I was, of course, wrong.
My Morningstar Farms Cholesterol Free Foods book (1978) shows that there were plenty of vegetarian meat substitutes in the freezer aisles, even back in the '70s. They just didn't make it to the freezer aisles of the Podunk towns where I lived until the '90s.
In fact, here's the whole glorious lineup:
Most of these are still around today. The Play-Doh-looking "bacon" seems nearly unchanged, as do the breakfast links and patties (except that patties now come in multiple flavors). The "Leanies" are just called "Veggie Dogs" now, and the Grillers have expanded beyond burgers to "Chik'n" Grillers as well. The Luncheon Slices must have been way more popular in the '70s, though, because they are gone. (Apparently the appeal of fake Spam is pretty limited.)
Better than the pictures of the old Morningstar Farms foods is the company's ides about what home cooks should do with them.
Have you always wanted a breakfast that looked like a really weird two-tone coaster?
They look so tempting with the spongy brown core and the beige exterior.
These are Breakfast Pattycakes-- a sad little half breakfast patty encircled with pancake batter. I'm not sure how these are supposed to be eaten. They look super dry, and the parsley on the platter suggests they're not supposed to get a syrupy coating. (Granted, I'm not a sausage-and-syrup lover anyway, but I imagine the parsley-and-syrup types are even rarer!) It looks as if this is a breakfast to be choked down with a lot of orange juice....
Since this is a '70s alternative cookbook, of course it has to have some dubiously "ethnic" recipes.
When I saw "Mandarin Casserole," I of course imagined a casserole full of mandarin oranges and luncheon slices topped off with crispy almonds or chow mein noodles.
My guesses were totally wrong, though! The casserole is initially just fried rice with crumbled breakfast patties. It really takes a turn for the weird fifteen minutes into baking when it is pulled out of the oven to be topped with cottage cheese mixed with egg substitute and Parmesan cheese. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I will never get over recipes that pretend cheese is somehow a Chinese ingredient. Apparently, packaged fried rice mix is enough to call a recipe "Mandarin," even with Parmesan and paprika toppings.
The most fun recipe, as always, is the shiniest:
If you've ever wanted a jiggly cottage cheese and mayo crown on top of ginger-ale-lacquered veggie Luncheon Slices, pineapple, cucumber, and celery, then Molded Salad Crown is the recipe for you!
My mind somehow sees this more as a castle than a crown, though. The luncheon slices are drawbridges, and the "crown" is the parapets reaching into the clouds. This is one dish that would be WAY more fun to play with than to eat....
Happy Wednesday! Go play with your food.