Invalid cookery

This is a section of a recipe book that is only found in old publications… Cooking for invalids, that is, not cookery which isn’t valid! In recipes now we might have information about allergies or intolerances, we might have diets which are gluten free, or dairy free, and if someone was poorly we might cook nice or particular things for them, but I think mostly we would just adapt normal recipes, or give them a little of what they fancy!

I’m not sure when Modern Practical Cookery was published, but there in the back of it is a section on Invalid Cookery, and it starts off with a little introduction:

Invalids take their meals alone, so some diversion in place of table talk, must be discovered to amuse them. Always choose colourful china for the tray. A bright little cruet, for instance, may divert thoughts from the beef-tea of which the patient is tired. A flower-head floating in a tiny saucer, or anything unusual in the arrangement will stimulate the imagination. The thing to remember is that your patient does not want to eat, and that you must arouse his appetite. Remember to serve as much nourishment as possible in a small space. serve only small portions and make them look as tempting as possible.

The recipes are all mild flavoured and designed not to upset delciate stomachs… although not many of them sound very appetising!

  • a cup of arrowroot – arrowroot is a starch extracted from the root of a tropical plant native to the Americas called maranta which is used for thickening things,and it is completely tasteless. Oh yum. To make it more inviting the next recipe suggests flavouring it with vanilla flavouring and setting it in a shaped mould… oh yes, that would make a difference
  • barley water
  • beef tea – which sounds a bit like Bovril
  • blackcurrant tea – blackcurrant jam dissolved in hot water
  • real calves’-foot jelly
  • chicken broth – made from chicken’s feet… feet? really?
  • cornflour cream – made from milk, eggs, cornflour, gelatine and almond or vanilla flavouring
  • steamed cutlet… presumably of lamb
  • poached egg on toast – yes! Sounds good to me!
  • gruel… mmmm
  • steamed fish such as plaice, sole, whiting
  • a plain omelette
  • ratafia custard – now this sounds quite good, in a way, an egg custard flavoured with ratafia biscuits and ratafia flavouring
  • stewed tripe – for a person feeling poorly? probably not these days!

It’s naughty of me to find this amusing; no doubt before the sort of medicines we have now and the understanding of health issues, many people would want to do the best for their loved-ones who are ill, would want to try their best to nourish them and make them healthy again. I shouldn’t look back from our age and make comment on such things from the past… but i still don’t think many invalids even then would have enjoyed arrowroot or tripe!




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