January 3, 2012

Perhaps you'd like to try the diet of the first celebrity dieter.

It's the Lord Byron diet:
... a thin slice of bread and a cup of tea for breakfast and a light vegetable dinner with a bottle or two of seltzer water tinged with Vin de Grave.
Other 19th century dieters:
Nietzsche tried a traditional restricted calorie diet and [Henry] James went in for Fletcherism, an elaborate system of chewing each morsel of food several hundred times.
Fletcherism, eh? Horace Fletcher, "The Great Masticator" said we should only eat when "Good and Hungry" and never while angry or sad.

Seeing — at the linked Wikipedia article — that Mark Twain visited Fletcher, I decided to find some searchable text and happened upon this collection of 300+ Mark Twain works in the Kindle format for $1.99. I was hoping to find something about Fletcher. I didn't. But that's a side issue. I'm absolutely delighted to have a single searchable text of 300+ Mark Twain works. For 2 dollars. What a world we live in! What would Mark Twain have thought of it? Anyway, nothing about Fletcher, but what about chewing? Any morbid fascination with chewing? There's this dialogue:
"Do you love rats?"

"I hate them!"

"Well, I do, too--LIVE ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your head with a string."

"No, I don't care for rats much, anyway. What I like is chewing-gum."

"Oh, I should say so! I wish I had some now."

"Do you? I've got some. I'll let you chew it awhile, but you must give it back to me."

That was agreeable, so they chewed it turn about, and dangled their legs against the bench in excess of contentment.
ADDED: The 1919 NYT obituary for Fletcher:
The theory is, in brief, that everybody eats too much and that the cure is to be found in thorough mastication of food....

During [WWI] Dr. Fletcher... was given the full opportunity... to demonstrate the worth of "Fletcherism" though which he taught the 8,000,000 starving Belgians to get the full nourishment from their food. Early in 1912 he had himself subsisted on a diet of potatoes for fifty-eight days.
AND: There's also the first scene in Tennessee Williams's "Glass Menagerie," where our first glimpse of Tom's problems with his mother play out in the context of her admonitions about chewing:
AMANDA [to her son]: Honey, don't push with your fingers. If you have to push with something, the thing to push with is a crust of bread. And chew! Chew! Animals have sections in their stomachs which enable them to digest flood without mastication, but human beings are supposed to chew their food before they swallow it down. Eat food leisurely, son, and really enjoy it. A well-cooked meal has lots of delicate flavours that have to be held in the mouth for appreciation. So chew your food and give your salivary glands a chance to function !

[TOM deliberately lays his imaginary fork down and his chair back from the table.]

TOM: I haven't enjoyed one bite of this dinner because of your constant directions on how to eat it. It's you that makes me rush through meals with your hawk-like attention to every bite I take. Sickening - spoils my appetite - all this discussion of - animals' secretion - salivary glands - mastication!

AMANDA [lightly]: Temperament like a Metropolitan star! [He rises and crosses downstage.] You're not excused from the table.


Jose_K said...

It costs me 3,99. The free international whispernet cost 2 $. We have here a quota of4 00 $ a year so it is a big deal for us.

Henry said...

Locusts and honey.

Ann Althouse said...

Becky and Tom had to share one piece of chewing gum and I have all the riches of the internet. Strange!

edutcher said...

I thought the Lord Byron diet consisted of grazing on a multiplicity of nymphs.

Andrea said...

I wonder if my grandmother was a devotee of Fletcher. She was always telling me "chew at least 25 times."

ricpic said...

It's a symptom of how uptight we are that NO ONE of Twain's status would share gum nowadays -- the horror! the horror!

Hagar said...

My grandmother said we should chew our food once for each tooth in our heads.

Paddy O said...

My favorite Twain story about diet is At the Appetite Cure. It's sort of dealing with the opposite problem, though--the problem of fastidiousness.

Anonymous said...

What are my dietary plans for the New Year?

If you must know, I'm planning a not-so-strict combination of Socrates and Atkins: eating only when I am very hungry, and severely restricting carbohydrates.

Anonymous said...

If Twain were alive, he would be lobbying furiously for copyright protection for his work and would be horrified that you were able to buy his collected works for $2 (none of which went to him).

Craig said...

Thought hock and soda water was Byron's diet. Hock can refer to wine or to pig's knuckles, which are used to flavor soups i.e. ham hocks and mustard greens aka soul food.

Craig said...

Pig's knuckles are incredibly cheap as there's no meat on them and they can be stored indefinitely. Poets hiding out in drafty Swiss castles could stock up on them when they got an advance for their next poem and use them to flavor whatever weeds were growing in the yard.

Anonymous said...

What would Mark Twain have thought of it?

Mark Twain would probably still be trying to sell hard copy books by subscription door-to-door prior to publication.

Expat(ish) said...

You know that Twain spent a LOT of money on printing technology?

He'd think e-publishing the best thing every.


Anonymous said...

Pigs knuckles! Boy, I haven't thought about pigs knuckles for years. I used to love pickled pigs knuckes as a child. I don't really know when my mother stopped buying them. I am of the type that loves gnawing on bones, though.

Anonymous said...

You know that Twain spent a LOT of money on printing technology?

Small correction: He THOUGHT he was spending a lot of money on printing technology. What he was doing was funding a huckster's long term "research."

Craig said...

If you read Byron's correspondence it's mostly letters to patrons demanding cash to ransom not yet written poems.

Patrick said...

"All the riches of the internet."

Yeah, that is pretty cool. I do fine, but I'm not particularly well off. But it constantly amazes me how much access I have to nearly everything via the internet. Reason magazine did a short video on value, and asked lots of people if they would forgo access to the internet for their lifetime in exchange for a million bucks. For most, it wasn't even a close question.

William said...

It's that time of the year when the mind turns to thoughts of diets and dieting. I have a modified Adkins plan. Blueberries and yogurt for breakfast and BBQ for all other meals. I'm allowing myself to be the guinea pig here. I think this diet will promote health, fitness, and longevity but more research needs to be done.

Expat(ish) said...

@ rocketeer67 - Well, he did get taken, but he also was an active tinkerer and invested in a lot of the high-tech (for the day) hot-type systems, etc.

Twain was a bit of a futurist - he was a railroad investor, steel, etc.

He reminds me a lot of Jack London in his style of living/spending.


knox said...

"The Glass Menagerie." Phew, yet another in a long line of EXTREMELY depressing plays one is made to read as an English major. Or, at least, I was. Gimme the gory Greek tragedies over that claptrap any day.

Ann Althouse said...

""The Glass Menagerie." Phew, yet another in a long line of EXTREMELY depressing plays one is made to read as an English major. Or, at least, I was. Gimme the gory Greek tragedies over that claptrap any day."

May I recommend Lord Byron's "Don Juan"? Here's the part with the word — the key word of the day — "chewing":

The sailors ate him, all save three or four,
Who were not quite so fond of animal food;
To these was added Juan, who, before
Refusing his own spaniel, hardly could
Feel now his appetite increased much more;
'T was not to be expected that he should,
Even in extremity of their disaster,
Dine with them on his pastor and his master....

Of poor Pedrillo something still remain'd,
But was used sparingly,—some were afraid,
And others still their appetites constrain'd,
Or but at times a little supper made;
All except Juan, who throughout abstain'd,
Chewing a piece of bamboo and some lead:
At length they caught two boobies and a noddy,
And then they left off eating the dead body.

Ann Althouse said...

"two boobies and a noddy" = 3 birds.

Anonymous said...

@Expat(ish), I know, I was (mostly) kidding. Such an interesting character. You are right, of course, but he was a hidebound conservative particularly in some business respects, and it cost him dearly.

Still, when they invent a time machine, near the top of my list will be hanging out with Twain and Tesla in the latter's lab.

Palladian said...

The first celebrity dieter was actually (... OK, perhaps apocryphally) William "The Conquerer" who, by the year 1087, grew so very fat that he could no longer mount his horse. He decided to lose weight by consuming nothing but alcohol and lying in bed.

Whether or not his diet worked is disputed; he died by falling off his horse, which could mean either that the diet was so effective that he lost enough weight to allow him to ride again, or that the diet failed and his poor horse buckled under his immense bulk.

Whichever is true, he was, in fact, buried in a very large coffin.

Palladian said...

Still, when they invent a time machine, near the top of my list will be hanging out with Twain and Tesla in the latter's lab.

Funny that you should mention Tesla in a dieting thread; Tesla had an intense revulsion of fat people. He discriminated against fat people when hiring for any position, and couldn't even stand to be on the same room with one.

Anonymous said...

Funny that you should mention Tesla in a dieting thread; Tesla had an intense revulsion of fat people.

I'd put that way below falling in love with a pigeon on his list of weird characteristics.

MadisonMan said...

"Oh no! The companion was banting. You never eat something like trifle when you are banting."

From my favorite collection of short stories.

wv: andskim (!)

crosspatch said...

Here's my diet:

Load your plate up according to how hungry you feel you are. Eat 1/2 of each portion of each item. Go read for 10 minutes. Come back and pick at the rest.

Chances are that if you wolf it, you will get it all down. If you stop a portion of the way through, wait 10 to 15 minutes, you will no longer feel hungry.

Another option is to eat one serving of one item (the protein), wait 5 minute. Then eat the veggie, wait 5 minutes, then go far the starch last. Wait 5 more minutes for the dessert.