In a classic episode of Cheers, Norm — “Norm!” — talked about eating at the Hungry Heifer, a blue-collar dining hall where the portions were immense because all of the food was imitation. Woody, intrigued, decided to join Norm for a meal. When he returned to the bar he explained that the imitation food had to be called by a slightly different name, then raved about the “loobster” and “beff.”
When my doctor told me to try to eat more fish and less red meat I groaned. I don’t mind the taste of fish, but it’s a pain to prepare and tends to stink up the house. One day at the neighborhood Kroger, however, I noticed packages of chilled imitation crab and imitation lobster. They were cheap, so I decided to give them a try. Surprisingly, they were tasty, and now they’ve been worked into my evening meal rotation on days when we don’t feel like making a big sit-down meal. I feel good about listening to my doc when I buy them, because they have a “heart healthy” logo, too.
What’s in the imitation crab and lobster? Mostly Alaska pollock, apparently. The ingredient list also indicates that the product includes water, wheat starch, sodium, extracts of crab, oyster, scallop, lobster, cutlassfish, anchovy, and bonito, fish oil, rice wine, egg whites, and corn starch, as well as some more exotic sounding experiments from the chemistry lab, like disodium inosinate, guanylate, titanium dioxide, carmine, and canthaxanthin. For all of that, the imitation lobster and crab taste pretty much like lobster and crab. And, on the laundry list you won’t find anything that looks or sounds like red meat. So, on any random night you might find me munching on some imitation crab leg, feeling good about my dietary habits and food spend, and inevitably thinking: “Norm!“