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The Vegetarian World Forum
No. 3 Vol. IX - Autumn 1955 p.12:

Isabel James, B.A.
[from a talk given at the IVU World Vegetarian Congress, Paris, 1955]

Dr. Jean Nussbaum, in his opening address at this International Congress, put the question: "HOW are we to spread our message? HOW are we to interest those around us?" The Vegetarian Catering Association in Britain has a very practical answer to this - encourage and develop widely a high standard of vegetarian catering.

As a child I knew well the difficulties of being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian world and even then I longed to make known to those around me the wonderful advantages of our way, of life. I admired tremendously the pioneer work done by the Summer Schools organized annually by The Vegetarian Society and by the first vegetarian guest houses, for I sympathized keenly with all who had difficulty in obtaining the kind of food they wanted when away from home. I felt the also that by showing how attractive our food was, we would win people's interest and then it would he easy to explain the benefits that would follow both in mind and body. I have learned since that it is not so simple to influence principles those around us, but I still firmly believe that the best way of spreading our message is by example and demonstration. This can be done, of course, privately in our homes, or more publicly in demonstrations with lectures, or in restaurants, guest houses, hotels, schools, or through courses in vegetarian cookery, or by training others to take up this side of our, work with efficiency and confidence.

The Vegetarian Movement in Britain is now over 100 years old, but it is during the last 50 years that the demand for vegetarian catering has grown sufficiently to encourage the development of specialized vegetarian establishments. Scientific research into the structure and properties of food has grown apace and has led to a very much wider acceptance of our diet.

The food reform movement has influenced our catering considerably and we are conscious of the importance of whole unprocessed foods and the need for correct composting of the soil in which our foods are grown.

With this growth in interest, it became increasingly necessary for there to be an Association through which individual establishments could co-operate, exchange ideas, and help one another to overcome common difficulties and to maintain a high standard of vegetarian catering. Thus, about nine years ago, the Vegetarian Catering Association was formed. In a very short time many guest houses, several nature cure homes, restaurants and schools gave their support. A Food Panel of teachers and demonstrators was appointed to carry though special pieces of work and in particular to organize cookery courses, a training scheme for vegetarian cooks, and a class for would be demonstrators. Later, individuals who were specially concerned with vegetarian catering were admitted to membership. Thus we have dieticians, civil servants and lawyers to help us as well as proprietors of guest houses, hotels restaurants, nature cure homes and schools. All are, of course, strictly vegetarian. Conferences are held to examine current activities and problems and to further means of putting the Objects of our Association into operation. A News Bulletin is circulated twice a year.

A significant tendency of recent years is the increasing number of non-vegetarian guests estimated at 40 per cent to 60 per cent who, for various reasons, use vegetarian establishments. This development provides an opportunity to introduce to enquirers the ethical principles underlying our mode of living and the importance of an intelligent understanding of the wholeness and balance of our daily food. It also imposes the responsibility of demonstrating vegetarianism by the highest possible standard of catering.

As Secretary of the V.C.A. I look forward to co-operating not only with all in my own country who are interested in this side of our work, but also with all of you from other countries so that our influence may become world-wide. I will not take up more of your time now, but will be very pleased to give more detailed information of our activities to any of you who would like to know more.

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Mrs Isabel James' address is: - Rothay Bank, Grasmere. Westmorland. England.


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