For attendees of a recent Physicians Committee event on Capitol Hill, it came as no surprise that members of Congress were lobbying for votes. Only this time, they were pulling for vegetables! At the inaugural Congressional Veggie Burger Smackdown, a friendly competition raged between attendees, as four fruits and vegetables faced off for the top prize. The Physicians Committee teamed up with Washington-based Chef Todd Gray, who created four unique sauces celebrating famed fruits and vegetables from the home states of four vegetarian members of Congress. Topped with Roasted Corn and Sweet Pepper Salsa, the Arizona Burger honored Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Rep. Ted Deutch and Florida citrus inspired a Sweet-Savory Orange & Carrot Jam that brightened the Florida Burger. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Hawaii Burger featured a sweet and colorful Black Pepper Pineapple Sauce. The New Jersey Burger celebrated the state’s official vegetable with a Slow-Cooked Tomato Chutney in honor of Sen. Cory Booker.
Attendees of the Smackdown, which drew members of Congress, their staffers, and the public, sampled each state’s burger and cast votes for their top choice. Red quinoa, black beans, mushrooms, and spices combined to create the flavor-packed and fiber-filled burgers, slider-sized versions of Chef Gray’s highly-acclaimed FLOTUS Burger. Attendees rounded out their plates with colorful, disease-fighting foods including a leafy green salad topped with vegetables, sweet potato fries, rainbow coleslaw, and minted fruit kebabs. The meal was in stark contrast to another lunch being held simultaneously in the building: the North American Meat Institute’s annual free hot dog lunch.
“It’s a great thing to see so many people out here, especially when you consider that the Meat Institute is holding a hot dog lunch next door,” said Rep. Gabbard, a lifelong vegetarian who has committed to a meat-free lifestyle for her own personal health and the health of the planet. “As you enjoy these veggie burgers, think about how much better this meal is going to be for you as compared to the kinds of things that are too much a part of the American diet in large part because of decisions, unfortunately, made [in Congress],” added Rep. Deutch, who affirmed his commitment to moving the country in a healthier direction. While some attendees already follow plant-based diets, many were new to the idea. Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen was unsure of what to expect, but he gave the burgers a thumbs up and stated that the event convinced him to incorporate more meatless meals into his diet.
Rep. Deutch encouraged attendees to move toward a whole-foods plant-based diet, on account of how much healthier he feels after making the switch. “There is no question that I have more energy as a result of this, much to the chagrin of my staff,” he said. While Reps. Deutch and Gabbard pulled for the Florida and Hawaii burgers, Sen. Booker’s New Jersey Burger ultimately prevailed with 36 percent of the vote, edging out Hawaii by a single vote. The superintendent of Newark Public Schools will receive 20 copies of Vegetabibbles, a colorful picture book that celebrates healthful foods, for students in kindergarten through second grade.
Tip of the Day
Easy on your wallet picks. Certain foods are typically low-cost options all year round. Try beans for a less expensive protein food. For vegetables, buy carrots, greens, or potatoes. As for fruits, apples and bananas are good choices.