Category Archives: Food & Drink

1861: Masturbators lick walls and eat pencils, says Dr Jackson

James C. Jackson (1811-95) was a New England journalist who in middle age abandoned writing to train as a doctor. He became a prolific writer and an advocate for vegetarian diets. In 1863 Jackson invented a coarse breakfast cereal called ‘granula’; a forerunner to granola, it was designed to replace red meat consumption and therefore reduce “animal lusts”. Like his fellow food reformers Sylvester Graham and John Harvey Kellogg, Jackson was obsessed with curtailing masturbation. In an 1861 book about sexual health and reproduction, Jackson advised parents and guardians to be ever vigilant for signs their offspring might be indulging in “furtive nocturnal activities”. He offered several tips for spotting the regular masturbator, including changes in behaviour, loss of memory, poor posture and an irregular walk:

“A masturbating girl who is past the age of puberty may be known by her gait… Their style of motion may be characterised as a wiggle rather than a walk… Were I a young man, I should always at the outset be suspicious [of a woman] if, when I saw her walk, she should exhibit this peculiar wiggle.”

One of the most visible signs of a masturbating teenager, according to Jackson, is unusual or bizarre eating habits. Self polluters are “exceedingly capricious in their appetites” and “not satisfied with any food unless it is richly seasoned or highly flavoured”. They can sometimes be found in the kitchen gulping down spoonfuls of spices like cloves, cinnamon and mace. Jackson also cited cases of masturbators who could not resist eating “lumps of salt”, licking “lime off the wall” or chewing up “slate pencils”.

Source: James C. Jackson, The Sexual Organism, 1861. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1652: Coffee prevents gout, scury and “miscarryings”




pasquarosee

In 1652 Pasqua Rosee, a London coffee house, published what is probably history’s first advertisement for coffee. According to the Rosee’s handbill, coffee is best-taken in the mid-afternoon. The user should also avoid food for an hour before and after. It should be drunk in half-pint servings, “as hot as can possibly be endured” without “fetching the skin off the mouth or raising any blisters”. Among the claims made about the medicinal qualities of coffee:

“It forecloses the orifice of the stomach.. it is very good to help digestion… it quickens the spirits and makes the heart lightsome. It is good against sore eyes… good against the headache… deflexion of rheumas… consumptions and cough of the lungs. It is excellent to prevent and cure the dropsy, gout, and scurvy… It is very good to prevent miscarryings in child-bearing women. It is a most excellent remedy against the spleen, hypochondriac winds or the like. It will prevent drowsiness and make one fit for business… for it will hinder sleep for three or four hours.

Source: Pasqua Rosee handbill, Cornhill, 1652. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1871: Parisian not keen on the taste of elephant




elephant
A replica of a menu that appeared during the 1870-71 siege of Paris

In September 1870 the Prussian army, led by future German emperor Wilhelm I, laid siege to Paris. The city was well defended so the Prussians decided to force a surrender by blockading and starving it. The Parisians remained resolute, however by early November the meat larders of Paris were almost empty. With no beef, pork or mutton available, Parisians began to consume what they quaintly referred to as “variety meats”. First to appear in butcher shops and on menus was horse meat, as the city’s pet horses, working horses and racehorses were butchered and sold off. Dogs, cats and rats were also gathered for human consumption. The flesh from an “ordinary dog” sold for four or five francs a pound but a “trained dog” could fetch almost twice that amount. A dressed or smoked rat sold for two or three francs while a whole cat could fetch as much as 12 francs. Vizetelly spoke favourably of cat meat, which:

“…when broiled and seasoned with pistachio nuts, olives, gherkins and pimentos… proved a very dainty dish.”

The supply of cats, dogs and rats also dwindled, prompting culinary attention to turn to the local zoo. During November and December, the menagerie in Paris’ Jardin des Plantes fielded hefty offers from wealthy locals, eventually selling off more than half its animals. The deers and ungulates were the first to go, followed by the zoo’s camels, kangaroos, wolves and zebra. All were slaughtered, butchered and sold for high prices as ‘exotic meats’. A few animals survived, including the zoo’s big cats, the hippopotamus and the primates, as recorded by Labouchere:

“All the animals in the Zoological Gardens have been killed except the monkeys. These are kept alive from a vague Darwinian notion that they are our relatives, or at least the relatives of some of the members of the government.”

Two less fortunate animals were the zoo’s male elephants, Castor and Pollux. Both animals were purchased for 27,000 francs by a Parisian grocer and dispatched with 33-millimetre bullets, before being carved up and sold at exorbitant prices. Only wealthier Parisians could afford a slice of pachyderm – but according to Labouchere, elephant meat was nothing to write home about:

“Yesterday I had a slice of Pollux for dinner. Pollux and his brother Castor are two elephants that have been killed. It was tough, coarse, and oily. I do not recommend that English families eat elephant, as long as they can get beef or mutton.”

In early January 1871 the Prussians started bombarding Paris with heavy artillery. After sustaining three weeks of artillery fire, the French surrendered on January 28th. The victorious Prussians then lifted their siege and sent truckloads of food into the starving city.



Source: Henry Vizetelly, Paris in Peril, 1882; Henri Labouchere, Diary of a Besieged Resident in Paris, 1871. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1909: Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy your possum




In November 1909, several American newspapers reported that President William H. Taft and family had enjoyed a gargantuan Thanksgiving feast at the White House. The Tafts reportedly enjoyed a huge Rhode Island turkey, a 50-pound mince pie and a 26-pound possum, straight from the Georgia woods. Little wonder that President Taft weighed in excess of 330 pounds while in office and, according to legend, couldn’t fit in the White House bath:

taft possum

Source: The Spokane Daily Chronicle, November 25th 1909. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1632: French omnivore has trouble with live mice




In 1632 two prominent German doctors, Sennert and Nesterus, learned of a man named Claudius, a noted glutton and omnivore. Nesterus travelled to Claudius’ village in Lorraine and attended one of his regular ‘performances’. According to Nesterus’ report to Sennert, Claudius swallowed and held down a variety of objects on demand, including:

“…chalk, coals, ashes… nasty objects, of gross excrements of animals and urine mixed with wine and ale, bones, hares’ feet [still] clothed with skin and flux; and chewed with his teeth pewter platters, leaden bullets and other metals, and afterward swallowed them down his gullet.”

According to others in the village Claudius once “ate a whole calf raw, with the skin and hair, in the space of a few days” and followed this by consuming “two tallow candles burning”. Claudius occasionally swallowed live animals, particularly fish – but he did so reluctantly following a nasty experience:

“[He] once swallowed down whole two live mice, which frisked up and down his stomach, often biting it, for a quarter of an hour.”

Several years later Nesterus made inquiries after Claudius, to find out if he was still alive and still eating all manner of things. The answer was yes to both, however, Claudius’ teeth were “now blunted, so he did it less frequently”.

Sources: Daniel Sennert, Hypnomnemata Phyiscae, 1636; Samuel Collins, A Systeme of Anatomy, 1685. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.