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Early Vegetarian Recipes (English Kitchen)…
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Early Vegetarian Recipes (English Kitchen)

by Anne O'Connell

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introduction

O'Connell has chosen to focus on the period that vegetarianism flourished as a moral or healthy choice, but its not exclusively 19th century. She finds room for Thomas Tryon who wrote probably the first vegetarian cook book in late 17 century.

Many early vegetarian cookbooks from the mid 1800s took an austere approach with bland and uninteresting recipes, but by the turn of the century, several writers were bringing pleasure into the kitchen and dinner table. O'Connell focuses on these but its not altogether clear if the recipes were selected for their use in the modern day kitchen or just intended for a good read .

In the salad chapter we see that writers took quite different approaches; some use only a few ingredients, others throw everything but the kitchen sink in. It would have been interesting to explore this further and uncover their different attitudes to food – some saw raw food and salads as essential daily fare, but others would not let a raw vegetable near their lips and boiled everything to death – including their salad ingredients.

Lentil recipes illustrate like no other how far vegetarian cuisine has developed. So many early recipes boiled them for hours without even salt, and eulogised them as haute cuisine. O'Connell hints at the reasons she says that Victorians were nervous of garlic, but without going any further, she deprives the reader of the flavour of the arguments in the contemporary vegetarian movement. [pun absolutely intended!] For many, all spices and flavourings were seen as stimulants of similar danger to health as caffeine and alcohol, opinions no doubt influenced from other contemporary social reform issues.

I feel that O'Connell also missed the opportunity to acknowledge that the vegan argument has been with the vegetarian movement since the beginning. While many recipe books included chapters for egg and cheese, the authors explained this their intention to appeal to beginning vegetarians. This concept of gradually refining ones diet over time permeates all but the recipe books written by meat eaters so better represents the contemporary vegetarian than Kenney-Herbert, delightful though he is to read.

Overall the biggest question I have is how O'Connell picked the recipes ; did she try out each of the recipes and discover how tasty or bland they really were? (I do this often) or does she just pick them because they looked interesting to her? Without that I am lost to what the selection means and feel unsure what to do with it. ( )
  vegefoodie | Dec 9, 2008 |
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Vegetarians have never had it so good: a wealth of vegetable types, cooks delivering dishes from cuisines unknown to our parents' generation, and new kitchen technologies that deliver flavour inconceivable to the age of cast iron ranges. This book offers a selection of recipes culled from manuals dating from 1856 to 1908.… (more)

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