Annotations - Louisa May Alcott, "Transcendental Wild Oats" (1873)

sugar, molasses

Sugar and molasses (a by-product of sugar refinement) were refused because they were produced by slave labor. Historically, cane sugar was filtered and decolorized using char made from animal bones, rendering refined sugar an animal product. In her journal, Sunday 22 January 1843, Abigail Alcott describes “a simple dinner which Mr. Alcott had neatly prepared in the morning: an oatmeal pudding, apples, bread, and nuts” (151). In “Transcendental Wild Oats,” in a passage following the present excerpt, the provisions in Sister Lamb's kitchen are listed: “cakes of maple sugar, dried peas and beans, barley and hominy, meal of all sorts, potatoes, and dried fruit. No milk, butter, cheese, tea, or meat appeared. Even salt was considered a useless luxury and spice entirely forbidden by these loves [sic] of Spartan simplicity. A ten years' experience of vegetarian vagaries had been good training … Unleavened bread, porridge, and water for breakfast; bread, vegetables, and water for dinner; bread, fruit, and water for supper was the bill of fare ordained by the elders. No teapot profaned that sacred stove; no gory steak cried aloud for vengeance from her chaste gridiron; and only a brave woman's taste, time, and temper were sacrificed on that domestic altar.” (1560)