The Pulp Writer's Diet According to Frank Gruber

We’ve all heard the tales before, about pulp legends banging away at the keys all day and all night, churning out story after story after story. Ever wonder just how they did it? Ever think it might have been something in the food back in the 1930s? Well, if you wanted to know what pulp writers were eating during the Depression, Frank Gruber can tell you. Here is a typical meal that he describes in his memoir, The Pulp Jungle:
So this is how the famous Automat tomato soup came into being. You got a bowl intended for soup, went over to the hot water nozzle and filled up your bowl. You sidled along to where you got the soup and picked up a couple of glassine bags of crackers (free), supposedly to go with the soup. You now went to one of the tables, sat down and crumbled the crackers into the hot water. Every table had a bottle of ketchup. You emptied about half of the ketchup into the hot water and cracker mixture. Presto–tomato soup!

Cost? Nothing.

I sometimes had tomato soup four or five times a day.
I suppose that would give someone motivation to write more, so maybe they could afford something else to eat. And, at least for Gruber, it worked, as he ended up becoming one of the most successful writers for the pulp market, and went on to have a long career in hardcovers, paperbacks, movies, and even television.


  1. My husband lived on mayonnaise sandwiches during college. I remember those auto-mats so fondly. There was something magical about getting your food from a slot and seeing disembodied hands through it. I chose to celebrate my tenth birthday at H & Hs.

  2. OK, I'll give this a try tomorrow. Four servings of tomato soup. If I don't produce at least 10,000 words it's back to chili dogs on Wednesday.

  3. While not quite as inexpensive as Pulp Writer's Tomato Soup, I survived many years on Ramen noodles and toasted cheese sandwiches... until I got married and my wife insisted I eat better... no discernible effect on my writing, fortunately...


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