This chapter aims to state the case for a vegetarian diet. The main objection to a meat diet is purely hygienic. Comparatively recent investigations indicate that a diet of meat makes an excess of nitrogenous elements, which cannot be absorbed without poisonous or toxic effects.

The toxic elements have to be thrown off, and the process induces colds, fevers, rheumatism, and other illnesses by putting too great a strain on the different organs; the liver, bowels, kidneys, etc. Nitrogenous excess is regarded as harmful to persons of sedentary habits, particularly when not robust.

Another objection to meat diet lies in its stimulating character, inducing a carnivorous, or meat-craving, appetite resembling in a degree that caused by the alcohol habit. Many people, who are quite sure they cannot live and keep strong and well without meat, may be said to have the meat habit; they really crave it for stimulation, not nourishment, as an inebriate craves alcohol.

The peasant in many countries, who from necessity is obliged to abstain from meat, has proved by a vigor greater than in any other class that a meat diet is not essential to strength and endurance.

The seeds of the leguminous plants, such as beans, peas, and lentils, are the most highly concentrated of all foods and contain more protein nourishment than any kind of meat. When cooked long at a low heat, as in a fireless cooker, they are made more easily digestible.

Green peas are more nourishing than any other succulent vegetable. Green beans of all kinds are similar to green peas in that respect. Lentils baked, boiled, or stewed, served with jelly or apple sauce, are nourishing and most delicious.

Wheat is the most important of all cereals. Spaghetti and macaroni, as well as white bread, are wheat-flour preparations.

Indian corn, or its meal, comes next in value to wheat. It is highly nutritious.

Rice has the least nitrogen of all grains, but it is one of the most easily digested, is a good addition to bread, and to the nitrogenous food, as beans, peas, and lentils. Rice in its unpolished state contains desirable elements eliminated by polishing for the market.

Chestnuts, used as a vegetable instead of potatoes or rice, are wholesome and nourishing, though not easily digested by many. There is a richness in their flavor not found in any other vegetable, and in many parts of Southern Europe the peasants eat chestnuts twice a day.

Milk is called the most perfect food, as it contains all the elements of nutrition. Strictly speaking, however, it is an animal food.

Vegetables with little or no starch are cabbage, turnips, parsnips, beets, celery, green beans, asparagus, egg-plant, artichokes, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, spinach, and all green vegetables.

There is no other green vegetable so valuable as spinach. It is rich in iron and other elements which cleanse the blood; it should be eaten as often as twice a week when in season, and once a week in winter if possible.

Foods for growth and repair are eggs, milk, cheese, nuts; and combined with butter, cream, or oil, - beans, peas and lentils. Eggs, milk, and cheese, though animal food, are freely eaten by many who are otherwise vegetarian, not being meat.

Recommended for heat and force are fats (butter, cream, oil), sugar, and the starchy foods, cereals, rice, corn, potatoes, and tapioca.

As great care should be taken that vegetables are not undercooked as that they are not overcooked. Most people do not cook them enough. A few lose their flavor, and are destroyed by being overdone; such are peas, corn, and cauliflower.

Always wash lettuce, cabbage, dandelion, spinach, or any kind of greens, in water with half a cup of salt; it will drive out the worms or insects. It will also loosen the grit, often hard to get rid of.

All green vegetables should be blanched to remove the bitter taste; it makes them greener and keeps them from wilting or losing flavor.

Blanching

Wash clean, and put the vegetables in a kettle of boiling water, boil till almost tender, remove from the fire, and chill in a colander by pouring cold water through them. Vegetables treated in this way can be set aside and used later in the day, or the next day, if kept chilled on the ice.

The secret of success is in making the vegetable crisp in cold water, keeping the water boiling continuously, and not wholly covering the kettle. Vegetables that are doubtful as to freshness become digestible if blanched and chilled as above.