‘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.”

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