History Dish Mondays: Protose

So the big week is finally here: I’ve decided to spend the next five days immersing myself in the diet of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and John Harvey Kellogg. I’m not sure what to tell you to expect–either the delightful world of vegetarian cuisine, or another week of torture comparable to the Tenement Diet.

Protose is one of J. H. Kellog’s invented meat substitutes. I currently have it on my menu for the Dinner on the Road to Wellville party in March. I’m skeptical that it’s not horrible, so I want to give it a try in advance, so that i have time to come up with a suitable replacement, if necessary.

Protose was manufactured by the Kellogg/Worthington company until about 2000; since it was discontinued, there seems to be an online group of hard-core vegans trying to recreated it’s special taste and texture. While searching for a suitable recipe, I came across this fascinating recollection of one man’s experience with the cuisine of J.H, Kellogg:
“Protose. What does that conjure up for me?
You’d never guess.
The three most trusted people that Dr. J.H. Kellogg had working for him were three unmarried sisters: Gertrude, his chief administrator and executor of his will; Angie his chief dietitians; and Mable his chief nurse and the one person who accompanied Kellogg to Ontario to attend the Dion quintuplets.
By the mid-1950′s, the doctor long dead, the three unmarried sisters now running the Sanitarium in Miami Springs would spend the summers back up in Battle Creek at their farm in the country.
My grandfather was the brother to these three sisters and, dying young, my own father was raised by the sisters and Dr. Kellogg.
During the summers we would visit them three or four times for a weekend and invariably one of the meals was the most delicious “roast” made out of Protose. Once you’ve had it, especially the way they prepared it, you were hooked.”
I can’t confirm whether the story is true, but fascinating none the less.
After further research, I came up with this recipe:
***
Protose
Original Recipe from a post on Vegan Food
With variations suggested by Chowhound.com and Ellen’s Kitchen
1/2 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
1 cup wheat gluten (seitan)
1 c vegetable stock
2 T cornstarch
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 tsp Italian herb blend
Pinch of salt
Steam in top of a double boiler for three hours, stirring occasionally. Let cool in the pan, turn out on platter and slice.
***
Seitan, if you were wondering, is a vegan food product invented by Buddhist monks in China. You take wheat dough and wash it under water until nothing remains but theĀ gluten. It’s very high in protein, but it also looks like this:

I tasted a tiny bit of it out of the bag. It had a bizarre taste I wasn’t expecting: like burnt maple syrup. Very unappealing.
I buzzed the seitan in a food processor and mixed it up with all the other ingredients. I found out I didn’t have corn starch, so I ended using flour instead. I used McCormick’s Italian Herb Grinder for the seasoning. I took a tiny taste of the mixed ingredients and it tasted like…peanut butter with Italian seasoning.

I set it on a double boiler, and it looked done after about two hours. I flipped it out of the mold and it looked pretty unappealing. I’m preparing it in a dish for dinner today, so we’ll see how that goes. But I have a feeling I’m going to end up taking this one off the menu.

7 Responses to “History Dish Mondays: Protose”


  • So how did it turn out?? I’m dying to know Thanks Jen

  • I arrived here curious about protose, having seen it on this old vegetarian restaurant menu. Glad to hear you eventually got a good result! I think I’ll put this on my list to try. Just wanted to note that when you make seitan, what you are doing is washing out the starch and leaving the gluten, not leaving only the starch. The long strands of gluten are what give seitan its texture.

  • I’m so glad you put this on the net to see. I recently acquired a cookbook from 1914 “The New Cookery” which states “a book of recipes – most of which are in use at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.” There are many things in the book that I am having to look up such as “minim”, “hydrocloric acid”, “vegetable oysters”, “dasheen”. I don’t know much about the sanitarium yet. Thanks for the education.

    • I’ve had vegetable oysters! You can still find them–search online for the product website, and then there is a search that lets you know if they are for sale online. They’re canned vegetable protein–one of the earliest marketed meat substitutes. They are also gross.

  • Seitan is also called gluten in the US. After washing it is usually dropped into a boiling broth for an hour. The broth is made from a variety of things but I have found that 1 to 1 1/2 cups soy sauce and a large onion or two per gallon of water makes a good broth.

    Once the gluten is made cut into pieces and drop into rapidly boiling broth. They will sink and rise later about double in size. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes and turn down and continue cooking for about 1 hour total.

    I flatten out before boiling and then bread and fry them after they are finished boiling. It can also be used many other ways.

    It can be made without the washing by using Vital Gluten. Take equal parts of vital gluten and water. Add Vital Gluten to water a little at a time stirring as you do. (you may have a rubber like substance if you are careless) Let set and cut into steaks and drop into broth as above. If you want a firmer steak add more vital gluten. Less vital gluten will give you a softer steak. (You can add up to 50% other ingredients into the gluten before boiling. It will also puff if put in the oven before boiing.)

    I have a copy of the book “Science in the Kitchen” by E. E. Kellogg copyright 1892 fourth edition published in 1904 published in Battle Creek.

    David

    I have been looking for an early recipe on protose. Thanks.

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