Vegetarian gourmet: Recipes of George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw ate meat until he was 25. The steadfast vegetarian lived until the age of 95 while fit and full of energy.

 NATURE’S BOUNTY.  (photo credit: Chantal Garnier/Unsplash)
NATURE’S BOUNTY.
(photo credit: Chantal Garnier/Unsplash)

There are many misconceptions in the world of food. Many people think you can’t be a vegetarian if you are a connoisseur of food and drink.

There was once a chain of vegetarian restaurants in Australia called “Cranks,” the name reflecting what a lot of people thought about them.

But these are more enlightened times, and we all have family or friends who fit this category, either for health or ethical reasons. They are not as strict as vegans, but avoid meat at all costs.

One of the most famous and fastidious vegetarians was George Bernard Shaw, who ate meat only until age 25. Two lines from a poem by Shelley converted him:

“Never again may blood of bird or beast / Stain with its venomous stream a human feast.”

 GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, famed literary figure and vegetarian. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, famed literary figure and vegetarian. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The decision may have been strengthened by his poverty at the time, as meat was expensive, and he was out of work, determined to prove that he was a genius as a writer. His mother supported him by giving singing lessons.

Vegetarianism certainly never harmed him. He remained fit, full of energy, and lived to 95.

When he gave up meat, he also became a teetotaler, and would not allow alcohol in any form in his foods.

At 42, he married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, who wasn’t vegetarian but organized the home to cater to his wishes, while ensuring that she and their guests enjoyed the finest wines and cuts of meat. He was provided with vegetable pies, nut cutlets, cauliflower au gratin, vegetable curries, fruits and lots of sweet desserts which he loved.

When his wife died in 1943, a young widow from Aberdeen named Alice Laden took over as housekeeper (G.B.S. was then 87).

She was given an almost impossible task, as he forbade her to buy black-market goods, and food was in short supply then in England. Still, he demanded only the best, and in her quest for superb ingredients like butter and cream, excellent cheese and nuts, eggplant, oranges, pineapple and squash, she sometimes had to drive to London in his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, 25 miles from their village, Ayot St. Lawrence.

Mrs. Laden left behind notebooks of her recipes for G.B.S. Here are some of them:

CABBAGE PIE

  • 85 gr. butter
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 medium-sized white cabbage, shredded
  • 140 gr. grated cheddar cheese
  • Flaky pastry to line and cover a 9-inch (23-cm.) pie plate
  • Milk
  • Salt and pepper

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add cabbage. Cook gently for 5 minutes.

Line pie dish with pastry. Place layers of sliced hard-boiled eggs, shredded cabbage, salt and pepper, then a layer of cheese. Repeat until dish is full. Cover with remaining pastry and brush with milk.

Bake in moderate oven for 25 minutes.

VEGETABLE CHARLOTTE

Fingers of bread to line large baking dish and to cover vegetables.

  • Butter
  • 1 cup each pureed carrots, turnips & Brussels sprouts

Line dish with fingers of bread dipped in warm butter. Mix all vegetables and place on bread. Cover with more butter-dipped bread fingers, and bake in hot oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with tomato sauce.

APRICOT MOLD

  • .70 liters milk
  • 4 Tbsp. apricot jam
  • 60 gr. ground rice
  • ¼ liter cream, whipped
  • 30 gr. sugar

Boil milk and add ground rice. Simmer for 10 minutes. Dilute jam with 1 Tbsp. hot water and press through a sieve. Add to saucepan with the sugar and, when blended, pour into wet ring mold.

Allow to set, then turn out onto a dish, piled with whipped cream in the center.

STUFFED APPLES

  • 4 cooking apples
  • 25 gr. butter
  • 225 gr. ground almonds
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

Core apples. Chop up the apple around the core, and blend with almonds, melted butter and sugar. Stuff back into the apple cavity and bake until soft, in moderate oven.

CHESTNUT ICE CREAM

  • 4 eggs
  • 110 gr. glace cherries, chopped
  • 340 gr. sugar
  • ½ liter thick cream
  • 450 gr. chestnuts
  • Little milk

Make syrup from ½ liter water and 340 gr. sugar. Blanch and remove skin from chestnuts, cooking them in a little milk until soft. Puree the chestnuts.

Add syrup, 4 well-beaten eggs, stirring until cold. Add cream and cherries. Freeze in trays.

SHAW’S TRIBUTE to vegetarianism was: “My hearse will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by herds of oxen, sheep, swine, flocks of poultry and a small traveling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarves in honor of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures.” 

The writer is the author of 14 books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah. [email protected]