Two plugs are better than none

Two mentions of vegetarianism within the space of 24 hours broadcasting on ITV1 recently was worthy of note. First, in a repeat of The Great War: The People’s Story on Thursday 26 February, actress Alison Steadman portrayed Hallie Miles describing the Eustace Miles Restaurant in Covent Garden, London, where vegetarian food was served during World War One. Hallie’s husband Eustace Miles (1868-1948) was a Cambridge-educated health guru, a prolific author on diverse subjects including health, athletics, diet, ancient history and the classics, amateur real tennis champion of the world in 1898-1903 and 1905, an Olympic Silver Medal winner in 1908 at the age of 39, and, of course, a vegetarian. He and Hallie, also an author, engaged in philanthropic works including providing free food and clothing to the poor of London, available during winter months near Cleopatra’s Needle. The Eustace Miles Restaurant was opened as a ‘Food Reform’ restaurant in May 1906 (the London branch of The Vegetarian Society called itself the National Food Reform Society at the time) and stayed in business for over 30 years. Among the restaurant’s shareholders were the writers George Bernard Shaw and E.F. Benson, the headmaster of Eton, and two prominent suffragettes, Dr Helen Wilson and Mrs Ennis Richmond. Indeed, the restaurant grew up alongside the suffragette movement, and the Women’s Social and Political Union chose it as the venue for several important meetings. Audiences at the restaurant’s ‘Simple Life’ lectures even breathed ‘ionized air’ as they listened to the speakers, and by all accounts the Eustace Miles Restaurant was an attractive place to lunch or dine.

The second plug for vegetarianism came on Friday 27 February in Barging Round Britain with John Sergeant in which the genial presenter featured the mill in Castleford, Yorkshire, where Allinson’s wholemeal stone ground flour is produced. Allinson’s “Bread wi’ nowt taken out” was the creation of Dr Thomas Allinson (1858-1918). In 1892, he bought a stone grinding mill in North London and opened his first bakery, producing wholemeal bread, in the same year as he was struck off the medical register for his ‘radical thinking’. Allinson promoted health through diet, exercise, fresh air and bathing, and advocated a vegetarian diet and the avoidance of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. He also believed that smoking was a cause of cancer – a radical idea at the time. Dr Allinson was prominent in the National Food Reform Society and believed that a vegetarian diet was the best diet for endurance sports. Allinson’s original bread recipe (100% whole grain flour, no fat, less yeast, more water) is still used today.

Paul Appleby

(Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eustace_Miles; http://womanandhersphere.com/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Allinson; http://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/history/; The Heretic’s Feast by Colin Spencer, Fourth Estate, 1994)

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