James Salisbury

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt / Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

For me, nothing was better the hot lunch pizza at school. The weird rectangular shape, the “healthy” side of plain shredded lettuce drenched in ranch, and a square of chocolate cake—totally the best day of the month.

But if Salisbury steak day was the day you refused to brown-bag it, James Salisbury is the guy you have to thank.

Salisbury was kind of like the Dr. Atkins of the 1800s. He tried single-food diets of oatmeal and baked beans, among other things, but concluded that minced lean beef provided the best nutrition and digestion. He also believed that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables was hard on the system and resulted in a number of illnesses and diseases.

Stacy Conradt

After publishing his findings in 1888 (with the catchy title The Relation of Alimentation and Disease), Salisbury’s teachings became a household diet fad that was as popular as its South Beach or Atkins descendants more than 100 years later. But you don't have to read a whole book to get the gist of his diet recommendations: It consisted entirely of hot water and lean beef for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To make a steady diet of cow more appetizing, the good doctor advocated shaping it into patties and seasoning with butter, salt, pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and horseradish.

Stacy Conradt

Extreme and monotonous though it may have been, Salisbury must have been doing something right—he lived until the age of 82, not a bad run for a guy who lived during the 19th century. Given his low-carb leanings and prejudice against vegetables, Salisbury is probably rolling over in his grave to see mashed potatoes and corn served alongside his creation in today’s hot lunches and TV dinners.

If you want to see that grave, by the way, you’ll find it at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.