Every direction you turn there are cookbooks, articles, news stories and celebrity updates about the vegetarian lifestyle. It seems like the concept has lately been rising in popularity. Vegetarianism, of course, is not a new thing and has actually been a lifestyle choice dating back to ancient times.
Playing around with the Google Ngram Viewer actually got me interested in doing this series. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a tool that searches books for particular terms and then plots frequency of the appearance of those words.
Check out what happens when I put the words “vegetarian” and “vegan” and searched English books between 1750 and 2008…
Pushing up my data geek sleeves, I was both able to confirm some assumptions but still get some interesting surprises. Of course, our eyes dart immediately to the right of this chart where there are some crazy frequency increases starting in the mid-1990’s. But, we can all mostly remember what has been going on this past decade, so let’s start at the beginning and see what we can see…
- First up is that little hump in the late 1700’s then nothing until 1850 or so. In a future article, I’ll be taking a look at what was going on during that time to see what caused that interest or increase in the usage of the term. What caused this interest and what historical figures may have dabbled (and written) about vegetarianism during that time?
- Not much activity happens until the mid-1850’s and then the word “vegetarian” starts its upward trek. In the second installment of this series, I’ll be exploring a publication from 1894 that had some interesting, and divergent, opinions about vegetarianism.
- As we hit the turn of the 20th century, there is a leap and a spike right before World War I. I scratched my head a little bit at this series of spikes. I had always assumed a sort of push towards vegetarian eating during World War II. (Victory Gardens, anyone?) But, the use of the term “vegetarian” instead goes down. You got it – I’ll be taking a look at this era, as well in my upcoming series.
- Get out your bell-bottoms: the next peak happens during the health-food, disco-era of the 1970’s, so that’s no surprise the terms would deserve a spike.
- Going over to the red “vegan” line…what caused the spike in the early 80’s? Well, you don’t have to wait for an answer. I can report that the Vegetarian Resource Group was founded in 1982 and published several cookbooks bringing the vegan lifestyle (and the word) back into the mainstream. Hence, the increased usage of the term.
I’m sure I’ll be digging up some interesting stuff, and when I do find things, I’ll post them here. Stay tuned for the next installment of Vegetarianism Through the Ages where I’ll be exploring the meat-free lifestyle and its historical past.