Friday, October 22, 2010

Vegetarian Delight.

Nineteenth century vegetarians were something of a mystery to most of the populace in the English-speaking world, whose ideal meal had contained meat, and preferably plenty of it, for hundreds of years. Vegetarian events were wonderful fodder for journalists, who reported the proceedings - particularly the bills of fare - with varying degrees of amusement and disdain.

When the Vegetarian Society of New York held a picnic in June 1899, it was reported in some detail the following day in the New York Times – the reporter seeing fit to include a recipe for one of the dishes. I give you the article in its entirety, and hope you enjoy the insight into the vegetarian movement of the time.

It was a Red-Letter Day for Potatoes, Onions, Cabbages, and Fruit
– Consumption of Meat Denounced.

The Vegetarian Society enjoyed a picnic yesterday afternoon on the grounds surrounding the home of the Rev. George Donaldson, at Edgewater-on-Hudson, N.J. Mr. A. Haviland, the Secretary of the society, and the Rev. George Donaldson welcomed the vegetarians.
During the laying of the vegetable feast many opinions were advanced as to why man should not eat meat. One woman who had presented a new succotash of radishes, potatoes, and beets said, that according to the matured opinions of eminent scientists, the custom of flesh eating leads to the “setting apart of a whole class of the population for the disgusting, brutalizing, and unwholesome occupation of butchery.”
Another mentioned the theory that life can be prolonged and health and happiness enhanced by eating vegetables only, and again it was heard that neither justice nor benevolence nor compassion can sanction the “revolting cruelties that are daily perpetrated in order to pamper perverted appetites. Still another held that vegetarianism was a protest against luxury, intemperance, and vice, and finally, when it was absolutely decided that old roast beef and Spring lamb and kidney stew were responsible for the entire gamut of sin and destruction, the feast of the day was begun.
There were potatoes cooked in such a variety of styles that one could not remember the names of all. There was plenty of haricots, peas, cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, onions, a great array of tempting fruits, assorted nuts, and pickled cabbages. One of the members brought a dish made of peas and asparagus tips. It was served cold, in small dishes, with sliced radishes on top and mayonnaise dressing. The dish was called “mayonnaise succotash.”
A woman from Brooklyn brought a dish which rejoiced in the name of “Potato Charlotte.” Her recipe was to take boiled new potatoes sliced. She stewed them in milk, adding a dash of vanilla. When cold she spread over the top some whipped cream and sprinkled it with cinnamon.
One young woman who was heard to remark that she “wouldn’t even eat a slice of chicken if her life depended on it” brought to the gathering a recipe which she called “Vegetarian Delight’. She wrote the following recipe for it.

Take one whole young white cabbage. Chop fine in a bowl; then sprinkle with pepper and salt and add a dozen young silver onions, also chopped fine. Boil the whole then let it stand till cool. Take a lump of butter the size of an egg, a cup of sugar, four tablespoonsfuls of cinnamon and mix well together. To this add the cabbage and onions, also some carrots chopped very fine, and a quart of mashed potatoes. Cook the whole slowly in milk till done, and then serve. Can be served hot or cold.

After discussing at length how humane men and women revolt at the “cruelty, degrading sights, distressing cries, perpetual bloodshed, and other attendant horrors” which surround the slaughter of sentient animals, the picnic was ended.

Quotation for the Day

Sure I want to win and smash records, but winning medals is not like going to the market and getting cabbage.
Ante Kostelic.


Sharlene T. said...

That final potato recipe with cabbage etc. sounded pretty good -- and, rich! Thanks for the research and sharing... Come visit when you can...

The InTolerant Chef ™ said...

I'm afraid I am a confirmed caarnivore, although I love my veggies too.

VegHistory said...

So glad to have seen this post. The history of vegetarianism in the 19th century is highly ignored, but it is actually fairly complex and vast (I am biased, since it is the topic of my dissertation). If anyone is at all interested, I blog about my research on American vegetarian history at

Lapinbizarre said...

Four tablespoons of cinnamon!

KT said...

How fascinating! The food sounds wonderful, and I'm struck by the subtle irony of the article writer's description of how they discussed the gory details of the meat industry during the meal...