Every so often, I turn to EATING TO LIVE LONG, a book written in 1920 by William Henry Porter, M.D., for medical advice that is unrivaled in being almost invariably wrong.
In a chapter entitled “Food Fads and Foolishness”, he says, “Forcing one’s self to live for a protracted period upon an exclusive vegetable diet is an abuse that falls only a few degrees short of suicide–or slow murder.” He says it causes anemia and under-nutrition, “as well as being a frequent cause of tuberculosis”–charges he levels at just about anything of which he doesn’t approve.
A vegetable diet, according to Dr. Porter, causes nervous defects and cantankerousness. Vegetables are hard to digest, he says, and ferment in the digestive system, producing irritation and “intestinal catarrh”. We will not delve further into Dr. Porter’s detailing of the unpleasantness of a vegetable diet at the terminus of the digestive process, but he assures us that an excess of vegetables is “a source of danger”.
He considers vegetables an important part of a balanced diet, but compares vegetarianism to eating hay, and warns us that “we can’t afford to emulate the cow”. Apparently, emulating the wolf poses no intestinal threat.
Nuts are “squirrel food” and fruit is a “foodless food”. Vegetarians, he says, are almost always lean (like elephants? like me?) and usually have something wrong with them, even if the something wrong is only chronic grouchiness.
Ah, dear Dr. Porter! I am no true vegetarian, and yet I can be irritated into such a state of grouchiness that you wouldn’t want to meet me in a dark alley with an umbrella in my hand.
Or, come to that, a carrot. I could poke your eye out.
Maybe vegetarianism IS dangerous.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: How does your character feel about vegetables in general and particular ones in … particular?