Diet,  Food

George Bernard Shaw and the dreaded salad—being a vegetarian, then and now

By Roberta Attanasio

The ingenious playwright George Bernard Shaw was awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty.” He was a fervent vegetarian, and the same traits that characterized his work can be found in his staunch defense of vegetarianism. At a meeting of the University of London Vegetarian Society, held in 1923, he said: “Sages and saints and a few others recoil from eating meat.” He himself was a sage; and probably after a decent interval he would be made a saint. 

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

During the same meeting, he brought up the strength and power of vegetarians. “The idea that meat eating was the secret of athletic prowess was dealt a severe blow by the vegetarian champions in the later part of the nineteenth century. Many people had the idea that vegetarians were effeminate and gentle, but they were the most ferocious people in the country.”

He also had a piece of advice: “Mr. Shaw advised his hearers never to tell their hostess that they were vegetarians. If they did, he said, she would consult with her cook, and on arrival at dinner the poor vegetarian would be confronted with tomatoes and bread crumbs – horrible stuff.”

Probably he did not know that, about 100 years later, the same situation would keep occurring. Contemporary vegetarians are often confronted with the equivalent of tomatoes and bread crumbs—the infamous and ubiquitous “salad.” The vegetarians’ cry could well be “please stop feeding me salads.” So here is something nice to read just in case you want to make sure that the vegetarians around you are happy eaters—no, it’s not recipes only, it’s a nice explanation of “What omnivores get wrong about vegetarian cooking,” set to make everyone happy.

The Global Fool 2013 – 2022 ©


  • Ray Kinney

    Perhaps, testing the foods that are eaten, specific to the type of source, would be best. The metal zinc is very important for protein formation to allow corectly folded to a functional shape. Enzymes made from protein that has mis folded often cannot perform the needed tasks for health. If zinc is present outside the cell, and a zinc ionophore such as quercetin then can transport it across the membrane into the cytoplasm, where it becomes available for protein formation. If it is deficiently supplied, a less appropriate metal can substitute for it. Often, that metal can be lead. Lead causes mis-folding, and resultant molecules can be nonfunctional. When lead comes out of bone during stresses of illness, old age, or pregnancy, when the body is most vulneable and needs a quick dose of calcium from bone, the lead can do damage in soft tissue once again. Partof this damage is by substituting for zinc. Vegetarian diets are often lower in zinc, and soils are now often deficient in micronutrients such as zinc. Common agricultural lands and crops may not be able to supply enough in diets from these croplands. IMHO If testing bodies is difficult, perhaps testing the foods that result would be easier?

  • Ray Kinney

    I’m not vegetarian, but many friends and relatives are. I eat a lot of garden veggies, low carbs, fruit, significant grass-fed meats, fish, coffee, tea, increasing supplements. My veggie friends do not seem to be concerned about known common nutrient and micronutrient deficiencies found in vegans and vegetarians. Many are now getting older 60 to 80, and having increasing medical problems, yet do not seem to want to get tested for possible deficiencies that could easily be supplemented. A curious problem, it seems to me. I sometimes try to offer info from the sci lit, but reactions seem to be so solidly defensive, I don’t know how to approach them about the science, and suggesting testing could be very good clarification.

    • Roberta Attanasio

      I think everyone is different, and while some people thrive on animal products, others don’t. I agree that micronutrient deficiency should be monitored more, but someone who follows for example a vegetarian diet can do so eating a limited variety of food or a very large variety. I would guess that a varied vegetarian diet decreases the chances of micronutrient deficiencies. The tests available to assess panels of micronutrients using blood and saliva do not seem very reliable at this time, otherwise it would be nice to do widespread testing to see what the impact of diet is on micronutrients. Another consideration is that the quality of soil where vegetables grow and the feed given to animals all influence micronutrient content, so I’m not sure how we can really know what works best for different people.

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