In the early 20th century, Leo Tolstoy, in his ascetic quest for a “good life,” embraced a vegetarian diet to resist all forms of violence, which included to “God’s animal creations.” His diet was meant to “support life” — both his and others, a belief and lifestyle shared with his pen friend, Mahatma Gandhi. For Tolstoy, God’s grace began at the table — like chicken soup for the soul, without the chicken.

Historically, food abstinence has a long tie-in to spiritual, political, and health choice. Nowadays, it is not usual for people to attribute their palate preferences to genetics, peak athletic performance, or simply a desire to feel better. The platitude “you are what you eat” can be easily written off as an idea without teeth, but philosophies defining something as mundane as diet can lie at the core of personal identity, social establishment, and ethical reflection.

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