During my many strolls through Whole Foods I often walked by Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Toona. Stacked right next to the real stuff, this little blue can pretends to be part of the crowd. Refusing to play along, I cast the toona scornful glances and shared pictures of it with friends for a laugh. Look at this impostor, trying so hard to fit in.
It soon became clear that the contempt I was feeling was actually fear. I knew that one day I would have to taste this toona, and that day has come. My hopes are low and my expectations of gagging are high.
Toona is many things: non-GMO, soy free, and stupidly named. Like most vegan alternatives, it also has mysterious ingredients. What is pea protein? What is pea starch? Do pea protein and pea starch together make a complete pea?
Upon opening the can I realized that my fears were well founded. This picture does not require a description, but I will provide one anyway. Visually toona is appalling: brown paste, reminiscent of cat food, sits in a puddle of oil. The texture is soft and mealy as opposed to flaky, while the smell is very strong, processed and overly salty.
Ignoring all humanly instincts, I took the tiniest bite.
And spit it into the sink. I can’t even properly describe the taste, I think I blacked out when the toona touched my tongue. The combination of texture, smell, and fecal aesthetic was so revolting that I couldn’t bring myself to swallow. Many vegan products are intended to be incorporated into recipes, but I doubt that even the Barefoot Contessa could make this stuff edible.
While this taste test may have shaken my confidence, I will not be deterred from trying gross-looking foods in the future. Vegan Toona: you will not be the end of me.
In summation: It’s really gross.