Originally created 10/01/97

A better burger?



Where's the beef? Paul Liphardt doesn't care.

He only eats veggie burgers.

"I eat them constantly," says the 26-year-old manager at Widow Brown's Cafe in Evans. "They're my nighttime snack. You can just rip them out of the freezer and cook 'em up. It's just freezer to the grill."

About 10 million red-blooded Americans have turned away frombeef and are grabbing soy or wheat burgers instead, according to the American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond.

If you haven't tasted them in a while, vegetable burgers are not the same sawdust sandwiches you might remember.

"They've added a little more spice and zip to them," says Lamar Bishop, manager of Foods for Better Living, a health-food store on McDowell Street.

The mock meat is made of minced mushrooms, green pepper, wheat berries and rolled oats. And then there are soy burgers, which provide better texture and taste.

"It's not your typical tofu-rice-and-bean concoction," Mr. Liphardt says. "It's a real meal."

You can get meat substitutes in several forms: canned, frozen patties, powdered mixes you combine with water, or frozen hunks for spaghetti sauce. And you don't have to hike to a health food store - you can get these alternatives at Publix, Kroger or Food Lion.

"They taste sort of meatish," says Mike Enloe, a 37-year-old who owns a construction company. "They're satisfying like meat - you feel like you've eaten something substantial as opposed to a plate of lettuce."

You may feel full, but it's not the same as biting into a mouth-watering Whopper.

"If you're looking for an exact duplicate of meat, I don't think you'll find it," says Deams Dial, a 43-year-old Augusta accountant. "But for a healthy alternative it'd be good."

Mad cow disease and illnesses caused by e-coli bacteria may have prompted some folks to turn to veggie burgers, but others are skipping meat for the more traditional health benefits of vegetarianism.

About 68 percent of the 2.1 million American deaths each year are diet-related, according to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

That's why Mike Evans, 37, went vegetarian a year ago. He eats three Harvest Burgers a week.

Veggie burgers are low in fat and low in calories - and most of them don't have any cholesterol.

"Just mic (microwave) 'em and they taste pretty good," Mr. Liphardt says. "Throw a little cheese on, and it's just like a hamburger."