From Vegetarianism to Veganuary: January’s not so recent trend

24 January 2020

Cultural Studies | History | Literature

This blog includes temporary free access to Healthful Cookery (1934) from the new Adam Matthew resource, Food and Drink in History. Click the images below to view this item for free until 24 February 2020.

 

Mid-January is often regarded as the most miserable time of the year. The indulgences of Christmas have passed, everyone is skint and Dry January is in full swing. In recent years, the UK has witnessed a growing trend towards ‘Veganuary’ for both ethical and environmental reasons. Most unavoidably, the world is changing. From bushfires in Australia to devastating scenes of pollution in Blue Planet II, climate change is upon us and its connection to the food industry is no longer a mere myth. Veganuary encourages participants to test out the rigours of a vegan diet, and while permanent for some, for others it provides a springboard for their attempts to reduce their meat and fish intake. However, if you believe that widespread vegetarianism is a new idea, then Food and Drink in History proves otherwise.

 

Image © State Library of New South Wales. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Image © State Library of New South Wales. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Click to view this item for free for 30 days.

Healthful cookery, published in 1934, explores the prospect of a vegetarian diet in its preface, and its wording could have come out of a modern-day magazine: “The following pages will show that vegetarianism is not necessarily an insipid watery die of boiled carrot, parsnips and cabbage, as some people may think.” Jenny Bartlett, the author, could well have been me last week trying to convince my carnivorous, vegetarian sceptic boyfriend that Pinch of Nom’s vegetarian bolognese really could taste ‘just as good’.

 

Image © State Library of New South Wales. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
Image © State Library of New South Wales. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. Click to view this item free for 30 days.

She goes on, explaining how a vegetarian menu was recently provided in British Parliament – a sure sign of establishment approval. This strikes me as similar to reports earlier this month that the Golden Globes, home of the Hollywood establishment, would serve a solely vegan menu. Bartlett also stresses the physical benefits with “… the great doings of the vegetarian Finnish athletes, prove the wonderful degrees of physical effort and endurance that is possible on a vegetarian dietary.” This is not so dissimilar to athletes today, such as Lewis Hamilton, David Haye and Venus Williams, who all swear by their vegan diets.


While meat-free diets have been practiced worldwide for millennia, Healthful cookery provides a new perspective to Western vegetarianism and veganism, demonstrating that while they may seem ‘fashionable’ today, these diets have been popular for decades. Bartlett acknowledges that while ‘there is no superfluity of cookery books that deal with tasty, appetising vegetarian cookery” in 1934, books of this nature, and the many that have followed it since, paved the way for an entirely new lifestyle. Or just occasional meal ideas for those of us who just want to reduce our meat intake while enjoying the odd hangover bacon sandwich… once February’s arrived of course!


Food and Drink in History is available now. For more information, including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

Sophie Seddon

Sophie Seddon

I joined the Editorial Team at Adam Matthew in September 2018 as an Assistant Development Editor. My background is in English Literature and History with a focus on gender and social history, fashion and travel writing.

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