Food To Cure What Ails You: When Cookbooks Treated Meals As Medicine

Via George Marks/Getty Images

 

A look back at some early American cookbooks…

Browse through some turn-of-the-century American cookbooks, and it’s obvious that popular tastes have changed (such as the presence of fried cornmeal mush and the absence of cilantro). But more striking than the shift in flavors and ingredients is the focus on feeding those who are sick — or, to use the parlance of the time, “cooking for invalids.”

Whether you’re looking at The Settlement Cook Book (1901), Jennie June’s American Cookery Book (1870) or The Woman Suffrage Cook Book (1890), sections on nourishing the sick are all somewhat similar in approach.

First, there are a lot of fluids. Teas and lemonades, but also barley water, and something unappetizingly called “beef tea.” (Think of it as a barely seasoned bouillon.) And there are a surprising number of recipes for “toast water” — basically consisting of the former infused with the latter (a drink evidently so commonplace that a recipe for toast-water lemonade in The Woman Suffrage Cook Book begins by instructing the reader to “make toast water in the usual way.”)

Read on at The Salt.

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