Rickter Scale: Beyond the great burger divide

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

No offence to the latest food fad, but I’m not about to say bon apPETAtit to “Beyond Meat” burgers any time soon.

Something about the way the contents are labelled as plant matter conjures up thoughts of a munch on mulch for lunch that doesn’t have the same appeal as 100 per cent Angus beef. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer four-legged patties to the nouveau approach aimed at steering us away from the bovine buffet.

I wonder what the target demographic is now that A&W, White Spot, Tim Horton’s, Thrifty Foods and others have jumped on the meatless burger bandwagon.

Corporations of that ilk thoroughly investigate every new marketing ploy, so I doubt if the goal is to convert lifelong vegetarians who shudder at the thought of eating an unidentified substance disguised to taste like pulverized particles of cow. Perhaps the aim is to attract those who recently turned over a green leaf, but still crave the beef that’s been purged from their menu.

Research probably predicted that profit margins will expand like a Sumo wrestler’s waistline now that new wave vegeterrestrials can join their carnivore acquaintances at the same table.

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First question I would raise, based on years in food service, is whether the purveyors of this product have purchased new grilles for the vegan patties, or are they going to sizzle side by side next to their beefy brothers during the lunch rush? One of the last establishments I worked at in Victoria that offered all day breakfasts had quite a reputation for their vegetarian skillet. The fact the potatoes that formed the base were cooked in dollops of warm, waxy bacon grease from a plastic bucket kept under the grille never made the fine print on the menu.

Once long ago in the faraway land of Vancouver, I shared a house with a charter member of the vegetarian movement. I committed the cardinal sin of cooking a chicken breast in what appeared to the untrained eye to be a communal frying pan.

Although I literally scrubbed a new surface onto it with steel wool, I’m still haunted by the look of disgust on Paul’s face as he dropped the pan into the garbage. This was the same fellow who reverted back to eating our feathered friends because of his son’s preference for the chicken dinners I occasionally prepared, which Dylan slathered with a sea of gravy. Those innocent Sunday dinners, with apologies to the fowls harmed, eventually led Paul astray from his die-healthy vegan ways.

I understand the cornucopia of ethical and environmental reasons that make eating meat a sensitive issue for many people much younger than me.

Unfortunately, I still fondly recall that childhood memory of my first drive-in burger on the way home from a day at the beach like it was last night. Six of us crammed into the Pontiac Strato Chief, the sultry aroma of French fries and vinegar wafting through the back seat like a forbidden perfume.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

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