Romantics, Vegetarians, Utopians

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 27

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The following episode transcript and images will remain for posterity. Enjoy!

In the 19th century, food-conscious social movements reacted against the many ills of industrial society. In today’s podcast. we’re going to delve into new dietary ideologies that stressed purity and were backed by both quasi-scientific and religious thought. We’ll follow the rise of vegetarian societies, entertain Utopian social experiments, and investigate the health reform movements that gave us graham crackers, breakfast cereals, and granola.

Images for this Episode:

Culinary Activities for this Episode:

• A Natural Diet

The idea of what constitutes a natural diet changes from era to era. For some, it might be a vegetarian meal or foods that are unprocessed; for others, it could be raw food or paleo food. Every era constructs what is “natural” based on its own preoccupations and anxieties. All make the claim that one will feel better immediately. Put this claim to the test with the following experiment. In academic circles, this is called an autoethnography.

Choose a modern diet that claims to be natural. Follow it strictly for three days, or for a whole week if you have the patience. Record all of your experiences. Have you noticed any changes in your body—with your digestion, energy level, or sleep patterns? Did you learn anything about yourself and your regular diet in the course of this experiment? Do you think that the experiment might change the way you eat on some level? Most importantly, how did others react to your diet? Did friends and family members help to accommodate you? Did you have trouble eating out? Consider the experience of others who diet or have restricted diets for medical reasons or allergies, or even religious prohibition. Do you think this affects the way they negotiate social relations? What have you learned about people with dietary restrictions in general?

Suggested Reading:

Guerrini, Obesity and Depression in the Enlightenment: The Life and Times of George Cheyne.

Preece, Sins of the Flesh: A History of Ethical Vegetarian Thought.

Spenser, The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism.

Stuart, The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times.

Images courtesy of:

• Luddites: By Chris Sunde; original uploader was Christopher Sunde at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Paracelsus: See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Philippe Hecquet: See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Nicolas Andry: See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Antonio Cocchi: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• George Cheyne: By John Faber, Jr., 1732 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Thomas Bramwell Welch: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Maurice Quentin de La Tour [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Emile: By Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Percy Bysshe Shelley: By By Alfred Clint (died 1883), Lua error in mw.wikibase.entity.lua at line 37: data.schemaVersion must be a number, got nil instead., and Edward Ellerker Williams (died 1822) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Vegetarian Society: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Justus von Liebig c1846: By Wilhelm Trautschold (1815-1877), oil painting ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Liebig Museum – Photo of Laboratory: By Dguendel (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Emanuel Swedenborg: Carl Frederik von Breda [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A New System of Vegetable Cookery: Public Domain,Collection Leeds University Library
• Robert Owen: William Henry Brooke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• The Shakers:By Unknown – before 1923 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Sylvester Graham: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: cph 3c23830)
• James C. Jackson: By Engraved by J.C. Buttre ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Dr. John Harvey Kellogg: By Bain News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Kellog at age 29: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Ellen White: By User Orlandobrunet on pt.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Charles W. Post: By The original uploader was Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Grape Nuts Poster: By C.W. Post Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons