I am the usual dinner cooker in our house. That’s by choice and it’s because I like to cook. It’s an easy thing for me to do. I’d much rather cook dinner than have to do laundry (which Lola does 99 percent of). Lola is actually a good cook, but most of the time as both our days play out, it’s just easier for me to handle dinner especially when taking this quest into consideration. It would be hard for Lola to plan dinner if I kept throwing odd requests at her like I need an egg soufflé for dinner or even something with moldy cheese. It’s just easy for me and also allows me to fully pursue my quest. Recently I’ve gotten in the habit of picking up things for dinner on my way home and when I do, I always text Lola to let her know what the dinner plan is and to to see if she needs anything from the store. Today I texted her that I was going to pick up some veggie burgers at the store. She texted back this message:
“Is it veggie burger day? It better be. Otherwise–why, God, why?!”
Lola has had a long history with veggie burgers and from what I understand, her parents were on the veggie burger kick before they really became a sensation. Her parents were kind of on a vegetarian kick back in the day which meant an early introduction to things like veggie burgers and tofu hot dogs. However in those days, they really hadn’t figured out how to make these meatless products taste so good. Her first veggie burgers were awful and they left a terrible impression on her palette (I won’t even talk about how she feels about tofu pups). The veggie burgers were gross and mushy and tasted like compost. They probably were. But that was life as a kid. You ate whatever your parents put on your plate or you didn’t eat. Still, some twenty odd years later, Lola is still scarred from the horrors from the culinary adventures of Barry & Gigi.
I never had veggie burgers growing up. I’m pretty sure that’s because they weren’t a thing ready for mass consumption, but I also know my mom would have had nothing to do with that kind of food. As an adult, I avoided veggie burgers for as long as I could just because they sounded like something I didn’t want. When I finally tried them, I was pleasantly surprised. They weren’t bad at all. The patties tasted like beans which wasn’t an awful taste at all. What they really tasted like was everything else I put on the burger like cheese and mayo and lettuce and tomato. I figured out that the veggie burger was just a vehicle for the other goodness. I could deal with that. Since then, I’ve had them on occasion every now and then. There was a spot in New Hampshire close to our house that made them special and it was always a nice little treat. Every once in a while, I’ll order one at a restaurant because they sound good. I’ll always try to get Lola in for trying one too, but she is never a huge fan. Her memory is still scarred.
My plan for tonight was to just grab the typical burgers you see in the freezer section like Boca Burgers or Garden Burgers. They seemed to be the leaders in the Veggie Burger clubhouse. But on a whim I did a search for the best veggie burger in Rhode Island. The top return was a company called Jens & Marie who operate a restaurant called Café Choklad in Providence where they created their veggie burgers. Apparently those burgers were all the rave and Jens & Marie have since branched out to offer their frozen patties in select grocery stores and wholesale operations. I looked at the list of stores where their products were sold and the first one listed was Clements (of course it was). That’s where I picked up their Black Bean and Sweet Potato burgers and also grabbed some extra supplies to complete my dinner. Then it was home to cook.
The burgers cook super fast which makes sense since they are already cooked and frozen (no raw meat to worry about here). I put them on a skillet in some hot oil and cooked both sides for about 3 minutes each. Jens & Marie call their burgers “Skip the bread veggie burgers” but despite their suggestion, I was not skipping the bread. I was going to put them on some fresh ciabatta rolls that I had prepared with a layer of mayo and topped with arugula and fresh tomato. I was going to add some fresh avocado too, but the avocados were quite ripe enough. I topped the burgers with cheese (American on mine, cheddar and Pepper Jack for Lola) which melted on top and over the side of the patties. Then I put them all together and cut them in half. They looked like regular burgers.
When I gave Lola her plate, she was interested in what she saw which was a good start. They really looked just like a hamburger that I would have served her. I saw her take her first bite and I waited to hear her verdict. She chewed for a while and I could see her reflecting on what was in her mouth. After a long pause, her head started a very slow nod followed by an ever-so-slight head tilt. The corners of her mouth started to nudge upward creating an expression of approval. I think she liked it. I took my first bite and I liked it too. These were tasty. Lola eventually spoke the words that these veggie burgers were good. They had a nice spicy taste to them (the southwest flavors of the beans coming through). I didn’t catch any of the sweet potato flavor but they did add to the texture of the patties. The cheese on top really brought the tastes together. It was a well-built sandwich which came together nicely and while it would be hard to say the veggie patty was the star, it did bring in some good exciting flavor to the party (and also some portion which I guess is the purpose). Some good salsa or fresh guacamole would have really made it great. Still, I was happy with our tasty dinner. Even Lola agreed that it is something we should have again in the future.
When we look at our own history with certain foods, there are always those that as adults we toss aside because we had some bad times with them as kids. Like the kid who hates Brussels sprouts because he couldn’t leave the table until they were gone, Lola was not a fan of veggie burgers. I’m surprised she even went along with this one. Still, she’s always up for a new experience and she is always there for support. I think this was one that surprised her on how good it was. It would appear that the quality of veggie burgers has gotten better over the last two decades. We must be in the golden age of veggie burgers now. The Pièce De Résistance of years of veggie experimentation. This wasn’t kale and dandelions bonded together by coconut paste, this was just good tasty beans and potatoes together as one. The perfect compliment to the fixings we enjoy on all our burgers. That’s what made it a great dinner and why we found room in our heart to celebrate today. Now I just hope there’s no National Tofu Hot Dog Day coming up on the schedule.
Next up: National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month