The bizarre story of the soy sausage cooked up during WW1


If this were a Reddit post, it’d start with the acronym “TIL,” meaning “Today I Learned,” because today I learned that one of the world’s first plant-based sausages was created by German statesman Konrad Adenauer during the First World War.

At the time, Adenauer—who later served as the first Chancellor of West Germany from 1949 to 1963—was the major of Cologne, a German city some 500 km east of Berlin.

Germany—part of the “Central Powers” together with Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria—was facing the “Allied Powers,” namely the U.K., France, Russia and, from 1917, the U.S., in a series of bloody and exhausting battles fought mainly in insalubrious trenches.

Cologne was around 200 km away from the Western Front, the main theater of trench warfare, and the city was suffering from starvation. To fight the shortage of food, and in particular the shortage of meat, Adenauer cooked up an innovative sausage by mixing minced meat and high-protein soy flour.

So, to be clear, Adenauer’s sausage was not meat-free, but just with less meat. Nonetheless, it marked an important step in the history of plant-based meat technology.

As Adenauer himself wrote, the aim of his soy sausage was to help people consume less meat and more plant proteins. Meat was mixed in just to “mask” the plant-based ingredients because people “love the flavor of meat.”

Dubbed “the friedenswurst” or “peace sausage,” Audener’s invention was patented in the U.K. with the help of the almighty German Electricity Company (AEG) after the Imperial Patent Office in Germany refused to approve the patent.

Despite the patent, it’s dubious that the friedenwurst is actually the first soy sausage ever created. Plant-based meat was already a staple of medieval Chinese Buddhist cuisine and there’s a high chance that some kind of soy-based sausage has been produced in China centuries before Adenauer, highlighting an ancient human interest in meat alternatives.

But if you're wondering about the destiny of Adenauer's career as an inventor, you'll be glad to hear that was not limited to soy sausages.

Before he had to focus on running the country for almost 15 years, the prolific Adenauer came up with more than 20 inventions. For example, again in the field of food innovation, he devised a cheap bread for wartime made of rice flour, barley, and corn flour instead of more expensive wheat.

Less successfully, he was also the bright mind behind an internal light for toasters, a timer to automatically switch off his bed lamp when he fell asleep reading, and an electric gadget to kill insects (unfortunately, the gadget risked to be fatal for its users too).

Header picture: British Vickers machine gun crew during the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, World War I (Credit: WIKIPEDIA) 

If you want to support plant-based food you can donate to Dutch branch of Proveg International, it's an organization whose aim is to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50 percent by the year 2040: 

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