Thursday, December 14, 2006

Feeding the Sick.

Today, December 14th …

It goes without saying that hospital stays should be avoided at all costs. One especially good reason is that the food is often a more unpleasant experience than the medical condition itself. ‘Invalid food’ always sounds unappetising – which is ironic as one of its main functions is to tempt the appetite - and ‘Institutional food’ is equally unappealing: put both of these together and you get hospital food.

Exceptions do prove the rule however, and if you were lucky enough to be a patient at at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago on this day in 1921, you could chose from this daily menu:

Cream of Wheat Post Toasties
Little Pork Sausages
Apple Pancake
Plain Rolls Jelly
Tea Coffee Chocolate.

Consommé Clear
Roast Domestic Duck – Dressing
Baked Apples
Mashed Potatoes
Wax Beans in Cream
Sliced Tomatoes – Dressing
Vanilla Ice Cream Wafers
Tea Coffee Chocolate

Bouillon in Cups
Broiled Lamb Chops
Escalloped Potatoes
Green Peas
Pear Sauce Sugar Cookies
Tea Coffee Chocolate

There are a couple of brief nods to invalid cuisine – clear consommé and ice-cream would be suitable for delicate digestive systems for example – but the rest of the menu could easily have come from a restaurant kitchen. Roast duck? What sort of medical condition indicates a prescription of roast duck for dinner? How do I catch that disease?

It was probably not the cost or danger of hospital food that the Lydia E. Pinkham persona had in mind in the blurb for 'her' famous Medicinal Compound:

‘Any hospital experience is painful as well as costly and frequently dangerous. Many women have avoided this experience by taking Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound in time, thereby relieving the present distress and preventing the development of conditions that might require an operation.’

The success of this particular patent medicine had nothing to do with the fact that it was 40% proof - Prohibition was well underway, and ‘ladies’, would surely not have used it without serious medical need. Its success must have been solely due to the clever marketing, part of which included publishing a promotional cookbook called Food and Health in the same year as our menu. Here is a recipe from the book which is suitable for everyone whatever their state of health, for it contains two essential food groups – bread and chocolate.

2 cups bread crumbs4 cups of milk (or 2 of water and 2 of evaporated milk)2 squares chocolate⅔ cup sugar1 salt spoon salt1 teaspoon vanilla
Method—Soak bread crumbs in milk until soft. Melt the chocolate over hot water and add the sugar to it. Beat eggs well and add with the remaining ingredients to the crumbs and milk. Mix well and bake in a buttered pudding-dish in a moderate oven, until thick and firm. A Meringue of egg white and sugar may be spread over the top about 15 minutes before it is done, or it can be served with cream, hard, or foamy sauce.
Hard Sauce—⅓ cup butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, ⅓ teaspoon lemon extract, ⅔ teaspoon vanilla. Cream the butter, add sugar gradually, and flavoring.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Pioneers and Persimmons.

A Previous Story for this Day …

On this day last year we had a recipe from Nostradamus.

On this Topic …

We considered Cock-Ale, Sack whey and Banana Rissoles for the sick in ‘Alcohol and Other Food for Invalids.

Quotation for the Day …

If your doctor does not think it good for you to sleep, to drink wine, or to eat of a particular dish, do not worry; I will find you another who will not agree with him. Michel de Montaigne.

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