Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The inventor of germ theory, and of modern marketing

I was walking through Costco with a young relative who noticed the large shrimp that were available for sale. I took the opportunity to introduce the relative to the concept of oxymorons.

I don't know if Salisbury steak is technically an oxymoron, but some people are emphatically opposed to it. Fed Up With Lunch encountered the dish in April:

I don't know what else to say aside from that was no steak.

It intentionally wasn't. James Henry Salisbury (1823-1905) was ahead of his time:

As a young M.D. of only 26 years, he announced to the world what we now accept as "germ theory." He was fiercely criticized in Europe and America and it would be almost two decades before Pasteur, Huxley, and Tyndall finally recognized his theories and continued this important study.

Eventually, Salisbury began looking into the causes of disease, and reached some interesting conclusions:

He believed that vegetables and starchy foods could produce substances in the digestive system which poison and paralyze the tissues and can cause heart disease, tumors, mental illness and tuberculosis. He claimed our teeth are "meat teeth" and our digestive systems designed to digest lean meat, and that vegetables, fats, starches and fruit should only be 1/3 of our diet. Starch was digested slowly, so it would ferment in the stomach and produce vinegar, acid, alcohol and yeast, all of which were poisonous to our systems. His cure for this was his special diet....

The Dittrick Medical History Center records that his preferred diet was coffee and "lean chopped beefsteak." I don't know who actually named the meat "Salisbury steak," but the name has stuck.

It should be noted that the recipe has evolved over the years. Associated Content has the original recipe:

Dr. Salisbury's original "steak" recipe was very simple. He prescribed lean ground beef, pressed together, and broiled. He suggested it be served with butter (?) salt and pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and eaten three times a day (!!?).

Then again, Dr. Salisbury lived for over 80 years. Maybe it was the coffee.
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