IN view of the encouraging letters received, I am tempted to add more this month to what has already been said appropriate to the above heading.
Some years ago a noted medical man, at a lecture in Birmingham, said he had no doubt whatever that he could cure nine-tenths of his patients without medicine of any kind, and with but one and the same prescription, which was “abstain ! starve!” I have no reason for doubting the truth of this, but what does it mean? It means that nine out of ten of the people who become unwell brought their ill health upon themselves by unwise eating and drinking.
When a man drinks too much he becomes ill; he abstains and he becomes well. When a man eats too much he likewise becomes ill; if he abstains from eating altogether for short or long period, drinking nothing but pure water or fruit juices, he regains his lost health. In any case the adoption of the Doctors “prescription” as mentioned above, has done more than all else to keep the writer fit for nearly seventy years.
It may be wise to state the narrow meaning usually attached to “Temperance” – the abstaining from “alcoholic drinks” – and that of “Vegetarianism” – the abstaining from “fish, flesh and fowl” does not cure all the ills that flesh is heir to. I often think that the greatest misfortune that ever happened to the writer was not that “he was born poor: but rather that he was “born too fond of eating”. Although for many years I have abstained from fish, flesh, fowl and alcohol, together with tea and coffee, I still have the same battle to fight to be master of my own stomach and so keep fit, as is the case with the man or woman who abstains from none of the things mentioned.
In fact I often think that there may be more merit due to the poor drunkard in the temptations he has resisted, than is due to the lady who despises him for often falling to the temptation of which she knows nothing, while she reveals the fact that she is a slave to tea herself by saying, “Oh! I could not live without tea”, and may never have tried, although she may be a martyr to constipation herself through the drinking of tea and the eating of white bread.
some years ago I spent a holiday of a few weeks on a liner, and since then a holiday in the close company of about as many good folk on shore. On both occasions I was led to the conclusion that, judged by the fewness of my wants, I was perhaps the richest of them all. Many of them never seemed satisfied, especially the ladies unless they were tea drinking. If they did not drink tea six times a day it was not their fault. Surely they did not drink because they were thirst; I very much doubt whether they were thirsty once during their whole holidays.
Then why did they thus want tea to drink? It was certainly not for the food value it contained. On board ship at least, many were having six meals, more or less, per day, while the writer managed with two. He claims no merit for this, or his abstinence from the many things that others think they could not live without, for such things offer no temptation to him. One has only to “use ones self to that course of life which is best, custom will render it the most delightful”. Merit, I think, lies in the temptations one resists, not in the things one may do without.
It may accordingly be asked is there truly such a thing as self- denial in the respect of eating and drinking. I have never given up the use of any one thing without finding two better to take its place. To say nothing of fitness in exchange for ill-health. The moderate drinker tells us that it is the excessive use of alcohol that brings about the trouble, although we are now being told a different story by the medical profession and others, in view of the weekly slaughter that takes place in the motor world.
For the sake of argument, however, let us admit the “excess” contention. Is not this the very core of the trouble as regards eating as well as drinking? We can abuse our wonderful digestive organs while no part of our, no less wonderful, earthly tabernacles may appear to be any the worse, and we can say “it suits me, I have done this or that all my life”, but that is no argument that we shall be able to continue for ever. The reckoning day eventually comes, and we are then recommended by our Food Reform Practitioner” not to eat vegetables and fruit at the same time”, “not to drink at meals, but between meals” with lots of other “nots”.
But all such advice has a tendency to cause the patient to eat less and is all summed up under the one word “abstain”. We drop for the time being many or all of the stimulating foods and drinks we have been in the habit of taking. For the time being we may very wisely substitute for them what the patient thinks are the much less attractive bran foods, containing the necessary quantity of roughage. The nature of the foods themselves, together with the less quantity consumed, gives the digestive organs the long desired holiday, and gives Nature a chance to exchange pain and disease for joyous health and fitness.
Recently I saw a very good example of how a child can be brought up to like those foods that tend to promote health and fitness, while not being attracted by those usually looked upon as the sweets of life. A dear little Swedish girl of three was spending a few months with parents in England. She was offered all the nice things to eat that kind grandparents and friends could offer her, but in her broken English she said “could I have some hard bread?” Another illustration was provided by a young Scotchman who had lived abroad and had been brought up to eat porridge without salt. When given it with salt he said it was very insipid.
While yet a youth the writer signed the pledge of total abstinence; nothing else he ever did caused him so much to see the enormity of the drink curse. Later in life he signed a pledge to abstain from fish, flesh and fowl as food; nothing else he ever did so revealed to him the horrors and cruelty of the meat trade and the slaughter-house. In this life we usually see only those things we do not dislike to see.
How closely allied the drink and meat traffic are, is clearly illustrated in the story of the English missionary in the Far East and the one he had persuaded to adopt Christianity. The choice lay between one wife only with beef and beer, or all his wives and neither beef nor beer.
Many good people have more or less wasted precious time in trying to discover a cure for drunkenness, but the Asylum for Inebriates, Dansville, U.S.A., amongst others, many years ago clearly demonstrated in the words of Dr. Jackson, the Senior Physician, that there is but one cure (or may it be called a preventive?), viz. “a Vegetarian diet, and it always succeeds within six months, all the drink crave being eradicated by a simple return to mans natural food”.
No end of testimony could be produced in support of this contention. Two opinions only shall be quoted, and those form men whose opinions are entitled to the respect of all teetotallers. The late Dean Farrar once stated that “he believed the habit of flesh eating was one of the principal causes of the drink crave”. Sir Hy. Thompson, F.R.C.S., said he “had been compelled by facts to accept the conclusion that more physical evil accrues to man from erroneous habits of eating than from alcoholic drinks, and he suspects this is the case also with moral evils”.
Teetotallers often boast – and rightly so – that the trade of the publican does not exist for them. The Vegetarian can improve on this and add also the business of the butcher, the chemist and the doctor, and the last is more true than the world dreams of. A flesh diet perhaps more than all else tends to produce ill- health and disease.
It is hoped that sufficient has been said in this and previous articles to show the close connection that exists between the two reforms, temperance and vegetarianism, and that the success or failure of one is largely bound up with that of the other.
In closing I may be allowed to reply to criticism that had been raised by a reader, calling attention to he inconsistency between the simple diet consisting of but few foods advocated in this series of articles by the writer, and the “endless foods” offered by him through the “Pitman” Health Food Cos Catalogue.
The reply to this very fair criticism is that the “Pitam” Health Food Co. does not cater chiefly for Vegetarians who can often grow the greater portion of what they desire in their own gardens, but rather for the would-be Vegetarians for health reasons, to make their path to health surer, smoother and more successful, quite different from that of forty years ago. This is the chief aim of the firm in question. In other words, to provide substitutes for everything in place of fish, flesh and fowl.
Vegetarian foods, it may be added, should be used with wisdom and discretion. Mistakes on such a diet are quite possible as many have proved to their cost. Such mistakes may be dealt with in a future issue. In the October issue I hope to write on Vegetarianism and Peace.