One Man's Meat
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Some of Sylvester Graham's more
moderate contemporary critics
said that he:
"Wrote sensibly on the Science of
Life, and laid down rules very well
adapted to some constitutions.
His error consisted in making a one
standard of diet for the whole human race,
when nature was perpetually telling him that every man varied in organization,
and, of a consequence, to keep up that organization, various kinds of foods
must be used."
It was (and still is) argued that no two men have the same constitutions;
hence, each requires something different in his way of diet.
Even the farm journals took up this cry against Grahamism, although they
never applied the same argument to the feeding of horses, cows, sheep, hogs,
This doctrine of physiological (or shall we call it constitutional?) chaos was
popularly expressed in the old adage: "What is one man's meat is another
Because of the existence of this notion, there was much objection to the
attempt "to lay down arbitrary rules regarding what foods are wholesome and
what are unwholesome" for, it was objected, "there is nothing truer than that
'what is food for one man is poison for another.'"
The contention was made, and rightly, that the "only infallible guide is the
unperverted palate" but the mistake was made of regarding the conventionally
conditioned palate as unperverted.
The foregoing contention was made in defense of the conventional eating
practices. Hygienists admitted the validity of the unperverted palate, but
objected to the application given.
As no one, they replied, can present an unperverted palate as "that guide" they
were delighted to consult reason and science.
Denying that what is meat for one man is poison for another, Hygienists said
"Every fact in anatomy and physiology proves that every living organism,
man's not excepted, has a determinate relation to the food which furnishes the
best materials for his nutrition."
They contended that the human species is subject to the same laws of
uniformity as other species with regard to food.
The very man who argues that "one man's meat is another man's poison" will,
on occasion, argue most unreasonably that certain articles of food must be
good because he has known people to eat them apparently without harm and
further still, "because all the animals eat them."
Commonly, such an individual has been very indifferent in his study of the
eating habits of animals and knows very little about the general laws of
What is he saying when he declares that: "one man's meat is another man's
It may be well for some folks to keep clean, but it is ridiculous to insist that all
do so. It may be serviceable for some to get to bed early, but we are not all
It may be helpful to many to live regularly and prudently, but some of us
require irregular living and imprudencies.
Frugal eating may be all right for many, but gluttony is best for many of us. It
may be wholesome for many of us to drink nothing but water and not to
smoke, but many of us require alcohol, coffee and tobacco.
It may be good that some of us are honest and that we deal fairly with our
fellow men, but some of us must be liars and cheats. Honesty is not for
everybody, as we are not all constituted alike.
This is the only legitimate interpretation of this oft-repeated assertion. If we
thus view it in detail, we realize how devoid of reason it is.
As commonly employed, this old saw means that: while fruits and vegetables
may be excellent foods for some constitutions, some of us are constitutionally
carnivorous and could never thrive without liberal quantities of flesh foods.
Indeed, we more urgently require flesh than do the carnivores. It is possible
for cats and dogs to thrive and thrive well on a fleshless diet, but we cannot do
The constitutional differences between the sexes are far greater than any that
exist between two individuals of the same sex.
If the principle contended for in the common notion that one man's meat is
another man's poison, because they differ in constitutions, were true, men and
women would have to eat different foods.
The differentiation between man and woman is not as great as is generally
imagined. They are both made of blood, bones, muscles and nerves; the
same elements are necessary to sustain them both and the same causes
operate to destroy them both.
Foods that are good for one sex are good for the other; poisons that are
injurious to one sex are injurious to the other. Does man need food, drink,
warmth and sleep? Woman can no more live without these than can man.
Does arsenic poison man? It is equally poisonous to woman. It produces in
her the same and exact symptoms that it produces in him.
Cold and heat affect the two sexes alike. Both have their powers and
capacities--both mental and physical--drawn out or developed by use. The
constitutions of the two sexes are radically alike and are governed by the
same laws and subject to the same conditions.
Man's body is constituted upon a certain pattern, which pattern is precise, and
its general principles apply to all men and individuals.
The great principles upon which the body of man is constituted, by which it
grows and develops, by which it expresses power, by which it maintains its
functions and actions, by which it maintains the integrity of its structures and
its life, are principles that are applicable to every human being.
One man, within the organic principles of his constitution and within the range
of the leading functional laws by which life is regulated, is the type of the
Special differences, which are really insignificant and largely pathological, are
subservient to great uniformity. Diversities do not in any way affect the great
constituents, which belong to all.
Essentially, in all of the elements of physical excellence and mental and moral
character, all men are alike.
In relating his life to the sources of life that abound in nature, so that through
them he can gain additional strength, man behaves, not in the light of
differences, but in the light of the similarities and likenesses between
Life is sustained in the body with respect to those points wherein the
individual man agrees with every other.
The laws of nature, so far as they relate to life, are the same in all human
beings, and this becomes a not merely general fact upon which, under general
circumstances, one may rely--but a uniform, yes, a universal fact, so that what
will keep one man alive will keep another man alive and what kills or tends to
kill one man will kill or tend to kill another.
If it were true that one man's food were another man's poison, what would
become of our social eating? We would continually be looking for poison. It
would not help us to know that others had eaten a certain food with impunity
or with benefit, for what is food for them might be poison to us.
Again, how would we judge for others? In preparing a menu for others, whose
needs are not known to us, how would we avoid poisoning them? Would we
require of each invited guest that, in accepting our invitation, he (or she)
supply us with the list of foods that he cannot eat and another list of foods that
he can eat?
How could dietaries be constructed for schools, hospitals, prisons, asylums,
etc., if the old adage is true?
How would restaurants and hotels prepare their menus? But, as a matter of
fact, do we not more or less observe a uniform mode of eating by the general
If the old adage were true, how would farmers know what foods to raise; how
would market men know what to purchase for public use? Is it not obvious
that if the adage expressed a real truth, commerce and industry would be in a
state of confusion? Even mothers would not know until after the baby had
been nursed at the breast whether their milk would be food or poison for their
Are we giving too much strength to the old saw? If so, where does its force
end, if it has any?
If we understand it as an expression of a confused state into which mankind
has brought itself by its habits, there would be some bitter sarcasm in it; but
the fact is that it is never consistently nor intelligently used in this way. It is
merely employed as a weapon for the caviler who has no other answer to give
when he is urged to consider the importance of wholesome dietary habits.
By: Herbert M. Shelton
Excerpted From: Man's Pristine Way Of Life 1968
Article: One Man's Meat
Complete Book Free Online: Man's Pristine Way Of Life