First things first: the “COOl Cuisine Burger Battle” is coming to Davis. For the entire month of March, we can chomp on a hamburger without the ham (not that it had ham in the first place) — a burger without the meat, replaced instead with a plant-based and Earth-friendly meat substitute.

There’s no one recipe for these burgers, each is different, with different ingredients and different tastes, and the Burger Battle is a chance to test out burgers from 17 Davis locations, of which 11 are in the city, and six are at UC Davis. The battle takes place over the entire month of March, so there’s plenty of opportunity to try out the variety of offerings.

The city locations are Bistro 33 (F and Third streets), Chay Corner (407 G St., across from the Regal Cinema), the deli at the Davis Food Co-op, deVere’s Irish Pub, Redrum Burger, Smokin’Ewe BBQ (at G Street Pub), Solomon’s Delicatessen (Davis Commons), The Hotdogger (at both the 129 E St. location and the Davis Farmers Market), Yeti (E Street Plaza) and Zumapoke Lush & Ice (703 Third St., next to Temple Coffee). A home chef’s cooperative, Foodnome, is hoping to open in time to join the battle.

The campus locations are Gunrock, Spokes (both at the Silo), Scrubs Café (at the Veterinary Medical School), and three dining commons — Cuarto, Segundo and Tercero. Each of the dining commons will offer a burger for one week, at lunch.

The Burger Battle is not just for vegetarians and vegans. More the opposite. People who are vegetarian or vegan are, dare I say it, thought to be a little weird. Why on earth would anyone in his or her right mind willingly not want to eat meat?

The answers to that question are varied and, although my experience is that vegetarians and vegans are somewhat shy about talking about it, in part because it can sound sort of judgy and preachy, go ahead and ask a friend. Although it may be a bit of an uncomfortable discussion, it’s an important one to have. Or, connect with COOL Cuisine; they’ve been working for five years to bring more options to local restaurants.

For my part, my 40 years as a vegetarian stems from several concerns, including the conditions under which chickens and cows are raised, what they eat and how they are slaughtered. I’m also concerned about the well-documented potential adverse health effects of a diet reliant on meat. But, over the years, I can say that probably the biggest reason for me to continue as a vegetarian is that I find the food to be better, more delicious.

There’s another reason important to my choice to not eat meat (and, by the way, “meat” includes fish and shrimp) and that is concern for the environment and adverse effects on the climate crisis. It’s estimated that nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be tracked back to meat and dairy consumption.

I want to pause here for a moment and reflect on the recent climate talks in Poland. World leaders (minus one) converged to discuss solutions to the accelerating climate crisis, including reducing dietary reliance on meat.

These were tough discussions, and after a long day at the negotiating table, delegates withdrew to dinners that were heavily reliant on beef, pork, salmon, shrimp, chicken, duck, oysters and ham.

This is an interesting conundrum. I may be wrong about this, but it does seem to me that we who are concerned about the climate crisis are willing to take many actions to help drive down emissions: improving lighting in our homes, purchasing electric vehicles and putting solar on our rooftops.

But for some reason, despite much discussion about the role of meat production and consumption in creating or exacerbating the climate problem, statistics indicate that only 3 percent have switched to a more plant-based and planet-friendly diet.

Although most restaurants have at least one non-meat option on their menu, there’s only so many times one can order a token pasta and not feel that it wouldn’t kill the cooks to provide more variety.

The Burger Battle is meant to be fun, and experience in other communities that have conducted one proves this out. Nearly everyone likes a burger and the Burger Battle is an opportunity to experiment, to discover how delicious something as basic as a burger can be with all the fixin’s — bun, lettuce, tomato, mustard, pickle, whatever — the only difference being the burger patty itself.

When I first started writing this column more than a decade ago, I chose the name “Per Capita Davis” because I wanted to focus on what we as individual residents of Davis could do to mitigate the adverse effects of the climate crisis.

The title remains the same, and the Burger Battle brings to the fore the meaty issue of how our individual dietary choices can affect the climate crisis.

On or around Feb. 28, the Burger Battle folks will update their website ( to include information about the different patty types and ingredient lists. The site also lists Davis-based restaurants that provide plant-based menu items.

By John Mott-Smith

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis. This column appears the first and third Wednesday of each month. Please send comments to

Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Published online November 7, 2018
Printed November 7, 2018 edition page A5