“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”
-George Bernard Shaw
This week’s post is the first in an at least two-part series of vegetarian cookbooks. The two we’ll look at this week and next are associated with philosophical and a religious organization, respectively. First up, it’s the Vegetarian Cook Book, published by the Los Angeles Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1919.
The Theosophical Society was (and still is) oriented around shared values, not any particular religion. Their focus is on truth and unity. So, unlike the title we’ll look at next week, the choice of vegetarianism isn’t driven by any one reason, but many (ethics, health, culture), and isn’t a requirement of the society.
That being said, there is a great deal of variety and creativity in this publication. Many of the meatless entrees feature a protein substitute called “Protose.” As the introduction tells us, this comes from the mind and work of John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. and the “Kellogg Food Co.” (In actually, by 1919, it would have been a product of the Battle Creek Food Company, the company started by John Kellogg, following the dissolution of a business partnership with his brother, Will.) One could speculate on the ingredients in a “vegetable meat,” but it may better left to the imagination. With its apparently diverse uses and the frequent addition of other heavily flavored ingredients (spices and sauces), we can wonder just as much about the taste…
It is, however, interesting to see how specifically this publication lays out its choice of brands and why. Brand loyalty is something we’re used to seeing in many of the company-based pamphlets we’ve featured on the blog, but not necessarily in a cookbook from a philosophical organization. It may stem from the limited number of vegetarian products available at the time. On the other hand, the back cover of the book contains an advertisement for Crisco.
Meat substitutes aside, many of the sections in the cookbook are not all that surprising. There are a great many soups, vegetable/pasta/rice-based entrees, breads, and desserts you can make without the meat, and the book shares a variety of these goodies. That doesn’t mean, however, there aren’t a few eye-catching recipes. There are an over-abundance of “loaf” recipes (nut, lentil, cheese, vegetable, bean, mock veal, etc.), as well items like “Mexican Cheese Sauce” (likely designated as “Mexican” solely due to the addition of chili powder), “Green Tomato Mincemeat” for pie, and a lone chick pea based dish.
If you’re interested in seeing more of the recipes, you can visit us to see this, and other publications! (Alternatively, the book is out of copyright and available online.) In the mean (meat? or meatless?) time, you may wish to consider a modern alternative to vegetable sausage with mock pork gravy. At least until next week, when we’ll talk about some early 1930s vegetarian dishes you can use to feed your traveling baseball team (yes, I promise, there IS an explanation).