I believe it is the general practice now to give a patient, in almost every kind of illness, food that is very nourishing, yet very digestible, that the system may become strengthened to throw off its disease.
I devote a chapter to "cookery for the sick," as it is such a useful and delightful accomplishment to know just how to prepare the few available dishes for invalids, so that while they may be most suitable food for the recovery of the patient, they may at the same time be most agreeable to the taste and pleasing to the eye.
The three events of the day to the sufferer are the three meals. How gratefully is it remembered if they have been delicately and carefully administered! Let the mother or the wife prepare them with her own hands; let her never ask an invalid what he will have to eat, but with thought and ingenuity strive to vary the bill of fare each day, always providing proper nourishment. This is an art in itself which can be delegated to no one. It is worth as much to the suffering and beloved patient as is the medical prescription of the physician.
Never leave an article of diet in the sick-room: it is a good means of destroying the appetite, which should be encouraged and not weakened.
Whatever is served, let great attention be paid to giving the dish, after it is properly cooked, a dainty appearance. Place it on the choicest of ware in the house, with the cleanest of napkins, and the brightest of silver, even if that consists only of a tea-spoon.
If tea and toast be served, put the tea, freshly drawn, into the daintiest of tea-cups. Every family might well afford to buy one little, thin china cup and saucer, to use in case of illness; put a square of loaf-sugar into it. A few drops of cream are easily saved for the patient's tea from a small quantity of milk; and cream in small quantities is considered more digestible than milk.
All cooks think they can make toast. There is about one person in ten thousand who really does know how to make it; who actually appreciates the difference between a thin, symmetrical, well-yellowed, crisp piece of toast with the crust cut off, and just from the fire, and a thick, unshapely slice, unevenly crisped on the outside, and of doughy softness in the centre. One is digestible; the other is exceedingly indigestible. The scientific mode of making toast is explained on page 67.
Of the laxative articles of diet, undoubtedly one of the most important is the oatmeal porridge. The chemists say, "Oatmeal stands before all other grains in point of nutritive power." I do not mean to serve gruel, but a thicker preparation, of considerable consistence, which is more palatable. The mode of making it is explained on page 74. Put a heaping table-spoonful of this on a thin saucer; pour some cream over it; then sprinkle over this a little granulated sugar. Now place the saucer on a little salver, on which is spread the whitest of napkins.
Always remember that in cooking any of the grains, as, for instance, corn-meal, oatmeal, hominy, cracked - wheat, etc., let them be thrown into salted boiling water. This makes very great difference in the flavor of the dish. Make every thing in small quantities, so that the patient may always have his dishes freshly made.
In regard to rice, Dr. Lee remarks: "We regard rice as the most valuable of all the articles of food in cases of the derangement of the digestive organs. It nourishes, while it soothes the irritable mucous membrane; and while it supports strength, never seems to aggravate the existing disease. For acute or chronic affections of the alimentary canal, rice-water for drink and rice-jelly for food seem peculiarly well adapted, and appear to exert a specific influence in bringing about a recovery. These preparations are invaluable also in convalescence from acute fevers and other maladies, and in the summer complaints of young children."
Jellies made with gelatine or calf's feet arc very appetizing, but must not be relied on as furnishing much nourishment.
They afford a pleasant vehicle for administering wine, of which the stimulating properties are often very advantageous. I copy a short article from Booth's "Chemistry" on the subject:
"Gelatine in domestic economy is used in the forms of soup and jelly as an aliment; but though experiments seem to show that when mixed with fibrous, albuminous, and caseous substances it becomes nutritive, this conclusion is yet doubtful; for the theory of respiration proves that histrose, which produces the gelatine, has accomplished its part in the animal organization, and can no longer afford sustenance thereto. One fact, however, seems positive, and that is its inability alone to yield nourishment to carnivorous animals. The feeble nutritive power of a gelatinous matter seems to be owing to the destruction of its organization."
On the same subject of the dietetical value of gelatine, Professor Youmans says: "It is regarded as a product of the partial decomposition of albuminous bodies in the system, but as incapable of replacing them when taken as aliment. The French attempted to feed the inmates of their hospitals on gelatinous extract of bones. Murmurs arose, and a commission, with Ma-gendie at their head, was appointed to investigate the matter. They reported gelatine as, dietetically, almost worthless."
Graham bread, corn bread, or the Boston brown-bread, made with part rye flour, are much more nourishing than breads made from bolted wheat. The whiter the wheat flour, the more starch it contains, and the less gluten, which is separated in bolting, and which is the nutritious or flesh-producing portion. The rich Boston brown-bread is especially good cut into thin, even pieces, with a little cream poured over it.
The value of corn-meal for invalids who are thin and incapable of maintaining their natural warmth is scarcely appreciated. Indian-corn contains a large percentage of oil, which is nourishing and fattening. Fat is the heat-producing power.
As to the meats, it seems to me a mistake that that from the ox, with his wholesome food, cleanly habits, sweet breath, and clear eye, is not the most wholesome and digestible of aliments. No meat is so tender and juicy as the cut from the tenderloin or the porter-house steak.
Pork should be avoided in every form by invalids.
I can not but believe that rare-cooked, tender beef is the most valuable disk in the culinary répertoire for invalids; yet Dr. Beaumont, after experimenting with St. Martin, ranks veni-son, when tender and in season, as the most digestible and assimilable of meats. He classes mutton second; then beef. Lamb is less digestible than mutton. Veal should be avoided as well as pork. Fatty substances are also difficult of assimilation. Poultry is less digestible than beef. Then, again, the manncr of cooking beef has a great influence on its digesti-bility. The best modes are broiling and roasting. Potatoes roasted or baked are digested an hour sooner than potatoes boiled.
Before beginning the receipts for especial dishes, I will copy a little story, which furnishes an illustration that the simplest modes of cooking are, after all, the most satisfactory.
"The Vicomte de Vaudreuil, when appointed chargé d'affaires of France to the Court of St. James's, brought over with him a young cook, an élève of the highest schools of the cuisines of Paris. This young culinary aspirant to fame, shortly after his arrival in London, obtained permission of his master to go and witness the artistic operations of that established cordon-bleu, Monsieur Mingay, the cook to Prince Esterhazy, who had been brought up under the Prince Talleyrand's fa-mous chef Louis, and previously under that most bleu of all cordons, the great Carême. On the élève's return, the Vicomte, hearing that his cook was in a state of astonishment from some-thing he had witnessed in Prince Esterhazy's kitchen, summon-ed him to his presence, and said, 'What is this culinary miracle, which I have heard astonishes you, and casts into the shade all other triumphs of the art ?' vatel's follower replied, 'Oh, Monsieur le Vicomte, when I entered the cuisine at Chandos House it was near the time of the prince's luncheon, for which his excellency had ordered something which should be very simple and easily digestible, as he was suffering from languor. The chef Mingay, accordingly Cut from under a well-hung rump of beef three slices of fillet, and rapidly broiling them, he placed the choicest-looking in the middle of a hot dish, and afterward pressing the juice completely out of the remaining two, he poured it on the first ! Oh, monsieur, how great the prince ! how great the cook !' "