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 great majority of medical men are unable to give precise instructions to a cook; while, nevertheless, on the other hand, many unqualified practitioners impress the public mind by affording careful directions as to the preparation of foods for the sick, who therefore prefer to consult these irregular advisers. Recently two ladies in Berlin, superintendents of Cookery Schools for young women, have arranged to give special courses there for doctors. "This offer,"says The Lancet, "should be heartily welcomed by those who think that medical training in such respects ought to be much more practical than has hitherto been the case".
At the International Health Exhibition, London, 1884, Dr. Andrew Blyth, in his authoritative manual issued by the Council, concerning "Health by Diet,"wrote prophetically of a time, which is now happily at hand after twenty years of steady medical progress. His admirable publication began with these words: "When by successive researches the Science of Diet has become better understood, without doubt a School of Physicians will arise, discarding all drugs, and treating maladies by cutting off certain foods, and by surfeiting with others; if, indeed, there is not at the present time ready formed in the highest representatives of modern medicine the nucleus of this future School of Dietetics. There are diets suited for every age, for every climate, for every species of work, physical, or mental; there are diets by which diseases may be prevented, and cured; there are diets fitted for some constitutions, injurious to others; diets which make the skin glossy, the frame vigorous, and the spirits joyous; others which mar the face with wrinkles, speckle the body with eruptions, and make the form lean, hollow, and prematurely old".
Two or three classes of disease may be taken as forcibly illustrating the importance of treating them specially by foods such as are particularly indicated during their pathological course. Hippocrates thought most highly of good judicious feeding in fevers, recommending wine, and the ptisan of barley (which we now call gruel), so made that it "may be thin, but not too thin: thick, but not too thick." Dr. R. Graves, 1848, again, has rendered himself famous by maintaining not only in words, but also in deeds, that the feeding of fevers is the most essential feature in their cure. His plan was to restrict the patient only for the first three or four days to gruel, barley-water, and whey, proceeding quickly after this time to chicken broth, meat jelly, and strong soup; the great art of duly nourishing fever patients consisting, as he taught, in giving a frequent, almost continuous, supply of liquid nourishment containing very soluble aliments, in a dilute form. "Let it be the chief aim to restore that which the thoughtful observer can clearly see is passing exhaustively away, - nitrogenous tissue." Likewise with regard to hysterical affections, such as hypochondriasis, and others of a like nature, a generous nitrogenous diet is essential in their treatment, particularly in one peculiar form of this malady which arises from eating too sparingly of vegetables, and too abundantly of meat.
It is distinguished by the high specific gravity of the urine, mounting from 1025 to 1035, as dependent on the presence of urea alone, in excess, and no sugar. There is in these cases often a remarkable lassitude, and even an apparent paralysis of the limbs occurring suddenly after exertion, and sometimes there is bodily wasting; both of which symptoms usually lead the patient and his friends to attribute the morbid state to insufficient nutrition, and therefore to increase more and more the proportion of meat in the food, in despite of the ailment becoming aggravated thereby. A rapid cure of such a patient will attend the diminution of the meat meals to one daily, and the supplying their place with plenty of well-made porridge, and of green vegetables. Similarly, the advantage of treating many persons commonly insane through an ill-fed brain, by an ample and nutritions diet is daily forcing itself more and more on the convictions of the proprietors of lunatic asylums, though their business interests would, of course, prompt them to an opposite course of proceeding.
Once more, as to unsound states of the heart, the dietary of persons having this organ imperfect of function, or structure, should be more nitrogenous than if they were healthy in such respect. "What we have to dread,"says Dr. Chambers, "is the wasting degeneration of the heart's muscular walls; for, until such degeneration ensues the original lesion is not aggravated, and the constitution will often become so used to the altered mechanism of the heart, that no inconvenience of any sort is felt; if the muscular structure remains healthy, the injured valves do not seem capable of causing the organ to stop in its pulsations. Persons in easy circumstances have valvular lesions for years and years, perhaps through the greater part of a long life, and not only continue to live, but even fail to experience symptoms bad enough to make them consult a doctor. Now the main hope of warding off this wasting degeneration lies in the maintenance of a full, generous diet, easily digested, so as to keep the blood red, and fluid for the continuous repair of the endangered muscle. But in the reverse condition of heart, when there is a state of habitual high arterial pressure, as proved by the hard pulse, and the tense circulatory conditions, then boiled fish once a day is the best animal food.
Such a state of high pressure will be probably depending on a want of elasticity, or tone in the coats of the arteries, increased perhaps by the contact of blood surcharged with waste products of nitrogenous food. And for such symptoms it would be altogether wrong to allow strong meats, or any alcoholic drinks".
"It is remarkable" (Medical Press, 1902) "that physicians and hygienists but rarely venture to face the realms devoted to the culinary art. The medical practitioner often blames the drains, or complains of the drinking-water, or grumbles at the lack of fresh air; but when does he venture to enquire into the ways, and means of the cook?" "There would be no difficulty in showing that the selection, preservation, preparation, and serving of the food of a household are among the most vital factors in influencing its health. The main part of the problem of life can be expressed in terms of food, whilst much of the indisposition, and many of the minor ailments of everyday life, are directly the outcome of a neglect of hygienic practice in the kitchen. If the illnesses met with in 'high life ' are to be effectually dealt with, the ignorance, and neglect often made manifest in 'low life' must not be forgotten. We hope the author of Kitchen Physic (1901) will see fit to supplement his discourse by a work dealing with Kitchen Hygiene".