Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Category: Food

  • 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…

  • Escargot—Fine dining

    Escargot is the French word for edible land snails. It usually refers to the genus Helix (aspersa or pomatia), the members of which have been a delicacy enjoyed as food for many centuries. Their original ancestor evolved from a single cell organism almost a billion years ago. It was a marine organism until about 250…

  • Eating chicken

    The common chicken (Gallus domesticus) is a member of the Phasianidae family that also includes pheasants, partridges, quails, and turkeys. Its ancestor, the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) was domesticated in Southeast Asia and China before 7000 BC and was valued for its eggs and cockfighting prowess. This ancestor evolved in India around 2000 BC…

  • Cabbage, kraut, and sauerkraut

    Scurvy is an ancient disease mentioned in the writings of Hippocrates and Pliny.1 It became particularly prevalent in the early days of the long exploring voyages, the Age of Sail, when an estimated two million sailors are believed to have died from it, more fatalities at sea than all other diseases, battles, storms, disasters, and…

  • Milk in medicine

    The mammary glands are believed to have originated as glands in the skin of synapsids. These were the predecessors of mammals some 300 million years ago, and the function of their skin glands was to provide moisture for the eggs they were laying. When mammals came on to the scene, the function of the mammary…

  • Vegetarians, vegans, and compassionate eating

    Our ancestors, who lived swinging from limb to limb in the trees, ate nuts and berries and killed animals to eat them. With the development of agriculture and civilization, some people developed pangs of conscience and felt that animals also have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They became vegetarians…

  • Poison at the dinner table

    Putting poison in food has long been an expeditious way of disposing of one’s enemies. The many poisons traditionally available for this purpose include hemlock, aconitum, arsenic, cyanide, belladonna, and strychnine. Using food tasters to avoid such an undesired outcome was once a reasonably effective measure, as perhaps was King Mithridates’ approach of building tolerance…

  • Pica: Eating starch and clay

    The habit of eating non-nutritious or nonfood substances goes by the name of pica and strikes one as a rather peculiar phenomenon. It applies most commonly to people consuming starch or clay, but at different times and in different areas people have also eaten paper, dirt, soap, cloth, hair, ice, pebbles, charcoal, chalk, hair, or…