Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Being a Pythagorean

I recently recommitted my lifestyle and diet to living healthfully. As I am rounding the two and a half year mark of a marriage to a steak-and-potato Texan who, quite frankly, doesn't notice when I don't include animal proteins or starchy spuds has faithfully encouraged me to return to my plant-based roots and go vegan. This encouragement has resulted in much study and reference into several texts that have resulted in new revelations about dietary health and its corresponding roots.

One of these such "revelations" has been the discovery that they used to call vegans "Pythagoreans" after the Greek philosopher who plagued young middle-school geometry students with the a² + b² = c² theorem. Gratefully, his lesser achievement were studies on beans and cabbage and the diets that could abound from them. His strict adherence to a meatless diet created a secret society following in his school and a lack of provision of meat therein. This title lasted two and a half millenia until 1847, at which the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom convened and the used the Latin "vegetus" meaning "whole, sound, fresh, lively" to create "vegetarians", under which both lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans alike were categorized [My thanks to the International Vegetarian Union for the tip!].

Also in the history books of vegetarian and veganism is a little church in industrial England whose pastor, Reverend William Cowherd, challenged his congregation to take a vow to refrain from consumption of meat. As an incentive, he provided free vegetable soup to the small gathering whose economic hardship encouraged them toward such practical support. In his congregation was another budding reverend who set sail for Pennsylvania in 1817 to promote the lifestyle and his two initial converts were the fiery preacher and raw foods enthusiast who created the Graham cracker, Sylvester Graham and Bronson Alcott, who was the first to attempt a vegan community in America and was father to Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) [Becoming Vegan by Drs. Davis & Melina, 2000]. Small world, eh?

So, before you stick your foot in your mouth about vegans and their focus on healthy and rigid dietary standards, be grateful for the pioneers who focused on whole grains, raw foods and introducing Sylvester Graham to vegetarianism so he could create the drawing board for your campfire goodness staple: the s'more.

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