Thursday, June 25, 2009

Extreme Raw Food, Part 2.

Yesterday’s brief insight into the early uncooked food movement of the nineteenth century aroused some interest (or should I say disgust?), so today I give you another glimpse into the mind-workings of the perpetrators. One of those responsible was a man called Eugene Christian, who not only wrote a book on the topic, but promoted the cause by organising New York’s first ‘Uncooked Banquet’, in 1903. It was, apparently, a feast of ‘marvelous dishes’ (vegetarian, no condiments of any sort) prepared without the ‘relic of barbarism’ that was a cooking fire (or heat in any other form), by the only ‘elementary cook’ in the city. It also provided a journalistic feast for the newspapers, who, as you can imagine, reported the event with great amusement. The menu, which is astonishing in its awfulness, is detailed in my forthcoming book Menus from History, which is to be released later in the year.

From the Preface of Eugene Christian’s book, Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them: A Treatise On How To Get The Highest Form Of Animal Energy From Food With Recipes for Preparation, Healthful Combinations and Menus (1924), here is his explication.


SOME years ago we, the authors of this work, both became so impaired in health as to almost totally disqualify us for the performance of our daily work. A very exhaustive study of our condition convinced us that it was caused mainly, if not wholly, by incorrect habits in eating. This brought forth a very careful and studied series of experiments in diet which was confined entirely to cooked foods, because we at that time accepted implicitly the common theory that foods could be predigested and improved by heat.
Failing utterly in this, our attention was turned toward what have been called natural foods, but what in reality mean food in its elementary or unchanged state. Less than a year of study and experimenting with this system of feeding resulted in the total elimination of all stomach disorders and our complete restoration to perfect health. From scientific research, in addition to these failures and successes, we have studied out a system of both eating and drinking, which has been tried by many others under our direction, and in every instance health, strength and vitality have come to those who have obeyed our instructions.
In order to bring this theory more conspicuously before the public we gave a seven course dinner or banquet of uncooked foods, which was attended by many distinguished New York people. It received much attention by the New York press, and was widely commented on all over this and foreign countries through the press exchanges. A flood of inquiries concerning the use of uncooked food, especially referring to their remedial values, followed this publicity. This gave the first hint of the great interest that the public is now taking in this method of living.

The dedication to the book is also worth repeating.

To the Women of America
on whom depend the future greatness
of our glorious country,
we most affectionately dedicate
this work.

Which is followed by this abomination:

We may live without poetry, music and art,
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends, we may live without books,
And civilized man can live without cooks.
(Apologies to Owen Meredith.)

After many pages of explanation and exhortation, there are in the book a selection of recipes – or should that be ‘assembly instructions’, given that there is no application of heat required (apart from a couple of heavily and reluctantly justified exceptions)? The salad and fruit recipes are reasonable enough, for the obvious reason that even non-reformers of health serve them uncooked. A few recipes include ‘warm milk’ – presumably because it is merely warmed, not ‘cooked’?

Here, for your delectation, are a couple of ideas from the book:

Sweet Potato Pudding.
Sweet Potatoes, Eggs,
Cream, Nutmeg,
Sugar, Gelatine,
Grate potatoes on a large grater and then drain on a sieve. To six heaping teaspoonfuls of potato add two of cream, two of sugar, yolk and beaten white of one egg, nutmeg or vanilla extract. Prepare heaping teaspoonful of jelly powder. Add to mixture and set in cold place. Turn out of mold and serve with cream.

Pea Or Bean Soup.
There is a pea and bean flour in the market from which soup is easily made by adding to it warm milk or cream. It should be made and allowed to stand an hour or two before serving.

Quotation for the Day.

It is certain that the custom of flesh eating among the ancients began with the direst necessity, with the choice between that or death by starvation.
Uncooked Foods & How to Use Them


srhcb said...

I wonder if the origins of human cannibalism may not have resulted from an incomplete understanding of the nature of death? To our early ancestors, who had no knowledge of ... anything ... the fact that an enemy appeared cold and motionless gave no assurance they wouldn't still arise, in either physical or supernatural form, seeking vengence? The only way to insure their destruction and render them harmless was to physically consume them.

Shay said...

There is something appallingly cheerless about these recipes.

Anonymous said...

...or "warm milk" might just mean "warm from the cow"? My mother has a recipe for junket which demands that she take the bowl to the cow and milk a pint straight in...

The Old Foodie said...

gosh - lots of ideas for debate here. Steve - interesting idea of cannibalism, I dont believe I've heard that particular idea before.
Shay - you hit the nail on the head. A joyless attitude to life indeed.
Desperance - great idea? didnt think of that!