A Vegan in 1911

The scene:

There are no trees in the “Luft Bad.” It boasts a collection of plain, wooden cells, a bath shelter, two swings and two odd clubs — one, presumably the lost property of Hercules or the German army, and the other to be used with safety in the cradle.

And there in all weathers we take the air — walking, or sitting in little companies talking over each other’s ailments and measurements and ills that flesh is heir to.

A high wooden wall compasses us all about; above it the pine-trees look down a little superciliously, nudging each other in a way that is peculiarly trying to a debutante. Over the wall, on the right side, is the men’s section. We hear them chopping down trees and sawing through planks, dashing heavy weights to the ground, and singing part songs. Yes, they take it far more seriously.

What about the vegan? Here she is:

Opposite to me was the brownest woman I have ever seen, lying on her back, her arms clasped over her head.

“How long have you been here to-day?” she was asked.

“Oh, I spend the day here now,” she answered. “I am making my own ‘cure,’ and living entirely on raw vegetables and nuts, and each day I feel my spirit is stronger and purer. After all, what can you expect? The majority of us are walking about with pig corpuscles and oxen fragments in our brain. The wonder is the world is as good as it is. Now I live on the simple, provided food” — she pointed to a little bag beside her — “a lettuce, a carrot, a potato, and some nuts are ample, rational nourishment. I wash them under the tap and eat them raw, just as they come from the harmless earth — fresh and uncontaminated.”

“Do you take nothing else all day?” I cried.

“Water. And perhaps a banana if I wake in the night.” She turned round and leaned on one elbow. “You over-eat yourself dreadfully,” she said; “shamelessly! How can you expect the Flame of the Spirit to burn brightly under layers of superfluous flesh?”

(Katherine Mansfield, In a German Pension, chapter “The Luft Bad”)

The text is on-line here, but the Hesperus edition is very handsome and reasonably priced.

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