‘Beloved Berlin Currywurst Stand Delivers a Bite of History’

Christopher F. Schuetze writes a beautiful piece for the NYTimes about Konnopke’s which is a small Currywurst stand in Berlin. This essay is filled with so many interesting bits about their life in-and-out of communist Berlin throughout time, but just check out this little zinger:

“I like to call it the golden West,” Ms. Ziervogel said sarcastically during an interview in her garden, where in the early years she grew tomatoes for ketchup that was unavailable in the communist state. […]

But the biggest challenge came in 1990 with the reunification of East and West Germany. Not just because of a new set of suppliers, taxes and rules, but because a new universe of customers expected a different set of offerings.

Konnopke’s started selling French fries. The currywurst, which used to be served with a bun and a hot mug of broth, is now cut up and served on a paper plate. (A tiny plastic fork is provided.)

As someone who has never worked in a kitchen or run a restaurant, stories like this feel like they’re written with gold. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to survive and thrive in Berlin through all of that time, and — of course — I love seeing they have a vegan option now.

‘Vegetarian and Vegan Los Angeles’

I found an incredibly in-depth history of vegetarian and vegan food in Los Angeles from Eric Brightwell. Check out this part about the first vegetarian restaurant in LA:

By the late 1890s, there were devoted vegetarian restaurants in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco — but none in Los Angeles. In 1900, associates of John Harvey Kellogg‘s Battle Creek Sanitarium opened Los Angeles’s first dedicated vegetarian restaurant on 3rd Street. Perhaps restaurant naming conventions were different back then as it was imprecisely referred to in print as both “the Vegetarian restaurant” and “the Vegetarian café.”

This article is overflowing with interesting tidbits, but it’s especially nice to be able to see actual photos and even videos of some of the restaurants — especially the Kellogg’s spot that opened up beside Angel’s Flight.

I loved the bit about raw food being called “unfired food”. And I wasn’t surprised to see the massive connection between veggie-eating with religion and cult.

And it’s fascinating to see the power of a novel and its influence on American dining:

Upton Sinclair‘s novel, The Jungle, was published in 1906. Although Sinclair hoped to The Jungle promote socialism, most readers were more affected by the descriptions of run-of-the-mill health violations, unsanitary conditions, and gruesome violence of the meatpacking industry. Sinclair noted of the reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.” In its wake, a wave of vegetarian restaurants opened and a directory of vegetarian restaurants in the US from that year listed 57.

It’s hard to imagine anything having that kind of power today.

‘Impossible Whopper drives 5% of Burger King’s Q3 US comp sales’

The Impossible Whopper drove 5% of Burger King’s comparable sales in the U.S. during the third quarter, the brand’s strongest growth since 2015, according to an earnings release. The Impossible Whopper was one of the most successful rollouts in Burger King’s history, Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil told investors during an October earnings call.

Sales were highly incremental and attracted new types of guests, he said. While it attracted millennials and Gen Z consumers that appreciated the product’s sustainability, older generations such as Gen Xers that hadn’t visited the chain in a while returned to try the Impossible Whopper.

Cil said the launch provided great momentum, and that the company expects continued growth as adoption of plant-based items increases. He believes the company has a strong plant-based platform and looks forward to expanding it outside the U.S. The chain has already brought plant-based beef and chicken offerings to Sweden. Burger King is also considering expanding plant-based into Latin America and Asia, he said.

I can’t imagine owning a chain of restaurants, seeing these numbers, and *not* adding plant-based items to your menu. It’s free money at this point. New customers, new old customers, and new things on the menu. Adding plant-based foods is like a restaurant cheat code at this point.

‘Wildseed is vegan — but don’t call it that’

Soleil Ho has been on a tear recently for the SF Chronicle writing about their vegan community. In her latest, this part on language pulled me in:

Though zealotry is a common negative stereotype about vegans, it’s interesting to see how a dietary proselytization is reframed at Wildseed. The purpose of the restaurant, whose owners are mostly omnivorous but spent some time eating vegan to better understand the idea, is to win over agnostics of an occasional vegan diet. There’s even explicit language in Wildseed’s promotional materials that ties that choice with moral and ethical goodness: “Wildseed offers guests a chance to make a better choice — a place where you can feel good about the decisions you are making,” the website states. Still, the language is soft and almost vague in its calls to action, refraining from doomsaying or calling out bad behavior.

The menu at Wildseed avoids using the word “vegan,” which leads to slight confusion when ingredients like sour cream and Parmesan are presented plainly. Though the menu does say that everything is “plant-based,” it’s reasonable for newbies to do some mental contortion and assume that sun + grass x cow = cheese. […] (Adding to this conceptual knot is the fact that mushrooms aren’t technically plants.)


When asked about this, the servers do their best to work around the terminology: “We don’t use any animal products,” they say.
They could save some words by just saying “vegan,” but there’s a point to this.

The approach is indicative of a burgeoning countermovement to veganism that has adopted its diet, but not its politics of disruption. 


When asked about the difference between the terms, Mark Bomford, a farmer and director of Yale University’s Sustainable Food Program, said that it comes down to a value proposition: “vegan” and “meat-free” make you think that you’re abstaining or giving something up, whereas “plant-based” or “plant-strong” have more forward propulsion. “In terms of marketing communication, it’s about winning, not about losing,” he said.

Perhaps the key to Wildseed’s success is the fact that “vegan” and “vegetarian” can do double duty to describe both a product and a personal identity, whereas the comparatively more apolitical “plant-based” cannot. Its voice of persuasion is intentionally dulcet-toned, enticing like that of a siren.

As a descriptivist, this language in flux is confusing, exciting, and enticing. People, restaurants, and companies are still navigating these terms daily, and many are reaching new conclusions about how they want to phrase and approach the topic of veganism. Luckily, it all serves a greater purpose: more delicious food.

Oat Milk

When I read reviews of restaurants like Komi in Washington DC, like this one in the Washington Post from Tom Sietsema, I’m reminded of the relative newness of veganism. Especially to many chefs. And how things can shift overnight, overweek, overmonth.

It reminds me of what has happened with oat milk. The great Oat Milk. Our new liquid friend in the vegan community. A frothy and friendly beast that is splashed into coffees, espressos, and teas. Neutral and nice—and in only the last year, it’s become a staple in most coffee shops I stop by. It has a lovely body that is a great friend to many drinks. It’s common now, but only a year or two ago I had never seen it.

And things like this are happening in my life all the time. Daw Yee Myanmar Corner, one of my favorite restaurants in LA, makes a lentil tofu. Foodies is now making a tofu out of pumpkin seeds. And there is Chickpea tofu too.

This part of the review makes me hungry for that exploration:

The first marvel is a tiny taco whose dark filling, hidden beneath shredded lettuce, is a ringer for ground beef. Playing the meaty role, however: ground black walnuts imbued with a housemade version of Old El Paso taco seasoning. Close behind the treat is a souvlaki featuring mushrooms that have been sliced paper-thin, marinated, layered and pressed for a few days before they’re threaded on a skewer and seasoned with oregano. Along for the joyride is a dreamy mustard dip.


The grandest illusions are the gyro and the not-fish fillet.

The former is a magic trick coaxed from tofu skin, griddled at different temperatures and times to achieve a gyro’s signature crisp edges, then bundled in pillowy pita.

Walnuts. Mushrooms pressed for many days. Griddled tofu skin. These new uses are special developments. One small step for veganism, and (possibly) one giant leap for vegan eating.

These fresh explorations and their best uses hasn’t been seen, but time will be our friend. Komi sounds like it’s exploring vegetables in new impressionistic ways. It reminds me of Superiority Burger of New York City. (SB is in LA soon!) These restaurants are changing our future meals, whether we know it or not. Each experimental dish they make could be the next plant-based heartthrob and staple of our homes.

‘Disney’s US theme parks are going vegan’

In a sign that veganism is making its way into the American mainstream, Disney announced Tuesday that plant-based food options will be added to every dining location in their US theme parks.

Now, it’s the happiest place on earth.

‘The Heir to a Tofu Dynasty Finally Learns to Make Tofu’

Aaron Reiss writing for the NYTimes about the oldest tofu shop in New York City and its sequel of sorts:

Paul Eng decided to confront a reality he had been facing most of his life: He was the heir to a tofu tradition who had no idea how to make tofu.

Mr. Eng’s grandfather learned the trade in the 1930s from fellow immigrants shortly after he arrived in Chinatown. He went on to open up a small tofu shop on Mott Street, called Fong Inn Too, and developed recipes that would become well loved in Chinatown for more than eighty years. When Mr. Eng’s parents closed the shop in 2017, the recipes, never written down, disappeared with it.

At one point, while trying to recreate those recipes, Mr. Eng asked one of his parents’ former employees how much baking soda a particular recipe called for. He said, “A cup.”

“A cup, like eight ounces? Like a U.S. standard cup measure?”

“No,” the man said, “a cup.”

“Like a coffee cup?”

“No, this one cup that we had at the shop.”

The cup, naturally, had been thrown out.

We all have been or will be there. This bit is coming for us all someday:

Fong On was known not only for its tofu but also for soy milk, rice cakes, grass jelly and a dozen other traditional products. Mr. Eng didn’t know how to make any of them, and he had almost nothing to work with. “We had dismantled all the old equipment and nothing was written down.” Not even his family members could recall enough detail to recreate their old specialties.

I once had a friend whose grandma made a shortbread crumble cake using odd cups that had been collected throughout the years for the measurements. This friend told me it was the only thing she wanted if her grandma passed away.

In Chinatown, the craft was often passed from more established immigrants to those more newly arrived.

Born in New York in 1966, Mr. Eng was part of a different generation — so he turned to YouTube.

And naturally, vegans in NYC are already stopping by Fong On. The article even mentions one of my favorite food-lovers in NYC, Crystal Pang aka @veganeatsnyc, who of course has already found this spot.

I love that articles like this help share the story and history of tofu. I know we’ve all had bad experiences with tofu, and stories like this help people appreciate the work that goes into it — and hopefully take the time to see how to prepare it, whether plain or like Yotam Ottolenghi’s perfect Black Pepper tofu recipe from Plenty.

Bloomberg’s Burger Stalker

I needed this when the Impossible shortage was in full swing. Either way, this tracker from Bloomberg is glorious.

‘KFC’s Response to Chicken Sandwich Mania: A Bucket of Vegan ‘Chicken’’

After all the discussion of Popeye’s entering the chicken sandwich game, this was the more interesting story for our future:

Maybe that’s because KFC was too busy rolling out a product that is, in a way, the inverse of Popeyes’ new star: Beyond Fried Chicken, a plant-based fried “poultry” made in partnership with fake-meat startup Beyond Meat. Starting Tuesday, the faux fried chicken will be available from just one location — a KFC in Smyrna, Ga., northwest of Atlanta — in the form of nuggets or boneless wings, as the chain decides whether or not to broaden the test or to release Beyond Fried Chicken nationwide.

This ended up selling out in 5 hours. I’d assume it’ll be nationwide by early next year.