Food fads have always been ridiculous. Just ask the great masticator.

In December 27, 1907, Clara Webster hosted a dinner at her modest home on Highland Avenue in Dixon, Illinois. The 18-year-old was known throughout the town for her elaborate theme parties, but on that particular night, Webster would throw one of her oddest events yet: a munching party.

At the time, meticulous mastication was in vogue. On both sides of the Atlantic, fashionable crowds flocked to munching parties, where each mouthful of food was timed with a stopwatch to ensure proper digestion. After five minutes elapsed, the official chewing conductor rang a bell or gong, signaling that it was time to swallow.


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