Vegetarian Revelations at Fry’s Family Food Tasting Event

Being a vegetarian used to be a crock.

My grandmother, an obstinately independent woman was a vegetarian for many, many years before she passed away at 95 (so she was doing something right). On a trip to Russia in the late eighties, she essentially survived on boiled potatoes and green beans for weeks. There weren’t a lot of alternatives, nor patience, for vegetarians back then.

Here’s my confession: I used to be a vegetarian. I managed to stick to pescatarianism for a full year last year before Braeside Butchery’s ridiculously moreish lamb chops corrupted my goodwill, and before that I didn’t eat meat from the age of 13 till about 23.

At this time I split with my college boyfriend (also a strict vegetarian) and in an act of broken-hearted defiance started tucking unrepentantly into the bloodiest steaks I could lay my hands on.

These days, Adam and I tend to follow what I think of as a ‘meat restrictor’s’ diet, or a term that my friend Rebecca has coined (or, more likely, stolen), a ‘conscientious consumer’ plan. We buy free range meat, eggs and chicken and only partake in the fish on SASSI’s green list. We try to have 2-3 meat-free suppers a week, including my home-made spinach lasagne that Adam has extremely mixed feelings about.

Needless to say, I am no stranger to Fry’s Family Foods as their hot dogs (my long-term favourite), sausages and burgers have formed a steady part of my diet for a long time. Ready from frozen in 8-15 minutes and fully microwaveable, Fry’s has always been a ‘convenience’ food in my eyes, but a poor second in terms of nutrition and taste to actual meat.

But apparently that’s because I’ve been doing it all wrong.

Last night, at the Fry’s tasting event that Syllable invited me to, under the guidance of Ashleigh Latouf, the self-proclaimed the bad tempered chef  I realised how incredibly versatile- and healthy- Fry’s really is.

I had always been guilty of following the instructions exactly as they were on the box and frying, microwaving or baking my Fry’s products exactly as I was told to- nothing more.

But I learnt last night that a little imagination goes a long way.

You wouldn’t expect anyone to enjoy a plate of boring, bland, boiled chicken, and the same goes for Fry’s products. Ashleigh’s clever chef skills cooked up a menu of vegetarian and vegan delights using products that I was familiar with, but with a level of innovation that my own kitchen has never seen.

From a selection of mini-burgers, to the deliciously creative crispy chicken balls, to a mouth-watering lamb-style curry with all the trimmings, it was a complete re-education in cooking with meat substitutes for me- and one I’m really glad I got.

Martha eats a burger.

Martha tries to eat a burger in peace. LOL, nope.


Suck on my crispy chicken balls

Suck on my crispy chicken balls

We ate all of these things (except the lady on the left- it was a vegetarian evening after all).

We ate all of these things (except the lady on the left- it was a vegetarian evening after all).

The fine folks from Fry’s not only watered, wined and fed us, but they sent us home with 2 new cook books full of exciting ideas on how to use their products, and a whole bag of Fry’s goodies to experiment with.

I'm gonna start cooking all these things just as soon as I finish my wine...

I’m gonna start cooking all these things just as soon as I finish my wine…

In addition to being really, surprisingly delicious when cooked properly, here are a few things I also learnt about Fry’s:

–          They are NOT made of soya. There is only about 15% soya in any of the products, the rest being a textured vegetable protein coming from a variety of grains, legumes and magical unicorn dust, I guess… I was too busy filling my face to make a note of all of the ingredients

–          They are MSG, cholesterol and preservative free

–          With 8 essential amino acids crammed into every product, Fry’s is a complete vegan protein

–          They are a proudly South African brand, starting in the Fry’s family kitchen in Durban in 1991, and now with a presence in 23 countries (take that, Nando’s)

–          Many of the products (you’ll have to check the labels) are relatively low in carbohydrates and can be used for weight management- although I have to argue here that even vegan pies are still pies…

–          Cost wise, most of the products are comparable or cheaper than their meat alternatives (depending where you buy your meat).

Now that I have the inspiration, the cook books and the products, there’s no excuse not to start cooking up a vegan storm more often.

Although if I could kidnap Ashleigh instead, and keep her chained up in my kitchen as my own personal vegan food slave, I feel like this would be a more time-effective plan, from my perspective at least.

Ashleigh, just prior to her impending abduction and kitchen captivity.

Ashleigh, just prior to her impending abduction and kitchen captivity.

You can visit Ashleigh’s charming Coffee Shoppe for sweet treats, cooking tutelage and her infamous lunchtime buffet on the 2nd floor of the Morning Glen Shopping Centre.

And then check out Fry’s website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to see what they’ve got on the shelves.

Some kind of collage... but is it art?

Some kind of collage.

You can pick up Fry’s in the frozen veg section of Pick n’ Pay. Steers, Spurs and Kauai also use them in their vegetarian menu items if you’re not the type for home cooking.

I already recycle my trash, grow my own veggies and compost what we don’t eat….Eating less meat and more tasty vegetarian food is just one more pro-planet change that seems easy enough to swallow, especially after this event.