Chew on This: Fruit is Gold

fruit is gold

Photo Credit: SheKnows


by Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History and Culinary History, Towson University


Did you see Little Women in the movie theatre this winter? Louisa May Alcott’s writing is truly a testament to American literature. But did you also know that her cousin, William Alcott, was an important advocate of the vegetarian diet? Indeed! Alcott proposed in his 1838 publication, Vegetable Diet: as Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in all Ages, that fruit, for example, be eaten fresh and not cooked.  “None of these, as far as I know, are improved by cookery,” he wrote, “The Great Creator has, in this instance, at least, done his own work, without leaving any thing for man to do. There is one general law in regard to fruits, and especially these smaller fruits. Those which melt and dissolve most easily in the mouth, and leave no residuum, are the most healthy; while those which do not easily dissolve—which contain large seeds, tough or stringy portions, or hulls, or scales—are in the same degree indigestible.”  While this may seem far-fetched to modern readers, William Alcott was highly regarded as an expert in health reform and his call for a vegetarian diet was “proven” by medical science.  Even today, our ideas about what constitutes a healthy diet continue to evolve as we ever-evaluate “good” foods from “bad”: low carbs, high fat, low sodium, high protein… Alcott was a pioneer in his day! And with spring approaching, we too turn our thoughts to dietary changes and seasonal eating. Our winter selections of apples and pears, sturdy as they are in colder days, will soon be cast aside for strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and currants. Consider Alcott’s advice on when fruit should be eaten:

“I have said that fruits were next to bread in point of importance. They are to be taken, always, as part of our regular meals, and never between meals. Nor should they be eaten at the end of a meal, but either in the middle or at the beginning. And finally, they should be taken either at breakfast or dinner. According to the old adage, fruit is gold in the morning, silver at noon, and lead at night.”

Enjoy, and happy spring.


William A. Alcott, Vegetable Diet: as Sanctioned by Medical Men, and by Experience in all Ages. Boston: Marsh, Capon, & Lyon, 1838.