Food Fads Have Always Been Ridiculous. Just Ask the Great Masticator.
Horace Fletcher preached the gospel of fanatically chewing food until it completely dissolved in the mouth. Even celebs like Upton Sinclair and Franz Kafka drank the Kool-Aid.
Illustration by Branche Coverdale | Edited by W. M. Akers
On December 27, 1907, Clara Webster hosted a dinner at her modest home on Highland Avenue in Dixon, Illinois. The 18-year-old was known throughout the town for her elaborate theme parties, but on that particular night, Webster would throw one of her oddest events yet: a munching party.
At the time, meticulous mastication was in vogue. On both sides of the Atlantic, fashionable crowds flocked to munching parties, where each mouthful of food was timed with a stopwatch to ensure proper digestion. After five minutes elapsed, the official chewing conductor rang a bell or gong, signaling that it was time to swallow.
These mastication marathons were often muted affairs.
“Munching parties,” observed the Detroit Free Press, “are much less vivacious than they were when eating and drinking went on rapidly.”
Guests sat elbow-to-elbow in concentrated silence, their heads bowed low over their plates, allowing their tongues to rest against the roo…
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