Salisbury Steak: A Cure for the Winter Cold

| 1/23/2012 11:18:23 AM

Tags: Salisbury steak, comfort food, simple recipes, Cindy Murphy,

CindyMurphyBlog.jpgAs a kid, Salisbury steak to me was something to avoid in the school cafeteria’s lunch line, which wasn’t really hard to do.  I mostly brought my lunch from home anyway, except on pizza days because pizza was one of my favorite foods.  It still is, though my taste in toppings has grown up some, and my tolerance for grease has lessened.  The school cafeteria’s pizza was definitely greasy; the Salisbury steak was worse.  It had the look, texture, and I imagine, the taste of soggy cardboard soaked with grease, and it swam in gelatinous sea of coagulated brick-red gravy.  The smell was enough to make my stomach flip-flop.  My brother loved the stuff…but then again, he loved the cafeteria’s “fishwiches” too; sometimes there’s no accounting for taste.  

How could a meat-like substance bathed in greasy gravy be even remotely healthy?  Most likely it wasn’t.  The lunch-line’s version of the dish was a far cry from the original.  A 19th century English and American physician, Dr. James H. Salisbury was one of the earliest proponents of the idea that diet is directly related to health.  He asserted our teeth were designed to chew meat; other foods such as vegetables and starches were actually poisonous to our bodies, and were possibly the cause of heart disease, tumors, mental illness, and tuberculosis.  Eating more lean meat was the prevention, and Salisbury steak, eaten 3 times a day and washed down with hot water, was the cure.   

From his book “The Relation of Alimentation and Disease”, written in 1888, his recipe for the meat dish named for him is as follows: 

"Eat the muscle pulp of lean beef made into cakes and broiled. This pulp should be as free as possible from connective or glue tissue, fat and cartilage.....The pulp should not be pressed too firmly together before broiling, or it will taste livery.  Simply press it sufficiently to hold it together. Make the cakes from half an inch to an inch thick.  Broil slowly and moderately well over a fire free from blaze and smoke. When cooked, put it on a hot plate and season to taste with butter, pepper, salt; also use either Worcestershire or Halford sauce, mustard, horseradish or lemon juice on the meat if desired." 

Muscle pulp, whether or not it’s free of glue tissue, sounds about as appetizing to me as the soggy cardboard the school served.  Sometime long after Dr. Salisbury died, and after elementary school cafeterias started serving healthier food; infinitely more appetizing than either the good doctor’s or the school’s versions, comes “Mom’s Salisbury Steak”.  

There are probably more recipes for Salisbury steak as there are kids in a school cafeteria, but all versions have a few things in common:  the “steak” is ground beef formed into a patty; it’s served with a cream, brown, or tomato-based gravy; noodles or mashed potatoes typically round out the meal – a rather ironic twist considering Dr. Salisbury’s contention that starch was poisonous to the body, and Salisbury steak was the cure.

cindy murphy
2/17/2012 5:01:59 PM

Michelle! I'm so glad you tried it and liked it - especially after how you described your Mom's! Enjoy your weekend!

michelle house
2/17/2012 1:15:40 AM

Cindy, I made the Salisbury Steak the other day, it was wonderful. :)

cindy murphy
1/30/2012 12:37:38 PM

Thanks for stopping in, TRF, and if you whirl up a batch of Salisbury steaks, let me know what you think. Enjoy your day.

cindy murphy
1/30/2012 12:36:17 PM

Oh, Michelle - I know about those Mom meals that can only be described, like you said, as gross - there was corned beef hash which had the consistency and smell of canned cat food, and sukiyaki, a Japanese stir-fry which sounds quite good, but Mom's we called Suki-yucky - she "stir-fry" the vegetables to death. Fortunately there were more good things that came out of her kitchen than bad, (but we always teased her about the bad). I think I might have seen that Chopped episode - I love the Food Network! Take care, and enjoy the day.

trf cullers
1/29/2012 9:58:56 PM

Thanks for the recipe, Cindy! I have some ground beef in the fridge...think I'll give the Salisbury steaks a whirl!

michelle house
1/29/2012 3:18:09 AM

Your recipe certainly sounds different than the one my Mom used, it was so gross, oversalted, and greasy. I hope to give yours a try. For most of schooling, I took a lunch. High school, nope. But I will say, some of the food I got was pretty good. Wednesday was soup and sandwich day, with a homemade cinnamon roll. I loved Wednsdays. :D On the Food Network Chanel, the show Chopped, featured 4 lunch ladies, though they should be called lunch chefs, their meals are a far cry from what I remember. I liked the picture of the Lake. :) Hope all is well with you and your family, tell Keith Hi for me. :)

cindy murphy
1/27/2012 6:42:25 PM

Hi, Dave. I've been reintroduced to the palate of teenage boys; Shelby's guy friends will eat anything, and when they converge upon my kitchen, it's a wonder there's anything left! Mystery-meat - if I had it in the house, they'd eat it! I'd love to say the girls are better.....but they aren't; maybe they eat less, but their tastes are just as poor. At least I can provide healthy choices at home for my girls.....and for what seems like half the below-age-18 town's population. I know what you mean it being recipe week here at GRIT - it's made me hungry too!

nebraska dave
1/24/2012 6:20:34 PM

Cindy, I know what you mean about the school cafeteria food. My food tasting palate as a teenager was like your brother's. Any things that resembled food was free game. That hasn't changed much. Some things have more taste than others but food is food. Right? :0) The meat in those Salisbury steaks you have described, I call mystery meat. No one knows where it came from. It's a mystery. You probably have heard me quote my favorite line of Crocodile Dundee before. "You can live on it but it tastes like .... well you get the idea." I never was real picky about food in my adult life. I am the Mikey of the family. "Just give to Dad. He eats anything." :0-) I do like the sounds of your Mom's recipe for Salsbury steak. It must be recipe week. So far we have breads, soups, and now Salisbury steak. This is all making me hungry. I think I'll go get something to eat. Have a great bread, steak, soup day.

cindy murphy
1/24/2012 5:34:54 PM

Hi, Lori! I'd replied to your comment this morning, but it seems to have never appeared. Instead, I got an "awaiting moderation" response, which I've never seen before. Was it something I said? Maybe...I used an extended form of "lol"...the one with an "a". Just goes to show that old saying "everything in moderation" - even laughter - is probably a good rule to follow. Anyway....if you make Mom's Salisbury steak, let me know what you and your hubs think of it. It'd go perfect, I think, with that herb bread recipe I just noticed over in your blog, (I'd have a really hard time eating that in moderation!). Later, and enjoy your day, (I gotta go drool over that bread photo once more before I head out).

cindy murphy
1/24/2012 2:01:34 PM

Hi, Chris. I've done some experimenting with Mom's recipe - mostly because the girls don't like onions, or rather onions they can see. French onion soup is rather oniony (eye-roll), so I've substituted it with beef or vegetable broth. In my opinion, the onion soup makes for a much richer, heartier dish, but sometimes ya just gotta keep the masses happy. As for the mustard, I swear you won't even know it's in there; it's kind of like some mayonnaise or salad dressings - mustard is present, but there is no mustard taste because all the flavors blend together. But like the masses, you gotta kept yourself happy, and if leaving out the mustard makes you happy, by all means leave it out. Oh, and btw, I did get a new camera for Christmas.....I just keep forgetting to get a memory card for it, and the camera won't work without one. Maybe it's me that needs a memory card!

chris davis
1/24/2012 4:01:45 AM

I remember Salisbury steaks in school - but I can't say as I remember ever actually partaking of one. Your mom’s version sounds pretty good – I’ll have to give it a shot. Have you experimented with it any or did you find that sticking to her recipe worked best? Since I’m not a fan of mustard that’s going to be my first experiment with it – or rather – without it. And I love the transition into the Lake Michigan picture which came out very nice by the way. Sorry about your camera, but maybe a repair shop can get it in working order without charging new camera prices. I know you like including a picture or two and your previous posts included some excellent shots. Maybe the birthday fairy will come through!

lori dunn
1/23/2012 8:18:35 PM

Cindy, Your posts are always so fun to read, and most times I find myself lol to something you've written! The mention of Salisbury steak always brings a picture to my mind of those meals you can buy in the freezer section, both tv dinner singles, and the family sized packs. The meat (I use that term loosely) in those always looked so yucky and fake to me. I very rarely ate our school lunches! Everything always tasted like it came right out of a can, and probably did. I packed my lunch most of the time. Your mom's recipe sounds very yummy! I think hubs would like it, and I might just try it out on him this week! So sorry to here about your camera's illness! Those kinds of things are true catastrophes when you are a photographer!

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