Ron Swanson isn’t alone in thinking “Veganism is the sad result of a morally corrupt mind; reconsider your life.” It’s a pretty popular point of view that is also extended to vegetarians. And, who can blame people when a vocal faction of meat-free eaters insist on doing things like picking fights with Nintendo over a milking game on the Switch, and advocating grilled carrots as a replacement for hot dogs. I have literally been vegetarian my entire life (okay, I ate meat on like three occasions as a kid, AMA), and even I know that a marinated carrot shouldn’t be called a freaking hot dog. It very well may be completely delicious, but it’s not a frankfurter, and it never will be.
The problem with this Ron Swanson philosophy is that it paints all vegetarians and vegans with a similar motivation and overlooks the many people who follow a plant-based diet for health or environmental reasons but like the umami flavors of meat. We non-meat eaters are not monolith! We contain multitudes! Luckily, people looking to enjoy cookouts (unlike those thoroughly fun-less carrot people) can choose from dozens of veggie burgers. A person who wants to make food choices with a smaller negative impact on the planet but who also needs a juicy, meaty burger can go for the Impossible or the Beyond Burger. Meanwhile, a person looking for a burger that’s only one Weight Watcher point is gonna go Boca. And a person who demands to know every item on a nutritional label will do well with a burger from Dr. Praeger’s.
This wasn’t how things used to be. In the begining, the Seventh-day Adventists created the commercial veggie burger… and it came in a can. We’ve gathered up some important dates in the evolution of the non-meat based burgers for #BurgerWeek. It is an abbreviated history, so you won’t learn about every veggie burger ever. But, we are legit down to talk about any of them that you tried and liked or the ones you found slightly less appetizing than paper mulch. We won’t say that gossiping about vegetarian burger options is our jam, but we might have once gotten kicked out of the frozen section of Whole Foods because of a passionate exchange of burger opinions.
Loma Linda Foods is founded by Seventh-day Adventists. The company produces some of the first commercial wheat- and soy-based faux meats.
Loma Linda releases the VegeBurger, a canned meatless ground hamburger. It’s 17.75 percent protein.
The RediBurger, another Loma Linda product, hits the market. These canned hamburger patties are shelf-stable.
Morningstar Farms introduces Grillers meatless hamburger patties to the market. Their big selling point is the utter absence of cholesterol.
During a period of bad weather, Paul Wenner’s Gresham, OR restaurant experiences slow business. Left with a ton of leftover rice pilaf, the chef and restaurant owner begins experimenting, adding mushrooms, oats, and low-fat grated cheese. This is the birth of the Gardenburger.
Gregory Sams, a London-based natural food restaurant owner, releases his VegeBurger. Some people consider this the first commercial vegetarian burger; however, the Loma Linda options definitely precede it, contributing to justified paranoia on the part of Seventh-day Adventist foodies. This Vegeburger is sold in a dried food packet that required being rehydrated, shaped into patties, and cooked. A frozen version hits the market two years later.
Paul Wenner founds Wholesome and Hearty Foods, the company that releases Gardenburgers commercially.