It’s World Vegetarian Day! For all our meat-shunning friends it’s a day to celebrate the earth’s bounty while sneering at the barbarians who still partake of flesh (me!). Also, it’s a day to remember a piece of forgotten women’s history. Feminist theory has long highlighted the common subjugation of women and animals in a patriarcal world where meat-eating plays an integral role in male dominance. In mid-19th century America, the early vegetarian movement was closely linked with several reform movements including animal welfare, health reform, abolition and women’s suffrage. The American Vegetarian Society was founded in 1850 under the leadership of several prominent American health reformers of the day, including noted vegetarian Reverend Sylvester Graham (of Graham cracker fame). It was the first society of it’s kind in the U.S and attracted supporters the like of Susan B. Anthony, who was known to throw vegetarian dinners but also still enjoyed the odd turkey and cow.
In the U.K. where vegetarian diets were being adopted up by the upper classes, London was teeming with vegetarian eateries. By the 1880′s, 30 new vegetarian restaurants had opened in London. These restaurants, as well as tea rooms, became popular meeting spots for suffragettes as there were few places where women could gather alone together outside the home. Away from the steaming kitchen and roast beef dinners, vegetarian restaurants also set an example of the kind of simple and fast cooking that could liberate women from the stove. Eventually women created their own spaces. London’s Minerva Club was founded by the Women’s Freedom League in 1920 attracting women from all branches of the women’s suffrage movement. Knowing their clientele, the club’s restaurant advertised that its vegetarian dishes were cooked separately and entirely free of animal fat. Eight years later the Representation of the People Act granted all women over the age of 21 the right to vote.
Not too long ago on an episode of Iron Chef America, the sweaty contestants were dexterously hacking away at a large animal encased in an impressive layer of fat usually only seen in the parts of Europe where words like “monounsaturated” and “natural supplement” haven’t yet arrived. “This is Iron Chef America Battle of the Mangalitsa!” the announcer proclaimed. At which point I leaped out of my chair, yelling: “It’s Mangalitsa!!” as if I had just seen my best friend on TV. I was first introduced to the Mangalitsa when I was living in Hungary a few years ago. They are a hulking, fatty, woolly hog that taste as unique as they look. So, when the strange beast appeared on my TV, well, I got really excited. Apparently I was not the only one. As I found out, Mangalitsas are finding their way into the hearts of chefs, farmers and foodies right here in New York. Here’s my full story on NPR’s The Salt.
Ever find yourself starving after hours of inspiring art-viewing? Ever find yourself inching towards the museum cafeteria out of desperation? Problem solved: 10 Inspired New York Museum and Restaurant Pairings published on Flavorwire.