Benjamin Franklin Vegetarian


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"I have since [giving up eating meat] thought that a Vegetarian diet might be beneficial not only for the body but also for the soul, allowing us to develop virtues such as temperance and benevolence while preserving the lives of our fellow creatures."

- Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States

As I sit here, with pen in hand, or rather fingers on keyboard, I find myself drawn to the life and times of one Benjamin Franklin.

The man was a polymath, a jack of all trades, and a vegetarian.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Our esteemed Founding Father, known for his love of science, diplomacy, and occasionally indulging in the more rambunctious side of life, found solace and satisfaction in a diet devoid of meat.


Young Benjamin Franklin
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In the year of 1722, a teenage Benjamin Franklin, no more than a lad of sixteen, found himself captivated by the literary works of an English gentleman by the name of Thomas Tryon.

A pioneer in his own right, Mr. Tryon was among the first advocates of vegetarianism in the Western world, espousing the manifold virtues of a life without meat.

Through his writings, Tryon passionately argued that abstaining from meat was not only a morally superior choice, but also one that promoted better health and a lighter footprint upon the Earth.

He spoke of the horrors inflicted upon our fellow creatures in the pursuit of our carnivorous appetites, insisting that humanity could thrive on a diet based on plants alone.

Young Franklin, a lad with an insatiable curiosity and an innate propensity for questioning societal norms, was deeply moved by Tryon's words.

With the spirit of adventure that would come to define his life, Franklin wholeheartedly embraced the principles of vegetarianism, resolving to forsake meat and adopt a diet rooted in compassion and reason.

As Franklin embarked upon this new path, he found himself grappling with the practicalities of his choice. Meat was a staple of the colonial diet, and to abstain from it required creativity and perseverance.

Yet the young man was undeterred.

He sought out new recipes, experimented with a variety of plant-based ingredients, and ultimately discovered a wealth of culinary delights that would sustain him in his vegetarian journey.

Over time, Franklin's adherence to a vegetarian diet would become not only a matter of ethics and health, but also a symbol of his broader commitment to intellectual inquiry and personal growth.

In a world where meat was seen as a luxury and a necessity, his choice to abstain marked him as a freethinker, a man unafraid to challenge convention and forge his own path.

In the years to come, Benjamin Franklin's fateful encounter with the works of Thomas Tryon would prove to be a transformative experience, one that shaped not only his diet, but also his character and his contributions to the world.


Benjamin Franklin eating grapes
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Franklin, a curious lad, was ever in pursuit of intellectual and moral purity.

It was his belief that by abstaining from the consumption of meat, he would not only benefit his health but also cultivate a clear and focused mind.

He thought that the act of killing animals for food was brutal and unnecessary, and he was determined to find a better way.

This newfound vegetarianism allowed Franklin to save money, as meat was expensive in those days.

With the money he saved, he purchased books to satiate his ever-growing appetite for knowledge. Young Benjamin made certain to take full advantage of his dietary choice and his access to literature.


Benjamin Franklin eating fish
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Despite his strong convictions, Franklin's life as a vegetarian was not without its challenges.

As any vegetarian will attest, temptation is a constant companion, and Franklin was no exception. In one particular instance, he recalled the siren call of fish while aboard a ship.

You see, the sailors had caught several codfish, and as they prepared the fish for the evening meal, the aroma wafted through the ship, tickling the nostrils of all aboard.

Franklin, the steadfast vegetarian, found himself facing a moral dilemma. His mouth watered and his stomach growled, but he hesitated. It was then that he noticed the fish's stomachs contained smaller fish, and he reasoned that if these creatures consumed one another, it was only natural for him to partake as well.

With a sly grin, Franklin gave in to temptation, indulging in the fish that evening.

He would later reflect upon this moment with a touch of humor and humility, acknowledging the flaws and inconsistencies that make us all human.


Benjamin Franklin drinking beer
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A Simple Breakfast

Franklin believed in the virtues of a simple, nourishing breakfast.

He often started his day with a humble meal of bread and milk.

This straightforward repast provided him with the sustenance he needed to dive into his day's work, be it tinkering with scientific experiments or working tirelessly to shape the future of a fledgling nation.

A Pint of Cheer

Our esteemed Founding Father was no stranger to the joys of a well-brewed ale. In fact, Franklin was known to partake in the occasional pint of beer.

However, he was a man of moderation, understanding the importance of keeping a clear head and not indulging too heavily in the tempting beverages of the day.

After all, one must maintain a sharp wit and a steady hand when navigating the political and scientific waters of the 18th century.

The Social Side of Dining

For Franklin, dining was not just about the food on his plate. It was also a time for socializing, discussing ideas, and forging connections with friends and colleagues.

In the company of others, Franklin's table was often a lively scene filled with animated conversation, laughter, and the exchange of ideas.

It was during these communal gatherings that he explored the thoughts and opinions of his fellow diners, sparking new ideas and fostering camaraderie among the burgeoning nation's leading minds.

A Sweet Tooth's Delight

Despite his preference for simplicity and moderation, Franklin was not immune to the allure of sweet treats.

He held a particular fondness for honey, which he believed to be a healthier alternative to sugar. Franklin would often drizzle honey over his bread, savoring the natural sweetness that delighted his taste buds and fueled his busy days.