Ah, FriChik. The metallic savor of this peculiarly Seventh Day Adventist delicacy brings me back to my childhood. I ate a lot of fake meat as a kid growing up SDA, and whenever I watched cartoons in which meat was eaten – I’m thinking particularly of one Duck Tails episode in which a dog-person tears into a gigantic drum-stick – I imagined that real meat, the kind I was forbidden to eat, would taste like salty, delicious FriChik, only chewier and more elastic.
The first time I recall eating an actual drum-stick (barbecued, at a pool party, at eight years old) I was surprised and not a little disappointed to discover that the genuine article didn’t taste anything like it did in the cartoons. More to the point, the texture was all wrong. Where I had anticipated a toothsome, springy mouthful, the chicken was moist and somewhat fibrous, and stuck a little to my teeth. You know, like chicken. I thought it would be the apotheosis of all the fake meats of my childhood, the logical extension of pretend-meat, possessing all of its artificially endowed flavor and amped-up salinity, but with a superior texture. How wrong I was. In time, of course, I came to appreciate the delights of real meat. When, at 12, I finally sampled an actual steak, cooked bloody, it was a revelation. The crunch of the seared outer crust, the sharp, illicit tang of iron, were beyond the wildest imaginings of the little vegetarian kid I had been. Drooling over all that cartoon meat, I’d had no idea what I was actually in for. Now, as a non-meat eater (I won’t call myself vegetarian, for various reasons that I won’t get into now) I still enjoy a little fake meat on occasion, although now that I’m older and wiser I realize that it belongs in its own ontological category, distinct from animal-derived meat. And in my previous life as an unapolagetic carnivore, I appreciated fake meat as an end in of itself: marinated and grilled vegetable gluten, say, or a Garden Burger with bacon on it. I particularly loved the Morningstar Farms “Buffalo Wings” with blue cheese dressing, as did many of my meat-enthusiast friends.
Gelatinous gravy goodness.
When I moved into my Grandma’s house, I discovered a small cache of FriChik, along with Swiss Stake and Nuteena. To read the ingredients on a can of Swiss Stake is an unmitigated horror, as it is to taste (or, if I’m honest, to merely smell) the loathsome peanut product known as Nuteena or Nutmete, depending on the manufacturer. FriChik, however, is a different story. It contans a relatively modest 28 ingredients (most of which are in the “contains 2% or less of” category), all of which are recognizable. And it tastes, well, pretty good.