Bratwurst. Chili. Goetta. Cincinnati, nicknamed Porkopolis, is known for its quirky carnivorous dishes. But what if you live in hog city and don’t eat meat? That’s what Caitlin Bertsch, a 2006 math and sociology graduate, asked herself when she cut animal products from her diet in 2010.
“The switch from non-vegan to vegan was easy because I always loved vegetables and fruit,” says Bertsch. “But when my family and I would get together to eat, it did feel like something was missing. I knew that I wasn’t the only person looking for meat-free alternatives to typical Cincinnati foods.”
Bertsch missed goetta the most, which is a German-American sausage that’s made up of spices, ground beef, pork and steel-cut oats. It’s traditionally served with eggs for breakfast or as a sandwich for lunch and dinner.
So she decided to take matters into her own hands. Literally. Using old family recipes and the Internet, she eventually perfected a vegan goetta recipe. The responses from her family and friends were so encouraging that she went back to the kitchen and set her sights on vegan-izing other dishes, like Cincinnati-style chili and macaroni and cheese. They, too, proved to be palate pleasing.
So in 2011, with the help of instructors from SpringBoard Cincinnati—a class that helps creative entrepreneurs start businesses—she launched Vegan Roots, her own meat-free food business. Bertsch cooks from her kitchen at the Brew House near Eden Park and sends her products to restaurants and markets across Cincinnati. She hopes to expand her business to a storefront and is looking into catering options. Ultimately, she’s glad that a different version of goetta is on the shelves—and on her family’s dinner plates.