01 May 2009

Famous Food Friday – George Bernard Shaw

At twenty-five, George Bernard Shaw became a vegetarian. He attributed this change in lifestyle to a couplet in Percy Bysshe Shelly’s poem, The Revolt of Islam.

“Never again may blood of bird or beast
Stain with its venomous stream a human feast!”

The less romantic among us attribute this conversion more to poverty than to poetry. Still, Shaw remained a lifelong vegetarian and a teetotaler. He married late in life and his wife kept to his strict dietary requirements. When entertaining, one maid served the carnivorous, wine swilling guests while Shaw had his own maid to serve him. After his wife died, Shaw needed someone to continue the regime his mother and then his wife meticulously carried out. He found a willing servant in Alice Laden, a widow who nursed his wife during last eight months of her life. Though she didn’t wish to live in the country, to Shaw’s great fortune she remained.

In later life, Alice Laden compiled many of the recipes she cooked for Shaw into the George Bernard Shaw Vegetarian Cookbook.

I chose this recipe because my friend, Harry Lowe, loves shredded wheat. He also loves nuts. This dish is a perfect dish for him as he always has the ingredients in his cupboard!

Mixed Nut Bake

2 large shredded-wheat biscuits
2 eggs beaten
1 cup finely chopped mixed nuts
2 cups fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1 cup sautéed onions
1 hard-cooked egg
1 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, grated
Tomato Sauce

Preheat oven to 375 F. Crush the shredded-wheat finely with a rolling pin. Mix nuts, bread crumbs, seasonings, shredded-wheat, sautéed onions, and beaten eggs together in a bowl. Chop the hard-cooked egg and mix with the grated cheese and cooked rice in another bowl to form a firm filling. Add salt and pepper too taste. Spread half the nut-meat mixture in a buttered baking dish and spread cheese and rice filling over this. Spread the remaining nut-meat mixture on top and dot with butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot with Tomato Sauce.

Shaw once dreamt of his own funeral. Rather than being upset, he was comforted by the happy occasion. He wrote:

“My hearse will be followed, not by mourning coaches but by herds of oxen, sheep, swine, flocks of poultry and a small traveling aquarium on live fish, all wearing white scarves in honour of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures.”

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