August Staff Picks

The first staff-person I spoke with this month was Justin Miller, who has been working at the co-op as a Grocery Stocker since September. Justin gladly agreed to help with the Staff Picks column this month, and selected Tofurkey pepperoni pizza for his recommendation.

Justin chose this product because he is vegan and likes to point out tasty vegan products whenever he has the opportunity. He believes the Tofurkey pepperoni pizza is the best non-meat, non-cheese pizza option on the market. He says it doesn’t have the synthetic taste that a lot of dairy/meat alternatives have, and the cheese actually melts when it is cooked.

Tofurkey is the brand name of a series of meat alternative products that fall under the umbrella of Turtle Island Foods, Inc., a family-owned and independent company located in Hood River, Oregon, since 1980. The company was founded by Seth Tibbott, who got his start producing tempeh for friends and family, and who built his company out of a desire to create convenient and affordable vegetarian food. The company eventually became the second largest producer of tempeh in the United States and developed its signature Tofurkey Roast (promoted as an alternative to Thanksgiving turkey) in 1995. The release of the Tofurkey line of vegan pizzas in 2010 was greeted by much excitement, taking home the VegNews 2010 Best in Show award. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to traditional pizza, give these a try.

The next staff-person I spoke with this month was Matthew Duggar, who has been working at the Co-op as the Scan Coordinator (maintaining the Co-op’s point of sale system) for the past six and a half years. For his recommendation, Matthew chose the Mary’s Gone Crackers original flavor cracker. These crackers are gluten-free, but Matthew says he doesn’t really need to avoid gluten, he just likes them. He thinks these have a really great texture and substance, he believes they have greater nutritional value than most other crackers, and he really likes that he can actually taste the flavor of the seeds they are made from.

The first question I asked when I saw the package was, “Who is Mary, and how did they come up with that company name?” It turns out that the Mary in the name refers to the company founder and chair, Mary Waldner, who enjoyed a long career as a psychotherapist before entering the commercial food business. After being diagnosed with Celiac disease in her early 40s, she stopped cut out all gluten from her diet and noticed rapid and significant improvements. A life-long baker, she began experimenting with different recipes for gluten-free foods, from pancakes and pretzels to crackers and cookies. Her signature snack food became a whole-grain cracker made from brown rice, quinoa, flax seed, and sesame seeds. She found that her friends who tried these crackers loved them and often asked her to make some for them. She estimates she made well over 30,000 crackers by hand in the years leading up to the founding of her company. As for the rest of the company name, after multiple brainstorming sessions, they still hadn’t come up with anything. As frustration mounted, Mary asked a group of friends if they had any good ideas. One of them said that with all the stress associated with starting a new business, it should be something along the lines of “Mary’s Cracking Up!” Another friend played off that idea and came up with “Mary’s Gone Crackers.” In an instant, they had their company name (www.marysgonecrackers.com).

Mary’s original crackers are all organic, gluten-free, non-gmo (i.e., contain no genetically modified organisms), whole-grain, kosher, and vegan. Their ingredients are a direct reflection of the company’s belief in “Conscious Eating,” which they define as being aware of how food choices impact the health of both humans and the planet. Whether you try these crackers on their own or with your favorite topping, you should definitely give them a try and experience their rich substantial flavor and gratifying crunch.