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.
John Evelyn likewise tells in his Acetaria (1699): "We read of divers Popes, and Emperors, that had sometimes learned physicians for their master-cooks; and that of old an excellent cook was reckon'd among the eruditi".
Sydney Smith, later on, in a letter to Arthur Kinglake (1837), advanced a proposition much to the same effect: "I am convinced," said he, "digestion is the great secret of life; and that character, talents, virtues, and qualities are powerfully affected by beef, mutton, pie-crust, and rich soups. I have often thought I could feed, or starve men into many virtues, and vices, and affect them more powerfully with my instruments of cookery than Timotheus could do formerly with his lyre. Frequently is it that those persons whom God hath joined together in matrimony, ill-cooked joints and badly-boiled potatoes have put asunder".
"There is" (to quote the Lancet, December, 1901) "a striking point of view from which the cook may be brought to the aid of the practical physician. If, for example, it were clearly shown that drugs such as are now used only in formally-prescribed mixtures, or pills, are capable of being introduced into the more welcome productions of the domestic kitchen, how grateful an assistance we should obtain! It is often difficult, where a medicine has to be taken frequently, and over long periods of time, to be sure that the patient does not grow careless, or forgetful. If, however, instead of taking his draught before, or his pill after his daily meals, the said draught, or the requisite pill, were (without altering the taste of the dish then served, and without losing its own efficacy) combined with the patient's dinner, instead of preceding it, or following it, we can imagine a far more certain acceptance thereof on his part; and the physician's orders would be more consistently carried out by connivance on the side of the cook than they are with the co-operation of the chemist. Such a relegation of the dispenser's duties to the hands of the chef can only be achieved by familiarity in the mind of the medical man with the work of both his subordinates.
As to that of the druggist, he is perhaps fairly cognizant; with that of the cook it is to be strongly recommended that he shall become more intimately acquainted".
And, indeed, if only on historical grounds, medical men should specially interest themselves in foodstuffs, and their preparation. From early times, when the functions of priest, and physician, were united in the same man, and when votive offerings, and therapeutic agents were alike prescribed, and dispensed by his hands, the association of the culinary, and healing arts has been always a close one. There is a fund of useful lore, and information, in the old accounts of the various properties, and powers with which writers from the earliest times invested different articles of diet. Thus Pliny tells it as the opinion of Cato, that after eating hare, sleep is induced; but the common people rather suppose that after partaking of such food the body is more lively, and gay for the next nine days. "This may be only an idle rumour; but still for so widespread a belief there must be some foundation."And whether such is really the case, or not, an investigation into the exact properties of the flesh of various animals, and into those appertaining to other articles of diet (as shellfish, for instance, which are known to exercise peculiar effects upon certain persons) would not only prove of immediate interest, but might lead to results of great therapeutic value. "Chemical work of this sort is a most fitting direction in which to turn the efforts of such clinical laboratories as are sure in the future to be more, and more extensively employed in connection with all large general hospitals." "There are many widespread beliefs, and theories with regard to the effects of different foodstuffs in health, and disease, but exact knowledge on such points is scanty.
We cannot doubt that in attempting to enlarge, and to define it, direct, or indirect results of importance, and utility would be certainly obtained." "It is obviously of the greatest moment that if a physician orders a medicine he should be able to tell that it is duly dispensed; but this is not feasible unless he could dispense it, if necessary, himself; and, conversely, a man familiar with the modes of dispensing will have far wider powers, and greater ingenuity, and will apply drugs with more minute efficiency than one who prescribes them whilst lacking any such intimacy with the materials which he is recommending. A similar argument may certainly be applied to the products of the kitchen. Yet, if a large number of medical men can claim familiarity with drugs, and the methods of dispensing them, few, we imagine, will assert an intimacy with these processes of the kitchen, or even to any considerable extent with the materials which are used therein, and the daily employment whereof they may have many times advised. No doctor can ignore the importance of diet both in health, and in disease; and the cook may well be regarded as a chief officer in the service of medicine, curative or preventive.
It is, without doubt, in the daily provision of wholesome, digestible dishes that the main function of the kitchen lies. Nevertheless, no medical man can afford to neglect its aid when he is reckoning up his therapeutic resources; and more particularly to-day, when the use of animal extracts in medicine has become so prominent, should the importance of the kitchen be properly recognized".
There is an indisputable measure of truth in the allegation that the qualities of the food affect both mind, and body. Buckle (History of Civilization) took this view, when trying to show that the character of a people depends much on their diet. The theory he has advanced is that the properties, and virtues, or vices, of what is eaten pass into the system of the eater; confirmatory of which view an incident has lately been made public of an English gentleman at Shanghai who, at the time of the Taeping attack, met his Chinese servant carrying home the heart of a rebel who had fallen in fight, and which he meant to eat in order to make himself brave. Thus, too, a well-known Professor of Medicine at Berlin used to say in his lectures, that "a doctor ought to be at home, not only in his laboratory, but likewise in the kitchen"; the truth of which dictum is occasionally apparent when practitioners, in prescribing diets for patients, are embarrassed by questions relative to the proper methods for cooking the same.