"Blackstrap Molasses (and Wheat Germ Bread)"
Black strap molasses and wheat germ bread,
Makes you live so long you wish you were dead,
Add some yogurt and you’ll be well fed,
With black strap molasses and the wheat germ bread.
A comedy tune spoofing the brand-new "health food" craze that was enjoying
popularity among progressive-thinkers in the 1940s and 1950s, and popularized by
film and television personalities who swore by the new, less-than-delectable
regimens. Parents of baby-boomers and even baby-boomers themselves may recall
the popularity of this novelty tune. Suffice it to say that the song
particularly delighted the meat and potatoes crowd, who'd use it to taunt eaters
of any foodstuff that didn't fit the "norm" of the day.
Composers: Carmine Harris/Marilou Harrington
Release Date: 1951
The tune enjoyed great popularity following its introduction on the
television program "Here's Groucho." The verses were sung by
Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Jimmy Durante, and Jane Wyman (President Ronald Reagan's first wife).
The song's lyrics rhymed and spoofed everything from whole-grain bread to
yoghurt, sparing no ingredient now included in the fad diets. (By spoofing the
diets, stars Marx et. al. were also poking fun at how seriously their show-biz
colleagues took the decidedly unconventional victuals.) The general public would
utilize the song to poke fun at friends and relatives who toiled over their
blenders and took horrible-tasting potions in the name of healthy living since
the late 1930s.
The Man They Were Making Fun Of
So controversial was this new diet, that one of Dr. Gayelord Hauser's guidebooks to healthy living, Look Younger, Live Longer (1951) caused concern amongst authorities
at the United States Food and Drug Administration
(the "FDA"). The FDA seized two shipments of the book and jars of the molasses,
on the basis that the health benefits claimed were invalid, or at least
exaggerated. The title of the book arguably makes the subliminal statement "read this and find the Fountain of Youth!"
Hauser's greatest proponent was actress Greta Garbo, a friend and loyal
follower. Jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong was also outspoken about the benefits
of Hauser's diets and potions.
Hauser gave seminars to groups of socialites and associations like the
Daughters of the American Revolution in hotel ballrooms demonstrating how to
make his health drinks. Years later, the Vita-Mix company would sell their
blenders directly at county fairs, expositions, and spas utilizing a similar
technique. Hauser would put all manner of awful ingredients including raw eggs,
shell and all, Brewer's Yeast, and after pureeing them produced a beverage that
was smooth and palatable (to some).
The Already Strange Bird Accused of "Quack, Quack!"
The German-born Bengamin Gayelord Hauser stopped calling himself an M.D.
after an investigation by the American Medical Association found his credentials
to be questionable. Nonetheless, that didn't stop him from continuing to promote
his ideas and publish his books. In addition to the book mentioned earlier,
three different health tonics being sold by Hauser were seized and taken off the
market by the FDA after being found to have no heath benefits whatsoever. One
concoction even contained ingredients known to be harmful (senna, bladderwrack,
Like so many health food gurus, he was charismatic, youngish and had a
winning smile. Among the claims that made practitioners of conventional
nutrition and medicine pooh-poohed were: "if there is a food shortage in the
U.S., chew your food for half an hour, you'll get more out of it," lack of
calcium, he claimed, causes "fear of the dark, nail biting and gossiping.
Arguably his wildest claim was that he cured himself of "tuberculosis of the
hip" by eating 36 lemons daily for two weeks. In his favor, however, he did
promote leaving skins on vegetables, which has indeed been proven beneficial as
the skins of potatoes, beets, carrots, apples and other fruits and vegetables
have a higher concentration of vitamins in the skins (mind you, this does not
apply to citrus fruits).
Despite promoting iodine and vitamin B complex as a method for returning the
color to women's hair, one of his sponsors, interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe,
sported a coiffeur that was snow white. It seemed that government criticism of
his methods, potions and qualifications only strengthened his support among the
rich and famous.
Hauser died in 1985 at age 89. His name is still used to market health and
More Credible Peers
A nutritionist named Adelle Davis began publishing cookbooks with
instructions with regard to retaining vitamins and minerals usually lost to
over-cooking. Davis was taken quite seriously and her books hit the best-seller
lists. Her Let's Cook It Right remains a great reference to utilizing cooking
techniques, rather than exotic ingredients, to provide a nutritious diet.
Consult that book for a recipe for cooking beef and other red meats that will
astound you with the results. One can take inexpensive, usually tough cuts of
meat and using a special long-time, low-temperature process turn out meats that
are tender and perfectly done every time.
Dr. Linus Pauling was a proponent of Vitamin C. He claimed to take 300
times the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of the vitamin, and told his
followers that massive doses (in grams, not milligrams) could cure anything from
the common cold to cancer. Although he had his critics, Pauling, a brilliant chemist holds the
distinction of two Nobel Prize wins.
NOTE: There were two other tunes written with the title "Black Strap
Molasses," but this is the only noteworthy one, the others having drifted into
The Mad Music Archive:
All Music Guide:
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=17:160824 (Accessed 2/11/09)
"Find Your Best Diet for 2008" by Alex Hutchinson, CanWest News Service,
January 2, 2008
Gaelord Hauser Products Website:
http://www.modernfearn.com/ (Accessed 2/11/09)
"Garbo's Gaelord" (unattributed), Time Magazine, February 16, 1942