Vegetarian Pâté: Why? Just...Why?

I am sympathetic to the plight of vegetarians, whether it's a lifestyle chosen for religious, health or ethical reasons. "Plight? What plight?" you may ask. The plight of often being overlooked or ignored by restaurant menus, for one. And the plight of not being able to enjoy life's simple pleasures, like greens cooked in bacon grease or a chunky, peasant-style pâté.

When I review restaurants, I try to make an effort to point out any vegetarian items on the menu for our herbivorous readers. And when I'm shopping and run across an interesting vegetarian item, I'm always keen to test it out. And that's how the package of Marcel & Henri Pâté du Jardin seen above ended up in my basket at Spec's on Monday night.

Marcel & Henri manufacture a line of more than a dozen different pâtés. Among the selection are gems like Galantine de Veau aux Pistaches (white veal with pistachios and truffles) and Pâté de Chevreuil (venison cooked in Burgundy wine with juniper berries). I've always had good luck with these products in the past, when grabbed quickly from Spec's in anticipation of sudden company or just because I felt like binging on pâté that night.

Not so with the Pâté du Jardin. As the French name would indicate, this pâté is made from vegetables instead of meat and lard: it means "from the garden." Specifically, spinach, cauliflower and carrots (as you can see from the colored bands). I was intrigued and it sounded tasty, if heretical, so I took it home.

Upon opening, the pâté fell from the package onto the plate and separated with the kind of ghastly, wet plopping sound usually reserved for decomposing bodies on Bones or CSI. The green (spinach) peeled away from the white (cauliflower) as it peeled away from the orange (carrots), simply refusing to stay together as one happy chunk of pâté despite my efforts to reunite them. I gave up and took three individual swipes at each and covered a cracker with the melee.

Remember how, for a period of time in the 1950s, everything was covered with aspic? Now imagine if some overly industrious housewife had decided to cover her childrens' baby food in aspic. Wonderous! Except Nothing should have ever been covered in aspic. Gelatin should be reserved for Jell-O and no other foodstuffs. Yet here it is, tempering pureed vegetables with a disgusting, jellied texture in a futile attempt to keep it all together. It was all I could do to eat three crackers spread with the stuff before abandoning the entire ill-conceived notion altogether.

In closing, if you like the taste of baby food mixed with gelatin, you will love Pâté du Jardin. Vegetarians with a more refined palate, look elsewhere. This is not the pâté you're looking for.