This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
If it happens that a man or a woman possesses a specially energetic and powerful digestive system, it does not then matter much what system of feeding is followed, because whatever is eaten provokes no difficulty of digestion afterwards, as to extracting sufficient carbon and nitrogen therefrom. But for persons with very limited digestive powers, it is beyond the compass of their physical capacity to become vegetarians. The disadvantages of a purely vegetable diet affect the outdoor labourer much less than the person engaged in more sedentary pursuits; the former stands in daily need of carbohydrates (such as vegetables afford) in large amount, so as to enable the performance of his muscular work; whilst with the latter the demand for proteid is more considerable. Vegetarians have sometimes asserted that the eating of flesh food is incompatible with the cultivation of a singing voice, this proposition being supported by the argument that the sweet-singing vocal birds are eaters of grain, fruit, and vegetables; that in fact no carnivorous bird could ever charm by a song, but only croak, having a sluggish liver, and being of a melancholy strain.
Examples to this effect are quoted of the "croaking nightingale," the "bilious thrush," and the "generally melancholy robin." But the exact converse of this proposition really holds good, since the great majority of sweet singing birds are strictly carnivorous; even the canary will appreciate scraps of meat, and hard-boiled egg, when he can get the same, and will sing all the better for such additions to his dietary. Furthermore, if vegetarians allow themselves milk, and eggs, they are in truth killing animal life indirectly; for in order that the farmer may get a profit on his milk and eggs, he has to kill off the bulls, which give no milk, and a large number of cocks which yield no eggs. If he reared all these, and allowed them to die a natural death, not only would his farmyard be a perfect pandemonium, but his expenses would be such that in order to sell his milk and his eggs at a profit, he would have to demand a prohibitive price for them; so that those persons who consume these articles, though they do not eat flesh, are yet accessory to the slaughter of animals.
In fact, this cock-and-bull story is completely convincing.
As a general conclusion, it must be said that for healthy persons meat and fish (also eggs, milk, and cheese) should be the proteid furnishers, together with vegetable foods; though for persons disposed to be gouty, perhaps milk and cheese are to be more highly commended than meat. It is to be noted that vegetable foods are less highly flavoured than some animal provisions, and meats, but they have the compensating advantage of not being liable to undergo putrefactive impairment, and of rarely inducing disease. The abundant cellulose which gives bulk to the intestinal contents during digestion, and size to the faeces, signifies vegetarianism more or less; and, (as is said somewhat coarsely in Tristram Shandy,) "there are persons who will draw a man's character from no other helps in the world but merely from his evacuations; but this often gives a very incorrect outline, unless indeed, you take a sketch of his repletions too. I should have no objection to this method, but that I think it must smell too strong of the lamp." Robert Louis Stevenson, in one of his fables, The Distinguished Stranger (1896), makes a covert thrust at vegetarians which is scarcely fair.
It tells of a stranger coming to this earth from a neighbouring planet, and propounding questions to a philosopher about the objects now seen by him for the first time; the trees he admired for their heavenward stature, and their singing leaves; but men and women he disparaged, and as to the cows he thought them dirty, whilst never looking upwards like the noble trees of the forest. Then the philosopher explained that the cows were engaged in eating grass, and had to spend so much time in attending to this food of theirs that they were too busy therewith for thinking, or talking, or looking about, or keeping themselves clean. The intended moral is manifest. Edward Fitzgerald, writing (September, 1833) to his friend Donne (afterwards Licenser of Plays) from Gteldestone, says, "I am at present rather liable to be overset by any weariness, (and where can any be found that can match the effect of two oratorios?) since living altogether on vegetables for the last three months; that is, I have given up meat. The truth is, mine is a wrong time of life to begin a change of that kind; it is either too early, or too late. But I have no doubt at all of the advantage of giving up meat.
I find already much good from it in lightness, and airiness of head; whereas I was always before clouded, and more or less morbid after meat. The loss of strength is to be expected. I shall keep on, and see if that also will turn, and change into strength. I have almost Utopian notions about vegetable diet, - begging pardon for making use of such a vile, Cheltenhamic phrase. Why do you not bring your children up to it?. To be sure, the chance is that after guarding their vegetable morals for years, they would be seduced by some roast partridge, with bread sauce, and become ungodly." Again, in a letter to John Allen, from Bedford (1842): "I occasionally read sentences about the Virtues from the collection of Stobceus, and look into Sartor Resartus, which has fine things in it, and a little Dante, and a little Shakespeare. But the great secret of all is the not eating of meat. To that the world must come, I am sure. Only it makes one grasshopper foolish." Again (October 1841), when writing to Tennyson from Naseby, Fitzgerald said, "Fits of exultation are not very common with me now, as - after leaving off beef - my life has become of an even grey paper character, needing no great excitement, and as pleased with Naseby as Naples".
As a palatable, and excellent "Vegetable Curry": Chop four onions, and four apples; put them in a pan with a quarter of a pound of butter, and fry them a light brown; then add a table-spoonful of genuine curry powder, a little stock, and some salt. Parboil six large potatoes whole, cut them up, and put them with the other ingredients; let all stew gently for an hour, whilst the pot is covered. Likewise, vegetable marrow can be prepared capitally in imitation of apples, as a digestive accompaniment of roast duck, or goose. Take a large vegetable marrow, choosing the white sort, with lumps over the outside; after having peeled it, and taken away the soft pulp and seeds, cut it in thin slices. Butter an enamelled pot, and put into it layers of the thinly sliced marrow, and of sugar (take for one good sized marrow a large breakfastcupful of sugar), a tablespoonful of flour, or of bread crumbs, ten cloves, a tumblerful of white wine and vinegar mixed; pour this wine over the uppermost layer of marrow and sugar, adding a pinch of salt.
Then let the stewpan simmer for two hours, stirring carefully for fear of its burning.