July 6, 2012

National Fried Chicken Day

"Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life." - Minny Jackson, "The Help"

It's National Fried Chicken Day!

Sponsored by: Gardein

I've known for months exactly how I was going to celebrate today's food holiday: by paying homage to my absolute favorite elementary school cafeteria lunch... runny mashed potatoes with ketchup swirled in it, a mound of wrinkly peas, and chicken nuggets. My mom packed me a homemade lunch (it was usually an eggsalad sandwich) from kindergarten to sixth grade, but not on Friday's. Because Friday's was chicken nugget day at school!

Actually, chicken nuggets/fingers and french fries/mashed potatoes has ALWAYS been one of my favorite meals. Even into my twenties I would order it when I was at a restaurant with family, friends, or dates (and let me tell you, I think twenty-something boys are secretly enamored with twenty-something girls who order something like that on a first date. It shows that they aren't worried about their image and are in touch with their inner kid... seriously).

When I became a vegetarian (which happened overnight, by the way) there were only two things I knew I was going to go through withdrawals over: BLT's and chicken nuggets. I knew I would never again be able to recreate those flavors/textures, and in a way would be losing part of my history as a person. It may seem silly, but we really do identify moments in time, seasons of our lives, and people with particular foods. When we cut those dishes out of our worlds, in a way it can feel like we're also giving up those memories. BLT's always reminded me of my summer home; chicken nuggets always reminded me of my mom - who introduced me to them - and my childhood in general.

But early in my herbivore days, I found Gardein. I was looking for a vegan chicken nugget replacement and they were the only ones at my local grocer available. All the others had egg in them. And, at only $3.99 a bag - a far better deal than 80% of all the other organic/vegan foods I was buying - I knew I had to try this "garden protein" product.

I have never felt like I've gone "without" my favorite food since. Gardein's "Seven Grain Crispy Tenders" satiates every craving I've ever had regarding chicken nuggets. I've baked them in the oven, grilled them on the George Foreman, and fried them in a pan - and no matter how I prepare them... they are perfect. I've dipped them in ketchup, vegan mayo, ketchup and vegan mayo mixed together, blueberry BBQ sauce, papaya BBQ sauce from the Caribbean, spicy mustard, homemade ranch dip - and no matter what I dredge them through... they are perfect. I've eaten them as they are, put them in casseroles, made sandwiches with them - and no matter which way I choose to eat them... they are perfect.

I unabashedly shout this from the proverbial rooftop: "I LOVE GARDEIN."

And you will, too.

"About 25 years ago I had a dream that I thought could make the world a better place. The dream was simple: use the power of vegetables to create a healthy fast food," says Gardein founder Yves Potvin. "Looking back today, I don't think I could have predicted just how many people were also looking for such a product. Ever since, it has been my life-long passion and pleasure bringing healthy, innovative and convenient plant based meat-like foods to people everywhere."

Gardein recognizes that global food demand will grow 50% by 2030 and there will be significant need for more protein. They think (and I know!) Gardein is part of the solution. They believe eating more plant-based foods builds good health and is good for the planet too. It’s part of the reason why they like to say: "goodness grows!"

Happy National Fried Chicken Day!

Disclaimer: The product(s) featured in this review were provided free of cost to me by the manufacturer. Opinions expressed are totally my own and are NOT in anyway influenced by monetary compensation. Logo used with permission from company.