During the Civil War, Dr. James H. Salisbury, a Union Army surgeon, believed that diarrhea and dysentery were the most prevalent ailments, caused by the soldiers’ diet.
He thought that certain foods could cure certain illnesses and believed that humans were meant to chew lean meats and that vegetables, particularly starches like potatoes, would ferment in the stomach, creating toxins that affect other parts of the body. He created what he believed to be the optimal dish to cure the soldiers, chopped-up beef patties broiled and accompanied by black coffee or hot water. This dish became what might be the first food fad in America and lasted for at least 20 years, known as the Salisbury steak. Salisbury’s faddish steak was the same patty of chopped beef, but instead of being seasoned with thoughts and prayers, it instead got a flavor boost from salt, pepper, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and gravy. Salisbury steak’s star faded as a fad, but it has remained on American menus and kitchen tables ever since.