Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Category: Food

  • Fugu—Japanese delicacy or death?

    In Japan, fugu has been a “captain of these men of death” for generations, causing an exitus that is “rapid and violent.” There is at first numbness around the mouth, then paralysis, and, as with curare, consciousness persists until the very end. The poison interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles by…

  • Onions: Soup, medicine, and crocodile tears

    What should well-educated persons be expected to know about onions? They have probably eaten them since childhood, or perhaps had to help their mothers in the kitchen and shed crocodile tears even though they did not feel particularly sad. If chemically inclined they might have wondered what ingredient was responsible for their tears. They may…

  • Pigs as food and victims

    The domestic pig descends from the wild boar. Domesticated around 7000 BC in the Near East and East Asia, it currently accounts for over 36% of the world’s meat intake. Each year in the United States alone, the average person consumes about fifty pounds of pork as bacon, ham, sausages, pork chops, ribs, and other…

  • Caviar: The black gold of the Black Sea

    Caviar, goose liver, and truffle are the three top delicacies consumed in the world. Caviar is probably the most delicious. It is made from the unfertilized eggs of the sturgeon, of which there are twenty-eight fish species belonging to the family Acipenseridae, and is often valued at $1,000 or more per ounce. The sturgeons’ reproduction…

  • Milk adulteration

    Catherine TangPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States Global milk consumption has steadily increased over the past few decades, reaching an estimated 908 billion liters in 2021.1 Rich in protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, milk is considered an “ideal food” for its abundant nutrients required by both children and adults. However, milk is also one of the…

  • Liver, lime, and vitamins

    The history of vitamins traces back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who observed that certain foods were important in maintaining health. These observations were later supplemented by clinical studies. Among these studies were those of the Russian physician Nikolai Lunin. As a student in Basel in 1881, he fed groups of mice with…

  • Dr. William Hall and rickets

    JMS PearceHull, England Today, few Western doctors have seen children suffering from rickets, an extremely common crippling scourge of children recorded since the second century AD. Whistler, Boot, and Glisson in the seventeenth century described the clinical features. Its cause was a mystery. In a letter written around 1664, Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) describing rooks/crows,…

  • Dr. Davis discovers desirable dietary decisions

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “[Clara Davis did] one of the most fundamental and far-reaching pieces of work that has been done in my time.”1– Dr. Joseph Brennemann (1872–1944), chief of pediatrics, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago Clara M. Davis (1878–1959) received her M.D. degree in 1901. While practicing pediatrics in Chicago, Illinois in the 1920s, she thought…

  • Restaurants high and low

    In Antiquity and the Middle Ages Restaurants, like facilities caring for the sick, have existed in one form or another since the dawn of history. In ancient Greece and Rome, the common people in Rome bought their food from small “thermopolia” or from “popinas”, some of which like our pubs or wine bars provided only…

  • Saving the starving Soviets with Spam

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Without Spam, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army. We had lost our most fertile lands.”1– Nikita Khrushchev In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the USSR. The “breadbasket” agricultural regions of Southern Russia and the Ukraine were quickly occupied, causing a food crisis for the USSR. Russian soldiers’ food rations consisted…