Do German Soldiers Eat More than Perfectionists?

In a letter to her brother John Humphrey Noyes in 1869, Harriet Skinner ruminated on the “alimentive history of the Community.”  She observed that there was an “ill-defined impression among people at large, that they eat too much, and that they eat the wrong things.”  The question about whether Americans eat too much meat was a hot topic even in the 19 century.   The Community diet was mainly vegetarian, so the question of meat consumption was abstract.  However, Harriet set about to determine the per capita consumption of food in the Community.

She (and her kitchen helpers, no doubt) weighed everything that went to the table and everything that was left over.  She discovered that per capita the family was consuming approximately 2 pounds 10 ounces of food per person, per day.  To determine whether this was a large or small amount compared to other populations, she consulted  Liebig’s Chemistry. She learned that the daily consumption for German soldiers was nearly 4 pounds per man, approximately one third more than the average consumed by each person in the Oneida Community. Harriet observed that the family consumed more milk (by weight) than any other food, and the next most common foodstuff was potatoes.

She credits the values and life style of the Community for the shift to a mainly vegetarian diet declaring that it is “the power of our principles and institutions” [that] produces radical changes.”


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