Friday, September 15, 2006

The Koumiss Cure.

Today, September 15th …

There will always be health and nutrition fashions, and in the late nineteenth century in England and Europe, according to a comment in the Pall Mall Gazette on this day in 1884, it was fermented mare’s milk.

“The koumiss cure is growing greatly in popularity ... Sometimes patients spend six or seven summers at the koumiss establishments.”

It seems obligatory for fashionable “cures” to come from far-away exotic places, presumably on the assumption that (a) the locals have healthier, happier, longer, and more beautiful lives, and (b) these benefits are due solely to the ingestion of the product under discussion (or being marketed). In the case of the koumiss, the land was “Tartary” (Central Asia), and it would almost certainly never have crossed the minds of the European adherents of the Cure that the active outdoor life of those men of the Steppes might have been relevant to their vigour.

It seems a little hard to believe that there were milking herds of mares suddenly established in the late nineteenth century to cater for the popularity of the koumiss cure, but if “substitutions” were made, how many of the adherents would have known? Milk from various animals (including humans) has been used medicinally for centuries, including mare’s milk for “phthisis”, bitches milk (yes, from dogs) in obstetric emergencies, and asses’ milk (which was supposedly the closest to human milk) in the frail, elderly, or consumptive. Supply often could not keep up with demand, so alternatives had to be found, and there is no shortage of recipes for artificial milks in old medicine and cookery books.

Recipes for the Day …

Artificial Asses Milk (1705).
Boil 2 ounces of Eringo* roots and half an ounce of pearl Barley in three pints of spring water till its reduced to a quart, let it stand to settle, then strain it off, and add half a pint of boiling milk.
This quantity should be drank, every day, at anytime when most agreeable, but particularly half a pint, in a morning fasting. [From the manuscript book of D. Petre].

Asses’ Milk, Artificial (a quick way of making) (1870’s)
Take a tea-spoonful of prepared barley. Mix it smoothly with a table-spoonful of water, and stir it into half a pint of boiling water. Put with it a lump of sugar-candy. Let it simmer, stirring all the time, for five minutes. Strain it, then mix with it half a pint of new milk, and a well-beaten new-laid egg. This is a wholesome and agreeable drink for invalids. Time to prepare, ten minutes. Probable cost, 3d. Sufficient for a pint and a half. [Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery].

*Eringo is the candied root of the Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum), and was formerly used as a sweetmeat.

On Monday …

A barberrying we will go…

Quotation for the Day …

My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies. W.C. Fields.

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