« PreviousContinue »
ish aborigines of our own island were in this condition, living, as Cæsar has informed us, upon milk and flesh.
Many have been sustained by milk alone, even for a series of years; and have avoided some of the sufferings which they had experienced when eating flesh. I cannot doubt, therefore, that to those who can submit to such a course, it would prove more salubrious than a diet of animal food, and, probably, such persons would lengthen their lives by this practice.
But independent of the irksomeness and disgust which have been commonly experienced from milk, when used abundantly, it seems to me highly unphilosophical to suppose that there can be any substitute ever discovered for natural diet. There are some gases which approach very nearly in their constituent principles to atmospheric air. But we do not find it possible to use any gas as a substitute for common air, consistently with health. We cannot even add to or diminish from the constituents of common air, without rendering it less fitted for respiration. Why then should we fancy that we may yield to any caprice or fancy with regard to our food; and that any substance whatever, which the juices of the stomach can dissolve, is equally wholesome; or that, because the milk of a cow affords the best possible nourishment to a calf, it is therefore the substance of all others the best suited to a child ?
For milk, besides its saccharine and fermentable principles, contains a coagulable matter, the curd or cheese, which is more perfectly animalized, and which is very nearly allied to the albuminous matter of animal bodies. Hence the operation of milk upon the system is in part the same as that of animal food, though it is less powerful in degree. It at first fattens and heightens the color. It therefore possesses a degree of the stimulating power of animal food, and must eventually have similar results. But milk, moreover, in many habits excites headache, thirst, weight, and oppression at the stomach; and in those who have tried to make it the principal part of their sustenance, the attempt has commonly caused an almost insuperable disgust. This, I have little doubt, is the true reason why such an experiment is now so rarely made. It affords sufficient ground for thinking that milk ought to be excluded, as much as possible, from the diet of persons to whom a strict adherence to regimen is necessary.
We give it indeed to our children, and this is so customary that I have heard it exclaimed against as a perfect act of inhumanity to deny it them. But I cannot find that children from whom it is withheld at all regret or suffer from the want of
ing to Clarke, eating raw turnips all day long. We may be certain then, that there is no harm in the practice.
But further, there is every reason to believe, particularly from the observations of the navigators in the Pacific Ocean, that those races of men who admit into their nutriment a large proportion of fruit, and recent vegetable matter, unchanged by culinary art, have a form of body, the largest, of the most perfect proportion, and the greatest beauty, that they have the greatest strength and activity, and probably that they enjoy the best health.
This fact alone is enough to refute the vulgar error (for it deserves no other name) that animal food is necessary to support the strength. It may be necessary to those whom the injustice or the artificial wants of society have doomed to the labor of dray-horses. Even this is doubtful. But we see that almost the whole agricultural labor of the country is performed without it. It cannot, therefore, be necessary to this species of labor, nor to any other which a man ought to undergo. The same fact may still prompt us further to inquire, whether there is any just foundation for the prejudices which are very prevalent against the use of fruit, as if there were something in it pernicious or dangerous, and to examine from whence these prejudices have arisen.
This notion of fruit being unwholesome has descended to us, eren from the days of Galen. He has said, that “ All fruits are of a bad composition, and useful only to persons who have been exposed to great heat, or harassed by a long journey."
But this same Galen has soon after acknowledged that fruits afford a perfect nourishment; in proof of which he observed, that the persons who are set over the vineyards, and who live for a couple of months upon nothing but figs and grapes (with the addition, perhaps, of a little bread) become fat. Dr. Cleghorn says that this observation of Galen is annually confirmed at Minorca, it being remarkable that the persons appointed for the same purpose there commonly continue in good health, though in that season tertians usually rage with the greatest violence. Similar observations have been made upon negroes in the West Indies, who live on the recently expressed juice of the sugar cane; and Sir George Staunton says, “As in the West Indies, so in China, the people employed in the fields during this season” (the time of pressing the sugar canes) " are observed to get fat and sleek; and many of the Chinese slaves and idle persons are frequently missing about the time that the canes become ripe, biding themselves, and living altogether in the plantations.
The prejudices then entertained against fruit and recent unchanged vegetable matter cannot be founded in any just observations, proving that they are truly insalubrious, and unfit for human nutriment. Yet it cannot be doubted that matter of this kind excites, in many, great inconvenience and uneasiness. There are those to whom a raw apple is an object of terror almost as great as a pistol shot. Numbers of people cannot bear a morsel of fruit. Dean Swift, in several of his letters, complains that he could not eat a bit of fruit without suffering, and declares how much he envied persons whom he saw munching peaches, while he durst not touch a morsel. Wood, the miller of Billericay, who set up for a sort of a doctor, warned people strongly against the use of fruit, guided, no doubt, by a similar feeling of uneasiness.
But we see children glut themselves, almost to bursting, with fruits, and suffering nothing from them but a little temporary uneasiness from distention. We see, as I have said, tribes of people principally supported by them. And from the great pleasure, which children and young persons, whose stomachs are the most healthy, receive from them, it seems probable that fruit, and the produce of trees in general, instead of being unwholesome, is the sort of matter the most suited to the organs of man. Such was the opinion of the great naturalist Linnæus. “This species of food," he says, “is that which is most suitable to man; which is evinced by the series of quadrupeds, analogy, wild men, apes, the structure of the mouth, of the stomach, and the hands."
We have, indeed, annual accounts of persons killing themselves by eating nuts or cherries; but such relations probably come from persons who are little capable of determining the causes of death or disease. Upon a sudden seizure, particularly of fatal illness, the last thing eaten commonly bears the blame. There may be found in the Philosophical Transactions a grave account, by one of the most eminent members of the Royal Society, of a boy killed by eating apple dumpling. I have never trembled on this account when I have had a good plateful of apple pudding before me.
That fruit and recent vegetable matter, in general, is not merely innoxious, but much more congenial to the constitution than the same matter which has been changed by culinary preparation, may be further deduced from its superior efficacy in the cure of scurvy. The fact of the facility with which this disease, which has proved fatal to thousands of seamen and others, may be cured, is so fully established that it is needless
to cite any proofs of it. Suffice it to say, that if the patient is not consumptive, nor laboring under any other chronic disease, it will yield in the course of a few days to the use of fruit, lemon juice, antiscorbutic herbs, or, in short, of any vegetable matter that is wholesome and fresh. Even raw potatoes have effected a cure. And so speedy is the effect upon the system, that the color of a scorbutic ulcer becomes improved and reddened in twelve hours after the use of lemons. It is not perhaps so well known that vegetables which have been submitted to the fire are far less efficacious against this disease. But this fact seems perfectly established. On this point a physician of the first anthority on such subjects has these observations:
* It is certain that the medical effects of the native sweet juices are, in other respects, very different from what they are in their refined state; for manna, wort, and the native juice of the sugar cane are purgative, whereas sugar itself is not at all so. This affords a presumption that they may be also different in their antiscorbutic quality; and there is reason to think, from experience, that the more natural the state in which any vegetable is, the greater is its antiscorbutic quality. Vegetables in the form of salads are more powerful than when prepared by fire; and I know for certain, that the rob of lemons and oranges is not to be compared to the fresh fruit. Raw potatoes have been used with advantage in the fleet, particularly by Mr. Smith of the Triton, who made the scorbutic men eat them sliced with vinegar, with great benefit. This accords also with what Dr. Mertens, of Vienna, has lately communicated to the Royal Society of London."
It has been observed by some other writers, that it adds much to the suffering of the scorbutic seaman when, from the rotten state of his teeth, he is unable to eat the sour krout without boiling, for that the boiling very much impairs its antiscorbutic powers.
But this is not all. There have been examples of a deep scurry appearing among persons whose diet was entirely vegetable. Dr. Trotter has related an instance of this in a cargo of unfortunate negroes in a slave ship, who were fed upon beans, rice, and Indian corn. It is proper, however, to add, that these poor wretches were most diabolically treated, being stowed Spoonudays, according to the technical phrase; and some were actually suffocated for want of fresh air.
These facts are enough to show that there is an essential dif. ference between fresh vegetable matter and the same matter changed by cookery; and they make it in a manner certain,
that in the latter suite it is less congenial to the human frame. If, therefore, in this state it creates uneasiness in the stomach, it must proceed, not from any noxious quality of the vegetable, but from some vice of the stomach itself. And it illustrates most forcibly how much we may be deceived, by inferring any thing concerning the good and ill qualities of a substance from its primary operation on a morbid body; how little, having depraved our stomachs by the stimulation of an artificial system of diet, we can confide in the feelings conveyed.
The internal coat of this organ possesses an exquisite sensibility, if not to all impressions, to those which are peculiarly fitted to it. This sensibility appears to be a species of taste, very nearly like that of the tongue or palate; and our likings and aversions may be suspected to be caused by the relation between this membrane and the substances applied to it. Now under the common habits of life we find a slow but constant change taking place with regard to the objects of liking, so that gradually all the substances which were most the objects of desire, and afforded the highest pleasure in our early days, when it must be supposed that the organs were the most healthy, become indifferent, if not disagreeable. All the effective agents which are applied to the system may contribute to this result. But probably the stimulating part of our diet-the animal food and fermented liquors—is that which has the most active share in its production.
In consequence of these habits, the stomach becomes more and more agreeably affected, and, as it were, in unison with whatever is stimulating, and which is really warm or excites the feelings of warmth; and, on the other hand, what is cool or what excites the feeling of coldness is disagreeable and uneasy. In this respect the internal parts of the body, and especiall.y this very sensible membrane, is similar to the external, which may be made so tender by large fires, close rooms, and indul. gence, as not to bear without pain the common temperature of the atmosphere. A gouty stomach, constantly under the influence of wine, spirits, rich sauces, and made dishes, finds it necessary for comfortable feeling to have the stimulus gradually heightened; weak wines are deficient in power; it requires the strongest, or even ardent spirits, to make it comfortable; and every thing solid must likewise be highly seasoned. Many persons, too, have the stomach in this condition who are not subject to gout.
Now these are the persons to whom vegetables of all kinds are the most distasteful and insipid, and, as they think, from the