Wednesday, October 18, 2017

BIRTH | Oct. 18 – A. J. Liebling (Personal Comment)

A. J. Liebling. He died at 59, the
same year I met him briefly.
October 18, 2017 – This day was born in 1904 in New York City A(bbot) J(oseph) Liebling. As a boy, he loved reading the newspapers:
[M]any of my early impressions of the world, correct and the opposite, came to me through newspapers. Homicide, adultery, no-hit pitching, and Balkanism... 
So he became a newspaper reporter and loved it. He would:
pound up tenement stairs and burst in on families disarranged by sudden misfortune. ... I learned almost immediately what every reporter knows, that most people are eager to talk about their troubles.
To get a job at the New York World, he hired a man to pace back and forth for three days outside the Pulitzer building with a sign: "Hire Joe Liebling." Although nobody at the World ever admitted to seeing the sign, he was hired. 

From The World in 1935 he moved up to a job with the The New Yorker that lasted till he died nearly 30 years later. He wrote about World War II, boxing and food. You might not figure out the first two topics, but you might guess the third by looking at his photo.


I met A. J. Liebling in the spring of 1963 when we were both at the Bircher-Benner Clinic on Keltenstrasse 9 in Zürich. Dr Bircher had an international clientèle, including my mother's Dutch relatives who claimed he cured several of them (including my grandmother) of cancer. His son Ralph Bircher carried on some of his work, and Dr Bircher's Estonian-born niece, Dr Dagmar Liechti-von Brasch, took over the Clinic in the 1940s after the death of Dr Bircher, who raised her as one of his own during and after World War I when the von Brasch family was at risk in Estonia. My mother made sure I was checked out several times at the Bircher-Benner-Privatklinik and I was given many earnest individual and group lectures on the value of exercise and minimally processed food. Modern medicine is catching up with Dr Bircher's régime. When I was there in 1963, I was told that a fellow American from New York I had met, Mr. Liebling, had left early because he didn't like the unprocessed food. Liebling was a gourmet and it showed (see photo above). It's too bad that he didn't learn to appreciate the gourmet qualities of Bircher Muesli. He died before the end of the year I met him, at a young 59 years of age.😕 

As Dr Bircher's son and daughter-in-law aged, the Bircher-Benner-Privatklinik lost some of its energy and it closed in 1994, becoming a government health facility. But as new research confirmed many of Dr Bircher's claims, and as the taste for Bircher Muesli spread throughout the world, the demand grew for the Clinic's return. It reopened in another location (Braunwald) in 2011.

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