I love this one. It’s not exactly a molecule. If you’ve heard of it, you’re nodding and smirking, if you haven’t, you’ll be surprised. Back in the 1960′s, people set out trying to make new meat substitutes. Apparently, it was suspected that there would be a worldwide shortage of protein by the 80′s. I like to think it’s because we were a lot keener to do weird things just because back then. One bizzare product of this search was Quorn. Amazing how much the image on that page looks like chicken stir-fry, eh? It is quite hypnotic to click through the Quorn website, looking at the crypto-chicken and beef. But that wasn’t chicken, it was mycoprotein.
Essentially processed fungus, Quorn is made from a mold (thanks, Steve), Fusarium venenatum. As far as protein goes, it’s really cheap. It is apparently wildly popular across the pond (the popularity boost no doubt hastened by concerns over beef’s safety, as the article notes).
This is really all I know about Quorn. I’ve never worked with mycobacteria, and, I’m embarassed to say, my scientific curiosity about tasting it hasn’t overcome squeamishness (and i’m not alone, apparently.). Every time I see it in the grocery, I pick it up, stare, set it down slowly, and walk away. Share your Quorn experiences below.