Environmental activists have offered Pope Francis a donation of $1 million to the charity of his choice if he goes vegan for Lent, in a move to undo “the damage caused to people and the planet by animal agriculture.”
Pope Francis may abstain from meat during Lent as a matter of course. In any case, it seems likely that the Holy Father will refused to be “cowed” by the group, Million Dollar Vegans, demands. There are signs, though, if posts on Twitter are any indication, that giving up meat might be the cool Catholic thing to do this Lent. Not, presumably, because of meat’s possible effect on global warming (although that is certainly possible), but because meat is so good, and giving it up for 40 days would be a real sacrifice appropriate for the penitential period preceding Easter.
For those considering hopping on the “no red meat” bandwagon, here’s a look at how Medieval Christians went without meat for Lent and other abstinence days during the year.
Their rules were actually stricter — no animal products at all were allowed in those days. As intermittent vegans without access to tofu or Trader Joe’s, they had to resort to some pretty creative cookery.
Chefs created imitation bacon by using salmon with “fat” streaks consisting of white pike.
As fish, and even aquatic mammals, were allowed, dolphin came in handy as a substitute for meat.
As Atlas Obscura notes, a cookbook from a 15th-century Austrian nunnery, as translated by Melitta Adamson, offers the following bit of advice: “From a dolphin, you can make good dishes. You can make good roasts from it … one also makes sausages and good venison.”
Beaver tails, like dolphins, were considered part of an aquatic creature, and therefore a substitute for meat during Lent. An illustration in Livre des simples médecines, from around 1480, shows a beaver with an actual fish for a tail as an illustration of this concept.