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

Changing the Lenses

Christians have something less than a shining image in many animal advocacy circles. There is no doubt that many Christian leaders, from John Calvin to Pius IX, have been anything but friends to our animal cousins, and that Christian societies have been responsible for massive and horrendous violence against them. It is also true that many present-day evangelicals are wont to defend the status quo with such passages as Genesis 1:27, in which God tells the newly created human pair to "have dominion" over the animals, and the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Here the father, happy that his son has returned, gives orders that "the fatted calf" be killed to make a feast. Such uses of the Bible do not warm the hearts of animal advocates.

At the same time, however, we must acknowledge that vegetarianism--based on Christian principles--is growing at a remarkable pace among Christians, particularly evangelicals, whose tradition considers the Bible to be authoritative. Of course they are still a minority, but we can learn a good deal from such folk about the ways in which what we have always heard when familiar words are read is in fact the product of the cultural lenses we have worn, in this case lenses that have assumed that animals are mere things at human disposal.

For example, new interpretations point out that shortly after God tells Eve and Adam to have dominion over the animals, God assigns to them (and the animals) a vegan diet; the newly created world is to be nonviolent! At the point of their creation, God says "Let us make adam (humankind) in our image, after our likeness. . ." The human dominion that derives from God is thus to be as benign as that of the Creator, who certainly does not make the human couple in order to fatten, kill and eat them.

Startling new possibilities also emerge from the story of the Prodigal. It has always been obvious that the unconditionally-loving and forgiving father of the story is meant to represent God. But a parable is not merely a new illustration of threadbare truths; it is an extended metaphor, a world-upending comparison of two realities that are like in some ways and unlike in others. The father in the story is a human being, a patriarch heading a wealthy household in the Greco-Roman culture of Jesus' time, and there are some ways in which he is very unlike God. He rules over a household that includes both hired servants (mistheoi) and slaves (douloi). Southern plantation owners 180 years ago, given their own cultural lenses, were doubtless glad to take the story as endorsing their slave-based way of life, but no one in our culture would do so today.

Another point about this father seldom noticed is that despite the great and undying love in his heart for his erring son, which moved him to forget the son's terrible insult and abandonment, neither of his two sons had any idea that this love existed. It would appear that this human father, like many another family man in a patriarchal society, feared being vulnerable, and for years could not express love and tenderness. It seems he did not put his arms around his sons, or say "I love you," or show any empathy with their feelings that home was a dreary place where all that their father cared about was the work they could do. The reader gets the sense that the tender reunion with the younger son, and the ensuing celebration, were a new and startling development for both sons.

If God, then, is neither a slaveowner nor an emotionally frozen patriarch, why need we assume that another culture-bound detail of the story--the father's command to the slaves to kill a calf for the feast--expresses a loving God's evaluation of the value of animals? Evangelical vegetarians will not be slow to point out that we certainly need not. The father in the story is like God in his unlooked-for, unconditional love, but unlike God in the unthinking, casual violence of his (the patriarch's) command. The story conveys to us that the compassionate love of God is infinitely beyond our expectations. Why not, then, conclude that it is also by implication telling us that our small hearts were creating a comfortable idol when we saw God as holding animals to be soulless things, mere property, just as we humans have long done?

Philosophers, beginning especially with Kant, have pointed out that we cannot cease to see the world though some kind of lenses. There is much truth to this, but it is also true that we can gain awareness of our lenses to some extent, can look at them as well as through them, and change them when we perceive that they are inadequate and misleading. Continuing to open our hearts to infinite Divine love, we can be ready to change our lenses not only in regard to our own tradition, and to animals, but also to other religious people whom we have been wont to think of as hopelessly conservative and closed-minded. Love is the first and last word; Love has no limit.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood


Creamy Celery and Garlic Soup

1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 bunch green onions, chopped, or 1 small onion, chopped
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 bunch celery, sliced, leaves removed
1 large potato, peeled and diced
7 cups water or veg broth
3 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 springs fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and saute the onion until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. (With a nonstick pan, oil may be reduced to 1 teaspoon.) Add the garlic and celery and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the potato, water, veg bouillon cubes, and parsley, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the parsley and discard. Remove from the heat, add salt to taste and puree in a blender, in batches. Return to the pot and heat through. Add pepper to taste, adjust the salt, and serve.

—Martha Rose Shulman,
from Fast Vegetarian Feasts

Ambrosial Apples

2 medium apples
1 medium ruby ("blood") orange

Core and slice the apples into thin wedges, and place in 3 or 4 dessert dishes; cut the orange in half along its equator. Drizzle the orange juice over the apple slices and enjoy. This also works well with bananas.

If ruby oranges aren't available, ordinary orange ones will do, though they will lack the eye-candy quality. Note: Always choose hard oranges, and keep them refrigerated; by the time they are squeezable the best of the flavor is gone.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood

Spanish Rice

3 slices vegetarian bacon, minced
1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1 1/4 cups canned tomatoes
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. paprika
1 seeded and minced green pepper
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced

Saute the veg bacon and sliced onion in 1 teaspoon olive oil in a nonstick pan until onion is golden.

Place all the ingredients in a double boiler and cook until rice is done, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently. Add water or vegetable broth if the mixture becomes too dry.

This recipe is taken from Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Replacing the violently-derived bacon for veg bacon is the only real change, improving the finished product both for soul and body.

Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. baking soda
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/4 teas. nutmeg
1/2 cup beet sugar or other sweetener
2 Tbsp. flax seed
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups solid-pack canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.

Blend flax seeds and water in a blender for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is thick and has the consistency of beaten egg white. Add to the dry ingredients, along with the pumpkin, additional water, and raisins. Stir until just mixed.

Fill greased (or paper-lined) muffin cups to just below the top. You should have about 7-8 muffins. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until tops of muffins bounce back when pressed lightly. Remove from oven and (if using greased cupcake pan) let stand 1 to 2 minutes; this facilitates removal of muffins from pan. Remove muffins and place on a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

—Jennifer Raymond
from The Peaceful Palate

My Pilgrimage: The Path of Vegetarianism

I recently had the good fortune to view an Iranian movie called The Lizard about a thief who had been caught and sent to jail. In prison he took sick and in the infirmary met up with a cleric. The cleric, having a sense of a greater purpose in doing so, allowed the thief to steal his clothes and escape prison in the guise of a cleric. It was humorous and also meaningful, as the thief had to act the part of a cleric in the world outside prison because of his clothing. At one point he was asked to give a sermon. The only message he could come up with was what he remembered the cleric explaining to him as they lay in the infirmary and talked together. The thief espoused the view that there are as many paths to God as there are people in the world. Not surprisingly, by the end of the movie we see that the thief's experience acting the part of a cleric became his path to God. It was a wonderful movie.

It is not my intention to discuss the spiritual points of the movie. However I think there is a corollary to it, that there are as many paths to being vegetarian as there are vegetarians! I also believe that the various paths people travel in becoming vegetarian most likely have intersections and converging views that many share. So this is the tale of my path, and I hope that others might find a little of themselves in it, and enjoy the view along with me.

My first experience with a vegetarian diet can be attributed to the influence of my younger sister, Laura. At the age of 12 she declared she would henceforth be vegetarian, and worried our mother no end with her refusal to eat meat. It was 1971, and even in southern California doctors believed you could not get enough protein from a diet without meat. Three years later Laura came to live with me and my 6 year old son Lee . We cooked together, and naturally she taught me vegetarian dishes. I discovered eggplant, beans, brown rice and other grains. I also learned about Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, and her accompanying Recipes for a Small Planet. Her books convinced me that one could indeed get enough protein through the combinations of foods such as rice and beans.

I think it was at this time that I developed a preferance for simple "peasant food" as a friend of mine likes to call it, what I now think of as ethnic food. I didn't miss meat, and I very much enjoyed learning about new foods and dishes. I also appreciated the argument Frances Moore Lappe offered that the same land in grain production, for example, could grow far more food to feed more people than the same area of land used for grazing cattle to be slaughtered and sold for meat. Made sense to me! Environmentalism was the new perspective, and being vegetarian fit right in.

Well, I was convinced that a vegetarian diet was healthful, tasty, and environmentally friendly. However, convincing my son Lee was another matter. I ended up preparing two types of meals, and as a single working mom and also a student in college, well it was a bit much. So that time the experiment didn't last very long. But I imagine the seeds that were planted during my first foray into vegetarianism took root deeper than I realized at the time.

About five years later I made some new friends who were vegetarian for different reasons. This time there was a strong spiritual component to the choice of not eating meat. I admit that in the 1970's I hadn't thought that much about moral arguments for being vegetarian. But now I had a new perspective on other consequences of what was involved. I was introduced to the idea of karma, and the belief that the slaughter of animal life meant taking on karmic debt. While it is true that vegetables are alive, too, and you have to kill them to eat, the understanding is that it is the least harmful to eat vegetables. There is a a greater karmic burden from eating meat. Being vegetarian was part of the choice to lead a moral life, to refrain from harming other living things, and to seek to keep one's mind in a higher place.

I made a lifestyle decision to be vegetarian in 1981, and with my earlier experiences, it wasn't a difficult decision to make at all. I discovered new cookbooks - Laurel's Kitchen, The Moosewood Cookbook, Changing, and others. Tofu was readily available in most grocery stores, and new soy products were introduced, making the change away from a diet that included meat quite easy. Even Mister Rogers was vegetarian! It was no longer considered unhealthful, and information about nutrients that needed to be included in a vegetarian diet and how to obtain them was easy to find. Putting the spiritual decision into practice was easily supported, especially here in southern California.

I subsequently married again, and although my husband was not vegetarian, I did not cook meat for him. He said the food I prepared was so good he did not miss eating meat. I raised our two children vegetarian, and they have grown up healthy and strong. While I believe it is their choice as adults whether to be vegetarian or not, I know I have given them a good foundation.

The thief who was known as "the Lizard" in the Iranian movie took on the guise of a cleric, and in so doing found his path to God. For me, being vegetarian now is most importantly part of being on a path to God. It supports my spiritual journey, and is suppported by the spiritual view of life. It's a path I am happy to be on.

—Alice Williams

Review: The Pig Who Sang to the Moon

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. Ballantine Books, New York. 276 pp. plus xv, 2003, $25.95.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, well-known author of insightful books on cats, dogs, elephants, and animal fathers, has produced another outstanding book, this time on the emotional lives of farm animals. Since these are the beings raised to produce eggs, milk and flesh for humans to consume, the book's very existence is revolutionary for the majority of people in our culture. Farmers, especially the farmers who operate the concentration camps known as factory farms, do not care to dwell on evidence that the biomachines that to them represent earnings may in fact have feelings closely resembling ours. But this is in fact just what Masson documents, in an accessible, lively style.

The title is taken from a locally famous companion pig named Piglet whom Masson met near Auckland, New Zealand, who made her home with a couple named Perkins in a house on the beach. Piglet made many human friends, loved to swim, and showed every sign of enjoying music played on the beach at night, especially when the moon was full, and even making singing sounds herself.

Though particularly endearing, Piglet is far from unique. Masson's investigations revealed that in sharp contradiction to the stereotypes that put them down, pigs are intelligent and curious; they have varying personalities; they like to play, appreciate toys, and enjoy a varied diet, particularly relishing sweets. They establish friendships, and enjoy snuggling together and exchanging snuffly nose-to-nose kisses. Far from being the negligent, filthy creatures that have made their names an abusive byword, pigs have a strong feel for sanitation; in a natural setting they establish a privy area some distance from their nests. The mud they cover themselves with in hot weather is for the very sensible purpose of cooling a body that cannot sweat except on the nose.

Perhaps even more surprising is Masson's discovery that chickens, too, have a capacity for attachment and varying personalities, relating in different ways to one another and to human guardians. Some may be indifferent, whereas others will hurry to a favorite human and settle, in great contentment, on a lap to be petted. Individuals can form friendships; one sanctuary operator tells of a rescued hen of uncertain age who formed a strong platonic attachment with a young resident rooster. Ignoring the other chickens, they were nearly always together, even finding their own private perch at night. In a rain, the rooster was found to be sheltering his friend with a wing over her back. Another guardian, Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, told of a companion chicken who formed a strong friendship with an adopted turkey; they not only looked for food together, but would sometimes preen one another, cooing softly.

Masson records similarly remarkable findings of the lives of cows, sheep, goats, geese and ducks. Farm animals have obvious enjoyment when living in ways reasonably congruent with their evolutionary history. It is only common sense to conclude that such beings must suffer when crammed stressfully together in pens or cages in reeking barns, standing in their own wastes, with no sunshine or fresh air, nothing of interest to relate to, nothing approaching friendly contact, and inevitable terror and violence at the end.

Masson concludes, obviously, that it is wrong to raise animals in factory farms. Furthermore, he says, it makes no sense to raise animals sensitively and caringly, and then kill them to eat. Most of us are city-dwellers who do not have the option of living with cows or pigs, but it is important that we inform ourselves, by book and film, of the potentials of these victims of human exploitation and cruelty. It is the way (as Abraham Lincoln said), of the whole human being.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood

Letter to the Editor

Hello from the bay area of California.

My inspiration for writing to you is to recommend a vegetarian restaurant located in San Francisco for Friends who subscribe to The Peaceable Table and may be visiting the Bay area. This fantastic Restaurant is called "Café Gratitude" and is located off the beaten path on the corner of Harrison and 20th street in the Mission District. They use no animal products and everything is raw. There is a large selection of appetizers and entrees. I've had the Pizza Enchalada, the coconut milk soup, and the sampler platter. I have a sweet tooth so I've tried more of their deserts: Soy milk, soft serve ice cream, coconut crème pie, Chocolate Bavarian cake, strawberry chesecake and pecan pie. All raw and no animal products. A thirsty person can order fresh wheatgrass juice, carrot ginger or smoothies. This restaurant was opened by some people who created a board game called "The Abounding River." Appetizers are $4-$8. Most dishes are around $9. Desserts are about the same as appetizers. Drinks are from $2-$6. It's a bit pricey for me but everything I've ordered there I've enjoyed completely! This is the way I like to "treat" my-(mind, body & soul)-self.

Readers can view their basic menu online at the following webpage:

Another restaurant in the East Bay (Oakland/Berkeley) is the Organic Café - It's been around a while but just recently re-opened. I haven't eaten there yet but I'm sure I will soon.

—Alice Howell

Unset Gems

"Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. And once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly more and more every day. And you will at last come to love the whole world with an abiding, universal love. Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and untroubled joy. Do not, therefore, trouble it, do not torture them, do not deprive them of their joy, do not go against God's intent."

—Father Zossima in
The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

Pioneers: Annie Wood Besant

Annie Wood Besant, 1847-1933, was an English (later Indian) thinker, activist, and speaker. A minister's wife, in young adulthood she rejected a rigid and harsh form of Christianity to became an atheist. Coming into contact with Charles Bradlaugh and other socialists, she became a vegetarian and social activist. In her forties she became a leading light in Theosophy, and during this period in her life she became a vegan.

When we recognise that unity of all living things, then at once arises the question - how can we support this life of ours with least injury to the lives around us; how can we prevent our own life adding to the suffering of the world in which we live?

We find amongst animals, as amongst men, power of feeling pleasure, power of feeling pain; we see them moved by love and by hate; we see them feeling terror and attraction; we recognize in them powers of sensation closely akin to our own, and while we transcend them immensely in intellect, yet, in mere passional characteristics our natures and the animals' are closely allied. We know that when they feel terror, that terror means suffering. We know that when a wound is inflicted, that wound means pain to them. We know that threats bring to them suffering; they have a feeling of shrinking, of fear, of absence of friendly relations. . .

[A]t once we begin to see that in our relations to the animal kingdom a duty arises which all thoughtful and compassionate minds should recognize - the duty that because we are stronger in mind than the animals, we are or ought to be their guardians and helpers, not their tyrants and oppressors, and we have no right to cause them suffering and terror merely for the gratification of the palate, merely for an added luxury to our own lives.

. . there is one other thought closely allied to this. What of our duties to our fellow-men? And here I appeal particularly to my own sex, because women are supposed to be rather the standard in the community of refinement, of gentleness, of compassion, of tenderness, of purity. But no one can eat the flesh of a slaughtered animal without having used the hand of a man as slaughterer. Suppose that we had to kill for ourselves the creatures whose bodies we would fain have upon our table, is there one woman in a hundred who would go to the slaughterhouse to slay the bullock, the calf, the sheep or the pig? . . .

But if we could not do it, nor see it done; if we are so refined that we cannot allow close contact between ourselves and the butchers who furnish this food; if we feel that they are so coarsened by their trade that their very bodies are made repulsive by the constant contact of the blood with which they must be continually besmirched; if we recognize the physical coarseness which results inevitably from such contact, dare we call ourselves refined if we purchase our refinement by the brutalization of others, and demand that some should be brutal in order that we may eat the results of their brutality? We are not free from the brutalizing results of that trade simply because we take no direct part in it.

—Annie Wood Besant,
from a speech given at Manchester UK, 18 October 1897.



The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel;
And the former called the latter "Little Prig."
Bun replied,
"You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.

And I think it's no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry.
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track;
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut."

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882

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 1982 and 1995. Following its example, and sometimes borrowing from its treasures, we publish 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 May issue will be May 1, 2005. Send to or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy is 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: "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1670; photo of Alice Williams by David Williams.

Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Review Editor: Benjamin Urrutia
Recipe Editor: Maria Elena Nava
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood