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

We Can't Go Back

Probably every vegetarian who defends animals has heard--more than once--a counter-argument in the form of a defense of primal people's hunting practices. Unlike our own decadent times, goes the complaint, in prehistoric times people were close to nature. They surrounded the hunt with prayers and ceremonies, killed with reverence, thanked the spirit of the animal for its sacrifice, and used every part of the body. The problem, clearly, is not in human beings killing of animals for food but our alienation from nature, our lack of respect for the animal and the natural cycle of life consuming life. One writer, who venerates primal hunters, in defending his occasional killing of chickens for his table, claims that his actions are not violence so long as he maintains the appropriately reverential frame of mind. He did not say whether the chickens showed any sign of agreeing with him.

One seldom hears a word against primal peoples these days. This is of course partly because of a sense of inherited cultural guilt at the European colonists' wanton destruction of Native American cultures, which were in most cases sustainable as ours is not. The point that our society is alienated from nature can hardly be denied; in fact we are evidently on a collision course with it, and are likely come out second best if we come out at all. We must make peace with nature without delay. But it does not follow that the hunting practices of primal people are the solution to what ails us and the animals we kill and eat. There are profound problems with these activities, particularly with the hunting of large, powerful animals, problems not only for the victimized animals but for the hunters and their entire societies, problems that have descended to us from far prehistory and still bedevil us today.

Big-game hunting with neolithic weapons is a male activity, usually requiring teamwork, physical strength, physical courage, endurance, and aggressiveness, with suppression of sensitivity and compassion: in short, the qualities of machismo. In contrast to the low-key nature of gathering, which (most anthropologists now hold) was for millennia in the hands of women and which in most cases provided the mainstay of primal diets, the hunt brought drama--suspense, anxiety, triumph, and power. Jim Mason in An Unnatural Order suggests that males may have initiated the Great Hunt not only because of plant food shortages brought about by climatic and other changes, but also to enhance their uncertain status in a group in which women had hitherto held the prestige of bringing forth life and sustaining it. Whatever the reasons, one of the effects of the Great Hunt was that in developing the qualities necessary to take the spiritual power of large and strong animals, men also gained psychological and physical power over the group. Women, like the physically and psychologically weaker men who could not compete, lost their status, and came to be dominated and held in contempt.

As bands increased in size and became tribes, with increased physical needs, the aggressiveness of controlling males, and their cult of the hunt, would tend to expand into the cult of warfare. The gratifications of dominance over large animals, and over women, are expanded by victory over neighboring tribes. (The feelings of the defeated tribes, like those of the dying chicken, can be ignored.) No doubt the situation was complex, varying considerably in different times and places over the enormous stretch of prehistory, with causality working both ways.

Clearly the situation of primal hunters, with its violence, its deep alienations between the sexes and between peoples, is far from being the paradise that contemporary romanticization of primal peoples usually portrays. Yet it evidently co-existed, to varying degrees, for a very long time with an embeddedness in and deep respect and awe regarding nature. It took the further steps of herding and the discovery of agriculture, to begin to establish an outlook of dominance over nature which diminished the awe and oneness of gathering-hunting peoples.

Many important factors which cannot be explored here went into the process of bringing about our present state of dangerous alienation from nature, alienation that threatens global catastrophe. To this situation present-day herding practices are major contributors, with their animal concentration camps that devour almost half the world's grain, consume a huge portion of dwindling water resources, and pollute much they do not consume. We can agree with the romanticizers that this system is a monster which must go. But we who are inspired by a vision of true Peace among sentient beings, who see the divine in the eyes of an animal, know that hunting, however reverential, always contains the seeds of Might-Makes-Right.

It is not the answer. We cannot go back to the past.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood


Basic Seitan

2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 c. chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp powdered rosemary
2 T Tamari
2 T tomato paste
2 tsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
2 tsp evaporated cane juice (organic sugar)
2 T nutritional yeast
1 1/2 c. water

Place all the ingredients in a food processor-- Process until it forms a dough ball. It can then be cut into pieces and simmered in a cooking broth for about 1 1/2 hours. The Seitan is then ready to be used as a substitute in any recipe for meat. Subtle variations in the basic recipe and the sauces it is cooked in give it wonderful versatility.

If chickpea flour is not available, it may be omitted and use only 1 1/2 cup water instead of 2 cups. Makes about 1 - 1 1/2 pounds seitan, serving 4 - 6.

Cooking liquid

4 - 4 1/2 cups water
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 T tomato paste
2 tsp sage
2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 - 4 T Tamari

Place all ingredients in a large pot, whisk or stir together to blend. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and add the Seitan dough. Let simmer about 1 1/2 hours. Do not boil! -it makes the texture rubbery. The cooking liquid can be cooled, stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and used again for your next batch of Seitan.

These are the basics to making Seitan. Seitan is an ancient Japanese meat substitute. It is low in fat and high in protein. Seitan is quite versatile. It may be cut into chunks; coated with flour and "oven-fried" for a delicious kid friendly meal. Seitan may be roasted or broiled and served with any imaginable sauce.

Herbal Onion Soup

3 medium-sized onions, sliced
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped coarsely
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, mashed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
3/4 teaspoon dried leaf marjoram, crumbled
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
8 cups spring water
8 slices French or Italian bread, toasted in oven
Vegan Parmesan (Soymage)

Saute onions in olive oil in a large skillet, saucepan, or soup kettle over low heat until translucent; add tomatoes and cook five minutes longer. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper, and water. Bring to light boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Process in blender or food processor. Reheat slowly to boiling point and pour over bread slices in individual serving bowls. Sprinkle with Vegan Parmesan as desired.

This recipe is inspired by a Provencal French recipe which uses a bouquet of herbs to help strengthen the immune system during the cold winter months. It is quite delicious and warming as the autumn air begins to take on a chill. Serves 4 - 6.

Balsamic Beets Salad

1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
6 medium beets
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
salt to taste
1 small red or Vidalia onion, sliced into thin half moons

Clean beets. In a medium size saucepan, cover unpeeled beets with water and cook until tender, 30-40 minutes. Rub off skins under cool water. Cut beets in half, and cut each half into 1/4" thick slices. Place in medium size bowl and toss with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, onions, olive oil and salt. Place on platter and garnish with walnuts. This dish may be served warm or at room temperature. The leftovers are also good cold from the refrigerator.

This is a colorful salad that will surely brighten the holidays or any day. It may also be served on a bed of sauteed beet greens or other greens such as chard. Serves 4.

Wheat-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup quick cooking oats

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Whisk together peanut butter, maple syrup, and salt. Stir in brown rice flour until well blended; then stir in oats until well blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 -12 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, allow to sit for a few minutes then move to cooling rack to completely cool.

When I created this recipe I was trying to develop a gluten-free recipe; but, quickly found out about oats containing gluten. I have not yet experimented with omitting the oats. For those of us who use wheat flour and do not have rice flour readily available, unbleached wheat flour may be used instead of rice flour with fine results. Makes 1 dozen large cookies.

—Angela Suarez

Review: Sky High

Sky High. Directed by Mike Mitchell, Disney, 2005.

This is a science fiction story about a high school--literally high, up in the sky with extremely advanced anti-gravity technology. It is to comic-book science fiction what Hogwarts' is to fantasy. Young superheroes attend to learn how best to use their mutant powers. The story centers on a group of kids who attend the school. They are wonderful human beings--intelligent, kind, good-looking, and have special powers. Yet they are looked down on by their peers because their powers are not as impressive as those of others. This means they are destined to be Sidekicks--not the Heroes of their own stories. Layla (Danielle Panabaker) has the ability to make plants grow rapidly and grow strong. Not very impressive prima facie, but it will save the day eventually. But the most truly impressive things about Layla is her convictions. Her superheroine mother has the power to communicate telepathically with animals, so the whole family is vegan. Her friends respect her beliefs.

One of her friends is a shapeshifter--i.e., has the power to morph into a little guinea pig. Again, this seems an insignificant ability--until it saves Sky High from destruction.

The story is provocative, as the best science fiction always is. In real life, there are in fact rare people able to communicate mind-to- mind with animals (see Learning Their Language by Marta Williams), though they are unfortunately not held in very high regard. But if many people had the ability to change into animals and change back--might not our world be transformed?

—Benjamin Urrutia

Review: The World Peace Diet

The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony. By Will Tuttle. New York: Lantern Books, 2005, xvii & 318, $20.00.

There is an elephant in the living room, says Will Tuttle. Much energy is expended in numbing ourselves to ignore this open secret, the violent exploitation of farmed animals that underlies our meals. In a parallel image, our culture is like a dysfunctional family with dark, agonizing secrets that are taboo to discuss, secrets which must be brought into the light if the family is to find healing.

The author sees this basic situation as no peripheral problem but the central link of our network of social and environmental evils. And, if he does not quite establish that the exploitation of animals is the underlying cause of all our ills, he goes far to substantiate his drastic assessment. For example, he points out a strong tie between the evils of patriarchal control of society--marked by aggressiveness, domination, a reduction of women from an "I" to an "it"--and the exploitation of female animals in the dairy and egg industries. We have silenced our own inner nurturer, says Tuttle. Closing our ears to the cries of enslaved and suffering mother cows and hens is part and parcel of closing our ears to the suffering of human mothers whose babies die because grain that might have helped feed their hungry families went into our confined-animal operations. Consuming the stolen milk and flesh of animals we have made fat and sick and pushed to premature growth has caused us too to become fat, sick and subject to premature puberty; from their sickness and misery comes our misery under the ravages of cancer and other degenerative diseases. As we cause them to live in foul, uninhabitable space, we are fouling our own planetary nest by hormones and pesticides and by mountains of waste, and rendering our earth barren by soil erosion, depletion of water resources and devastated ecocycles. Our culture's thirst for petroleum is greatly increased by the requirements of irrigation, artificial fertilizers and pesticides to raise grain for the ten billion animals we eat, thus increasing the pressure to engage in aggressive oil wars. The elites in big government, big medicine, big pharmaceuticals, and big meat and dairy operations are the ones who profit as they join forces to keep the truth hidden and the status quo intact.

This grim picture is not the last word that Tuttle presents. We have to option to inform ourselves (the information is there, though kept out of the mainstream media) and restore our numbed minds and hearts. We can reject the whole monstrous animal-foods system and return to the whole plant food diet for which our bodies evolved. But doing so requires a profound distancing from our culture's values; it is like leaving home and departing on a journey. The journey can be painful, often meaning alienation from family, friends and colleagues. But it also means reawakening our compassion, our vitality, our sense of deep connection with all things and beings, our faith in life and joy in living. We can begin to be transformed, and bring these boons of new life to others.

The book is well-informed, impassioned and compassionate. For the few times it overstates its case, it gives powerful and liberating insights hundreds of times. It should be read and savored by every spiritually-inspired and caring vegetarian.

—Gracia Fay Ellwood

Odds & Ends

Good news from Israel

Israel, formerly the world's fourth-biggest producer of pate de foie gras, in October 2005 banned its production because of the suffering it entails for the birds. In other words, Israel gave up a major source of income in order "to do justice, and love mercy" to these animal cousins. (Google News, Oct. 19, 2005)

—Benjamin Urrutia

No Leather for Joaquin "Cash"

Joaquin Phoenix, who portrays Johnny Cash in the movie Walk the Line refused to wear Johnny's trademark leather cowboy boots. Phoenix, a staunch friend of animals, insisted that the boots be made of a cruelty-free substitute, approved by PETA.

Can You Be as Righteous as the Orcas?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that if we do good only to those who do good to us, we have no claim of moral superiority over Gentiles (read: Roman occupiers) and evildoers, for they also reciprocate love and good turns. Extending this idea further, the Dalai Lama points out that animals also return love and kindness, so we must do good to strangers and even enemies if we hope to claim moral superiority over the beasts.

Of course, the Dalai Lama is from Tibet, as far from the ocean as you can get, so although he is now a world traveler, he may not yet have met dolphins or orcas. These aquatic mammals often do kindness to humans, even though humans frequently imprison or murder them. This has long been one of the great mysteries of nature. Scientists usually attribute this behavior to the high intelligence of the cetaceans. Isaac Asimov once countered (perhaps facetiously) that protecting humans while attacking sharks and barracudas is not such a good sign of intelligence, since humans are far more destructive than sharks and barracudas. On the other hand, my father, Dr. Benjamin Urrutia, points out that befriending the most dangerous being around is a very intelligent strategy indeed . . .

Dr. Gordon Thomasson theorizes that perhaps dolphins, using their keen sonar and ultrasound, could detect that humans are fellow mammals. This could explain the friendliness of Tursiops truncatus, but not that of Orcinus orca, since some orcas eat fellow mammals. (Most do not--an orca's diet is determined by culture as well as instinct.) But even a killer whale who acts like Tyrannosaurus rex toward the rest of creation behaves like a friendly puppy towards humans. In the film Free Willy III, the cetacean hero saves the life of the whaler who was trying to murder him and his family. This is fiction, but in real life, orcas have often saved not only human lives but even the lives of their companion dogs.

Can we love our enemies half as well as do these seagoing cousins?

—Benjamin Urrutia

My Pilgrimage

A Puddle of Blood

On a school night in the winter of my tenth year, already two hours past dark, we were ready to have dinner. In my family, an expensive cut of beef didn't mark any special occasion. The grocery store was the one place my mother refused to cut corners. We had the best steak, chicken, roast beef, ham, bacon, turkey, eggs, and fish money could buy, and we washed it down with a tall glass of milk. Of course, in 1979, the negative effects of meat-eating were a better kept secret than they are now.

I was hungry. Steak was on the menu. We sat in ladder-back chairs around an antique American table, much too big for just the four of us. There were the potatoes, a basket of bread, and too close was a bowl of overcooked string beans, my portion of which I would later hide in a napkin when my parents weren't looking. The main course arrived on a blue serving platter. My mother set it next to me. I remember the old oven mitts she wore, stained and worn so thin that she burned her hands more nights than not.

She told me to dig in. My father waited his turn. I stabbed the biggest cut. The juice ran out from the slightly charred slab and filled the grooves in the plate. I stopped with the serving fork deep in meat. My father waited.

An innocent question from a child, perhaps even stupid from a ten-year-old, like asking why the snow is white. But I didn't ask about the snow. I asked why the juice was red. Before the question had finished its short journey out of my mouth, the answer came in one word like harsh light into sleep: blood. The juice is red because the juice is blood.

My father told me to stop playing. I put the thing on my plate and ate it, blood and all.

That was a few years before I became the only vegetarian in my school, earning myself the nickname Buddha. And well before that night, I had learned to love animals and to dread their persecution. (In elementary school, I'd raised money for Greenpeace to save the whales, about the same time my future wife, Sarah, living just across town, was writing letters to her representative about the slaughter of seals.) But the night when I saw the juice for what it was was probably the first time I connected the flesh and blood I was chewing to the neighbor's cows, to the butchered whales, to my German Shepherd, to the pain I knew whenever I saw my own blood.

Twenty years later, in the autumn of 1999, my mother came to see Sarah and me in our small rented home on the outskirts of Ithaca, New York, not far from Farm Sanctuary. By now, her oven mitts long gone, she'd reached her seventy-first year to see four of her five children grow into vegetarians. In spite of how much we talked to her about how eating meat ravages our bodies, our environment, and the animals, she had clung to a bit of myth that has probably killed a lot of people: anything in moderation is all right. Sarah and I took my mother to Farm Sanctuary, where the two of us had visited and volunteered often. For the first time in her life, my mother petted a pig, and was gently nuzzled by an 800-pound cow named Penelope, whose nose was bigger than my mother's head.

My mother has always been a dog-lover. Now she lives in an apartment where she can't have a dog. That cow and that pig reached her the way a dog does; she crossed the bridge between heart and head to find no difference between eating Penelope and eating one of her beloved dogs. I know this because the next day, after she’d returned to her apartment two hours north of Ithaca, my mother called to say she had decided to stop eating meat.

—Jeff Lydon
from Voices from the Garden, edited by Sharon Towns and Daniel Towns. Lantern Books, 2001.

Pioneers: John Henry Newman

Our Pioneer this month is John Henry Newman, 1801-1890, an English theologian and popular preacher generally known for his high-church views which eventually led him to become a Roman Catholic. It is less widely known that he had a deep sympathy for animals, and preached a sermon in 1870 in which he was bold enough to compare their sufferings under vivisection to the sufferings of Jesus on the cross.

You will observe that our Lord is called a Lamb in the text; that is, He was as defenceless and as innocent as a lamb is. Since then Scripture compares Him to this inoffensive and unprotected animal; we may without presumption or irreverence take the image as a means of conveying to our minds those teachings which our Lord’s sufferings should excite in us. I mean, how horrible it is to read the account which sometimes meet us of cruelties exercised on animals.

Does it not sometimes make us shudder to hear and tell of them, or to read them in some chance publication which we take up? At one time it is the wanton deed of barbarous and angry owners who ill treat their cattle or beasts of burden; and at another it is the cold blooded and calculating act of men of Science, who make experiments on animals, perhaps merely from a sort of curiosity.

I do not like to go into particulars, for many reasons, but one of those instances which we read as happening in this day and which seems more shocking than the rest is when the poor dumb victim is fastened against a wall, pierced, gashed and so left to linger out its life. Now do you not see that I have reason for saying this, and am not using these distressing cases for nothing? For what was this but the very cruelty inflicted upon our Lord? He was gashed with the scourge, pierced through hands and feet and so fastened to the Cross, and there left, and that as a spectacle. Now what is it that moves our very hearts and sickens us so much as cruelty shown to poor animals? I suppose this first, that they have done no harm; next that they have no power whatsoever of resistance; it is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are the victims which make their sufferings so especially touching. For instance, if they were dangerous animals, take the case of wild animals at large; much as we might dislike to hear of their wounds and agony, yet our feelings would be of a very different kind.

But there is something so very dreadful, so satanic in tormenting those who have never harmed us, and who cannot defend themselves, who are utterly in our power, who have weapons neither of offence nor defence, that none but very hardened persons can endure the thought of it.


The World's Need

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.

I am the voice of the voiceless;
Through me, the dumb shall speak;
Till the deaf world's ear be made to hear
The cry of the wordless weak.
From street, from cage and from kennel,
From jungle and stall, the wail
Of my tortured kin proclaims the sin
Of the mighty against the frail.

For love is the true religion,
And love is the law sublime;
And all that is wrought, where love is not
Will die at the touch of time.
Oh, shame on the mothers of mortals
Who have not stopped to teach
Of the sorrow that lies in dear, dumb eyes,
The sorrow that has no speech.

The same Power that formed the sparrow
That fashioned man--the King;
The God of the whole gave a living soul
To furred and feathered thing.
And I am my brother's keeper,
And I will fight his fight;
And speak the word for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This poem has been set to music, and excerpts from it are often quoted in vegetarian literature, so it is helpful to have ready access to the whole thing. Readers may well feel that it lacks unity and is uneven in quality--the first stanza, for example, is rather simplistic. Yet some of the passages are powerful and well worth quoting.

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 December issue will be November 30, 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.

Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia & Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angela Suarez
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood