Article from the Ellenville Journal
Carol Debberman kept a secret all her youth. Her parents didn’t know. Her brother might have had an inkling. Carol was a closet vegetarian, the first Lisa Simpson, trading meat for vegetables with her brother at the dinner table. Today, Carol is the co-owner of Sunshine Burgers, my favorite brand of vegetarian burger, made locally in Ellenville and distributed to markets nationally.
“Basically I grew up as a country girl in the farm belt,” recalls Carol. “My instincts were that I never liked meat, but I wanted to respect what my mother prepared for us. When I finally got out of the house and started doing my own cooking and preparations I became a vegetarian. Back then there was hardly any vegetarians.” While she explored the world, Carol read all about nutrition, she says, “Because my mother kept saying, ‘You’re gonna die girl, you’re gonna die.’ So I would say, ‘I better be serious and understand about nutrition.’”
“Back then,” she explains, “Vegetarian choices were few and far between, even at health food stores. They were tiny and what you found was a few barrels of rice and beans and nuts. You were lucky when they got in some home-made granola. But nothing was pre-made. If you wanted something to eat between your break, like a burger, there was nothing to buy. You had to figure out how to re-create the thing you want to eat. So doing a lot of cooking and experimentation and studying I started making a burger out of beans.”
“I had five kids, so I had to extend my studies for nutrition. Everybody got tired of eating beans. They are wet… They’re sloppy… They’re boring. Nuts are heartier; they are harder and they have a little more natural oil and a little more flavor. And because nuts have a natural oil, when you pre-bake them in the oven they turn brown, like when you put a hamburger on a pan or grill.”
“So that gave it a nice little texture, nice and golden brown on the outside. All our burgers are pre-baked and they are brown. They became really popular with friends and family, so I decide to market them locally in Southern New Jersey. After that I moved to New York City and used little health food bakeries to produce the product there.”
Next Carol decided to move out of the city and, today, together with her partner, John Hiler, she continues to make fresh organic vegetarian burgers out of a former bakery in downtown Ellenville.
John Hiler explains what makes Sunshine Burgers different: “We don’t use soy in our products. Our burgers are a seed and grain based veggie burger so we use ground raw sunflower seeds for our protein as opposed to using soy as our protein base. And from there it’s a variation on a theme but we use only very natural ingredients. The ingredient list that appears on the box are ingredients that you can pronounce and everybody knows just exactly what is in the package. Nothing hidden from anyone.”
What would be the benefit of not having soy?
“One of the biggest differences,” says Hiler, “between a soybean that you would make tofu or tempeh from is the way that they take the soy and process it to become what’s known as textured vegetable protein. They need to heat the bean to a very high temperature which kills most of the nutrient value and at the same time they need to relieve the oil. Soy beans are rich in oil and these oils are good for you as a natural product. What they are trying to do today is to make a protein that is a very very low fat product and to do that they use a solvent called hexane. Personally I have never enjoyed washing my food with a solvent before I eat it. It’s just a personal choice of course.”
“We start with organic ingredients. With the lack of processing and additives the products are allowed to bring out their natural flavors. And if you have ever picked a strawberry and eaten it locally around the first or second week of June you know what I am talking about, as opposed to a strawberry you bought some place in a store in a container in October. There is quite a bit of difference, even though they look very similar, the tastes are totally different.”
by Joe Bevliacqua
(Radio Artist – email@example.com)