Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Feb 19, 1949
Those who like talking about food have had plenty to keep their tongues busy during the last week or so.
First there was Dr. Summerskill challenging us to tell the difference between butter and margarine by the taste. To people with delicate palates—and most of us rightly or wrongly think we have delicate palates—this seemed rather like being challenged to tell the difference between Beethoven and jazz by the sound.
At the same time, Dr. Summerskill is probably right about a good many of us. During the war there was a considerable amount of both butter and margarine with so unpleasant a flavor that it would have been difficult to swallow if we had paused to ask questions about it.
Hence one trained oneself to think about something else when eating bread “smeared,” in the language of the food officers, with one of those repellent, but health-giving fats.
Cultivate absent-mindedness while eating and you will be surprised to find what disgusting things you can swallow without noticing them. You will do so however, at the risk of losing your fineness of palate. The question is whether it is worth while having a fine palate if all it does is to prevent you from eating margarine with enjoyment on the assumption that it is butter.
Dr. Summerskill, I notice, insists that the young man who has accepted her challenge must be blindfolded when undergoing the test. I am not sure that this is quite fair. Blindfolding seems to have a curious effect on the sense of taste, so that wine experts when blindfolded make wild mistakes about samples of port such as they could not make with their eyes open.
It would be a fairer test if not a blindfolded man but a blind man were chosen for the experiment. If it could be shown that a number of blind men could invariably tell the difference between butter and margarine, Dr. Summerskill would have to admit that she was wrong.
Let those who now grumble about margarine save their breath, however. We may before long be invited to stave off our hunger with more unappetizing foods than margarine.
It is not a mere jest of Timothy Shy’s that wool experts claim to have discovered a product called “Botanein-P” which can be extracted from wool waste in textile mills and cast-off clothing to provide food for human beings and cattle.
I am not sure whether it will enable you to eat your hat, but it will certainly enable you to eat your coat and trousers, with your muffler or socks thrown in as a savory.
As time goes on, no doubt, the food factories will turn out more and more varieties of the new food—Paisley shawl puree, Harristweed cutlets, football-jersey forcemeat, and so forth. And so progress will continue till human beings have at least learned to eat old shoes, old braces and old spectacles.
I wonder what Mr. Shaw would say to the prospect of this advance in dietetics. Denying this week that vegetarianism is healthier than meat-eating, he speaks of the great “human adaptability to different diets and circumstances.” Does he believe that he would have lived to be 92 if he had been fed as well as clothed with the products of Jaeger?
Incidentally, I was not only amazed but sorry to find Mr. Shaw belittling vegetarianism as an aid to long life and good health.
I am not a vegetarian, but I have always believed in vegetarianism as something to which I could turn in the last resort of regaining all the health I had lost through long years of eating meat and smoking tobacco.
And now comes Mr. Shaw, the gran lama of vegetarians, telling us that health and vegetarianism have no necessary connection with each other. Of Sidney Webb he writes, indeed: “His mother put a bit of raw meat into his mouth when he was born. He lived on animal products all his life and was more healhty and worked harder than I and lived far into the eighties.”
Does it then not matter at all what we eat? Are margarine and wool and carrots and sirloin of beef and dried grass all equally good for us?
As a non-vegetarian I cannot help thinking that there is more in vegetarianism than Mr. Shaw admits. I feel sure that if I were a vegetarian I should be twice the man I now am. But I have not the energy to become one. Continuous meat eating has sapped my strength of will.