The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Invalid Cookery, from 1841.

Lemon balm.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Aargh.  Still fighting off this cold, or virus, or whatever it is.  Treating colds with chicken soup is a proven, old-time remedy, but Victorian cookbooks and household manuals are filled with other recipes and hints.  Some involve ingredients that are known to be harmful, or illegal (like opium!), but others are still in use today, albeit under other names.  Indian meal gruel is really polenta or grits.  Tapioca and rice pudding are still familiar, but we like them sweeter and with more flavoring than is called for by Victorian recipes.  Beef tea is basically broth.  Herbal teas are made by the same method today.

These recipes are from The Good Housekeeper, by Sarah Josepha Hale, 1841.

TO MAKE GRUEL.--Sift the Indian meal through a fine sieve; wet two spoonfuls of this meal with cold water, and beat it till there are no lumps; then stir it into a pint of boiling water, and let it boil half an hour, stirring it all the time.

Spearmint.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
BEEF TEA.--Cut half a pound of lean fresh beef into slices, lay it in a dish and pour over it a pint of boiling water, cover the dish and let it stand half an hour by the fire, then just boil it up, pour it off clear, and salt it very little.

BALM, MINT, AND OTHER TEAS.--These are simple infusions, the strength of which can only be regulated by the taste.  They are made by putting either the fresh or the dried plants into boiling water in a covered vessel, which should be placed near the fire for an hour.  The young shoots both of balm and of mint are to be preferred, on account of their strong aromatic qualities.  These infusions may be drunk freely in feverish and in various other complaints, in which diluents [sic] are recommended.  Mint tea, made with the fresh leaves, is useful in allaying nausea and vomiting.  

No comments:

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)