When I went vegan, the single hardest delicacy to give up was my daily sausage wrapped in a pancake and eaten on a popsicle stick. Breakfasts were a challenge for years—what did people eat, I wondered, if not this? Imagine my delight when the fine folks at Morningstar Farms ended my years of sorrow with their latest meat-adjacent product.

But like any holy grail, this food wasn’t an easy conquest.

The first trial was making sense of “Incogmeato.” Its logo looked like a mustachioed man with wings for hind legs and a Santa hat perched atop his rear end. Or maybe a bumblebee/angel hybrid facing backward and sleeping. What either of these visuals had to do with vegan meat, I knew not. But I wasn’t about to let that deter me.

More concerning than the hieroglyph, the name “Incogmeato” conjured an image of meat going deep undercover, embedding itself in a plant-based protein enemy faction, and obtaining classified intel from renegades like seitan and tempeh. A fear of animal products sneaking into our food is a common vegan neurosis and therefore, in my opinion, a terrible way to market this product. Why go with “Incogmeato” when “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Pig Guts” was right there?

The next hurdle was wading through the snake pit of nutritional contradictions lurking in the copy on the box. The large-print letters boasted, 79 PERCENT LESS FAT THAN THE LEADING BLUEBERRY PANCAKES AND SAUSAGE ON A STICK. The box’s contents contained nine grams of protein, but an asterisk at the bottom cautioned, NOT A GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN.

Wasn’t nine grams a lot of protein for a food I could probably eat in two bites? But hey, we vegans are notoriously protein-deprived. Maybe my B12 deficiency was making it hard for me to evaluate this rationally. I decided, just to be safe, that I wouldn’t eat this food immediately after a power-lifting session, in the unlikely event that I ever decided to lift something heavier than my two-pound MacBook from the couch to my bed.

I opened the box and took out what looked like a corn dog with a little tail of desiccated pancake batter creeping grotesquely down the bottom half of the stick.

Into the microwave it went.

The first thing that hit me was the delicious smell of blueberry muffins. Specifically, those mini-muffins from my childhood that came in individually wrapped plastic bags and probably had no natural ingredients in them. I took a first bite and promptly scalded my tongue on the sausage. A mere forty-five seconds in the microwave had given this thing a core temperature that rivaled Earth’s.

But I’d come too far to give up now. I decided to put the sausage on hold and nibbled the outer crust. I couldn’t detect any pieces of fruit in the so-called pancake, but the eau de blueberry was present, as if someone had sprayed the flapjack with blueberry-flavored body mist from Bath & Body Works.

The meaty center, now cooled, was a convincingly intestinal shade of pink. In a brief moment of terror, I thought I was actually eating a medley of animal organs—that’s how authentic it tasted. Incogmeato strikes again!

I resumed eating just the pancake layer, then just the sausage layer, and finally the two together, each singing its falsetto notes in a duet that vaguely approximated harmony. Like the protagonists in a buddy cop movie, this unlikely pair worked best as a team. And since I was raised on a strict diet of cake-cloaked pork popsicles, I can say with complete confidence that this product tasted just like the real thing.

Two more bites later, all that remained was a soggy popsicle stick and a plate glistening with greasy residue. I felt sickeningly stuffed—yet somehow not sated. Pseudo-pancake, mock-meat, and unanswerable questions roiled inside me: What, exactly, had I just eaten? Should I consume three more of these bestickéd chimeras or burn them in a bonfire? Was I repulsed by the resemblance to viscera, or had Incogmeato’s psyops campaign reignited my taste for flesh?

I eventually gave up on trying to decode these Morningstar mysteries. Instead, I chose gratitude. An angelic bumblebee had blessed me with a meatless morning meal that transported me back to the halcyon days of my youth. And that was significant—even if the protein content wasn’t.