The Mysterious First Vegetarian Burger
There is a lot that goes into making a sustainable dining experience, from apparel to cutlery and decorations, but ultimately the most important part of any sustainability drive starts with the food itself.
One increasingly common tactic used to inspire people to be brave enough to eat less meat and other carbon-intensive foods is to create easy and delicious food swaps, and whilst this is most commonly associated with vegan fast food, there is a long and full history of delicious vegetarian alternatives.
Technically the first fast food item of any kind to not have meat is the somewhat infamous Hula Burger, a short-lived pineapple slice on a bun meant to be eaten by Catholic diners who were typically asked not to eat meat on Fridays and during the Lenten season.
However, the first proper vegetarian burger was made by one of the most famous early sustainable restaurants and a favorite establishment of stars such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Based in Paddington, London, SEED was a macrobiotic restaurant that focused on ingredients such as seeds, miso, unleavened bread, rice and seaweed, based on a vegan-like philosophy that started out life in Japan.
Its owner, Gregory Sams, developed what he called the VegeBurger, a seitan-based patty made from kneaded flour, tamari, oat flakes and aduki beans, largely as an attempt to save the company from financial collapse.
Whilst far from the first meat alternative, it was one of the first to be priced at a level commensurate with meat options, making it seem far less of a luxury and more like a genuine alternative.
What is quite amazing is that unlike other later attempts such as Beyond or Quorn, Mr Sams’ vegetarian upbringing meant that he had never eaten a burger before, and despite this the VegeBurger was a huge success in the restaurant, in dry mix form and later as a frozen option.