I HOLD that the successful adoption of a pure food diet is no less dependent on attitude of mind than on a wise choice of foods. Hence controversial discussion on the subject often turn out futile and unprofitable.
For the most part individuals are either attracted to vegetarian ideas by the hope of better health, by hygienic, aesthetic and humane consideration or on the contrary they are indispensable, natural and desirable article of food without which they would lose strength and “run down”. In this case of course all aesthetic and human considerations go by the board without further do.
Parenthetically it may be remarked that this is the view for the most part encouraged by the orthodox medical profession largely through ignorance or conservatism. And if the atmosphere be thus inimical it is useless to waste time in argument. The old leaven is very, very strong and it is almost impossible to convince an unreceptive type of mind. Subconsciously the mind will work against the body and a person entering upon a vegetarian diet with antagonistic ideas does and suffering will eventually effect a conversion.
The persistence of the carnivorous fetish is none the less amazing, seeing the overwhelming evidence that exists to prove the fallacy of meat being indispensable, and the wholly disgraceful, degrading and disgusting facts connected with its use.
In his book New Lamps for Old, Mr. Elliot Fitzgibbon has some very telling words, about meat. He says : “When we see a dead animal our natural instincts bid us turn away and as soon as may be have wretched thing buried. We never feel an impulse to get our teeth into it, nor do we think how nice it would be cut up into pieces and decorated with herbs for our dinner.” And yet what effect do truths of the kind appear to have on the bulk on the public ? Practically none. Habits and conventions die hard.
It is not as though the elimination of meat from ones diet presented very great difficulties or as though there were no information is abundantly available to those who wish for enlightenment. Those who are fortunate enough to be among that number will find that the adoption of vegetarianism implies not just a trivial change of diet but that vegetarianism is a vast and many-sided subject which goes to the very root of world problems.
To consider just now its practical side only. I well recognize the difficulties, inconveniences and “malaises” which the tyro may encounter and therefore-bearing in mind, as in homoeopathy, the great differences between individual and individual and that ultimately every man must discover his own best diet-I shall venture to offer a few purely general suggestions in the hope that they may be helpful.
1. Forget about “calories”, “proteins”, “carbohydrates”, “vitamins”, and such-like things that you may have heard of. There is an immense amount of bunkum written about these and preoccupations regarding them will only hamper you. Native races and animals are quite unconscious of them and nevertheless live well and happily and accomplish feats of endurance and strength beyond the powers of the average white man.
2. Rid your mind of the necessity for conventional meals, namely, that you must have one or two complicated made-up vegetarian dishes to replace fish and meat and poultry or game. Simplify all you can. One plain dish, such as baked or steamed potatoes of vegetable stew or eggs or risotto followed by what might be called permanent “fixings” ( to use an American expression), such as salad, cheese, honey, fresh or dried fruit or nuts will give you all the nourishment you require and be far more satisfactory and far more easily prepared.
3. Rid your mind of the idea that the absence of meat necessitates your eating an enormous quantity of vegetables. Bulk for bulk vegetables are less easily digestible in the stomach than meat, and a large quantity may lead to indigestion, discomfort and lassitude. This is especially the case when, as here in England, green vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, French beans, etc., are boiled to a frazzle with the addition of soda to preserve the colour and then drained.
Such vegetables represent merely so much dead useless fibre devoid of nourishment. To be nourishing, vegetables should be stewed in a minimum of water in an earthenware casserole on a slow fire and then served with their own liquor. The addition of a teaspoonful of olive oil and Marmite will greatly add to their deliciousness.
4. Stupid, conventional ideas about food are a great hindrance. Many of us are brought up to believe, for instance, that morning breakfast is the right time to eat eggs, porridge and other cereals, whilst soup should only be served at luncheon or the evening meal.
It is best to disregard such silly ideas. Porridge or a dish of eggs afford an excellent evening meal, while a cup of vegetable bouillon or Marmite is a far more healthful beverage at breakfast time than the conventional tea, coffee, or cocoa.
5. Avoid as far as possible the use of any tinned or bottled foods.
6. If you feel constantly out of sorts or wanting in energy, the probability is that some particular kind of food disagrees.
Endeavour by successive elimination of one food after another to find out which food disagrees. It may be starch, it may be sugar, it may be fats, it may be dairy produce, it may be eggs, it may be an excess of green vegetables. We all have our digestive idiosyncrasies. It is impossible to lay down any rule.
Do not run away with the idea that fitness and energy are the result of eating large quantities of food or so-called strengthening foods. I have seen a Tamil coolie, whose fare per day was probably not more than a couple of bowls of rice and some vegetables, carrying a load on his head cover a distance of twenty-five miles in little over three hours. I have seen Chinese coolies on a very similar fare put in a ten hours day carrying 200 lb. bags of rice on to a ship in heat which would have incapacitated any European.
I have known Japanese jinrikisha-men run sixty miles in a day with a load behind them. I have seen French peasants on a few olives, a hunk of bread, a bottle of wine and vegetable soup at night accomplish work that a meat-fed British labourer would probably have shed some olive oil and a cup of chocolate. And thus, we can scarcely say that energy is the result of much food of any special food. Rather, I should say that energy comes with small quantities of food thoroughly digested.
A not infrequent objection made by anti-vegetarians is that a vegetarian diet may suffice for purely manual labour but is not adequate to the needs of the mental worker. Such scarcely deserve notice for it is refuted by the innumerable instances of eminent men who have been vegetarians, and as a vegetarian brain worker of the present day one need only point of Mr. Bernard Shaw.
I must frankly admit that if in this incorrigibly carnivorous world of ours it be your principal object and purpose in life to follow the line of least resistance, to be like your fellow, to be a welcome and honoured guest at fashionable restaurants and to be the darling of chefs and head-waiters, that vegetarianism would not be likely to lead you to the desired end.
An order for a plain dish of vegetables and a glass of water dose not afford sufficient scope for host and waiter to make you popular. But if you feel sufficiently independent to brave the scornful looks and gibes of the bon viveurs et hoc genus omne, I think you will presently find in vegetarianism compensations beyond price.