The Peaceable Table

A Vegetarian Journal for Quakers and Other People of Faith

The Peaceable Table is intended for the mutual support, education, and inspiration of people of faith in the practice of love for our fellow animals and observance of a vegetarian diet

Exile in Egypt

German theologian Dorothee Soelle, who during the Nazi era was an anti-religious teenager full of romantic patriotism, went on to become a foremost spokesperson for Christianity as radical and liberating love. In Choosing Life she uses the image of Israel's exile in Egypt to describe the consumerist "First World" situation of many religious people, particularly in her own Christian tradition. The real exile, she says, is that we have learned to accept exile; we have forgotten our true home in unconditional Divine Love. We acknowledge that there are things we don't like about our culture's way of life, such as its greed and competitiveness, but we believe that they are after all a part of human nature, which we can't expect to change much. We become cynical. We don't remember our spiritual ancestors, nomads living in the desert, who were aware of the natural world and dependent on God from moment to moment. Instead, we are dependent upon "the fleshpots of Egypt."

Her title comes from Deuteronomy 30:19, in which God says "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life . . ." Accepting the comforts of "Egypt" may seem to many to be a choice of life; after all, we have physical needs, which must be met. But Friends and other socially concerned people know that the costs of the Egyptian establishment are borne by somebody, by many somebodies, often kept out of sight. They are borne by Central American peasants whose bean and corn fields were appropriated by the mutinationals; by underpaid migrant workers in the U.S. who get sick from pesticides, by starvation-wage sweatshop workers. Those whose social concern exceeds human-made boundaries see also bruised and deformed chickens crammed into cages, their feathers worn off; cows and pigs spending their whole existence (hardly life) in crowded, stinking pens, in anguish when their infants are taken from them, finally dying in terror, so that there will be more eggs, more meat, more milk, more profits. Costs that are less obviously related are also borne by the beneficiaries of the Egyptian way. We are inclined to believe the message of the ads that love is to be found in jars of cosmetics, satisfaction of the soul in rich food or in being thin and wealthy and successful--but we find instead continued craving and anxiety, cancers and coronary heart disease..

How can we choose life deeply, choose life for all? Does not life inevitably feed on the blood of others? For a minority of animal species, the predators, it is so at the present stage of spiritual evolution. But is it necessary now for the majority of animals, who are not predators, especially humans? We really don't know what might be possible as a result of radical love. We are limited both by the myths and boundaries of our culture, and by a pervading dread of the terrible pain of identifying with those who must pay the deepest costs. There are many things we want very much not to know, not to feel. But Friends and other people of faith at our best do not close our hearts to friends; we need to listen to the victims, attend to the compassion in our own hearts. We also need to become leaders, encouraging other folk to listen and attend. We must live in the company of the great souls, of Moses, of Jesus, of George Fox, of Harriet Ross Tubman, if we are to find courage for a better way than the way of the half-alive, the way of perpetual compromises to safeguard our comforts. William Penn said "No cross, no crown," knowing that without the painful death of the ego, there can be no resurection, no birth of the True Self.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood


Tuscan Skillet Supper
(serves 4, each serving 1 & 1/4 cup)

2 teas. olive oil
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 teas. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomato
1 (15-ounce) can cannelini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
2 springs rosemary, whole
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded soy cheeze
1/2 teas. salt
1/8 teass black pepper

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini, onion, celery, bell pepper, oregano and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Stir in tomato, beans, and rosemary' cook 2 minutes. Stir in spinach and remaining ingredients, cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts and cheeze begins to melt. Discard rosemary sprigs.

—Jean Lester


1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (freshly ground)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick kombu
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root grated
1 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup mung beans (soaked overnight)
6 cups fresh vegetables diced
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
1 lemon

Rinse rice and beans. Heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, oregano, and coriander; stir in turmeric, rice and beans. Add water to a level of 1 inch above the mix. Add kombu and ginger. Simmer covered for 1 hour. Add vegetables and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve with chopped cilantro leaves and lemon juice. and ginger. Simmer covered for 1 hour.

—Maria Elena Nava

Carrot Jicama Salad

3 carrots grated
1 small jicama grated
1 small cucumber chopped
2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar

Mix everything and serve.

—Maria Elena Nava

Tofu Patties

1/2 lb tofu grated
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup chick pea flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon barley miso
3 tablespoons fresh basil chopped

Saute onion 4 minutes, add diced carrot and celery, saute 3 minutes more. Mix very well all the ingredients. Make 9 patties, put them on an oiled cooky sheet and bake them 15 mins each side. Serve them with a green salad.

—Maria Elena Nava

Carrot Aspic
(Yield 8 servings)

2 tablespoons of kuzu or arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons carrot juice
4 cups fresh carrot juice
1/4 cup agar flakes

In a small bowl, combine the kizu and first measure of carrot juice and mix until well dissolved. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the second measure of carrot juice and agar to a simmer over medium heat, then cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until all the agar has dissolved. Wisk the carrot/kuzu mixture, stirring vigorously to prevent lumping. Cook on low until thickened. Pour the aspic into one large or 8 individual lightly oiled molds. Refrigerate for one hour, or until agar is completely set.

—Maria Elena Nava

Vegetable Soup

1 sliced onion
2 diced carrots
6 cups thinly sliced cabbage
6 cups water
1 cup frozen corn
1 strip of kombu (sea vegetable)
1 tbsp. barley miso

Saute onion. Add carrots and cabbage. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add water and kombu. Simmer 10 minutes, thinly slice kombu, add back to the pot the kombu and frozen corn, simmer 5 minutes. Disolve miso in 1/2 cup of soup and add it to the soup.

—Maria Elena Nava

Review: The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights

The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights by Norm Phelps. New York, N.Y.: Lantern Books, 2004. $16.00

Although vegetarianism would seem to be a logical extension of the teachings of compassion so central to Buddhism, many Buddhists today, including an increasing number of western Buddhists, eat animals. In his highly readable book, The Great Compassion, Norm Phelps looks to the roots and teachings of Buddhism as he works to reinstate the centrality of vegetarianism to Buddhism.

After a brief introduction, Phelps begins by stating, in fairly graphic terms, the horrific state of the slaughterhouse system. He takes time to explain the experiences of the various animals that suffer in order to satisfy human appetites. His outrage is justified when we go on to read that so many Buddhists participate in the animal agribusiness system while at the same time considering themselves committed to a compassionate lifestyle.

Phelps goes on to explore the variety of ways in which Buddhism teaches compassion for animals. For example, Buddhism teaches that there exists no essential difference between species. One view is that as humans and animals reincarnate through time, we all could have been closely related: that deer I shot could have been my mother in a previous life. Phelps also makes a detailed examination of various Buddhist scriptures and histories, pinpointing as accurately as he can, the places where interpretations diverged and justifications for meat eating began to slip in. He also examines the common arguments of meat-eating Buddhists, such as that vegetarianism is too dogmatic, or the so-called argument from emptiness. Phelps also looks into the complicated issue of the fact that his holiness, the Dalai Lama continues to eat meat for health reasons.

Among the many insightful and seemingly obvious reasons why Buddhists should be vegetarians, is Phelps' key point that a concern with whether or not one should adapt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle often displaces the focus of compassion. (Phelps advocates a vegan lifestyle, explaining that the dairy and other industries cause the same outrageous suffering as do slaughterhouses) Compassion is not about the "sensibilities" of the practitioner, it is about the suffering and death of sentient beings. (136). And because relieving suffering is the foremost concern in Buddhist virtue—indeed, compassion is the path to liberation—compassionate eating means avoiding animal products at all costs, despite cultural norms and pressures which may seduce us into thinking otherwise.

The Great Compassion is clearly written and a quick read. Although Buddhism is not my faith tradition, reading about the reasons why vegetarianism is so central to Buddhism brought a new perspective to my own reasons for being vegetarian. Some of the sections analyzing various of the Buddhist scriptures may be a bit too technical for some, but Phelps' analysis seems solid and responsible. I recommend this book to any and all faith seekers.

—Fay-Ellen Ellwood

Review: Judaism and Vegetarianism

Judaism and Vegetarianism by Dr. Richard Schwartz, introduction by Rabbi David Rosen.

This audio cassette offers compelling reasons why vegetarianism and or veganism is a logical choice for Jews. The cassette opens with an introduction by the eminent Rabbi David Rosen, who explains that as Jew, he does not view religion as separate from the rest of his life. Although Judaism condones consuming meat, it also teaches that Jews should work to minimize animal suffering. Moreover, as looking after one's physical well being is one of the primary teachings in Judaism, consuming animal products that are so often hazardous to the health contradicts this essential mitzvah. For Rosen, vegetarianism is a religious imperative.

Dr. Richard Schwartz agrees. He lays out six primary reasons as to why eating meat, especially by participating in the animal agribusiness, contradicts essential Jewish teaching. The first is the central Jewish teaching that human beings do all in their power to preserve their health, even if it means breaking laws such as those of the Sabbath. The second is that Jews are to treat animals with compassion. There are a number of passages in the Hebrew Bible, such as Proverbs 12:10, which strongly discourage cruelty toward animals. Thirdly, Schwartz explains that, as a logical interpretation of Psalm 24, we are to be co-workers with God in working to preserve the environment. Midrashic literature further states that God needs people to help tend the world, not to participate in destructive systems that destroy not only God's creatures, but also water sources, rainforests, nutrient-rich soil, etc. This is linked to part four of Schwartz's argument, which is that Jews are not to destroy or waste anything, even a building or tree, unnecessarily (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). The fifth part of Schwartz's argument for vegetarianism is that Jews are directed to help hungry people. God provides enough sustenance for everyone in the world, but the meat and dairy industries play a major role in the disproportionate distribution of God's provisions. At Yom Kippur, Jews focus on the passage from Isaiah which declares that fasting and prayer is not sufficient: people must work to end oppression and hunger. Jews can work to end hunger by boycotting a system that exacerbates it. Finally, Schwartz' sixth point is that Jews are taught not just to love peace, but to actively pursue it (Psalm 34:15). Though the Bible and Judaism allow that there are times for violence, the ideal is a peaceful world with no more violence, as in the vision of the Peacable Kingdom in Isaiah 11.

Following his six-part argument, Dr. Schwartz looks to Jewish scripture as a basis for vegetarianism as being the ideal diet that God intended for humanity. Humans ate only plant foods in the Garden of Eden before corruption sank in. Schwartz posits that eating meat, often associated with lust in the Bible, may have been a temporary concession. God does not command that humans eat meat, but rather yields to their desire for flesh. Interestingly, Schwartz also notes that in Jewish tradition to this day, there is no particular blessing for meat or fish in the way there is for cake, bread, fruit, vegetables, wine, etc. Schwartz points again to the vision in Isaiah 11, projecting that in the day of the messiah, violence will finally be eradicated, which would mean that the people will again be vegetarian.

In the third portion of the cassette, Dr. Schwartz answers several provocative and problematic questions concerning Judaism and vegetarianism, such as: if God wanted us to be vegetarian, why wasn't there a direct commandment against eating meat? He also addresses the erroneous myth that we humans need meat and dairy for proper health, as well as the fact that we are not equipped for meat eating in the way carnivorous animals are: with no sharp teeth, claws, or strong stomach acid, it would seem that our biological make-up accords with the vegetarian plan as laid out by God in the Garden of Eden.

Dr. Schwartz's ideas presented in this audio cassette are firmly grounded in religious integrity and logical reasoning. I highly recommend this, as well as any of Schwartz's other publications, for any Jewish or Christian seeker, as well as for anyone seeking solid answers to some of the more difficult questions often raised by meat-eaters. You can lean more about Judaism and vegetarianism on Dr. Schwartz's website,

—Fay-Ellen Ellwood

My Pilgrimage

In this column, readers are invited to share their experience of becoming a vegetarian. Our first account is by a youthful member of Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena, California.

I became a vegetarian when I was nine years old (seven years ago). I chose to stop eating meat because I felt that it was wrong to eat one of earth's creatures. I had a lot of encouragement from my older sister, Sarah, who became a vegetarian a couple of months before me.

Being a vegetarian as a child isn't easy, though. All through elementary and middle school I had to put up with people trying to pressure me into eating meat. I always had peers daring me to eat a slice of pepperoni or asking me what I would do if they slipped me meat. I would always wonder why these people wanted me to do something I considered wrong and disgusting.

All animals are beautiful in my eyes including humans, but it seems that we've misused our advantage as caretakers of Earth. We as a human race have made ourselves the masters while we've made our fellow creatures the slaves. Even though I've dealt with a lot so far in my vegetarianism, nothing has made me deviate from my beliefs. I believe that we shouldn't kill animals for food. We can survive without eating animal flesh. I have for seven years.

—Caitlin Theders


Little is known about this month's pioneer, Humphry Primatt, an 18th century priest of the Church of England, other than what we see in his book here quoted. He is clearly a bold, compassionate, and clear thinker.

Love is the great Hinge upon which universal Nature turns. The Creation is a transcript of the divine Goodness; and every leaf in the Book of Nature reads us a lecture on the wisdom and benevolence of its great Author. . . . Every creature of God is good in its kind . . . . At the top of the scale of terrestrial animals we suppose man . . . . But, in this highest rank, we may observe degrees and differencnes, not only as to stature, beauty, strength, and complexion, but also to those very Powers of the Mind, which so eminently distinguish Men from brutes. Yet, in one particular we all agree alike, from the most perfect to the most dull and deformed . . . that we are all susceptible and sensible of the misery of pain; an evil, which, though necessary in itself, and wisely intended as the spur to incite us to self-preservation, and to the avoidance of destruction, we nevertheless are naturally averse to, and shrink back at the apprehension of it. Superiority of rank or station exempts no creature from the sensibility of pain,--nor does inferiority render the feelings thereof the less exquisite. Pain is pain, whether it be inflicted on man or on beast; and the creature that suffers it, whether man or beast, being [aware] of the misery of it whilst it lasts, suffers evil; and the sufferance of evil, unmeritedly, provokedly, where no offense has been given, and no good end can possibly be answered by it, but merely to exhibit power or gratify malice, is cruelty and Injustice in him that occasions it.

[T]he man of feeling and justice will not put another man to unmerited pain, because he will not do that to another, which he is unwilling should be done to himself. Nor will he take any advantage of his own superiority of strength, or of the accidents of fortune, . . . to the oppression of his inferior; because he knows that in the article of feeling all men are equal . . . Superiority of rank or station may give ability to communicate happiness, and seems so intended; but it can give no right to inflict unnecessary or unmerited pain. . . .

It has pleased God the Father of all men, to cover some men with white skins, and others with black skins; but . . . the white man, notwithstanding the barbarity of custom and prejudice, can have no right, by virtue of his colour, to enslave and tyrannize over a black man . . . for the same reason, a man can have no natural right to abuse and torment a beast, merely because a beast has not the mental powers of a man . . . .

A brute is an animal no less sensible of pain than a Man. He has similar nerves and organs of sensation; and his cries and groans, in case of violen[ce], though he cannot utter his complaints by speech . . . are as strong indications to us . . . as the cries and groans of a human being whose language we do not understand. Now, as pain is what we are all averse to, our own sensibility of pain should teach us to commiserate it in others, to alleviate it if possible, but never wantonly or unmeritedly to inflict it. . . . And if the difference of complexion . . . does not convey to one man a right to despise and abuse another man, the difference of shape between a man and a brute, cannot give to a man any right to abuse and torment a brute.

The Rev. Humphry Primatt,
from The Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals, 1776

The Peaceable Table is intended to resume the witness of that excellent vehicle of the Friends Vegetarian Society of North America, The Friendly Vegetarian, which appeared quarterly between 1983 and 1995. Following its example, and sometimes borrowing from its treasures, we intend to have articles for toe-in-the-water vegetarians as well as long-term ones, poetry, letters, book and film reviews, and recipes.

The journal is intended to be interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are invited for the next issue. Deadline for the November issue will be November 15, 2004. Send letters and articles to or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023; send reviews to We hope to operate primarily online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy will be available for interested persons who are not online. The latter are asked to donate $12 (USD) per year. Other donations to offset the cost of the domain name, server and advertising notices are welcome.

Image credits: Picture of Israel leaving Egypt from The Prince of Egypt by DreamWorks Pictures.

Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Review Editor: Fay-Ellen Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Maria Elena Nava
Technical Service: Richard S. L. Ellwood