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Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), February 14, 1891:

Indian Vegetarians
Part II.

Indian Vegetarian' food generally varies with the part they live in. Thus in Bengal the staple article of food is rice, while in the Bombay Presidency it is wheat.

All the Indians generally - and the grown up persons particularly, and among them the high caste Hindus - take two meals a day with a glass or two of water between the meals whenever they feel thirsty. The first meal they take at about 10 a.m., which would correpsond to the English dinner, and the second meal at about 8 p.m., which would correspond to supper so far as the name goes, though in reality it is a substantial meal. From the above it will have been seen that there is no breakfast - which seeing that Indians generall rise at 6 o'clock, and even as early as four or five o'clock in the morning, they would seem to require - nor the ordinary midday meal. Some of the readers will no doubt wonder at how the Indians go about without anythign to eat for nine hours after their first meal. This may be explained in two ways, viz., first, the habit is second nature. Their religion commands some, and employment or custom compels others to not take more than two meals in one day. Secondly, the climate of India which, except in sme parts is very hot, will account for the habit. For even in England, it appears that the same quantity of food is not required is summer as in winter. Unlike the English, the Indians do not take each dish separately, but they mix many things together. Among some of the Hindusit is one of the requirements of their religion to mix all their food together. Moreover, every dish is elaborately prepared. In fact they don't believe in palin boiled vegetables, but must have them flavoured with plenty of condiments, e.g., pepper, salt, cloves, turmeric, mustard seed, and various other things for which it would be difficult to find English names unless they be those used in medicine.

The first meal consists generally of bread or rather cakes - of which more hereafter - some pulse, e.g., peas, haricot beans, etc., and two or three green vegetables cooked together, or spearately, followed by rice and pulse cooked in water, and flavoured with various spices. After this, some take milk and rice, or simply milk, or curdled milk, or even whey, especially in summer.

The second meal i.e., the supper, consists of much the same things as the first one, but the quantity is less and the vegetables fewer at this meal. Milk is more liberally used at this meal. The reader should be reminded that this is not the food that the Indians invariably use nor should he think that the above will be the typical dishes all over India and among all classed. Ths, for example, no sweets are mentioned in the specimen meals while they are sure to be among the well-to-do classes at least once a week. Moreover, while, as said above, wheat preponderates over rice in the Bombay Presidency, in Bengal rice gets the better of wheat. So also with regard to the third exception which must prove the rule, the food among the labouring class is different from what is given above. To mention all the varieties would be to fill up volumes and to do so would, it be feared, divest the article of al interest.

Butter, or if you please, clarified butter is much more used for culinary purposes than in England or, it may be, even in Europe. And according to a doctor of some authority, if it would do no good, much use of butter, in a hot climate like that of India would do no harm such as it might do in a cold climate like thatof England.

It will perhaps strike the reader that the fruit, yes the all-important fruit is sadly conspicuous by its absence in the above mentioned specimen dishes. Some, among many of the reasons, are that Indians do not know the proper value of fruit, that the poor people cannot afford to buy good fruit, and that good fruit is not available all over India except in the large cities. Indeed, there are certain fruits, not to be found here, which are used by all classed in India ; but alas, these are used as superficial things, not as food, and no one knows their value chemically, because no one takes the trouble to analyse them.

M. K. Gandhi.