When did St. Louis get its first vegetarian restaurant?

The city’s first vegetarian cafe was less of a culinary than a political project catalyzed by the St. Louis Vegetarian Society. The society, founded in 1901, met twice a month in the houses of the members until around 1903 the members began to hold public meetings in the Aschenbroedel-Halle on Kiefer. On the agenda were testimonials from Civil War veterans, athletes, and successful businesspeople who raved about the health and moral benefits of living a meat-free life. The presentations were followed by performances by the Self Culture Club and the Vegetarian Orchestras. Local newspapers directed a steady stream of ridicule against SLVS and invited members to compose food pillars. In 1902, the group’s president, George Heid, a local chemist explained how to feed and cook wild mushrooms (which have a meaty consistency) without accidentally poisoning yourself.

In 1903, club secretary Edgar Perkins went in search of an adventurous restaurateur who was willing to prepare dishes exclusively of “plant origin” – what we now call plant-based or vegan. “Mr. Perkins claims he could take a pat of butter and a pat of substitute butter and let a man eat him in the dark,” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’ll bet the eater he can’t tell what Butter and what is a substitute. “

In March 1904, all of society participated in the opening of a “physical culture restaurant” located “at a point on Olive Street intended to attract the attention of the world’s fair visitors.” And this fall, surely many of those who sat at the lunch counter and ordered nut-brown milk and protose (the wrong meat of the era) were people who had traveled from Liverpool to attend the International Vegetarian Congress, which this year was at the Fair took place.

Rising meat prices and Upton Sinclair’s 1906 stomach-twisting novel The Jungle added to the ranks of American vegetarian societies. But on New Year’s Day 1908, the mail brought the news that in the St. Louis Vegetarian Café the smell of “chicken croquettes (made from peanuts), mock fillet (made from peanuts), fake veal bread (made from peanuts). , Peanut flour biscuit, peanut flour pudding and peanut coffee ”, mixed with the“ tasty smell of real steaks, chops and roasts ”. St. Louis, the owner stated, “has neither the true culture of the East nor the radicalism of the Far West” and would not stand to eat peanut steaks in brutal winters in the Midwest.

In a world where veganism is now mainstream, it’s shocking to realize that in 2002, a century after the SLVS was founded, there really was only one downtown cafe, The Hungry Buddha, where vegetarians weren’t forced to Get along with iceberg salad and fries.

Vegetarian visits

St. Louis celebrated a steady stream of vegetarians in the early 20th century.

Can 1903 JE Mizee from Sparta, who claimed he had lived on “dried out nuts and fruits, cracked wheat and bean soup” for 15 years, demonstrated his strength at an SLVS talk and asked an audience to drop a 100 pound stone on his own to let belly.

October 1907 Charles Kramer, a member of the Chicago Vegetarian Society, went from Duluth to San Francisco and caught his “third wind” at the Pontiac Hotel in St. Louis before setting out to glide over the Rocky Mountains on Norwegian skis.

November 1911 Bernarr MacFadden, America’s first prominent bodybuilder, expanded his chain of meat-free restaurants with “physical culture” to St. Louis. His reasons were sentimental: MacFadden spent his sick teenage years in St. Louis, and here he committed himself to a life of vegetarianism – and the dumbbells.

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