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Bastille Day, in addition to presenting an opportunity for overconsumption of coq au vin and french pastry, is the commemoration of the turning point in the French Revolution. Bastille prison was stormed and the protests of the beleaguered citizenry (an image painted clearly in my mind by a trip to Les Miserables as a kid) came to a point in a victorious revolution. Less clear, is the image of the middle and upper classes, who's more silent opposition to the polictical system involved...vegetarianism?
Yes, it turns out that Rosseau, in addition to being a revolutionary writer, was a vegetarian - and a pretty radical one at that. His meat abstinence inspired other revolutionaries, who tied their own liberation to the liberation of animals. At the time, vegetarianism was considered unhealthy - meat was the primary source of nutrition, and vegetables were marginally more than a cure for scurvy. Not eating meat was pretty radical.
Whether or not it incited a revolution is still up for debate. It is however, a good example of how food impacts public matters - especially in a country like France. I have found that more times than not, what we eat is tied to the politics of the nation.
Let them Eat Kale: Vegetarians and the French Revolution from NPR's The Salt
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