The Impossible Burger arrives to UMass

The plant-based burger claims to look, smell and taste like beef

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The Impossible Burger arrives to UMass

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

(Simon Nathans/ Daily Collegian)

By Lauren LaMagna, Assistant Arts Editor

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As a vegetarian, finding alternate sources of protein isn’t that big of a challenge. It’s 2019, and there are loads of alternate sources that I’ve used to get my protein. Most of these foods come from beans and legumes like chickpeas, and then there’s whole grains like quinoa, soy and tofu. There’s an abundance of food sources but some of them can be quite bland. But there’s also substitute meat that’s made to recreate the flavor of beef, chicken and pork. Some come close while others don’t. But the latest company to try meat replication is Impossible Foods, whose Impossible Burger is now available at The Grill at Blue Wall.

The Impossible Burger arrived at UMass on Feb. 21 and is currently available at The Grill for $7. Like most veggie burgers, the Impossible Burger is made from soy, but its secret ingredient is a specific molecule called heme. According to founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown, heme is a molecule that makes meat taste good. It’s the reason meat tastes like meat and is mostly associated with that bloody flavor that everyone knows and loves. Thus, the craving for meat is actually a craving for heme. This element is what every other meat substitute lacks. Even though every other veggie or black bean burger is soy based, they aren’t looking to taste like beef because it can’t, they have their own specific flavor. If you would give a meat-eater a typical veggie burger, they would be able to tell the difference between the two based on looks alone.

As a vegetarian for over 10 years, I have learned to love black bean burgers and all soy-based meat alternatives. I’ve eaten meats made from tofu, tempeh, quinoa and beans. You name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve eaten these foods for so long that I have forgotten the taste of actual meat. I don’t know what beef or pork is supposed to taste like, but I know it doesn’t taste like my meat alternatives. But none of these replacements use heme, so I wondered: would there actually be a difference?

I walked into Blue Wall a bit hesitant. I have a weird track record with burger alternatives. I like black bean burgers but despise a traditional veggie burger. So I was a bit up in the air on if I was actually going to like the burger at all. The burger is like any other burger at The Grill and is offered as either a single or double patty with your choice of cheese. Around five minutes after ordering, my burger was ready and I was excited, but still scared.

The first thing to take away from the Impossible Burger is that it looks like an actual burger. It’s not black like a traditional veggie or black bean burger. This burger is dark brown like a real burger. It has sears and grease around it like an actual burger. With a typical veggie or bean burger, the sears are premade and there is little to no juice or grease which leaves the burger to be dry most of the time, but not this burger. It smells like beef and looks like a typical burger you would get at a sporting event. I stared at the burger for a few minutes wondering if this was actually my order and not a mistake. But it wasn’t. This was my order. My vegan burger that is charcoal grey, has sears and drips with juice.

I haven’t had meat for such a long time that I can’t bluntly say if this burger tastes like actual beef or not but it definitely doesn’t taste like a traditional black bean burger. This burger is oozing with its juice. When you take a bite out of the Impossible Burger you are greeted with rich, dense, heme-infused plant-based meat. It is moist and tender that just falls apart in your mouth with a smoky aroma. You can taste the charcoal as you bite into this burger, a sensation that I haven’t had since giving up red meat. Then I looked inside the burger and was shocked: it was pink. It was a pick and juicy burger that seemed as if it was cooked to a medium at a local burger restaurant. This is complexly unlike any other meat alternative burger, as a veggie burger’s color is consistent throughout. But not this alternative burger. This one bleeds.

After such an intense experience, it is safe to say that the Impossible Burger does the impossible. It looks like meat, feels like meat and it is the richest burger I’ve had in my 12 years of vegetarianism. It is so accurate that I still don’t fully believe I ate a plant-based, vegan burger. Part of me believes I ate an actual beef burger. It will take some time to wrap my head around this but the fact is that there is a plant-based alternative that brings vegetarians and vegans the real experience of eating meat again, and that is something worthwhile.

Lauren LaMagna can be reached at [email protected].