Thursday, June 24, 2010

To Make the Medicine go Down.

In my forthcoming book Soup: A Global History, I reserve a chapter for 'Medicinal Soups'. One of the soups I feature in this chapter is Snail Broth – an example of the cure being worse than the disease in many cases, perhaps (such as respiratory complaints or jaundice.) The author of Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, (1827), who provides the recipe, offers some suggestions for overcoming the ‘mawkish taste’ and general repugnance.

Snail Broth.
Wash them extremely well, and throw them into very hot water; take them out of the shell, and pass them through several waters; working them well with the hand; slice them, pound the shells, and put all into a saucepan, with as much water as will cover; boil, skim, and let them simmer for several hours; add a little salt, sugar, and a very small quantity of mace, to correct the mawkish taste: a tea-cupful may be taken four times a day, with or without conserve of roses. Should the patient have any repugnance to it in this form, let it be put into some weak veal broth; this is far preferable to slater [woodlouse] wine.

One way of administering unpleasant medicine is to hide it in something strongly flavoured, and desirable in its own right - such as gingerbread. A writer of a letter to the Editor of the Medical Times and Gazette in 1859 wrote:

Sir, - In your last week’s number, page 69, you give an extract of a process, suggested by M. Bassi, for the purpose of rendering cod-liver oil palatable.
We beg to inform your readers that we have already effected this, and in a manner essentially the same as M. Bassi proposes. In your paper of 12th February last,, you reported upon our preparation as follows:- “We have examined a specimen of gingerbread made by Messrs. Newbery, each cake containing a teaspoonful of cod-liver oil. The gingerbread is extremely light and pleasant, the flavour of the oil being completely covered.”
Should your readers desire to try M.Bassi’s preparation they will find in ours a representative, without the trouble of adopting the elaborate process suggested by the French Medical man.
Our cod-liver oil cakes have been largely inquired for by Medical Practitioners, and their sale testifies to their great utility.

I am, &C., F. Newbery and Son, by A.W.B. Newberry
45, St. Paul’s Churchyard, October 12, 1859

Of course, the spicy taste of gingerbread can be used to hide other unpleasant ingredients too. As regular readers will know, I particularly enjoy finding recipes in non-traditional sources, and today I have another opportunity. From the Druggist’s Hand-book of practical receipts (1853) , I give you a gingerbread recipe quite suitable for hiding a purgative medication, should you so wish.

Gingerbread: A confection often used in which to administer purgatives to children. If required to be purgative, sufficient jalap* must be added to allow each cake 7 grains.
Ormskirk: Flour, 4 lbs., sugar, 2 lb., treacle, 2 lb., butter, 22 oz., candied lemon, 8 oz., and 1 nutmeg. Mix the flour and powdered spices with the butter, add the treacle and sugar, and divide into cakes.

* Jalap: the tuberous roots of Ipomoea purga, known to be cathartic.


The Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive is here.

Quotation for the Day.

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Richard Sherman, songwriter, Robert Sherman, songwriter, and Clarence Brown. from Mary Poppins (1964).


EB of SpiceDish said...

What exactly is a "mawkish taste"? Or do I not want to know?

Fay said...

Ooohhh, yuckkk! As my 2 Y.O. Grandson might say.
My Mum remembers having her dose of Hypol [sic] as a child in wartime England. It is I think a cod liver oil based Vit A & D supplement. Her Mum used to mix it with the Government issue orange juice - a concentrated hit of overwhelming acidity according to Mum. Neither improved the taste of the other.

Ferdzy said...

"Woodlouse wine"?!?

I. Don't. Think. So. I'd have to be too weak to move before they'd get that into me.

The Old Foodie said...

Yes, powerful incentives to stay well, some of these remedies!