In the early 1960s, public school kids knew all about meat analogs. We called it “mystery meat” and subjected the thin, overcooked and rubberized brown patties to the derision they merited. Those school burgers passing themselves off as meat probably never actually saw the grassy side of a pasture. But, they did introduce the term “TVP” into the first grade lexicon. Back then, that was the extent of our familiarity with soy.

The following decade brought an ironic twist of fate. That same textured vegetable protein established a foothold among hipster vegetarians rebelling against the Establishment. The association of soy with health began in earnest for Americans by the 1980s; today, texturized soy protein has reached an acme of popularity, elevated to a trendy, sought-after ingredient for those same Baby Boomers who shunned soy burgers.

By the time this issue publishes, the Natural Products Expo West exhibitors will have showcased a few hundred more interesting vegetarian-based meal products. (Look for my write-up of the show in our Viewpoints section on right about…now.) But, PF’s feature story, “Flavorful Fake-Outs,” catches you up on how processors are feeding the growing vegan/flexitarian/sometimes-vegetarian/meatless Monday trend with amazing results and success.

The other main feature article this month is the second of a two-part look at comfort foods. In February, Prepared Foods featured the story, “To Your Comfort and Health.” It focused on how ingredient technologists are helping to provide the wherewithal to reformulate the gooey, cheesy (or chocolatey), yummy foods we think of as both gustatorily and psychologically comforting into healthier versions of themselves.

In this month’s feature, we’ve brought a product developer on board to discuss how processors can translate the new trends of comfort flavors and foods into grandmother-suitable recipes for processors to take to the bank.

In researching comfort foods, I noticed that this great melting-pot that is America—hardly the mono-ethnic Leave It to Beaver world of my childhood—is gaining a new definition of comfort foods. Casseroles are as likely to give way to tamales as they are to Vietnamese phô (noodle bowl) when it comes to evoking a warmth and deep satisfaction that goes beyond mere ingredients. So, don’t be surprised if you find a feature article on ethnic comfort foods in an upcoming issue.