Tofurkey: Where Did It Come From?

I knew about tofurkey about seven years ago, when Sam, my hippie next door neighbor in Boulder, needed a vegetarian alternative to turkey and went so far as to prepare our friends a tofurkey feast for Thanksgiving. Aside from the smooth slices this mock-turkey has opposed to the sometimes dry and stringy quality some Thanksgiving birds have possessed, my rather bland taste buds were not able to tell the difference at all. I never bothered to ask where Sam purchased this honking piece of pseudo-bird. It really did look, smell, and taste like a turkey fresh from the oven.

Since then, I discovered a brand of manufactured tofurkey in stores called “Tofurky” (trademarked without the “e”), which is owned by Turtle Island Foods and can be found at essentially every Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and Trader Joe’s. The Tofurky brand carries all kinds of vegan delights, but specializes in its Tofurky Jurky, Franks, and Holiday Products.Yes, it is possible to buy a turkey-sized Tofurky with stuffing – and maybe your guests won’t even know the difference! I was also quite surprised to discover that turkey and tofurkey have shockingly similar nutritional value, which therefore leaves me slightly compelled to pop a Tofurky in the oven tomorrow!

The question remains: Where did this ingenious concoction called tofurkey come from? Did the masterminds at Turtle Island Foods in Hood River, Oregon create this new vegan staple back in 1980, or did some Chinese-American with a lot of time on his/her hands decide to take all that Chinatown tofu and make it taste like turkey one Thanksgiving, long long ago? The investigation continues and right now your guess is as good as mine. I’m selfishly rooting for the Chinese-American to claim his/her recipe, but Seth Tibbott over at Turtle Island Foods certainly made tofurkey a commercial product worth gobbling for every November!

Oh, and if you’re head over heels in love with Tofurky, why not order a custom (and classic) Tofurky lunchbox for just $20? All your friends will be jealous! Or, in the spirit of travel, Turtle Island Foods has an annual Travels with Tofurky Contest. Tofurky lovers just need to snap a photo with their Tofurky box of choice and submit it every fall for a chance to win a styling Tofurky Care Kit including a Tofurky t-shirt, a case of Tofurky Jurky and other cool stuff.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another Thanksgiving special about “Turducken: Where Did It Come From?”