Gruel

For some reason my old cookery book has dropped open at invalid cooking…  nearly all old cookery books have sections on dishes to tempt the invalid. In a way I guess it’s a good idea, when you’re poorly you rally don’t want to eat much, particularly when you’re in bed.

It always amazes me in hospital that you’re given cooked meals – on the odd occasion that I’ve been a patient I only want light things, a sandwich at the most – the idea of sitting propped up on pillows tucking into a meat pie, vegetables mash and gravy followed by apple crumble and custard is almost disgusting to me – I don’t mean hospital food is disgusting, it always looks nice, tasty and well presented, but it’s the idea of eating when ill and in bed which repulses me.

Back to recipes for the invalid – lots of steamed things, lots of milky things, drinks of arrowroot, barley-water and beef tea, lots of jellies – calf’s foot and egg among them, and then gruel…

Is it worth the waiting for?
If we live ’til eighty four
All we ever get is gruel!
Every day we say our prayer,
Will they change the bill of fare?
Still we get the same old gruel!

So what is gruel? Well, it’s groats… and what are groats (apart from being old coins)… considering they are despised as being the food of the poor, they sound as if they are actually quite healthy:

Groats are the hulled kernels of various cereal grains such as oat, wheat, rye, and barley. Groats are whole grains that include the cereal germ and fibre-rich bran portion of the grain, as well as the endosperm

… quite healthy if groats are your breakfast cereal followed by something protein rich, and then by two other decent meals. Id watery hulled kernels of various cereal grains is all you are getting three times a day, then maybe not.

So here is a ninety year old recipe for an invalid if you have one:

Gruel

  • ½ pint milk
  • sugar to taste
  • 1½ teaspoons of patent groats
  1. mix the groats to a smooth paste with a small quantity of milk
  2. heat the rest of the milk and stir the groats into it
  3. bring to the boil, and simmer gently for ten minutes, keeping well stirred
  4. add sugar to taste

Patent groats are, I guess milled and easy to cook. The groats which were coins were English and Irish silver coins worth about four pence.

Arrowroot by the way is the product of a variety of tropical tubers a type of starch that can be used as you would cornflour.

My featured image is of something which apparently St Paul recommended for stomachs… oh, it would have been but I appear to have drunk it!

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