Salisbury describes how he discovered the all meat diet: "In 1854 the idea came to me, in one of my solitary hours, to try the effects of living exclusively upon one food at a time."
Salisbury Steak: Civil War Health Food: After 30 years of research Dr. Salisbury finally published his ideas, setting off one of the earliest American fad diets
The first step is to wash out the sour stomach and bowels , and to change the food. The food selected should be such as is least liable to ferment with alcohol and acid yeasts. This is muscle pulp of beef, prepared as heretofore described, when it affords the maximum of nourishment with the minimum of effort to the digestive organs. Nothing else but this food, except an occasional change to broiled mutton.
In the preface, Salisbury described the research that led him to his conclusion:
"In 1854 the idea came to me, in one of my solitary hours, to try the effects of living exclusively upon one food at a time. This experiment I began upon myself alone at first…. I opened this line of experiments with baked beans. I had not lived upon this food over three days before light began to break. I became very flatulent and constipated, head dizzy, ears ringing, limbs prickly, and was wholly unfitted for mental work. The microscopic examination of passages showed that the bean food did not digest."
Did the intrepid scientist stop there? Of course not! In 1858 he enlisted six other schlemiels to come live with him and eat nothing but baked beans. He did not mention whether he had a wife who had to put up with seven flatulent, dizzy mopes in her home; my guess is no. Later he and four other guys subsisted solely on oatmeal porridge for 30 days. Other single-food experiments followed, leading him to the conclusion that lean beef, minced to break down any connective tissue and fully cooked, was the best and most easily digested food. By the time the Civil War started, in 1861, he was ready to test his theories on suffering soldiers.