I speed-walk to the pub, clutching a paper bag. I am running late, as usual, and I didn’t really have time for lunch, as usual, so I had to pick something up. Unusually, today I went to Greggs. Today is a day I have been looking forward to for the last 18 hours, since I saw it on twitter – today is Gregg’s vegan sausage roll day.
I open the paper bag and breathe in. The smell takes me straight back in time. Lunches in year eleven, my thighs exposed and freezing against cold stone, sitting on the wall outside the bakery. A twenty minute break on a Saturday job in sixth form, trying to kill a secret hangover and knowing that I’d be going out again that night. My student days when I knew it was the most delicious meal you could buy for a quid. A million parties, from 5th birthdays to Christmas family gatherings. I absolutely fucking love sausage rolls.
The problem with sausage rolls is, even though they’re delicious, they’re made of mashed pig, so I don’t eat them anymore. It’s funny the things that you miss when you stop eating meat – for me, it’s not that much, and it’s not exclusively the good stuff that I’m sorry I can’t eat any more. Some of the food I miss is kind of gross. Chicken nuggets dipped sloppily in mayonnaise and devoured in front of the tv after a night out. Burgers oozing juice and fat over my tongue. Sausage rolls. I’m not saying I didn’t like steak as well – it’s just I pretty rarely ate it. The foods that I miss are the every day treats.
I bite in to the roll and stop walking abruptly. It’s fucking sublime. Absolutely exactly like any sausage roll from any bakery in Britain. It has crisp, flakey pastry, which yields to a soft, fatty, savoury mush inside. I peer at it suspiciously, wondering if they gave me meat by accident. They didn’t though. They’ve just somehow managed to make some non-meat protein smush taste exactly like the best version of cheap sausage meat. I share the second roll with some friends at the pub. They both award it a 9 out of 10 and say it tastes exactly like a normal sausage roll BECAUSE IT DOES.
To be clear – you will not like this product if you don’t like this kind of sausage roll. It’s not a gourmet version of a sausage roll – it’s an accurate version of a sausage roll, just not made of meat. I absolutely love this. for so many places, vegetarian or vegan is taken to imply healthy – lots of vegetables, quinoa in everything, the only fat you ever see is in an avocado. I’m not saying I don’t like avocados, but this kind of comforting beigeness has its place in food too. I can eat an apple on my own time. I need pastry made for me though.
Nutritionally, the vegan sausage roll appears to be nutritionally identical to the original – in terms of break down of fat, protein and carbs and in terms of calories. The filling is quorn (I reckon a much higher fat blend than you’d get available commercially) and the outside is, as expected, pastry. It’s not a health product, not a diet product. It’s a sausage roll.
When I went to get my sausage roll (from one of only two Gregg’s in Oxford, neither of which are in the town centre) they had already sold out. I waited for them to bring the next batch out of the oven and asked the woman behind the til about them. She said that she’d be trying one on her break. “We need to start offering people something new,” she said. “Maybe this is it.”
But for me, this isn’t something new. It’s something old. A pillowy, crispy little pack of comfort that I can get from down the road for a quid. A pocket of fat and carbs to fend away the dark nights and boring slog of January. Thank you Greggs, love Lucy (and the non-mashed pigs).