Children of the Quorn
Ugandan dictator and alleged cannibal Idi Amin reportedly once remarked that human flesh tastes like chicken. If Amin’s palate was accurate (and who would argue the point?), then human flesh also tastes like Quorn because Quorn tastes like chicken.
Available in Europe since 1991, Quorn (pronounced kworn) is made from fungi, also known as mycoprotein, that was discovered in soil near the English village of Marlow — coincidentally, once the home of romantic poet and avid vegetarian Percy Shelley. Researchers found that the tiny fungus is difficult to grow commercially, except through fermentation, which apparently inspires it to multiply. When harvested, the company’s website, quorn.com, explains, fermented mycoprotein appears similar to bread dough and “because of the similarity between mycoprotein and meat fibers, Quorn products have a texture similar to that of lean meat ... ”
For once, this is truth in advertising. While not as juicy or greasy as a deep-fried thigh, nor slippery like a morel, Quorn patties combine the pleasant crunch of a light breading with the chewiness of meat. One patty is 160 calories and contains 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat, 4 of it monounsaturated, which can help lower cholesterol. (Vegans, unfortunately, are out of luck. The patties contain milk and eggs; those allergic to wheat and soy also should beware.)
Granted, KFC and Church’s fans, mouthwashed into believing that the factory-farmed birds they’re wolfing down count as nutritious food, might disagree. Yet, stuffed between two buns, topped with a slice of tomato and a slab of mayo, Quorn is a reasonable facsimile of real chicken, but without those pesky animal-rights issues: the de-beaking, cramped cages, and brutal deaths that inevitably await the young fryers. •
By Lisa Sorg