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Advertisement Nothingburger no substitute for the real thing
by Dan Brawner Columnist · July 20th, 2017


"Nothingburger: Something lame, dead-end, insignificant, especially something with high expectations that turns out to be average, pathetic or overhyped. Two pieces of bread with nothing in between. A news story hyped by the mainstream media for ratings or political agenda." - Urban Dictionary.

"Nothingburger" is one of those hilarious, trendy words. The Washington Times called the controversy around Hillary Clinton's emails a nothingburger. The New York Post called Trump's secret tax returns a nothingburger. Investor Kevin O'Leary said Apple Music was nothing but a "giant nothingburger." CNN commentator Van Jones recently declared "The Russian thing is just one big nothingburger."

I guess we salivate at the term "nothingburger" because this is the season for outdoor grilling and the thought of a big juicy somethingburger getting switched for a sad empty bun makes us mentally whimper with disappointment.

And speaking as somebody who has reluctantly given up red meat, I have been highly skeptical of all the cheery vegetarian hamburger substitutes, made from mung beans and eggplant, that try to sell us on the idea that it tastes just as good. These nothingburger manufacturers point out that producing just one quarter pound of real hamburger requires 7 pounds of feed, 53 gallons of water, 74 acres of grazing land and 1,000 BTUs of energy. (Which still doesn't make a nothingburger taste like hamburger.)

Impossible Foods, which produces "hamburger" made from peas, observes that worldwide meat production is projected to increase by 612,000 tons this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, straining already scarce resources. After all, meat doesn't grow on trees - at least, until now. Impossible Foods claims their pea burger contains more protein than regular hamburger, less fat and fewer calories. They brag that their "Beyond Burger" sizzles like meat, tastes like meat and "bleeds" with beet juice. (Is this supposed to appeal to blood-thirsty vegetarians?)

The secret to the authentic taste of the Beyond Burger is "heme," that iron-containing molecule found in hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. It turns out there is a plant version of heme.

Of course, not everybody is ready to agree that nothingburgers actually smell and taste like real hamburger. Reactions among researchers vary. Descriptions include, "like butter, maple syrup, a diaper pail, smoke, grass or even a raspberry bug."

Comments on the Beyond Meat Beast Burger: "Literally yelled out in disgust." "Like a burger reconstituted from stinky Asian mushrooms." "Could not make it beyond the first bite. Completely grossed out by this."

On Amy's Sonoma veggie burger: "Really nice seasoning on this one." "Conjures all the flavors and textures of that one sad, lonely veggie burger leftover at the BBQ."

Qrunch original Qrunch Burger: "So good! Like chicken!" "Flavorless and dull." "Tasted like hush puppies, which was a surprise."

Maybe someday, the vegetable nothingburger may, like the Russian nothingburger, develop into something we can get our teeth into. But until then, I will have to be satisfied with vegetables that don't taste like they came from a cow.
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