. . . with myself.
Me: Hey! You here? You’ve been quiet lately. Myself: Yep, I’m here. Just buried in reading, research, writing for the new book. Me: Whatcha working on right now? Myself: Reading up on Americans’ ideas about food and nutrition, and their on-going debate about food, food sources, and food manufacturing in the 1890s. Me: 1890s? Is that The Jungle stuff?
Myself: No, this is earlier than that. The Jungle was the end of a long era of discussion, not the beginning. I think because so many generations of high school students have been forced to read it, its actual role in the history of American food is misunderstood.
Me: Oh. That makes sense. Well, this other stuff you’re reading: Is it interesting? Find anything good?
Myself: Sure! Tons of stuff. Too much, in fact.
Me: For example??
Myself: Well, today I was reading about food “fads,” for lack of a better word, and came across this hilarious (to me) quote about the rationale for low-calorie diets and fasting. (This was c. 1902-1910.):
Since it . . . appears that the less we eat, the more energy we have . . . it should be our logical conclusion . . . that, were we to eat nothing at all, we should have very much more energy than usual — since none of it would be used for digestion, and we should be able to use it all for the daily activities. (*1)
Me: Huh? Was this guy nuts?
Myself: Not really. Just, well, fanatical about his pet project. You know: like joggers who think everyone should run five miles a day or people who go ballistic if someone eats hamburgers, or the people who think EVERYONE should drink only craft beer. By the way, not everyone was convinced that fasting and low-calorie diets were a good idea. One man had his assistant try it, and it made the poor guy
Flighty, fidgety, jerky and contumacious . . . weepy, irritable . . . [and] as unreliable as the dope-fiend. (*2)
Me. Um. Interesting. I guess some things never change, huh?
Myself: Yup. That about sums it up. Me: Plus, you sure better not try that kind of diet. You know how cranky you get when you’re hungry and your blood sugar drops.
Myself: Heh heh. You got that right. I’d never make it on Survivor.
Me: Well, glad you stopped by. I was beginning to think you fell off a cliff or something.
Myself: Nope. Just working on this new book. Okay, gotta go. See you later!
*1: Hereward Carrington, Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition (New York, 1908), p. 114; quoted in L. Margaret Barnett, “‘Every Man His Own Physician’: Dietetic Fads, 1890-1914,” in The Science and Culture of Nutrition, 1840-1940, ed. Harmke Kamminga and Andrew Cunningham (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995): 169.
*2: Elbert Hubbard, “Fasting Fans,” in Selected Writings of Elbert Hubbard (New York, 1922), 9:315; quoted in ibid.