Tolstoy and Vegetarianism

Tolstoy noted the following in his “Confession”: “I have everything that is
typically understood to constitute wellbeing. But I suddenly realized that
I do not know why I need all of this and what is the point of my life.”
Leo Tolstoy loved to hunt since childhood, ever since his
father taught him to hunt. His favorite quarries were bear and fowl, and he
loved to go hunting with his borzoi dogs. However, his favorite dog was an
Irish Setter named Doru. Many of the count’s friends recalled that Tolstoy
was not just as a deft sportsman, but also a real, passionate Russian
hunter. D. Obolensky, son of the prince Dmitri Nikolaevich Odolensky, recalled, “He liked to show off and swagger about. We
coined a term for this: to jig about [dzhigitnut].”
Tolstoy mainly hunted hares, foxes, and wild boar in the region around
Tula. He pursued fowl less frequently. Needless to say, game was often
served at Leo Tolstoy’s family estate, Yasnaya Polyana.
It is worth noting that Ilya L’vovich, the son of Leo Tolstoy, wrote the
following about his father’s period of soul searching and burning of
idols: “He originally idealized family life. He had lovingly described the
master’s life in three novels and created a similar environment for
himself. However, he suddenly began to severely censure and stigmatize this
previously cherished ideal; he now called hunting ‘chasing dogs.'”
At 50 years of age, Leo Tolstoy gave up meat completely. Today, his type of vegetarianism would be called an “ovo-lacto-vegetarian” diet—that is, the writer only refused to eat animals because he thought that committing murder just so he could have cutlets for lunch was immoral. At the same time, he never stopped eating dairy products and eggs. Tolstoy was very fond of them in any form. Besides the usual soft-boiled eggs and fried eggs, at Yasnaya Polyana they prepared strange dishes (in the
modern view) like soup with omelette. A family recipe for omelettes from
Sofya Andreevna resembles cake more than anything else: “Two cups
[polushtof] of sour cream, 8 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Mix the egg
yolks with flour, add in sour cream, grate the peel from two lemons, beat
the egg whites and add a little sugar.”
Leo especially loved sweets. The Tolstoys’ table always contained dried
fruits, dates, nuts, cranberries in powdered sugar, chocolate logs, and the
legendary Yasnaya Polyana jam. Tolstoy’s passion for sweets dovetailed well
with his other passion that appeared with age: agriculture. At that time,
his estate contained huge apple orchards that produced high yields. Tolstoy
was never able to achieve a completely austere diet. He loved to eat. He
always had a good appetite for food and could eat even more when he got carried away in
conversation during meals. Sofya Andreevna would worry
about his health: “Today at lunch, I watched in horror as he ate: first he
had some pickled mushrooms…then four big pieces of buckwheat toast with
soup, sour kvass, and black bread. And he had large portions of
everything.” Obviously, there are reasons why Sofya Andreeevna’s book
contains the following among her rules for living (which the mistress of
Yasnaya Polyana never deviated from) in addition to tips on cooking: “Drink
– but not to drunkenness, eat – but not to excess.”

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