Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Patient Diet..

December 4 …

The most enduring and likely theory of hospital food is that it is based on sound economic theory. It is designed to get you out of there as quickly as possible.

In the nineteenth century (and before), there were sound (for the time) nutritional principles underpinning hospital dietaries. A shoemaker called Joseph Bennett made note of the “common diet” for patients of the Devon and Exeter hospital on this day in 1829.

Mon. Wed. Fri.
Breakfast. One pint of water gruel. Bread for day 15oz.
Dinner. One pint of rice milk.
Supper. One pint of milk pottage on Monday. Cheese 2oz on Wednesday and One oz butter on Friday.

Tues. Thur. Sat. Sun.
Breakfast. One pint of water gruel with 11oz of bread.
Dinner. One pint of broth, 4 oz. Mutton, 1lb potatoes.
Supper. Cheese 2oz.

A great deal was written in the nineteenth century on the subject of hospital diets, and they are summed up in a book entitled The elements of materia medica and therapeutics, by Jonathan Pereira (1842). Here is an extract:

Animal diet: composed exclusively or principally of animal food. [He only recommends it in diabetes.]

Vegetable diet: the exclusive employment of a vegetable diet has been very rarely adopted …. Sometimes called the spare or abstemious diet … occasionally ordered in cases of threatened apoplexy, gout etc.

Milk diet: includes farinaceous substances (such as arrow-root, sago and tapioca) … when we are desirous of affording support to the system with the least possible stimulus or excitement [which is probably why it was often used in cases of venereal disease!] … inflammatory diseases …. preventing and curing gout … diseases of children, especially those of a strumous or scrofulous nature.

Low Diet: in acute inflammation, fever and after serious accidents, surgical operations and parturition …. Consisting principally of the use of slops (as tea, toast water, barley water, and weak broth)

Full or Common Diet: … when it is desirable to restore or support the powers of the system, patients are permitted to satisfy their appetite for plain vegetable and animal food … Wine, and even ardent spirit, are sometimes required.

There are many recipes for Soup de Santé (Soup for Health) in early books, and they sound much more restorative than water gruel or milk pottage, which sound like they would frighten anyone into good health. I give you an eighteenth century recipe – I am not sure if it was intended to keep you well, or restore you to wellness. It is a really robust dish which would require a robust cook and a robust appetite.

To make Soop de Sante, as they do in France.
Season ten or a dozen Pound of Beef, with salt and Spices, blanch a good Knuckle of Veal, and when your Beef has boil'd 'till the Broth is strong, strain it; then put the Knuckle of Veal into the Beef Broth, and also your Pullet that is to be ferv'd up in it; boil these in the Broth 'till it comes to the Consistence of a Jelly; while it is boiling put in a bit of good Bacon stuck with Cloves. In the mean time make a Pan of good Gravy in the Manner following: lay a Pound of Bacon cut into Rashers, in the Bottom of a stew Pan, and a bit of Butter as big as half an Egg, half a dozen Pound of Filet of Veal, or Buttock of Beef cut into flices of the Thickneds of Scotch Collops; lay these upon your slices of Bacon, covering the Bottom of the stew Pan all over; set your Pan over a moderate Fire for an Hour and a half, and let it Colour gently, when it begins to crack, put to it a little of the Fat of your boiling Broth, but take Care not to stir it much, because it will make it thick; then put in three or four Onions cut into flices, a couple of Turnips, a Carot, Pepper, whole Cloves, a little Thyme and Parsley, and if in Summer time put in a few Mushrooms; fry all these together till they are of a good brown Colour, then put to it as much of the Broth of the Knuckle of Veal and Pullet as you can spare, to leave so much as will keep your Veal and Pullet white, and soak your Bread in it for your Soop, &c. when your Broth and Gravy are enough, wash and pick a Cabbage Lettuce, or a little Charvil,with Sorrel, Endive and Celery, cut them a little, squeeze the Water from them; put them into a Sauce-pan, with as much of your Broth and Gravy as will just cover them, boil them till they are tender ; then boil the Crufts of two French Rolls, with three Pints of Gravy, and when they are boil’d strain them through a Sieve, and put it to your boil'd Herbs; or instead of French bread you may thicken it with a piece of Butter of the Bignefs of an Egg, and brown'd over the Fire with a little handful of Flour, and a small Onion minc'd; then put some Gravy to your brown, and when they have boil'd a little, strain them through a Sieve to your Herbs: When your Herbs are pretty tender, put in your thickning; let all boil together for half an Hour, then skim off all the Fat; lay in the Bottom of your Soop Dish, either slices of French Bread, or Crufts dry'd before the Fire, or in an Oven, let the Dish over a Chafing-Dish of Coals, boil it up in some of your Broth; lay your Pullet and Herbs upon the Bread, garnish with a Rim on the outside of it, of Endive or Celery boil’d in good Broth, and cut in pieces about three Inches long, or else garnish it with forc’d meat and boil’d Carot; let there be no Fat upon it, and serve it up hot.
[From John Nott’s The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary ….. (1723)]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Sugar and Syrup.

Quotation for the Day …

Drink a glass of wine after your soup and you steal a ruble from your doctor. Russian proverb


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

That soup sounds like a full day project! I saw an interesting story recently about five-star chefs who are developing menus for hospitals - the idea being that better taste and presentation of the food contributes to recovery.

Barbara said...

Here in NZ that's pretty much the hospital diet even today.