Thursday, January 30, 2020

Hans Holzer was stalking ghosts and wild asparagus*

Hans Holzer (1920-2009) was a prolific author of more than 100 books. Most of them were about spooks and hauntings, but he had a wide range of interests (or at least a wide range of book deals), dabbling in such subjects as thought projection, paganism, psychic healing and alchemy.1

So it's not surprising that some books slip through the cracks when compiling his bibliography. One such book is the 1973 Pyramid paperback The Vegetarian Way of Life, which was so obscure that I had to go in today and add it to his Wikipedia page.

Folks wanted ghosts, witches and out-of-body experiences in their Holzer books, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he didn't really hit it big with one about celery and legumes.

I can't find any reviews of the book, so I thought that, for posterity, I'd share some of its passages here. Holzer might have been known for the supernatural, but it's super-cool that he was somewhat ahead of his time as someone who avoided eating meat. Some of this is extremely trippy, while other passages are a snapshot of being a vegetarian in the early 1970s.

  • "So the first reason for writing this book was to fill a void with a basic book on vegetarian philosophy, and on the implications being vegetarian has in other departments of life."
  • "For those who wish to complete their liberation from orthodox life by adding a nutritional aspect to their acquired wisdom, and to those who are not even ESP fans or students of the occult but nevertheless have questions about their own diet, a book such as this may be welcome indeed."
  • "Every piece of food, every liquid represents an idea as well as a chemical compound."
  • "I myself am a Lactarian: I eat cheeses and milk products but I do not eat eggs or egg products. Those who are Lactarians like myself find that their diet is well-balanced and generally there is enough of a variety of foods available to them so that no problem of nutrition exists."
  • "There are people who consider themselves vegetarians when in fact they are not. I am referring here to those who eat fish but not meat or poultry or those who eat meat only once a week perhaps or only when they are in company to avoid standing out. That kind of vegetarian is laughable; a diet which permits one to go off it whenever one so decides is not a diet at all but an indulgence."2
  • "Although I lecture before young audiences most of the time, I have found no connection between the drug culture and an interest in vegetarianism. I have, however, found that those who are interested in ESP, the occult, astrology or witchcraft frequently evince an equal interest in vegetarianism. If anything, the peace-loving, establishment-doubting element among the young finds that a vegetarian way of life fits them best."
  • "So for the following years I lived on a diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts and some eggs and sausage. By the time I was 14, I realized that sausage was a form of meat and abruptly stopped it. Only eggs remained part of my diet from moment on. It wasn't until I lived in New York City in the middle fifties, that I stopped eating eggs altogether."
  • "No one needs to defend his vegetarianism. On the few occasions where people questioned my judgment in this matter, wondering why on earth I would want to be a vegetarian, I have rather sharply, even if politely, reminded them that being a meat eater was merely a different point of view."
  • "The idea that animals were suffering always haunted me. During the cold winter months I established a regular route in a nearby park, nailing old cigar boxes to trees, and filled them with various sorts of bird food."
  • "No true vegetarian will agree to the transplant of organs in surgery. Vegetarians are fully aware of the implications such alien substitutions will have in their systems. ... Of course, fanaticism is not called for here either: certainly the graft of skin from a non-vegetarian to vegetarian cannot be objected to, nor a blood transfusion between vegetarians and meat eaters."3
  • "Those who find themselves suddenly deprived of all energies, perhaps even dizzy and light headed, due to overstrain or emotional stress, may find a glass of freshly pressed orange juice to be helpful."
  • "In the large cities of America tap water is rarely used by vegetarians. Anyone who can afford it, uses bottled water from one of the mountain springs."4
  • "Even when a vegetarian plays, he has more zest, more of a sense of humor than his frequently dyspeptic colleague. ... There is a certain degree of adventuresomeness in vegetarians, a degree of nonconformity, which may include a freer attitude toward sex."
  • "A vegetarian way of life is therefore an answer to most of the problems besetting us today."

Footnotes
* Mom used to say that Euell Gibbons' Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962) was one of her favorite food books.
1. I was going to add "and even Kurt Cobain" but, after a little further digging, I think that's false. There's a 2000 book called Who Killed Kurt Cobain? by Ian Halperin and Max Wallace. Somewhere along the way, in some database, authorship of the book was incorrectly attributed to Hans Holzer. And then that initial error was copied elsewhere, compounding the accuracy problem. I am here to say that Hans Holzer had nothing to do with the Cobain book. Holzer did, however, write some books about Elvis Presley.
2. Holzer was writing decades before the rise of such ideas as flexitarians, reducetarians, climatarians, vegavores and the like. And of course there are pescetarians, which would describe me for the past 6½ years. More specifically, I'm a lacto-ovo-pescatarian, but dairy is increasingly unkind to my stomach these days. I am certainly happy to be living in the Golden Age of vegetarian options. I've had more than my share of Impossible Whoppers since they were introduced last summer.
3. As I scanned Holzer's chapter on vegetarians and medicine, I was braced for him to state something cringeworthy about vegetarians rejecting the idea of vaccinations. However, he skipped over that topic.
4. Sigh. That has led to a much bigger societal problem. The Great Pacific garbage patch is more terrifying than any funky Dixieland phantom Holzer ever wrote about.

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