July 21, 1906
Luckily, no band of prophets has yet risen to urge us to confine our eating exclusively to meat. And yet an exclusive meat diet has in certain circumstances been tried and not found wanting, as long as the meat is accompanied by fat.
A Book of the Week - Diet and Dietetics by Gautier
At the present moment we are in the midst of one of those periodical outbursts of discussion concerning food. Plentiful evidence is afforded by the various catering companies that ideas and theories on the subject are taking the definite and practical form of a return to dishes of greater simplicity than were fashionable before the movement began. So many dogmatic opinions are expressed and propagated, that those who, without being fanatics, desire to order their lives intelligently in regard to the food they eat, will be glad to turn to a scientific authority like M. A. Gautier, whose Diet and Dietetics (Constable) has constantly been translated into English by Dr. A. J. Rice-Oxley. The work is a very learned one, and we may as well say here that it is not our intention to attempt any criticism of the innumerable analyses contained in it. The broad result only concerns the reader who wishes to have sound guidance in regard to diet, without caring to devote a large proportion of his time to what, after all, is a mere detail of existence. There are certain main propositions to which he would like an answer.
On one side he is admonished by certain zealous reformers to give up meat and confine himself to a vegetable diet. M. Gautier, who carries out the Apostle’s injunction to be temperate in all things, does not endorse the teaching of the vegetarian. He quite recognises that a man may be strong without eating meat. The street porters of Salonica and Constantinople live chiefly on rice and figs, and drink water or lemonade, yet it was their strength which gave rise to the saying, ‘as strong as a Turk.” Many men and women have become better in health after adopting a vegetarian diet, and it serves as a check to arthritic, gouty, or rheumatic diathesis. Morally speaking, it tends to produce softness and gentleness of manners. Need we recall the fact that “the mild Hindoo” is a vegetarian? The main disadvantage is that “in order to obtain a vegetable alimentation sufficiently nutritive and varied, the vegetarian is obliged to have recourse sooner or later to exaggerated weights of food.” This our author properly describes ‘‘as a method of alimentation all the more fatiguing for the stomach and alimentary canal because it encumbers them with a quantity of useless matters. The herbiverous animal is constructed so as to digest vegetables, but man digests them very incompletely and more laboriously.” To some extent the difficulty has been got over by using a mixed vegetarian diet, which is still further varied by milk, eggs, fatty bodies, cheese, sugar, and wine. In this shape the diet is well fitted to a passive and peace-loving race, but M. Gautier does not recommend it to those who are hard-working and energetic.
Luckily, no band of prophets has yet risen to urge us to confine our eating exclusively to meat. And yet an exclusive meat diet has in certain circumstances been tried and not found wanting. Says our author:
Some men obliged to live a very fatiguing life, the trappers and hunters of the pampas of America and Siberian steppes, the inhabitants of very cold climates, the fishermen living on the banks of the frozen sea, etc , can eat almost exclusively, without suffering from it, enormous quantities of meat or fish, but on two conditions—that the meat be accompanied by its fat, and that the individual subjected to this diet lead a very active life in the open air.
Darwin relates that the Gauchos of the American pampas live for months on the fat meat of the oxen they watch over. The Esquimaux can get along very well by eating from 5lb. to 6lb. per day of reindeer or seal’s flesh, so long as it is not too lean, but contains a due proportion of fat. These facts might furnish some argument for an exclusive meat diet, but our author is antagonistic to exaggeration in this respect as in the other. He observes quite properly that ‘the well-to-do classes are only too carnivorous,” and his own recommendation is that the best food for the general is a judicious mixture of meat and vegetables.
From a bill of fare that he draws up for the obese, wherein he closely follows Mr. A. Robin, it will be seen that he takes a fairly liberal view of a man’s requirements. He would begin in the morning by giving him who has to say, like Sir John, “Old do I wax and fat,” at eight o’clock an egg, some lean meat, and a very small quantity of bread, following this up at ten o’clock with a couple of eggs, a still smaller quantity of bread, and a glass of wine well diluted with water. At twelve o’clock he would give him some lean meat and bread and vegetables and another glass of wine diluted with water. At four o’clock he recommends tea without sugar and nothing to eat with it. At seven o'clock the patient is to dine on a fair quantity of lean meat, taken with bread and butter and vegetables. He does not seem to allow any wine with this last meal, but he remarks that such a regimen only corresponds to 1,290 calorties per day, and as the average adult loses from 2,100 to 2,200 calories per day he will have to make up about 900 calorties from the combustion of stored-up fats.