90s Veget­ari­an Food

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I haven’t eaten meat since the late 90s. Veget­ari­an­ism was on the rise at the time in the UK, but the selec­tion of meat-free products was very poor compared with the current day, and many of them had to be bought in the health food shop. You either had to learn to cook actu­al food with veget­ables and season­ings, or eat a very boring diet if you relied on the limited and bland selec­tion of meat substi­tutes avail­able. I don’t think Veganu­ary would be half so popu­lar if the prospect was a month of Sosmix. This post is mainly for the enjoy­ment of those who did eat Bean­feast and TVP chunks.

All these modern health food super­mar­kets have the wrong idea, much too full of luxury and tempt­ing new foods to try. What you need from a health food shop is the feel­ing that it’s bracingly good for you, bulk buying TVP chunks is possible, and that flavour is option­al. (They used it all up on the nice smell inside). They have the right idea in Germany, where the word for health food shops is Reform­haus.

I origin­ally laid out this post with some pack­aging images I found on Google, but they were such bad pictures of ugly pack­aging I took them all off. If you live outside the UK and don’t know what they look like, just be thank­ful you didn’t have a cupboard full of Sosmix. (Although iron­ic­ally the current explo­sion of tempt­ing vegan products in the UK is a bit of a curse to me, because so many of them use large amounts of coconut oil, which makes me ill). You can torture your­self with the pack­aging designs over at Old School Vegan Clas­sics over on Instagram

A lot of these products are still avail­able- I considered buying some to taste test them for this post, but then I real­ised I didn’t need to do that to myself.


A sachet of powder much like stuff­ing mix, prepared in a simil­ar way- add water, mix, leave to stand for a while, then shape into saus­ages or patties and bake or fry. This stuff was ubiquit­ous. Also often avail­able as a home-made version sold in plastic bags at health­food shops. What’s in that pie? Sosmix. What’s that burger? Sosmix in a round form. Often teamed with indi­gest­ible whole­meal pastry to make incred­ibly heavy and dry homemade saus­age rolls. You will eat it, and you will like it. (It’s all we’ve got). There’s a sosmix fan page out there.


A differ­ent sachet! Avail­able in bolognese, shepherd’s pie or chilli vari­ations, it was soya mince in vari­ous differ­ent season­ings. You added cold water, brought it to the boil, and simmered, trying to avoid burn­ing at the bottom as it was a night­mare to clean off the pan. The bolognese version, although perfectly edible, would make Itali­ans cry.

Stuffed peppers

Could be stuffed with sosmix, bean­feast or rice (or like actu­al, veget­ables). Your choice!

Nut Lunch­eon

Canned peanut-based stodge. The whole thing comes out of the can in a lump with one dull thud, and must be sliced up before frying. Makes you thank­ful you were not a vegan in 1930.

Nutri­tion­al yeast

Why yes, you can put this as a season­ing on anything. It looks like gold­fish food, tastes of pure umami, and is full of vitam­in B12. It’s still a very useful season­ing in meat-free cook­ing, but old habits die hard, and I still buy giant tubs of the stuff and add it to things it has no busi­ness being in.

Tinned mock duck/​abalone

The only way you’re getting your hands on any seit­an, mate. Sold in both the health food shop and Chinese super­mar­kets. I’ve never noticed much differ­ence between the “abalone”, “duck” and “chick­en” versions, except for the impres­sion of feath­er follicles on the poultry versions. Also avail­able: tinned braised tofu.

Basic Quorn burgers

Quorn came out in the late 90s, and was a revel­a­tion. It actu­ally resembled meat? And wasn’t dry and card­boardy? What is this sorcery? (Initial prob­lems with them using battery eggs as a bind­er I guess). For the first few years they just had mince, fake chick­en fillets and very small burgers avail­able, but the range soon grew and became the default fake meat in people’s minds. It was nice to now be presen­ted with some­thing edible when visit­ing people who weren’t used to veget­ari­an cook­ing.

Nut roast powder

A differ­ent powder you mix with water. This time with a card­board baking form included. My dad acci­dent­ally gave me really bad food pois­on­ing Christ­mas 2002 with one of these because he didn’t read the instruc­tions prop­erly. I wasn’t even aware you could get food pois­on­ing from nut roast.


Still the go-to veget­ari­an break­fast saus­age, albeit with many differ­ent rivals these days. What do you mean you don’t have to mould it your­self out of a stuff­ing-type substance?


You like quiche right? That’s what you’re getting given to eat. Sorry, what is a vegan?

Veget­able fingers

Peas, carrots and some­times sweet­corn, mixed up with some kind of mystery mush, shaped into fish finger shapes, and breaded. Taste of abso­lutely noth­ing. If you got a veggie burger from a takeaway or even many restaur­ants in the 90s, it was exactly the same thing, but round. I have a box of the finger versions in my freez­er. I don’t remem­ber buying them, and don’t like them. They’re obvi­ously haunt­ing me.

The upgrade is the bean burger- cheap versions are exactly the same as the veggie fingers but have kidney beans in.

Nut cutlets

The other default cheap freez­er option was a nut cutlet made of chopped up nuts glued togeth­er with some kind of mush. Cook them for a minute too long, and they turn into a sad hockey puck.

Sunflower mince

Anoth­er not-so satis­fy­ing mince­meat from health food shops, this time made of of sunflower seeds.

Tube food

Aka Tartex vegan paté. A very decent vegan pate that I still buy. In some coun­tries it comes in a tin, in others like the UK in a large tooth­paste type tube. I didn’t think anything of this until my Amer­ic­an friend Alex visited and found the Tube Food hilari­ous and fascin­at­ing, and now I send her photos of any tube foods I see.


Ooh, you’re going some­where fancy. What is the veget­ari­an option? A swiss roll made out of cottage cheese and eggs.

Cheezly and Sheese

The only vegan cheese substi­tutes they have in the health food shop. Both are just differ­ent vari­et­ies of play dough, despite the Sheese packaging’s cheesy 90s Celt­ic Font attempt at portray­ing itself as some fine artis­an product from the Hebrides. The Cheezly just smells (and tastes) like an indus­tri­al by-product.

Marigold swiss bouil­lon

Anoth­er health food shop favour­ite. Nobody ever follows the sugges­tion on the back to have it as a refresh­ing drink rather than a cook­ing ingredi­ent.

Peanut butter made by a huge machine in a health food shop

Endless fascin­a­tion for small chil­dren.

TVP chunks and mince

Big bags of round chunks or fine mince from the health food shop that must be soaked in hot water and then be marin­ated before they taste of anything.

Egg repla­cer

A potato starch, tapioca and gum arab­ic powder inten­ded for baking vegan cakes. If you would like a cake that doesn’t rise much and has a weird after­taste.

Miser­able attempts at gelat­ine free gummis

Gummi sweets have come a long way, and now there are lots of brands avail­able in main­stream super­mar­kets that taste good and are hoof-free. It wasn’t always this way. You used to have to go to a health food shop and pay a small fortune for gelat­ine-free gummi bears, and there would always be some­thing really wrong with them. Either tough as old leath­er or way too soft and dissolv­able. Often some kind of unpleas­ant after­taste and/​or a sort of dusty texture. There was one brand that came in a card­board box rather than a plastic bag that tasted partic­u­larly bad. At least the shops always had a good selec­tion of Panda liquorice.

Alpro soya desserts

The main dairy-free yoghurt on the market. For some reas­on the chocol­ate and cara­mel ones had a completely differ­ent texture to the fruit ones, despite being marketed as differ­ent flavours of the same thing.

Tomor and Vital­ite

Dairy free margar­ines. Vital­ite is only for spread­ing and makes terrible cakes. Tomor is actu­ally a Kosh­er formula meant for avoid­ing mixing meat and dairy in the same dish, but is good for baking too.


Usually from the freez­er section, and usually super­mar­ket own brand, a bland burger type thing craf­ted out of potato and cheese (maybe with an excit­ing addi­tion of some spring onion), seem­ingly inten­ded to be served as a main with more stodge.

Swedish Glace

The only non-dairy ice cream out there. Sorry, we only stock vanilla. There might be some sad versions of a Cornetto or Maxibon in the freez­er too, which taste of card­board and disap­point­ment.

Glam­or­gan saus­ages

Why they’re exactly the same as meat saus­ages, just fash­ioned out of potato and cheese. Let’s serve them up to you with pota­toes.


You thought this was chocol­ate? And that you were going to enjoy it? Think again.


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