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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


Seasonal Chef Bookstore's
Culinary History Section

Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from 13 of the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State

The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism

By Colin Spencer

The Medieval Cookbook

By Maggie Black

Vintage Recipes Home Page
Culinary History Bookstore

How a Meat-Loving Nation Began to Turn Vegetarian

Vegetarianism in the early history of the United States was associated with the austere and repressive Puritans. Leaders of the religious sect taught that eating excessive quantities of meat turned people into sex-crazed aggressors.

The Puritans "faced an enormous challenge" in selling this world view to a wider audience because "people on both sides of the British North Atlantic were carnivores of the first order," notes Harvey Levenstein in Revolution at the Table, his history of U.S. eating habits. North Americans in the 17th and 18th Centuries ate enormous quantities of pork, beef and other meat with bread on the side and little more than a glob of overcooked vegetable on top.

Vintage Vegetarian Recipes 

l An English Monkey
l Sweet Potato Croquettes
l Aunt Susan’s Salad Dressing
l Salad Cream
l Nut and Potato Roast
l Bean and Nut Loaf

By the end of the 1800s, however, interest in vegetarianism began to arise from a new source. Religious convictions still motivated some vegetarians, though the religious influence was as likely to come from the East as from the West.

The Influence of Eastern Religion

Practical Vegetarian Cookery, published by the Theosophical Society in 1897, is an early example of the influence of Eastern religion on vegetarianism in North America.

Worries About Unsafe Meat

Health concerns led others to try to cut meat out of their diet. A cookbook published in 1910, Vegetarian Cook Book: Substitutes for Flesh Foods, illustrates the early influence of food safety concerns on vegetarianism.

Vegetarianism Dismissed as a Silly Fad

Skeptics, it needs to be pointed out, abounded in a society where meat was still undisputed king of the dinner table. A 1891 book, The Inner Man: Good Things to Eat and Drink and Where to Get Them, illustrates the ridicule with which many dismissed vegetarianism a century ago.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef