Salisbury Steak: Civil War Health Craze

I can picture it now: two oblong ground beef patties taking a gravy bath, neatly sequestered in their aluminum compartment to prevent the sauce from bleeding onto the tater tots, pea-and-carrot medley or, most importantly, the apple dessert. A meal for a Hungry Man—or a child of the 1970s with an unsophisticated palate. (I considered TV dinners a treat when I was a kid, especially the ones with built-in dessert.)

The phrase “Salisbury steak” no longer sets off my salivary glands—quite the opposite—but it’s a lot more appetizing than how Dr. James Henry Salisbury described the dish before it was named after him: “muscle pulp of beef.”

And that may be the least nauseating bit in his scatalogically dense 1888 book, The Relation of Alimentation and Disease. Dr. Salisbury, like many people before and since, believed that food was the key to health and that certain foods could cure illness, especially of the intestinal variety. He tested his theories during the Civil War, treating chronic diarrhea among Union soldiers with a diet of chopped-up meat and little else. After 30 years of research he finally published his ideas, setting off one of the earliest American fad diets.

“Healthy alimentation, …

Read more at Southern Partisan Online
(The opinions in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Southern Nation News or SN.O.)

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