William Andrus Alcott was a hater. A pioneer of vegetarianism and veganism in the United States, Alcott adjudicated the virtues and evils of all manner of edibles in his 1838 treatise, The Young Housekeeper; Or, Thoughts On Food And Cookery. A great many foodstuffs didn’t live up to his exacting standards, which made no actual sense.
He was a big fan of unleavened bread ("the best bread in the world") but was repulsed by breads leavened by yeast ("a foreign and partially decayed substance"). He thought Indian corn was "one of the most wholesome articles for human sustenance," but a dumpling made from that same Indian corn was "a very inferior kind of food, except for domestic animals." Onions, he felt, were useless, and in the case of fried onions, "exceedingly indigestible and unwholesome; and to any but a perverted taste, highly offensive and disgusting." He disliked cabbage ("far inferior to the potatoe") and detested lettuce ("worse than cabbage").
Even more curious was his opinion of one of the modern era's more ubiquitous and indispensable foodstuffs: tomatoes. Despite his admitted unfamiliarity with the plant, Alcott warned his readers away from the injurious, maybe even toxic, fleshy red fruits:
Of the tomato or love apple, I know very little. It is chiefly employed as a sauce or condiment. No one, it is believed, regards it as very nutritious; and it belongs, like the mushroom and the potatoe, to a family of plants, some of the individuals of which are extremely poisonous. Some persons are even injured, more or less, by the acid of the tomato. Dr. Dunglison says it is wholesome and valuable; but a very slight acquaintance leads me to a different opinion.
Viewed through the lens of hindsight, this is crazy. It would be easy to chalk up Alcott's verdict on tomatoes to his general eccentricity, but there’s more to this than simple lunatic ignorance. His leery eye toward the "love apple" actually reflected a long-held global suspicion of the dangerous, venomous, altogether untrustworthy tomato.