Finding and using 
locally produced food
Visit our Bookstore

Nesco American Harvest Food Dehydrator

more kitchen wares

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


Seasonal Chef Bookstore's
Culinary History Section

The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism

By Colin Spencer


Vegetarian Cook Book: Substitutes for Flesh Foods (1910)
Health concerns push some to drop meat from their diet

The Inner Man: Good Things to Eat and Drink and Where to Get Them (1891)
Cutting back on meat is sheer folly, according to this author.

Vintage Recipes Home Page
Culinary History Bookstore

Eastern Religion Motivated Some to Give Up Meat

Foreshadowing the Mad Cow Disease scare at the end of the 20th Century, one of the first vegetarian cookbooks published in the United States noted that concerns about the safety of beef were pushing many discriminating gourmands to give up meat. "Cattle are becoming so diseased that apart from a human revulsion against the consumption of meats in daily food, man is driven for his own welfare to seek purer food substance," the book's introduction asserted.

However, the book, published by the Theosophical Society in 1897, went on to claim that choosing the right foods can do more than keep you from getting sick.  The right diet can help you get to heaven.

More than three dozen recipes from this and another vintage vegetarian cookbook are reprinted in Vintage California Cuisine


As Theosophical theory told it, clean habits in life will purify the "astral body." As a result, when that spirit medium is liberated from the flesh vessel of the body at the time of death, it will be less dense and will rise to the highest "astral plane," passing on to "the sunlit meadows of that world and away from its slums."

So what are the foods that will get you to heaven? Certainly not salt, which is a poison, though most people will have to slowly wean themselves from it. Boiled foods are also bad. Theosophical theory calls for steaming instead. As for alcohol, it "has a most pernicious effect on the astral body." But nothing bogs down the astral body quite like meat.

The book takes pains to prove that, once all the forbidden items are excluded, there are still plenty of options left. Practical Vegetarian Cookery is stuffed with hundreds of recipes in 37 categories, ranging from soups and mushrooms to icings and invalid cookery (a category that includes recipes for such things as rice foam, creamed gruel and arrowroot). 

There is something for everyone in the book, which features items ranging from coconut drops and stuffed dates to succotash, mushroom pie and stuffed cucumbers, from Chinese rice, asparagus pie and grilled mushrooms, to choc-o-pop and strawberry sherbet.

Here are four recipes from the book:

An English Monkey

Soak one cupful of bread crumbs in one cupful of milk about 10 or 15 minutes. Melt one tablespoon of butter, add one cupful of cheese broken into small pieces; Stir until melted, add the crumbs and one beaten egg, one half teaspoon of salt, a few grains of bicarbonate of soda as large as a pea. Cook for five minutes. Serve on wafers.

Sweet Potato Croquettes

Boil, peel and mash six large sweet potatoes; season with salt, a tablespoon of butter, one of sugar and a little pepper. When cold, mold into croquettes, dip into beaten egg, then into finely rolled bread crumbs, and fry brown in hot fat.

Aunt Susan’s Salad Dressing

Beat together one level teaspoonful of mustard, one heaping teaspoon of sugar, one dessertspoonful of melted butter, one half teaspoon of salt and the yolk of one egg; add one cupful of milk and cook in double boiler until it thickens; stirring all the while. When thick add lemon juice or vinegar to taste. This dressing can be kept any length of time by bottling, not necessary to seal.

Salad Cream

Heat one half cupful of vinegar and one half cupful of sugar. When very hot add one half cupful of sour cream into which the yolks of two eggs have been beaten. Stir well, remove from the fire and then chill before using. Very nice on cabbage slaw.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef