Vegetarian Cuisine Is A Lot Older Than You Think

Vegetarian Cuisine Is A Lot Older Than You Think
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Vegetarian Cuisine Is A Lot Older Than You Think

Ever wonder what it was like to be a vegetarian in the 19th century? Read on to find out!

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Hiltl was brain child of Ambrosius Hiltl, who decided to give up meat in order to quell his joint paint brought on by rheumatoid arthritis.

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Hiltl’s doctor suggested that a diet of raw vegetables, fruits and nuts could resolve most ailments, a theory promoted by the Swiss physician and nutritionist, Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who is famously credited with inventing muesli.

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Even though abstaining from meat consumption was practically shameful to the Swiss, Hiltl embraced his vegetarianism and fortunately there was a restaurant for him in Zurich called Vegetarians’ Home and Teeotaller Cafe. Hiltl frequented the place and eventually decided to buy it.

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The recipes needed some work though because they were just potato, rice and flour-based dishes sans meat.

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The customers were mostly female but also artists, writers, religious individuals, and people with health conditions frequented the meatless joint.

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During the war, meat became scarce, which affected the traditional restaurants, but not Hiltl.

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In 1951 Hiltl’s daughter took control of the menu. After an inspirational trip to India she returned to the restaurant with exotic spices and new recipes.

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She brought back a mushroom and curry sauce with fruit called The Colonial Curry, which has remained on menu.

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Peter Vauthier, the head of Hiltl guest relations, claims that the Indian influence paved the way for “experimental” food in the 60s and 70s like canned pineapple and lychees. "Canned fruit was very exotic and trendy.We mixed them with curry and it was very popular," Vauthier explained.

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Today the restaurant is a buffet style and emphasizes fresh ingredients, which has impressed food critics.

There are over 100 choices on the menu today including jalapeno poppers and mini-calzones.

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Hiltl is three floors and is now considered one of Switzerland’s largest restaurants. The restaurant has come a long way from only being able to seat 50.

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The restaurant even boasts a cocktail bar, nightclub and cooking classes.

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Customers at Hiltl’s aren’t even exclusively vegetarian anymore.

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The most popular dish on the menu is a typical Swiss dish called Zürich Geschnetzeltes with Rösti, which is typically made with mushrooms and small pieces of veal in a cream sauce with potatoes.

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Take a look at some other tasty meatless dishes. You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these!

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Wild Mushroom Goulash

This vegetarian goulash appears in Sarah Copeland's forthcoming book, Feast. It contains a lot of paprika, as Hungarians love its warm, heady flavor. For the best results, be sure to open a fresh container.

Get the recipe: Wild Mushroom Goulash

Huevos Rancheros Wraps

The balance of cilantro and jalapeño with the eggs, black beans and tomato is perfect.

Get the recipe: Huevos Rancheros Wraps

Garlic-Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

This fresh sandwich features juicy tomatoes piled on garlicky grilled bread that has been spread with a creamy mix of feta, mayonnaise and chives.

Get the recipe: Garlic-Toasted Tomato Sandwiches

Grilled Eggplant And Carmen Pepper Pizza

A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon salt makes this delicious pizza even better.

Get the recipe: Grilled Eggplant And Carmen Pepper Pizza


Vegetarianism seems like it's everywhere these days. And why not? Studies show that vegetarianism—even partially—can help prevent heart disease, help the environment and even help you lose weight.

Still, forgoing meats for veggies is a relatively new phenomenon, but did you know that vegetarians have actually existed for quite some time?

Over 100 years ago, before vegetarianism was even a word, the world's first still-operational vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl, opened in Zurich. You can still visit today!

Check out the slideshow above for more about the world's only operational vegetarian institution from the 1900s.

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