This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The flesh of the ox has been long reputedly in this country the highest form of sustenance, for both the sound, and the sick. Its solid parts are composed of albumin, fat, creatin, creatinin, inosinic acid, muscular tissue, and various salts. Its chief nutriment consists in the albumin, and fibrin, for building up the solids of the body. These elements become coagulated into insoluble substance by heat, and have therefore to be of necessity excluded from liquid extracts of Beef, made to be kept, and taken hot. Raw Beef is more readily assimilated when eaten than cooked meat, because its albumin has not become hardened by heat; but there is always the risk of its then containing noxious parasites which can only be killed by cooking. If Beef, or other animal food, is taken in excess of the digestive powers, so as to remain within the body unchanged by the gastric juices, it will soon undergo putrescence, whereby corrupt products will pass into the blood, entailing mischief. Raw Beef sandwiches may be given watchfully in cases of great debility, prostration, or bloodlessness. Likewise, sandwiches of ox tongue, gently boiled, are light, and nutritious.
Animal tongues consist of soft meat-fibre permeated by fat. "Tongue?" said Mr. Weller at the shooting luncheon (in Pickwick); "Well: tongue's a wery good thing when it aint a woman's."Reindeer's tongues are largely imported into this country from Russia; they are snow-cured, no salt whatever being used, so that the mildness, and richness of flavour are preserved.
With regard to Beef extracts, which are legion in name, and number, it is well said that no satisfactory evidence for any belief in their having nourishing, and really restorative properties, is forthcoming. Two ounces of Liebig's Extract, for instance, can be taken at one time by a healthy man without producing any other effect than that of slight diarrhoea. And as respects the nervous system, equally unsatisfactory evidence must be confessed. There is no proof that meat extractives act as stimulants to the brain in the same way that tea, and coffee do, though it has to be allowed that they are capable of removing the effects of muscular fatigue after tiring bodily exertion. "As a matter of fact,"says Dr. R. Hutchison, "the white of one egg will contain as much nutritive matter as three teaspoonfuls of any of these advertised preparations, to wit, Liebig's Extract, Bovril fluid Beef, Bovril for Invalids, Brand's Essence, Brand's Beef Bouillon, Armour's Extract, etc., etc. It is solely on the ' extractives' (which are cordials, but of no use as tissue constructors), that these several preparations have to depend.
Such extractives represent only the fragments, as it were, of broken-down animal substance".
Again, in like manner concerning Beef-tea, unless this includes a solid sediment of the coagulated albuminous constituents, the nutrient value of the liquid will be nil. "A clear Beef-tea is a useless Beef-tea; the only, and whole claim of Beef-tea as a food rests on the presence therein of flocculent animal particles which represent albumin, and fibrin; the rest of the liquid consists merely of a solution of the extractives."Dr. Fothergill has protested that "all the bloodshed caused by the warlike ambition of Napoleon, is as nothing compared to the myriads of persons who have sunk into their graves from a misplaced confidence in the food-value of Beef-tea! "Nevertheless, by adding to the Beef-tea the exhausted fibrous solids of the meat, care being taken to reduce these to a state of fine division, the nutritive qualities of the tea can be materially increased; so that what is termed a "whole Beef-tea" is thus beneficially produced. Ordinary Beef-tea, however well made, is only a cordial stimulant, and not a sustaining food.
It may be mixed with chicken-broth (which actually does hold albuminous constituents in solution), and will then represent useful sustenance.
Beef juices, expressed from raw, lean meat, differ from meat extracts obtained by heat, in. still containing the proteids (or prime solids) of the meat, now uncoagulated; but (says a high authority) none of these juices can be taken in a sufficiently large quantity to supply much proteid to the body. Summing up the question of the value which extractives of Beef, and of other red meats stand entitled to claim, Dr. Hutchison gives it as his dictum that "they cannot renew the tissues, or supply the body with energy, and therefore are not foods. They pass out of the body through the kidneys in the same form in which they entered it; they do not act as restorative stimulants to the heart, though they may possibly help to remove fatigue; and yet they are powerful aids to digestion by calling out a free flow of gastric juice from within the stomach, whilst their pleasant flavour serves to arouse the appetite. The only means of getting the full value of Beef in small bulk is by the use of the dried meat powders."A solution of the white of egg flavoured with sound meat-extract forms a cheap and efficient substitute for the juices of raw, lean Beef.
In South Africa, Beef is prepared to make what is known there as "biltong," which, with bread and butter, is very appetizing for invalids, and most nourishing. The Beef, when cut out in a long, tongue-shaped strip from the hind leg of an ox (from the thigh-bone to the knee-joint), is then rubbed with some salt, some brown sugar, and an ounce of saltpetre. This rubbing, and then turning, is continued daily for three days, after which time the meat is put under a press for a night; it is next dried in the wind, and then hung in the chimney until still drier, and pretty firm. When eaten it is to be cut into very thin slices, or rasped. Persons suffering from sea-sickness on board ship have relished this "biltong" when no other delicacy would tempt them to eat. It is quite as readily assimilated as fresh meat, being generally taken uncooked.
Prime Beef, when freshly roasted, or broiled, may be almost compared to alcohol in its stimulating effects at first; indeed, De Quincey has told of a "medical student in London, for whose knowledge in his profession he (Quincey) had reason to feel great respect, who assured him that a patient in recovering from an illness had got drunk on a Beef-steak." And quite recently the Lancet, borrowing this idea so as to apply it further, has declared: "One can truly state that there are hundreds, and hundreds of men and women in our midst who are daily stupefying themselves with Beef, heavy, and in excess, thereby deadening their brains, paralysing their bodies, and ruining their health; young people need more of such food than those who are fully grown, but it is the adults who do all the gormandizing!"
None the less, though, are we justified in boasting triumphantly of the "Roast Beef of Old England "as pre-eminently our great national dish; and in repeating right loyally the spirited invocation of Charles Morris (Laureate, in 1785), to the "Old Beef-steak Club ". -
"May beef long bless our favoured coast,
Where no despotic ruffian Has dared a brazen bull to roast,
With men inside for stuffing! Where never Jove, a tyrant god,
Who loves fair maids to purloin, As a white bull the billows rode,
With madam on his sirloin. Like Britain's Island lies our steak,
- A sea of gravy round it. - Shalots, in fragrance scattered, make,
The rock-work which surrounds it: Our Isle's best emblem here behold,
Remember ancient story; Be, like your grandsires, just and bold;
So live and die in glory".
The first Beef-steak Club was re-organised in the winter of 1749, at the instance of Dr. Samuel Johnson, and met weekly at a famous Beef-steak house in Ivy Lane. This Club had been first formed in 1735 by Rich, the famous Harlequin; it continued to held its meetings in rooms behind the stage of the Lyceum Theatre, in London, up to 1867, when, as the roll of members had become reduced to eighteen, its doors were closed for ever. In 1869 its effects were sold at Christie's Auction rooms. Originally George Lambert, the Scene Painter of Covent Garden Theatre, had his beef-steak broiled there over the fire in the painting room, and was sometimes joined by visitors, whose conviviality from the savoury dish led them to form the Club. In 1808, when the Covent Garden Theatre was burnt down, the Club moved its quarters, first to the Bedford Coffee House, and then back to the Lyceum stage, where it met on Saturday nights in the famous oak-panelled room, and had steaks from the great gridiron; over this were inscribed Shakespeare's words: "If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly".
In the Art of Cookery (1708) we read: -
"Good beef for men; pudding for youth and age, Come up to the decorum of the stage".
"A cauldron of Pat Beef, and stoupe of ale On the huzzaing mob shall more prevail Than if you gave them, with the nicest art, Ragouts of peacock's brains, or filber'd tart".
Beef and rump-steak are intimately associated with the history of the food discipline of pugilists. The famous trainer, Sir Thomas Parkyas, of Bunny Park, greatly preferred Beef-eaters to what he termed sheep-eaters, who ate mutton. On the other hand, Humphries, the pugilist, was trained by Ripshaw at first upon Beef, but made thereupon so much flesh that the Beef was changed for mutton, roast, or boiled.
The action of air upon Beef, as upon all meat which has not been cooked, or frozen, is the same as that which it exercises in the living body, - oxygen is absorbed, and carbonic acid is exhaled. Concurrently, a certain amount of lactic acid forms in the meat, which, during the subsequent cooking, dissolves, or softens the fibrinous parts. The flesh of an animal which has died otherwise than by being slaughtered for food, may never be safely cooked, and eaten; it was a sanitary ordinance enjoined from the time of the Levitical law by Moses to the Israelites, "Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself"; though he proceeded to say (in meanness of spirit which was strange for so wise a patriarch), "Thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is within thy gates that he may eat it: or thou mayest sell it unto an alien".
Raw Beef, by some special virtue which it possesses, is a highly useful application to a recent bruise. "Eye damaged, Sir?" asked Jingle (at the "Golden Cross "Hotel, travellers' room). "Here, Waiter: a raw Beef-steak for the gentleman's eye. Nothing like raw Beef-steak for a bruise, Sir. Cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-post inconvenient. Deuced odd standing in the open street half-an-hour with your eye against a lamp-post, eh? Very good! ha! ha!"
In the Cheetham School (of the thirteenth century) at Manchester, within the Wardens' Room, is a sideboard of beautifully carved oak; it is made from the top of a bookcase, and from the lower part of a bedstead in which the young Pretender slept. The lad who takes a visitor round shows with special delight the carving of "'the cock that crows when it smells roast Beef"opposite to which is a Pelican; tempore, Charles the Second.