If your holiday festivities were anything like mine, they were filled with delicious meals and celebratory drinks, quickly followed by a painfully tight belt buckle and a fervent promise to eat better next year. But before we resolve in 2019 to say goodbye to snacks, sweets and other indulgences, the early 20th century press has a reason for us—and our taste buds—to celebrate in the new year.
According to some newspaper clippings, many of the foods we think of as unhealthy today were at one time considered nutritious. . . at least according to the companies advertising them. So, whether you’re on a treadmill or curled up on your couch, snacking on celery or popping open a bag of chips, have a helping of early 1900s wisdom. After all, aren’t we supposed to learn from the past?
I have some good news for the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member and others who enjoy a cold beer on a hot (or chilly) day: Your favorite drink is, in fact, a “health-giving food” that provides “nourishment in an agreeable form.” In addition to giving lightweights like me a pleasant buzz, the “liquid bread” produced by the Jacob Ruppert Brewery was purported to “aid in the digestion of starchy food” and was “often prescribed by physicians with good results.”
Likewise, Becker’s Beer called itself “a true health food” and was said to be a “body, nerve and brain builder.” Cheers to that.
If it’s your family’s tradition to fry a turkey or anything else during the holidays, there’s no need to worry about raising your cholesterol or clogging your arteries—just make sure you use Crisco.
Dessert has always been my favorite part of any meal, so imagine my delight at learning I can cut out the middle man and have ice cream for lunch. According to an Imperial Ice Cream Co. advertisement, “hurried eating” is “ruining American health.” Because ice cream is easily digested and can be served quickly, it makes for an ideal midday meal, as it allows even those with short lunch breaks plenty of time to eat and fit in a walk before punching back in at work. I’m not sure how solid that logic is, so gobble it up before it melts.
Moreover, a few years earlier, the completely unbiased Dairy Products Publicity Bureau assured newspaper readers that “a dish of ice cream has a fuel value equal to seven large bananas or four whole cans of high quality tomatoes,” along with “essentials [for] growth and development.” I’ll take mine with a cherry on top, please.
Among my favorite (21st century) articles are the ones that tell me chocolate is good for me. Whether that’s true or not, it was apparently an opinion shared by Professor John C. Olsen, PhD, a chemist at the precursor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 1908, he seemed to suggest that chocolate creams and peanuts are part of—if not the entirety of—a well-balanced diet. Forget Dr. Oz, I want Dr. Olsen to be my new nutritionist.
For those of you with a toothache, fear not: It’s apparently just as healthy to drink chocolate as it is to eat it.
Hope the new year brings you food that is both healthy and delicious. . . at least by early 20th century standards. Bon appétit!
Disclaimer: The modern era is far from the first to grapple with rampant “fake news.” As I am neither a historian nor journalist, I make no claims about the accuracy or lack thereof of the above historical articles. I assert only that they make for a good story.
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