…gulp…that they were roast-chicken flavored. Now, most processed foods that have meat flavors rarely contain meat products themselves, so I wasn’t all that worried (though I did ask to see the bag to check the ingredients).

The experience got me thinking. Why do people crave and love meaty flavors? I don’t know a single vegetarian who doesn’t enjoy a good veggie burger or a few slices of tempeh bacon. And you should see how excited the vegans I know get when they discover a new soy cheese that is creamy and melty like the real stuff. Is it because most of us were raised on meat and dairy and “miss” the taste? I’m not so sure. After all, a very good Jewish friend of mine who keeps Kosher loves to sprinkle her salads with Baco-Bits—though she’s never eaten a pork product in her life.

And is it wrong for a vegetarian to buy a product like roast chicken-flavored potato chips that is so openly pro-meat, even though it doesn’t contain a single animal product? I am feeling a twinge of guilt as I admit here that, yes, I have bought packages of chips with a cooked bird on the bag. I ate a handful with my sandwich today. But they’re so yummy and satisfying…I’d hate to have to give them up.

PS - Check back next week for the results of making mock "chicken" broth with whole fenugreek seeds. A chef friend of mine recommended them for adding the rich flavor and golden color you usually associate with chicken.

—Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor