Tag Archives: Recipes

Abolitionism and Vegetarianism

While I was reading The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier I also happened to be listening to an episode of Backstory with the American History Guys, a podcast that deals with themes in American History. This particular episode detailed the history of nutritious eating the United States, and during the course of the podcast the topic of abolitionism came up. I had never been fully aware of the link between Abolitionism and Vegetarianism before and did a bit more of my own research into the topic, specifically the role of Quakers and how the character of Honor Bright would have linked the abolitionist cause to her diet.

In 1850 William Alcott, a well-known abolitionist (And father of Louisa May Alcott) founded The American Vegetarian Society. Alcott believed “There is no slavery in this world like the slavery of a man to his appetite. Let man but abstain from the use of the flesh and fish, and the slavery of one man to another cannot long exist.”

 While Alcott explicitly linked the consumption of meat and fish to slavery, the larger idea that meat caused individuals to become violent and corrupted, was more popular. The names of Graham and Kellogg are household names today, but all these men got their start in the 19th century.

Sylvester Graham, a Presbyterian Minister from New Jersey, developed then Graham diet around 1829 to suppress “unhealthy carnal knowledge.” As part of a sexual panic at the time (this is where the myth that masturbation could cause blindness took hold), Graham believed that eating very bland foods could curb sexual urges. This included fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole wheat and high fiber foods. Meat and spices were excluded altogether but very fresh milk, cheese, and eggs were permitted “in moderation.” Thus the Graham Cracker was born. Originally the Graham Cracker was made with whole-wheat flour and was unsweetened; drastically different that our modern version.

Will Keith Kellogg also subscribed to this line of thinking. As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Kellogg practiced vegetarianism, but was also somewhat obsessed with the health of American people. He saw breakfast, which was traditionally meat and eggs especially troubling and sought to provide a healthier alternative. He promoted corn flakes as a healthy breakfast, producing it with whole grains and no sugar.

I was looking for some more information about the links between Vegetarianism and Quakers and came across this article written by Kenneth L. Carrol titled “Early Quakers and Fasting.” The article mentions that Quaker attitudes towards fasting was most likely inspired by polemic writings of the 1650s which stressed that fasting could make one more in tune with spiritual knowledge. While the article does not specifically mention vegetarianism as it has been linked to abolitionism, it does mention that many Quakers refrained from eating meat and rich foods as a way to encourage communication with the Holy Spirit.

Quakers, as pacifists, are historically known for their opposition to slavery, (although some Quakers did hold slaves). This also sometimes affected consumer habits of Quakers and what we can call a very early iteration of advocating for “labour free” goods. John Woolman, well known for his role in shaping eighteenth century Quaker abolitionism, was vehemently opposed to Caribbean slavery and urged everyone to boycott all products produced by slaves including sugar, rum, molasses, tea, and cotton. Instead he urged Quakers, (Woolman was a travelling preacher) to produce their own food and clothing so as not to live of the labour of slaves. Andrew White writes, “One becomes what one east: by ingesting the sweetener the consumer actively participates in the barbaric, cannibalistic violence committed against the body of the slave that produces it.” While not all Quakers would have listened to Woolman, just as not all Quakers were abolitionists, or vegetarian, this is an interesting perspective on eating habits and consumerism, and how food could become a very political thing.

After the Civil War and emancipation the vegetarian movement began to fall apart without the cause of slavery to hold it together. It was soon taken up again however by the spirit of the early 19th century and focus on reforming one’s self, including health reform. Vegetarianism however still remained closely tied to religious movements with various Church founders having recommended vegetarianism. (Ellen G. White – Seventh Day Adventists) Historically many Quakers were supporters of the vegetarian movement due to its ties to abolitionism, and some members still practice vegetarianism or veganism as a reflection of the Peace Testament, extending non-violence towards animals. A Christian Vegetarian Association was founded in 1999 as a non-denominational organization promoting respect for God’s creation through abstaining from eating meat.

Today many people are vegetarian for a variety of reasons including but not limited to ethical, environmental, and health. Many, like me, also are not aware that vegetarianism has religious roots and was often intimately tied to political issues of the day like Abolition.

There is a good chance that Honor Bright, in Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway would have practiced vegetarianism, even if her husband’s family did not necessarily approve of her abolitionist ways, and ate things like Oat Cakes made from the recipe below.

Oat Cakes (As served at Mackenzie House)

3 cups fine oatmeal (rolled outs ground in a blender)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into bits
2 cups boiling water

Pour boiling water over butter and salt, stir to dissolve. Pour the mixture over the oats and stir thoroughly. Leave bout 1/2 hour, until doughy and cool enough to handle. Press into shallow, engrossed pans and press down with hands until it is like thick card-board. Roll flat with rolling pin. Cut into triangles and bake at 250 degrees for 2-3 hours until hard. Do not roll out too thinly or they will break. Serve with butter or preserves. Store in airtight container.


Alcott, Vegetable Diet Defended

Alcott, Young Housekeeper: or, Thought on Food and Cookery

Backstory with the American History Guys

Carrol, Kenneth, “Early Quakers and Fasting,” Quaker History, vol. 97, no. 1 (Spring 2008) pp. 1-10.

Frost, Willaim, “Quaker Antislavery: From Dissidence to Sense of the Meeting,” Quaker History, vol/ 101, no. 1, (Spring 2012), pp. 12-33.

White, Andrew, “A “Consuming” Oppression: Sugar, Cannibalism, and John Woolman’s 1770 Slave Dream,” Quaker History, vol. 96, No. 2, (Fall 2007), pp. 1-27.

Recipes – Italian Wedding Soup

While reading Sarah Dunant’s Blood and Beauty I knew I wanted to make something Italian that related to the book. I was looking into food from the Italian Renaissance, but most of the information available is about food that was eaten in places like England. Italians, living in a more temperate climate would have eaten different food than other Europeans. Chances are they would have eaten a lot of fish, and “fish soup” seems to have been popular, in addition to things like figs and cheese. Because fish soup doesn’t sound that appealing I decided to try making Italian Wedding Soup. Lucrezia was my favourite character and some of the major scenes in the book revolved around her weddings. Although Italian Wedding Soup is relatively recent, it still fits the theme.

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 This recipe is similar to a soup one of my high school friends would make for me when I was over at her house. I bring the package of chicken noodle soup to a boil and she would beat eggs and Parmesan cheese together before dropping it into the boiling soup. It was her version of Stracciatella, or egg-drop soup. I used her recipe as a base for this one.

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I generally use 8 cups of chicken broth which makes the soup a but thicker. If you like really liquidy soup, add as much chicken broth as you’d like.

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There are a lot of recipes out there for making meatballs from scratch, but these PC mini meatballs were the perfect size. Just throw as many as you want in the oven, following the instructions on the box while boiling the chicken broth.

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While boiling the chicken broth you need to make the egg/parmesean cheese/spinach mixture which is really simple. Just let the frozen spinach thaw for an hour or two and then make sure you squeeze out all the extra moisture. If not it waters down the soup and detracts from the flavour. I normally use around one cup of grated Parmesan cheese, but you can always add more.

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Add the Orzo, meatballs, and a salt and pepper to taste and you have a meal fit for an Italian Pope’s illegitimate daughter.


Italian Wedding Soup
1 package of chopped frozen spinach (thawed)
4 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
8 cups of chicken broth
2 cups Orzo Pasta
Cooked meatballs (either handmade or store bought)
Salt and Pepper

  1. Drain the spinach squeezing out all the water
  2. Beat eggs with Parmesan cheese and add spinach to the mixture
  3. Bring chicken broth to a boil and add the spinach mixture by the spoonful into the broth.
  4. Add the Orzo past and simmer for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally
  5. Add meatballs and serve

Recipes – Adventures in Crisco

A few weeks ago I posted about a great vintage cookbook I found published by Proctor & Gable from the 1930s. It featured Crisco as a prominent and versatile ingredient and I promised to try out some recipes. I keep a separate blog for my food related adventures so if you’d like to check out my attempts at making Crisco Biscuits as well as Crisco Sandwich Spread you can on that site.

Overall cooking with Crisco was similar to cooking with margarine, only slightly more greasy and messy. I really had to soak everything to get it clean. Taste-wise there’s a bit of a difference. The biscuits were flaky and tender but lacked that buttery-taste. While it makes sense to use Crisco for pastries when flakiness is a desired trait, but I don’t see Crisco Sandwich Spread becoming a household staple any time soon.

Friday Finds – 12 Dozen Time-Saving Recipes from Proctor & Gamble

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Happy Friday Everyone. I wanted to share this fun little cookbook I recently purchased from the Culinary Historians of Canada. It contains 144 recipes and “a great many time-saving kitchen suggestions,” and was published by Proctor and Gamble in 1932.

It should not be surprising that this little book is targeted at women and is designed to make their life at home easier by providing recipes for meals that are simple and easy to prepare, “For today, activities outside the home are demanding more and more of women’s time.” The role of women was certainly in flux during this time, and with the Economic Depression of the 1930s, this booklet is aimed at saving not only time but also money.


“Crisco is a Modern, Trouble-Saving Ingredient.”

Enter Crisco. Being published by Proctor and Gamble means that many of the recipes contained push P&G products, most notably this Pure Vegetable Shortening. Crisco was introduced by Proctor and Gamble in 1911, and every single recipe in this booklet calls for it. It’s easy to see why Crisco was so appealing, made out of vegetables, Crisco was promoted as being a healthier alternative to lard or butter. In addition, Crisco stays fresh and solid for a long time and does not need to be refrigerated. In the midst of an economic depression, many families relied on food that had longevity.

Crisco is something that we still use today and its popularity is actually credited to the publication of free cookbooks that feature the ingredient. My mom, for one, still uses Crisco to ensure her pie crusts are flaky and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. In fact the recipes for pastry and pies in this book look similar to the recipes we would use today. A recipe for a flaky pie crust contains 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2/3 cups of Crisco, and Cold Water.

The Benefits of Crisco

The Benefits of Crisco

Being the 1930s however, some recipes seem totally revolting. The recipe for “Crisco Sandwich Spread,” “Sardine Paste,” or “Fried Ham Cake” for example. While I cannot fathom using Crisco as a sandwich spread the recipe contained in this book is intriguing. I think next week I might make it my mission to try some of these recipes. Stay tuned!