Vegetarian Movers and Shakers

For the food trendy among us, Veganuary is in full swing and again my fathers’ fond assertions of Elva being ‘before her time’ have loomed large in my mind.

It might be fashionable now, but the vegans and vegetarians of yesteryear were relentlessly ridiculed, and to tweak a favourite phrase of mine, largely considered to be ‘off their rockers’.

Time has marched on though, and the ideas pioneered by the weirdos of the past have gathered so much momentum, that today, it almost feels as though it is the meat eaters among us who are the oddities as we stubbornly resist the growing trend to go veggie or full vegan.

Naturally, with Elva having been a staunch vegetarian I have been experimenting at home with varying degrees of success and disaster, but as fun and absorbing as these practical explorations are, it is Elva the vegetarian that really intrigues me, and no amount of cooking on my part can adequately align our experiences given the generational gap.

Curious to know how easy or difficult it may have been for Elva to stick to her chosen diet (particularly during war time rationing) my interest turned to the history of the movement and I was soon led by Googles clever algorithms to the history pages of the International Vegetarian Union website, www.ivu.org.

Unknowingly minutes away from a ChasingElva find, I engrossed myself in the IVU archives.  Following link after link I scanned their pages and oddly, familiar names began to jump out at me in article after article.  Mental pennies filed months ago began to drop and in a eureka moment, I was back in the boxes that kickstarted my chase, excitedly retrieving the exhibition catalogue where the very same names are listed.

Typically over excited, I punched Elva’s name into the IVU’s search bar and in seconds began fist pumping the air while trying to involve my dog in a high five.  Fifteen faces looked out at me from my laptop screen, all of them sketched by Elva at the International Vegetarian Union Congress of 1947 and some of them, notable figures in the post war revival of the vegetarian cause.

It is always a special moment when I unearth another Elva work for my planned catalogue resonee but the clues these occasional findings provide concerning Elva as a character are equally satisfying.   Elva clearly took her vegetarian diet extremely seriously but in a way I am beginning to understand as being typical of Elva, she didn’t just embrace ideas, but fully involved herself with the movers and shakers behind them.

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