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Examples of vegan indigenous cuisines?

fara Jun 7, 2010 07:10 PM

I know there are vegetarian cuisines stemming from Hinduism and Buddhism, what about vegan? How widespread are they if they exist? Do children grow up healthy eating vegan in these cultures?

  1. BobB Jun 8, 2010 09:18 AM

    As you say, there are many ancient vegetarian cultures, but there does not appear to be any evidence of veganism existing in any culture anywhere on the planet before the 20th century. The earliest references I've found are to some debates within the vegetarian community on the benefits of avoiding all animal-related products (not just meat) starting in 1909, and there is general agreement that the term vegan itself was not even coined until 1948.

    Certain essential nutrients - such as B12 - are simply not available from the natural world in significant quantities outside of animal-based products, so anyone trying such a diet (especially on children!) before the advent of vitamin supplements would of necessity have had difficulty surviving. Darwin and all that.

    7 Replies
    1. re: BobB
      Silverjay Jun 8, 2010 12:25 PM

      Some of the Buddhist cuisines are stricter than veganism, eschewing even root vegetables because they kill the plant. This goes back more than 1500 years in countries like India and China.

      The Japanese temple cuisine, called "shojin ryouri", is an example of quasi-vegan cuisine that came about during the Kamakura Era, about 800 years ago. This cuisine still exists today- available usually at or around Zen temples. Strict adherence prohibits eating any animal or fish products/ by-products and in general, avoids using oil of any sort to cook. As traditionally shojin ryori was consumed by celibate priests and monks, the effect of such a diet on children is moot. There is a shojin restaurant in NYC--> http://www.kajitsunyc.com/ .

      1. re: Silverjay
        beachmouse Jun 8, 2010 01:06 PM

        The Jains and their unwillingness to eat root vegetables came to mind to me too, and they go way back in Indian history.

        1. re: beachmouse
          BobB Jun 8, 2010 01:22 PM

          True, but even Jains are not vegan. They have no problem with dairy products.

          1. re: BobB
            jumpingmonk Jun 8, 2010 05:36 PM

            Some do, some don't, it depends on which sect and how orthodox the person in question is. At the extreme end there are (or were) groups of Jains who basically were prohibited from eating anything but leaves, and even those had to be ones that fell off the plant of their own accord. I think this was the same sect that condoned suicide, provided it was done by starvation (the basic idea being that, when a person died the souls of anything he had eaten would die as well, and since these souls were usually only just starting on the cycle of rebirth thier sins would way your own soul down. By starving yourself to death, you emptied yourself of these extra souls and so increaed your chances of a better next life).

        2. re: Silverjay
          TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis Jun 8, 2010 08:01 PM

          track ...track ...
          nice link.

        3. re: BobB
          wonderflosity Jun 8, 2010 02:12 PM

          Actually, B12 is naturally occurring in soil, and it is just our rigorous washing of produce combine with a declining quality of soil that has made it so we no longer get enough B12 from produce alone.

          1. re: wonderflosity
            Vetter Jun 9, 2010 07:37 AM

            I would love to see a scientific article on that.

        4. j
          julesrules Jun 11, 2010 09:19 AM

          I read an interesting article around Easter about the Greek Orthodox fasting diet, which is basically vegan I believe. And apparently the truly pious would follow it for a good portion of the year not just at Lent. If you are interested I can try to dig up the article - may have been in my local paper the Toronto Star?

          2 Replies
          1. re: julesrules
            BobB Jun 11, 2010 10:39 AM

            If this is correct, it applies only on Wednesdays and Fridays outside of Lent: http://www.abbamoses.com/fasting.html

            1. re: BobB
              julesrules Jun 11, 2010 08:51 PM

              There is more than one Lent period and apparently in total it can add up to half the
              year or slightly more, which is pretty significant. Although seafood (not fish) is permitted.

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