Monday, January 17, 2022

What year did St. Louis open its first vegetarian restaurant?

St. Louis Vegetarian Society catalyzed the creation of the city’s first vegetarian café.

St. Louis Vegetarian Society was the catalyst for the city’s first vegetarian café. It wasn’t a culinary venture, but a political one. The society was founded in 1901 and met twice a month in its members’ homes until 1903. In that year, members started holding public meetings at the Aschenbroedel Hall in Pine. It featured testimonials from Civil War veterans and athletes as well as business leaders who spoke out about the moral and health benefits of eating meat-free. The talks were followed by performances by the Self Culture Club, and Vegetarian Orchestras. Local newspapers hurled ridicule at SLVS and invited members to write food columns. George Heid (a local chemist) was the president of the group in 1902. He explained how to forage wild mushrooms and prepare them as a meal without accidentally poisoning your body.

Edgar Perkins, the club secretary, set out to find a restaurateur who would make vegetarian or plant-based dishes. “Mr. “Mr. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “He will bet the eater that he can’t tell which butter is which substitute.”

The entire society attended the grand opening “a physical culture restaurant” in March 1904. This was a location “at a point of Olive Street calculated to catch attention of World’s Fair visitors.” Many of those who ordered nut-brown and protose were people traveling from Liverpool to attend that year’s International Vegetarian Congress.

Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle, which was stomach-turning and a result of rising meat prices, increased American vegetarian societies. The Post reported that on New Year’s Day 1908, there was a new smell at the St. Louis Vegetarian Cafe. It contained “chicken croquettes (made from peanuts), mock tenderloins (made with peanuts), imitation Veal loaf (made with peanuts), peanut meal pudding, peanut coffee,” as well as “chicken croquettes” and “mock tenderloins (made with peanuts).

It’s surprising to see that veganism has become mainstream in a world where veganism is commonplace. In 2002, however, The Hungry Buddha was still the only downtown cafe where vegetarians were not forced to eat iceberg salad or French fries.

Vegetarian Visitations

In the 20th century, St. Louis hosted a steady flow of vegetarians.

May 1903J.E. Mizee of Sparta claimed he had lived on “parched nuts, fruits, cracked wheat, and bean soup” for 15 years. He then demonstrated his strength by asking an audience member to put a 100-pound stone in his stomach at an SLVS lecture.

October 1907Charles Kramer was a member of Chicago Vegetarian Society. He walked from Duluth, Minnesota, to San Francisco. He caught his “third wind” at Pontiac Hotel, St. Louis, before setting out to “skim across the Rockies on Norwegian Skis.”

November 1911Bernarr MacFadden was America’s first celebrity bodybuilder. He expanded his chain to St. Louis with a number of “physical culture” restaurants that are vegetarian. MacFadden had sentimental reasons. He spent his ill teenage years in St. Louis and here he decided to live a vegetarian lifestyle with dumbbells.

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