by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent
The Oregon Statesman, in an editorial, “Fletcherizing the Belgians” comments on one of the more bizarre aspects of this country’s ability to pursue the hair-brained:
It is grimly gratifying to learn that in this world crisis Horace Fletcher, the American prophet of mastication, is on the job. Fletcher for the last ten years has been trying to persuade mankind to eat less and chew more. All of us, he insists, subject the body to countless ills by clogging it up with superfluous and unassimilated food. The elimination of the surplus uses up energy that ought to be available for real work. The difficult digestion of things swallowed without proper mastication makes additional work for weary system. We can get along much better, he explains, by eating about one-fourth as much as usual and chewing it about four times as long.
Well, granted that such a theory is sound, where in all the world is the ideal place to apply it? In Belgium, of course, where some 7,000,000 people are near starvation and dependent from day to day on American charity. So Fletcher has gone to Belgium and started to work in Bruges.
“No scientist could ask for better laboratory,” he says. “I have a whole nation to work on. Cut off from the world here, we have nothing else to do must masticate – when we can get anything to masticate. What food there is can be made to last very much longer by careful chewing.” So he has established what he calls the “Dreadnought Conning Tower,” where he is training a group of Belgian disciples how to get full nourishment from their victuals. They receive two light meals a day, and chew each meal for two hours. The results, Fletcher declares, prove that by adopting his method the Belgian people could practically multiply their food by three or four, warding off starvation and making relief work easier, and saving vast sums of money.
It’s interesting, but somehow not altogether convincing to a nation of hearty eaters such as ours. And with all respect for Mr. Fletcher and his method, we are reluctant to urge it on the Belgians along with our shiploads of provisions. We prefer to send them square meals, rather than theories, even if we know that the meals will be insufficiently masticated. And it’s likely that what the Belgian refugee wants, like Kipling’s Tommy Atkins, is “bulk in his inside” rather than a merely intellectual assurance that he’s had enough to eat.
In December, the Oregonian published an article on Fletcher:
The first and only man not a German to find any satisfaction In the plight of Belgium has been found In Bruges.
He Is Horace Fletcher, an American, known the world over as the proclaimer of the theory that the more you chew the less you need to eat.
Mr. Fletcher Is now and for some time has been living In Bruges, the present advanced base of the German army in Belgium. The starving condition of the Belgian people has made a powerful appeal to him In the form of an opportunity to demonstrate the worth of his theory.
”No scientist could ask for a better laboratory,” said Mr. Fletcher gleefully to the World correspondent, when the correspondent was in Bruges recently.
”I have 8,000,000 people to work on.
“Cut off from the world here, we have nothing else to do. Moreover, food is running short and can be made to last much longer by careful chewing.” Mr. Fletcher went on to speak of the magnificent opportunity for the missionary work presented to him by the present condition of Belgium. . He contends that inasmuch as all industry Is at a standstill and the people cannot, under military rule, pursue the usual occupations, they have nothing to do but eat and can devote all the time to getting the full measure of nourishment from the food. He has set about teaching them the way to accomplish this.
Every day at Mr. Fletcher’s house, 20 Avenue Tervueren. which he has named Dreadnaught Conning Tower, his 12 apostles assemble. They are the first fruits of his campaign, 12 hungry Belgians, who, without Mr. Fletcher’s experimental meals, would have a hard time finding anything to eat. They receive two light meals a day and they earn them by spending two hours or more In chewing each.
The results which Mr. Fletcher expects to demonstrate in the persons of his first chewing squad he will lay before the various relief commissions, showing them by computation how the available supply of food can be made .to cover the needs of the entire Belgian nation.
His experiments have already excited the interest of the National Relief Society and to a still greater degree that of the Belgian inhabitants of Bruges, who, however, are less interested in the scientific side of the problem than In the contrast they draw between “the plight of Mr. Fletcher’s apostles and the conduct of the German officers, of whom Bruges is full and whose un-Fletcherlzing appetite bids fair to bankrupt every restaurateur in the city.”
Horace Fletcher is nearly as well known in England and Northern Europe, where he has spent most of his time for several years as in America, the land of his birth. He Is now 65 years old. He is reputed to be a millionaire, but never attracted wide public attention until, on retiring from business, he devoted himself to globe trotting and hobbies.
His first hobby, which he called “menticulture,” which expounded the theory of the power of mind over matter, never gained many followers, but his exploitation of the art of chewing, which began about 10 years ago, has attracted world-wide attention, gained the endorsement of many scientists and has been adopted by thousands of persons. This theory is. In brief,” that every body eats too much and you must cure yourself by chewing more thoroughly everything you put into your mouth.”