Thursday

So...are you a vegetarian?

With apologies for the lack of updates. Between having an infant and a book on the way, free time has been at a minimum. As we lead up to the book release in Fall 2013, I do promise to add more to the site.

I did, however, want to take the opportunity to explore (what I find, at least) an interesting aspect of working on vegetarian history. Inevitably whenever I talk about my research (both formally and informally) someone asks whether or not I am a vegetarian. It is remarkable just how frequently I have been asked this question and in most instances it is the first question asked. On one hand I imagine that it is just a product of general curiosity, especially since many people seem genuinely intrigued by the notion that there is an American vegetarian history that stretches back to the nineteenth century. And this is surely a good thing.

In my seven years as a vegetarian, I have yet to think anything was a chicken.

On the other hand, I do wonder if it is a question that many other scholars are asked, regarding their personal connection to a given topic. If not, I am curious as to why vegetarianism as a historical subject leads to this particular question? Is there concern that I have a particular bias as a vegetarian? In the reverse, if I was not a vegetarian, would there be worry about my approach to the topic? I also wonder if this is a particular question asked of any historians researching a movement or phenomena rooted within a particular time period that is still salient in current times? For example, I can't imagine someone being asked if they are a phrenologist because of a research interest in the topic? Or is this perhaps something particular to those of us researching food? Lastly, are there implications to be gleaned about vegetarianism and its relationship with culture from this question's omnipresence?

Thoughts from any interested scholars out there? Anyone with similar experiences with their topic?

5 comments:

Andrew said...

I think it probably has a fair amount to do with vegetarianism still being a thing that people are. If you were researching a book on Lutheranism, you'd probably get asked if you were Lutheran fairly regularly.

Adam Shprintzen said...

I do think you are probably right. Though I am curious about the religion angle here and if historians of religion are asked about their particular beliefs or affiliations?

Paul said...

I am neither a vegetarian nor a scholar so maybe I'm an interloper. Nevertheless, my wife has been a vegetarian for about 45 yrs and we've been married for 36. I say this because our collective experience has witnessed many presumptions that people make about vegetarians.
First they presume that my wife must have a militant side in her defense of such a nonconformist position. She's not she just thinks its healthier.
Second they presume that since I'm not a vegetarian my wife must resent cooking meat for me. I cook, she cooks its never been an issue.
Third people presume that your diet is limited because you don't eat meat as though the variety of cooking with vegetables, pasta's, nuts, dressings etc. was somehow a formidable task.

Adam Shprintzen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Shprintzen said...

Not an interloper at all and thanks for all the insight! My own experiences in terms of presumptions match yours as well, though in my household I am the vegetarian and my wife is not. Interesting, as well, from a gender perspective is the fact that whenever we are out for dinner (admittedly an infrequent at best occurrence with an infant) the server almost always starts to bring me a meat dish and the veg. dish to my wife.

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