Not, as you might expect, another book of recipes for soybean cutlets and granola. Barkas has written an engaging,...

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THE VEGETABLE PASSION: A History of the Vegetarian State of Mind

Not, as you might expect, another book of recipes for soybean cutlets and granola. Barkas has written an engaging, idiosyncratic and downright scholarly book on vegetarianism as a religious, ethical and humanitarian creed from the days when the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras railed against flesh-eating to the present when groups like the Hare Krishna are spreading the gospel. Barkas herself doesn't proselytize, even though (because?) she is certain that eventually the eating of meat, fish and fowl ""will be universally viewed with the same horror that is now attached to cannibalism."" Maybe so, but in the meantime she sets before us the testaments of famous herbivores: Tolstoy and Gandhi, Shelley and Wagner, Leonardo da Vinci, Hitler and the cantankerous G.B. Shaw (accused, however, by H.G. Wells of cheating, because he took liver extract, calling it ""those chemicals""). Invariably its champions have linked vegetarianism with longevity, non-violence, atheism and sexual abstinence, and sometimes with frequent bathing, socialism and nudity. Some of Barkas' hypotheses on the psychology of vegetarianism (is it a reaction formation against killer instincts?) are intriguing, and even if her anthropological evidence refuting ""the carnivore view of civilization"" cuts both ways, the book does make a serious effort to deal with the subject from a non-cultist perspective. And you'll read about some of the nuttier notions of some of the world's most brilliant cranks -- like Nietzsche, who wrote that ""A diet that consists predominantly of rice leads to the use of opium and narcotics.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Scribners

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1974