Fletcherise

My Grandfather was a life-long Fletcheriser.

Mealtimes with him took an hour of more, I’d never known the reason for his strange way of eating. Then suddenly, this, with thanks to World Wide Words, and my father who found it:

Fletcherise:

To chew thoroughly.

The word commemorates “The Great Masticator”, a title that these days might lead to hearers getting the giggles. He was Horace Fletcher, a food faddist of the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth. He advised people to chew each bite of their food 32 times, to eat small amounts, and only to eat when hungry and free from stress or anxiety. Hence this rhyme of the time:

Eat somewhat less but eat it more
Would you be hearty beyond fourscore.
Eat not at all in worried mood
Or suffer harm from best of food.
Don’t gobble your food but “Fletcherize”
Each morsel you eat, if you’d be wise.
Don’t cause your blood pressure e’er to rise
By prizing your menu by its size.

The heyday of Fletcherism was the early 1900s. Time Magazine wrote a retrospective on the craze in 1928, “For a time wealthy mothers counted their children’s jaw beats at the table while ragged micks in the streets threatened to ‘Fletcherize’ their little enemies.” A good example appeared in 1908 in Food Remedies by Florence Daniel: “But whatever is taken must be ‘Fletcherised,’ that is, chewed and chewed and chewed until it is all reduced to liquid.” The word for a while became frequent in writings of all sorts. P G Wodehouse used the term in The Adventures of Sally in 1922 to illustrate the serious nature of a dog fight: “The raffish mongrel was apparently endeavouring to fletcherize a complete stranger of the Sealyham family.”

Fletcherism was taken seriously by many people and had some distinguished adherents; it lasted until the 1930s. Unfortunately, eating meals took much longer than usual and there were complaints that it severely restricted the conversation at dinner parties.

Grandfather took this very seriously, and until his death diligently chewed every mouthful of food the required 32 times. He was never overweight either!

7 Comments

Never overweight eh? Maybe I should start counting my chewing….

Comment by river | October 28th, 2007 6:32 pm | Permalink

Awesome, thanks Wally! When I was rolling through a story in my heads this morning, I imagined one of my characters being a Fletcherizer. I imagine that this type of idiosyncrasy spills over into their other attributes too, like making the bed as soon as they wake up, brushing their teeth for at least five minutes, and having a really organised tool shed.

Comment by Davey | October 29th, 2007 8:02 pm | Permalink

My grandfather did not have a really organised tool shed. It was like Aladdins Cave. When he could not fit anything more into the shed, he just built another one.

Comment by Wally | October 30th, 2007 7:44 am | Permalink

I hate Fletcherists. I eat vey fast and, on occasion, I do actually chew my food a bit. SWMBO asks me if I am scared that someone’s going to steal my dinner – damn straight, my brother.

So eating with a masticator is a real trial.

Comment by Trundling Grunt | October 30th, 2007 10:34 am | Permalink

The fastest eater I ever met was a fellow National Serviceman [who I also went to high school with] over 50 years ago.
It was truly awe inspiring to see him go through a three course meal and then most of a loaf of sliced white bread and a tin of jam while the rest of us at the table were just finishing soup. Then there a small belch; and a standard saying; “Well if that’s lunch/dinner etc. I have had had it” and off he would go with his plates etc to the leave them at the servery to be washed by the unfortunates on mess duty.
The rest of us sitting at the same table were a little put out by this as that meant no bread and tinned jam for the rest of us and we were hungry growing lads.
So next meal with him, as soon as we sat down, it was case of dividing up the bread and stacking it on our plates until we had fletcherised our way through the meal.
He never really seemed to understand what was happening though and after we finished ‘nasho’, I never saw him again.
I have often wondered what meal-times were like at his family home as there two brothers. Perhaps it was survival of the fastest??

Comment by Dad | November 4th, 2007 3:04 pm | Permalink

My grandfather was the same. It would take an eternity for him to eat a meal, and it was the continual source of jokes.

He also was skinny his whole life.

Comment by Darren | November 5th, 2007 10:54 am | Permalink

I have been on the Fletcherism diet for a little over 3 months and have lost 37 pounds. I chew eat bite 32 times and eat Lunch and supper only and have a mid afternoon snack about 3 pm. And another one at 8:30 at night. Be sure to chew eat bite at least 32 times. You will eat about 20-30 minutes and feel totally full and are eating a lot less calories by eating less food and you feel totally satisfied. Read Horace Fletcher’s book in Google books called How I Became Young at Sixty.

Comment by Bass Player Keith Hall | July 13th, 2008 1:03 pm | Permalink

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