NPR

What Did Thoreau Really Eat? You Might Be Surprised

There's no shortage of dietary lore about naturalist and Walden author Henry David Thoreau, so as his bicentennial birthday bash arrives, we wish to debunk these myths deliberately.
Did Thoreau steal pies off neighbors' windowsills? The myth persists. Source: Lisa Romerein/Getty Images

There's no shortage of myths about Henry David Thoreau, even in this American literary superhero's hometown of Concord, Mass. In fact, my informal poll of locals reveals that it's the rare person who knows what the 19th-century naturalist grew at Walden Pond, let alone how he survived.

Apparently, even as the town celebrates Thoreau's bicentennial birthday bash, the truth about his diet is as elusive as any celebrity's.

To get the real skinny on Thoreau's eating habits, I did a little research. Then, after a quick tour of Wikipedia and CliffsNotes, I consulted biographers past and present, visited the family farm and immersed myself in Walden – Thoreau's first-hand account of his two-year staycation in Concord's exurban wilderness.

What I learned about the proto-ecologist's plant-based

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