Man is not constituted for a carnivorous diet and if it were true that flesh foods provided greater nutriment than other foods, flesh-eaters should be relatively small eaters; but such is not the case. On the contrary, flesh-eating nations, instead of being noted for their frugality, are often among the most gluttonous. Were animal foods really superior, we should find the flesh of carnivorous animals and flesh-eating peoples the most highly organized and more perfectly nourished than others. But, on the contrary, they do not, generally, rank the highest in physical perfection or intelligence; among the largely flesh-eating tribes, they tend to be lank and cadaverous. Carnivorous man seems to have no spare materials to utilize in higher or intellectual activities.
The preying of animals upon each other is not the rule in nature and preying by man would certainly seem to be contrary to his highest interests. Even if by almost universal practice man is to some extent carnivorous, his natural dietetic character is unmistakably frugivorous, as is amply demonstrated by comparative anatomy. Is it necessary to the sustenance of the human body that carnage and violence shall fill the earth? Is it essential that our eyes shall be offended by the sight and our noses shall be outraged by the stench of slaughter houses, that our ears shall be pierced by the cries and struggle of dying animals--that, instead of sweet melody, our ears shall be filled with the cries and groans of bleeding victims? Is it essential that our bodies shall continue to be poisoned by putrefying offal and that our stomachs shall serve as sepulchres for the interment of the disorganizing dead?
A race of flesh-eaters must necessarily always have a sparse population and, consequent upon a want of social opportunities as well as from similarity in habits to the carnivores, must remain at a low stage of existence. Oh! much insulted spirit of beauty! Too long have we turned a deaf ear to thy sweet voice! How much of sorrow and suffering has been ours as a consequence? We must now purify our lives by bringing only the beautiful peace-offerings to thy altars. In the wisdom of nature's adaptations, we have been fitted for a diet of beauty and delight, not of gore and carnage.
In practice, as least, the range of man's diet is greater than that of most other animals; but there are, after all, certain classes and forms of foods that are best adapted to his wants as a species; and if there are individuals who cannot eat these, this indicates a fault in the individual and not in the food. Instead of proving the food to be poisonous, it proves the individual to be abnormal. The most such a man should ask is that his whims and idiosyncrasies be tolerated while he is getting himself into a more normal condition. He lacks all right to so confound terms, as to designate as a poison, an article which reason and science have proved is a wholesome food, merely because his digestive operations are imperfect and impaired and he fails to assimilate it.
For ages mankind has been guided in the choice of food by the accidents of locality, of season and by the caprices of a frequently false and deceitful experience. Rarely questioning the infallibility of such guides, men have been led on through events of utmost disaster to their physical welfare, and have foolishly referred the defects to other causes. Truly, as Trall so well said, "unwholesome food and erroneous habits of eating stand at the very head of the list of the causes of disease. Wrong eating expresses more of the origin of disease in the human family than any other two words that can be found in the English language." It should be understood, of course, that by the phrase "wrong eating" is meant far more than the mere eating of food substances to which man is not well adapted.
Man's early traditions point unmistakably to a time when he lived upon the fruit of the trees. It may be significant that in the Sumerian myth the marriage gift received by the goddess Attu was "cucumbers, apples and grapes." In Homer's time the apple was regarded as one of the precious fruits. Many fruits were in daily use by our ancient ancestors. "Fruits, aromatic and luscious, hold their delights the longest of all, and give them away at the first solicitation. Their nectars claim instant kindred with the tongue and the oral saliva. Nature has cooked them, and they need no mixture, nor artificial fire; the grape and pineapple are a sauce unto themselves, and are baked, and roasted, and boiled in sunlight."
Late spring, summer and early fall witness a carnival of luscious fruits--peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, tomatoes, grapes, various berries, persimmons, pears, apples, oranges, grapefruit, mangoes and many others fill our orchards, gardens and markets during these seasons. "Apples begin to be solid and rich, while the melons laughingly roll in their handsome rigs of delicious and refreshing drinks to cool the summer heat. What more suggestive of a genuine hospitality than to see the host standing up after the removal of the cloth to dispense slices from a huge, crackling watermelon? The effect, perchance, heightened by the flanking of round-ribbed musk-melons and dishes of rosy-cheeked peaches, purpling grapes and pears swelling with luscious ripeness--these wines of choicest vintage; these drinks of nature's own brewing!"
There are figs and dates and cherimoyas and custard apples and many other fruits of tropical and sub-tropical origin that lend their tastiness to the diet. To these may be added the many tasty and nutritious nuts that abound throughout the world. What wonder, then, that Mrs. Mary A. Torber of Alabama, in an address before the New York Vegetarian Society in 1853, said: "Let us purify the beautiful earth from every stain. The grape, the apple, the pear, the orange, the fig, the peach, the nectarine, the apricot, the cherry, the banana, the mango--all of mother nature's choice gifts--shall take the place of the field of slaughter, and health, beauty and happiness shall supplant sickness, deformity and sorrow--freedom and life shall be ours instead of slavery and death. Earth shall become an Eden glorious in the beauty, wisdom and love that radiate from a life that conforms to the immutable laws of being."
The tomato is an American fruit unknown to the rest of the world before the discovery of the Americas by Colombus. Although the Indians were found eating the tomato, the white man thought of it as poisonous. When it was first introduced into England in 1596, it was classed with tobacco and the deadly nightshade was given the name lycopersicum-- "wolf-peach." Graham and other writers in the Graham journal did much to dispel the prejudices against the tomato. Writing editorially in September 1860, Trall said of the tomato, which was still tabu in many quarters and was regarded as a medicine (of all things! a substitute for calomel!) in others: "The simple truth is, the tomato, as a dietetic article, ranks with apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, strawberries, rasberries, blackberries, whortleberries, cherries, plums, cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, water-melons, grapes, etc., etc. As with all other edible fruits, it has no medicinal properties of any kind. If it had it would not be fit to eat. It is in no sense a substitute for calomel. It is not a substitute for any poison, but is a very excellent substitute for any one of the fruits above named. Any good fruit is good food for dyspeptic persons, as well as for those who are not dyspeptic; but the statement that the tomato is a specific or a sovereign remedy for any disease, is arrant humbuggery or transparent nonsense."