WAITROSE SMOKY STREAKY SLICES – IT’S HAPPENING. VEGAN SUPERMARKET BACON’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING

waitrose smoky streaky vegan bacon
Hi, Pathetically

In the old days (read late last year), Upton’s Naturals Bacon was all we had. Quorn bacon, of course, still includes milk and egg – and it’s basically liquid mould. Then, steadily, I started stumbling across vegan supermarket gold like Sgaia’s Vegan Meats and all-star high roller THIS Isn’t Bacon. Now, supermarkets like Waitrose are doing it themselves. And they’re doing it damn well.

Until recently – other than the Full Nelson’s crispy in-house tofu bacon – THIS Isn’t Bacon was my favourite meat-free alternative. But I think Waitrose has just edged it. Because everything about their own-brand “smoky streaky slices” is perfect. The taste. The texture. The smell. Even the thickness is on point.

Waitrose’s streaky slices, you see, are thinner than THIS Isn’t Bacon. So they’re more bacon-like and easier to crisp up. In fact, the texture’s the perfect middle ground between thinner, more cardboard-like Upton’s Naturals Bacon slices and thicker, more salmon-like THIS Isn’t Bacon rashers. They’re juicy, but they ain’t chunky. They’re also wheat and pea-protein based, and soy free.

The smoky flavour’s exactly what you’re looking for as well – thanks to maple syrup and smoked paprika. And when you cook them up the kitchen smells like a late, hungover Sunday morning. So far, this is the best, most legit, vegan supermarket bacon alternative I’ve had. And you know what, maybe the future’s looking good for pigs after all.

WAITROSE VEGAN SUSHI – PLANT-BASED SUPERMARKET SUSHI GETS INTERESTING. FINALLY

waitrose plant-based vegan sushi
Hi, Pathetically

Until now, vegan supermarket sushi’s always been a bit of a grey area. Sure, there have always been vegetarian options. But the ingredients were never clear and you still had to worry about things like stock, sauces, flakes, egg and dairy. And besides, until very recently, vegetarian supermarket sushi just meant cucumber and avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed – probably covered in fish flakes.

Lately, sushi joints like YO! Sushi and itsu have gone all out, dressing vegan sushi up in tasty plant-based ingredients like tofu pouches, umeboshi plums and vegan mayo. And now, finally, Waitrose and Taiko Foods have elevated the vegan supermarket sushi game to the same lofty, taste bud-tingling heights.

The one I found, that’s worth writing on the homepage about, is Taiko Foods’ yasai (vegetable) sushi box. And it includes two Inari nigiri tofu pouches, two shiitake mushroom and mixed pepper rolls, two pickled carrot, red pepper & mooli rolls, and two cucumber hosomaki rolls.

At first, I found “fishy” tasting sushi unsettling and weird. I would triple check the ingredients. On the packs and online. But once you’ve got the all clear – and you know the flavour’s coming from the seaweed – uneasiness gives way to deliciousness. And before you know it, it’s all gone and you want more.

WAITROSE VEGAN PLOUGHMAN’S – CLASSIC CHEESY FARMERS’ LUNCH GOES DAIRY (AND BEER) FREE

Hi, Pathetically

As an on-the-go vegan I’m always on the lookout for interesting new sandwich options. Creativity is key. Some companies, however, clearly don’t have a single decision-making vegan employee. Sainsbury’s plant-based sandwiches, for example, are an absolute joke. M&S’ Plant Kitchen range is all flash, plastic and no substance. Even Pret thinks a dry Falafel, Avo and Chipotle Flatbread will pacify the vegans.

Interestingly, Boots has emerged as an unexpected lead innovator in the world of on-the-go veganing, offering imaginative, chickpea-free sandwich options like the Pea & Mint Fritter, the Vegan All Day Breakfast and the Louisiana Style Cajun Fritter.

Waitrose, of course, has also come to the vegan party. There just aren’t any on my regular beat. But whenever I’m in one, especially one of the larger stores, my eyes light up like a carnist at a barbecue. Or like me when I spot a Good-to-Go Vegan Ploughman’s in Waitrose, Westfield Stratford.

I always used to enjoy a ploughman’s. Weird name, I know. Apparently it dates back to 14th century cheese, bread and beer-based farmers’ lunches. But in 2019, a good ploughman’s also includes pickle and tomatoes. Anti-dryness, sandwich-flavour-boosters. Because let’s face it, we’re not all washing them down with cheeky lunch pints at the local watering hole. Or in a field with a bottle of homebrew.

The thing that annoys me most about dull, dreary vegan sandwiches is – in this case – all it took to create an interesting, delicious, plant-based alternative was to swap cheddar for a slice of dairy free cheese. The rest’s exactly the same. It’s that simple. It’s that inclusive, familiar and normal. Flavours I know and love. And instead of battling my way through a dull, dry, tomatoey falafel sandwich I bought just because it was all I could find, I actually enjoyed my lunch on the go.

WAITROSE VEGAN STYLE GREEN PESTO WITH BASIL – SMOOTH, TANGY AND IRRESISTIBLE

Hi, Pathetically

There isn’t really a Waitrose on my regular beat. So whenever I’m in one of the bigger stores I walk the aisles slack-jawed, bewildered by the sheer range and depth of vegan options available. Last time I was in the St Katharine’s Dock mega-store I picked up a tub of Waitrose Vegan Style Green Pesto With Basil. And a box of Ritz crackers.

I have made vegan pesto myself. With nutritional yeast. And it’s delicious. But it’s slightly different than the classic basil pesto taste and texture I remember. Instead of nutritional yeast, Waitrose’s version uses various starches – and even rice protein – to replicate that cheesy parmesan tang and velvety consistency that makes a perfect pesto. And it’s right on the money.

It’s fluffy. It’s lemony. It’s nutty. And it’s irresistible. I literally couldn’t put the tub down until it was all gone. Along with my box of Ritz crackers.