Eating healthily the Focus way



Focus Purpose announcement 001

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‘ . Continue reading

Professor Louisa Stanley—pioneer of healthy US diets

American nutrition guru 001Found in the fascinating El Mundo archive is this intriguing photo of Dr Louisa Stanley( 1883 – 1954), pioneer of practical home economics, shown standing in front of the Good Housekeeping home which was one of the twelve Homes of Tomorrow exhibited at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

At the time Stanley, as Bureau head of Home Economics, was the highest paid woman in the United States Department of Agriculture, where her brief was to improve the diets of ordinary Americans. Unlike the TV chefs of today, she came to the important issues of well-balanced diets and a healthy lifestyle, from the standpoint of a chemist. The nearest we have had to such a celebrity nutritionist was the seventies TV guru Dr Magnus Pyke—he of the waving arms and rapid fire delivery—but at the moment Jamie ‘The Naked Chef’ Oliver is doing something similarly serious to change our attitude towards dangerously fattening carbohydrates, notably sugar..

Back in 1930s America, sugar was not denounced as public enemy number one, and Stanley saw it as part of a well balanced diet. There is even a photo of her judging a pie competition. But she did champion the benefits of healthy home cooking based on sound nutrition. One of the issues she promoted was the canning of home-grown vegetables.The health benefits of soya beans was something else she supported. Much of her promotional work was mediated through radio broadcasts.

In the photo the lettering on the large cards displayed inside the four rooms of the Good Housekeeping Home is too small to read easily, but we can just make out a statement to the effect that a ‘well balanced diet’ is the key to safeguarding health. In another room the same family appear to be engaged in some communal activity (possibly listening to the radio), while behind them on the wall is that hardy perennial of the statistician, the pie chart, which though invented in 1801, wasn’t really used until 1858.

Louise Stanley went on to become a sort of national treasure in the United States. In 1940 she became the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate and in 1961 a building at her alma mater, the University of Missouri, was named after her. [R.M.Healey]

John Elliotson—friend of Dickens, champion of mesmerism and vegetarianism

Dr John Elliotson (1791 - 1868 ), though attacked in his own time for his unconventional practices, would have thrived today as a go-to TV doctor on all things to do with alternative medicine. He was conventional enough as a medical student, but then went on to study phrenology, and afterwards introduced his friend Dickens to mesmerism, on which he became an acknowledged expert. Thackeray dedicated Pendennis to him and based his character Dr Goodenough in his last novel, The Adventures of Philip, on Elliotson. He was a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Physicians and the Royal Society, and was one of the first doctors to advocate the use of the stethoscope. Wilkie Collins called him ‘one of the greatest English physiologists’.  He was also, though the biographical sources don’t mention it, a firm fan of vegetarianism, which in mid Victorian England was still frowned on. In this undated letter, which was found in a collection of autographed material, Elliotson recommends to an unknown correspondent that his brother continue with his non-meat diet:

'He need not take fish--milk & all sorts of vegetable productions, offer dishes without end. Tell him to read the account of the meeting of the Vegetarian Society in the Daily News of this morning. I know members who eat no meat (excluding fish also) & drink neither wine … & are in the finest health. I would not wish him to eat fish if it disquiets him –but tell them one thousand good dishes (are) made from milk & vegetable matter…Bread & milk, custards, use arrowroot, sago, tapioca pudding, sweet omelettes, fruits of all kinds, in all ways.'

Despite being censured by many members of the medical community—and in particular Thomas Wakley, editor of The Lancet-- for his interest in mesmerism Elliotson persisted in championing the subject and even edited a magazine, The Zoist, which promoted the topic. He also founded a mesmeric hospital. [RR]

A Shilling a Day on Food

Found--a cutting of an interesting article from the mid 1920s by Walter M. Gallichan, journalist, novelist and writer on health, sex education and fishing. Undated but probably from the Daily Mail (mention of Woodman Burbidge on the rear of the press-cutting puts in the 1920s when he was chairman of Harrods.) The purchasing power of a shilling (5p) then is about £2.50 now, still a fairly low sum for a day's food.

A Shilling's worth. Full day's Food - by Walter M. Gallichan.

A shilling spent with discrimination will purchase a substantial and savoury meal of non rationed foods. The foods that offer the highest nutritive and force-giving value are still fairly cheap. A shilling may be wasted upon food of an expensive kind containing only a minimum of nutriment. For example, a shilling's worth of jelly may be purchased under the delusion that gelatine is an excellent food, possessing considerable nutritive value. As a matter of fact, the calf's foot jelly commerce and the packet 'jelly squares', thought easily digested and pleasant to the palate, are practically worthless for repairing the waste of the body and giving energy.

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Healthy Clothes, Healthy Food

Found - in Benjamin Lust's Return to nature! The true natural method of healing and living and the true salvation of the soul (Naturopath, N.Y. 1904) this advertisement for healthy food and healthy clothes. It was reprinted in Children of the Sun (Nivaria Press, Ojai, 1998) with a cover from a Fidus illustration. Benedict Lust and his  fellow Naturopaths were advocates of healthy food (especially raw food) and healthy , porous 'reform' clothes, precursors to 'Aertex.'  The book advertised their health underwear as being 'made of the best Maco with Chinagrass ribs …the cheapest and most practical for adherents of the Just, Kneipp and other Natural Healing Methods. The Rippenkrepp Health-Underwear holds a great deal of air, offers the best protection for colds, does not lose its porosity, does not shrink in the wash, only the linen-threads come in contact with the skin, at the same time being much more durable than the real linen.' The full page advert reads:

for Jungborn Articles and Supplies. 

To meet the manifold wants and numerous desires of the public, I opened a "NATUROPATHIC HEALTH STORE" for "Jungborn Articles and Supplies.  I shall endeavor to attend promptly to the wishes of my customers, and ask for confidence and support at such enterprise. My principle is to sell only HIGH GRADE ARTICLES of finest quality and at reasonable terms. These articles are especially recommended for the new, true and natural method of living by ADOLF JUST, Ilsenburg at the Hartz Mts., Germany.

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River and Joaquin Phoenix – young vegans

Found - a vegan book from 1987 Pregnancy Children and the Vegan Diet by Michael Klaper ( Gentle World inc., Florida.) An interesting slightly out dated book but still of great interest because of the vegan children on the cover - the late teenage heart-throb River Phoenix, his sisters Liberty and Summer Phoenix, and his brother Leaf who changed his name to Joaquin Phoenix (same row, right) and is thankfully still with us.

The jolly gap toothed kid at bottom left is Ocean Robbins, son of John Robbins of the Baskin Robbins dynasty and author of the groundbreaking Diet for a new America. The story of the Phoenix family is told at River Phoenix's Wikipedia entry.

The parents were hippies of the 1970s, ex Children of God, who had become vegans at a commune in South America. When they finally got as far as Los Angeles top child star agent Iris Burton spotted River, Joaquin and their sisters Summer and Rain singing for spare change in Westwood, and was so charmed by the family that she soon represented the four siblings. At jot we are keen on recipes - here is one from this excellent work:


2 12 oz cakes of tofu
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon oil
2 small onions, diced
2 celery stalks diced
Half teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast

In a medium size bowl, mash the tofu add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate to keep cold. Delicious with salad or as a sandwich. Serves 4.

Vegetarian Instructions

From the Vegetarian Handbook (London 1970). The last 8 pages consist of instructions to show to your hosts in hotels and restaurants so that they understand your diet requirements. The style of non meat food is possibly now slightly dated (nut rissoles, vol-au-vents) and even a little joyless, but the leaflet makes pretty sure that the food provider gets the picture. Serious Veggies could well use it, or modify it...We have added the Spanish version and tried to OCR (read digitally) the Esperanto - but it scrambled.


The following pages, in seven different languages, may be useful to visitors in hotels that do not normally cater for vegetarians. Translation has been kept as literal as possible so that the various items can easily be identified.

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