My story last week on ‘Medicated Gingerbread’ seems to have interested quite a number of you, and my own interest is far from sated. Naturally, I have been in search of similar dishes.
There are many recipes from ancient times in which a specific spice or herb is added for its perceived medicinal effect, and there are many recipes from the Victorian era for ‘invalid foods’ such as broths and bland puddings suitable for the weakly or indisposed - but what I have been in search of are the less obviously therapeutic dishes.
A single book has solved my dilemma. Meals medicinal: with "herbal simples" (of edible parts) Curative foods from the cook in place of drugs from the chemist (1905), by William Thomas Fernie contains many, many recipes with alleged therapeutic benefits, which you could place on the table at your next dinner party, and your guests have no inkling of the good you were doing them. Many recipes are completely delicious and indulgent, and it is a marvellous fantasy to hope that one day, dietitians might declare the following to be ‘health foods’!
For making Brandy Snaps of Ginger, which are carminative*, and gently relaxing to the bowels, take one pound of flour, half a pound of coarse brown sugar, a quarter of a pound of butter, one dessertspoonful of allspice, two dessertspoonfuls of ground ginger, the grated peel of half a lemon, and the juice of a whole, lemon; mix all together, adding half a pound of dark brown treacle (not golden syrup), and beat well. Butter some sheet tins, and spread the paste thinly over them, and bake in a rather slow oven. When done, cut it into squares, and roll each square round the finger as it is raised from the tin. Keep the Snaps in a dry, closely-covered tin, out of any damp, so that they shall
* Having the quality of expelling flatulence.
And if your stomach is qualmish, or you simply want an excuse to indulge in macaroons for breakfast, here it is:
As an eligible piece of confectionery which is light, sustaining, and somewhat sedative to an irritable, or qualmish stomach, the macaroon (" maccare," to reduce to pulp) is admirable, either at breakfast (instead of the customary egg, including the yolk), or by way of an improvised luncheon, or as an occasional snack, about the easy digestion of which no fear need be entertained. The albuminous white of egg, the demulcent, reinvigorating sweet almond, the comforting sugar, and the tranquillising
modicum of bitter almond, with its infinitesimal quantity of prussic acid as a sedative to the gastric nerves, make altogether a most happy combination for the objects now particularized.
We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.Adelle Davis.