‘Peanut steaks’ and ‘nut chops’… The fake meats of the 1900s

Once upon a time, the Impossible Burger had competition.


July 14, 2020

This piece is part of a new series where we spotlight historical trends that feel relevant now. Send tips to [email protected]

It’s easy to feel like we’re living in an alternative-meat golden age.

But rewind 110+ years, and you’ll find a similar trend: Back then, newspapers could not get enough of the explosion of “vegetable meat.”

Nutty for Nuttose?

In 1896, nutritionist and cereal kingpin John Harvey Kellogg invented his first meat replacement — Nuttose.

It looked a bit like Nuteena, a canned meal made of peanut, soy, and corn that US stores sold until 2005.

Nuttose was far from alone:

  • In the early 1900s, a Chicago Tribune columnist named Jane Eddington served up recipes for sausages made from a smorgasbord of ingredients: lentils, breadcrumbs, hard-boiled eggs, eggplant, macaroni, and rice.
  • Then there was The Vegetarian Meat Company, a short-lived corporation that sold “peanut steaks, nut chops and other protein preparations.”
  • Kellogg himself later came out with Nuttolene, a spread that had “the consistency of cream cheese, a meaty flavor and composition.”

Mmm… digestion! 

My favorite take on this all comes from the Evening Kansan-Republican, which in 1901 raved that “vegetable meat” is “almost indistinguishable from beef or mutton.”

And not to worry — according to the newspaper, “one great advantage of the ‘vegetable meat’ is that it is ‘predigested’: it does away almost altogether with the necessity for the ordinary processes of assimilation.”

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.