Rynn BerryThough born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Rynn Berry grew up in Coconut Grove, Florida and was educated at boarding schools. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia, where he studied Literature, Archaeology, and Classics. While a graduate student at Columbia, he took courses in the history of gastronomy with Dr. Lorna Sass, author of Dinner with Tom Jones, et al. Widely traveled, he has lived in France, England, Italy, and India. Although he has had vegetarian tendencies from childhood, he has been a strict vegetarian since his teens. Feeling that it was essential to learn how to cook for himself in view of the exigencies of his diet, he studied privately with the noted Indian gourmet, Vithaldas Parek. Under his tutelage, Berry learned to make a range of vegetariann pulaos and curries. He had also been tutored in special techniques by Chinese and Japanese cooking teachers. In the years since, Berry has become an accomplished cook in his own right.
Berry was first prompted to consider becoming a vegetarian during a literature course on the Romantic poets, when he learned that Percy Bysse Shelley was a deep-dyed vegetarian, and that even Lord Byron has flirted with it for a while. Later, when he found that such intellectual heroes of his as George Bernard Shaw, Malcolm Muggeridge, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Leonardo were also vegetarians, there was nothing for it but to give it a try. So far from feeling ill-nourished or deprived, he found that he flourished on the diet. His health and outlook, which had never been anything to write home about, improved markedly.
Since he turned vegetarian, Berry has also been an avid collector of vegetariana and vegetarian lore. He has also kept a sharp eye out for famous people who had become vegetarians. For as a fledgling vegetarian, it was reassuring to know that other people, particularly illustrious people, had been going through the same experience with no visible sign of deterioration.
Curiously enough, in the course of researching Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes, Berry found that a number of well-known people who had announced publicly that they were vegetarians subsequently relapsed into meat-eating. To obviate this sort of thing happening to the notables in Famous Vegetarians, Berry has been careful to select only those vegetarian notables whose vegetarianism is well-attested.
For his part, Berry has never once been tempted to backslide despite the pressure from peers, relatives, hostesses, and maitre d's, who have raised an eyebrow at his diet.
Through his writings and his personal example, Berry has made many happy vegetarian converts. He feels that so long as animals are being needlessly put to death to satisfy man's appetites, and so long as people are suffering in health because they are eating toxic food, there is no higher calling than that of the vegetarian advocate, however quixotic it may seem.
Berry's first book, The New Vegetarians, is a collection of interviews with famous vegetarians. It created a small sensation when it came out. It was the subject of an essay in Time magazine and was selected for recommended reading by Bon Appetit. It also inspired a feature article in the Wednesday food section of The New York Times and was praised by Library Journal as well as other journals througout the US.
Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes is in the nature of a sequel. Rynn Berry makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, and enjoys creative cooking (all recipes in FVTFR have been triple-tested), tennis, cycling, jogging, book-collecting, and concert-going. He is also something of an amateur classicist.
Having studied classical philosophy for several years in a post-graduate program in ancient studies at Columbia, Berry formed the habit of translating Greek and Latin authors for pleasure -- a hobby that stood him in good stead when it came to translating Leonardo da Vinci's recipes, which were written in Bartolomeo Plantina's medieval Latin. It also enabled him to translate the relevant passages in Apicus, Plutarch, Porphyry, and Pliny that are cited in Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes.