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Plow Burger’s CAMPFIRE BURGER: Beyond Burger patty, Follow Your Heart cheese, pickles, vegan mayo, crispy fried shoestring onions, barbecue sauce. $11.50.

Plant-based burgers are the carnivorous dreams of vegan meat junkies.

My review for Google Maps of Plow Burger’s vegan hamburger questions the culinary wisdom of recreating meat with plants.

Plow Burger is very good at what they do. So beefy is the heart of the Plow Burger's vegan "meat" that it bleeds. The Campfire Burger is a rich, homestyle assemblage of plant-based faux meat (the blood is beet juice) and gooey cheese. The pickles are crisp, and the barbecue sauce time-trips me back to the summer cookout where I lost my virginity. The one unambiguously veggie dish is the bold & thick salt-and-peppery fries, which are the best I've had in either a carnivorous or vegetarian establishment in a long time and possibly ever. Plow Burger operates out of a trailer in the Hyde Park Market parking lot at 45th & Duval, and there are a couple of picnic tables for people like me who aren't going to squirrel their food off to their nests as soon as it's handed out the window to them.

I hold one star back over a philosophical issue: if I'm striving to eat a plant-based diet, I question whether I should seek to recreate my old carnivorous habits with plants. The pining for the burgers I ate at Hopdoddy's last year, now recreated in plant food, makes me feel like the dry alcoholic drinking Coca-Cola in a shadowy corner of a bar. Recreating cow flesh with vegetable matter is an addict's self-deception. Sooner or later I'm gonna go out and find the real thing. Instead, once I've freed the planet of my polluting extravagance, freed the cows of the brutal slavery of feeding me, and freed my body of the stocky heart-clogging lard of eating meat, I'm free to see the full magical potential of what can be done with plant-based cuisine.

A wallflower attends a party tentatively, as if she might slip through the wall and disappear into the chaos of the world again. The faux beef vegan clings to the fleshy borders of their new diet, but finding the joy of the party requires letting go of the old way in both flesh and spirit. I need to let go of the old way entirely, join the party and sublimate myself fully into the new adventure. If I can make food that passes for beefy burgers, imagine what I can do if I use that energy and know-how to create a food unabashedly made of plants without my bovine shame clinging to it. The restaurant that truly serves me won't serve me something Beyond Beef but something beyond my imagination.

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writer / poet / explorer

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