In an earlier Jot we looked at the June 1928 issue of Focus, a pocket monthly magazine, published in London, which was devoted to alternative medicine, healthy eating and what today we might call ‘New Age’ concerns. Little is known about this publication, apart from the fact that the publishers were the fringe medicine outfit C.W.Daniel. However, from the issue of December 1928 we now discover that although Focushad begun life just two years before, the publishers had decided to close it down and replace it, starting in January 1929, with a quarterly periodical to be called Purpose.
Readers of Focuswere left to imagine what the successor might turn out to be. All that was said was that the aims of the new magazine were to be the same as ever, that is to say, the promotion of ‘the ethics of mind and body’.
As for this final issue of Focus, it was the usual eclectic mixture of articles on philosophy, literary philosophy ( with H.G.Wells and Tolstoy examined), left-field speculations on medicine ( the common cold revisited) and metaphysics , and longest of all these, a fascinating item on healthy eating that focussed on daily menus. All this supplemented by a solid twenty pages of adverts for radical books, a directory of vegetarian boarding houses and ‘Nature Cure Establishments‘ .
Dishes designed for the three main meals of each day were offered, though these were specifically devised for various seasons of the year as well as for the nutritional needs of various groups in society, a perspective often missing from most of today’s alternative healthy eating regimes. Thus, while the winter breakfast suggested for a ‘business or professional man’ consisted of grapes, a tablespoon of shelled almonds a ripe banana, with cream washed down with a glass of milk, the working man was allotted a ‘ mush ‘ of whole wheat cereal boiled and served with cream, but without sugar, a dish of sweet prunes, all washed down with warmed milk or ‘ cereal coffee’. Is this wasn’t bad enough, the poor old professional man returning from a hard day in the City had to make do with a dinner composed of a ‘ salad of shredded cabbage, grated carrots and chopped ripe olives, baked sweet potatoes or white ones, boiled onions followed by pears or grapes, or other ‘bland fruit’. In contrast, the working man was treated to ‘ baked fish, game or meat, creamed carrots or baked potato, cauliflower, followed by a salad of celery, apple and cabbage with some raisins stirred in, and finally a dessert in the form of ‘ a cup of custard or jello ‘.
All this tends to suggest that the nutritionist devising these menus had it in for business or professional men. Perhaps he or she was diddled by a lawyer, misdiagnosed by a doctor, or lost out on a business deal. The ‘ medical ‘explanation offered by the nutritionist was that ‘no-one would maintain that an indoor sedentary worker should have as much of the energy and heat makers as the hard-working outdoor labourer ‘. But any nutritionist devising a menu today would challenge this assumption as simplistic. Teachers, hospital doctors, surveyors, architects, journalists, social workers, chartered engineers, salesmen and other professionals who either don’t spend all their time in offices, or who are constantly on the move in their place of work, cannot get by on a diet of salads, fruit and vegetables, which is why the Michael Mosley Lo-Calorie diet does not work for most people today.
It’s reassuring to know that faddy nutritionists were around as long ago as 1928 and that like many of those operating today were devising the same type of ill conceived and unpalatable diets. [R.M. Healey]