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.
It is told that Sir Walter Scott, having occasion to seek medical aid unexpectedly in a small country town, found a doctor there, one John Lundie, a grave, sagacious-looking man, attired in black, with a shovel hat, who said, "My practice is vera sure: I depend entirely upon twa simples." "And what may they be? "asked Sir Walter. "My twa simples"' replied John, in a low confidential tone, "are just laudamy and calamy." "Simples with a vengeance!' 'quoth Scott; "And how about your patients, John?" "Whiles they dies: whiles no," answered he, "but it's the wull o' Providence".
Little did the said doctor surmise that, comprehended within his two simples, lay many constituent principles owning distinct activities, and which have since then become analysed into separate medicaments. The laudamy (opium) has been found to comprise no less than twenty-one elements, all with divers physical, and chemical properties, (some indeed antagonistic); whilst the calamy is understood now-a-days to exercise a wide variety of effects, determinable by varying methods of its use: these "twa simples" thus making together an ample pharmacopoeia of drugs. But those were times of comparatively rude physic, and of rough-shod medical treatment.
Our assumption, to-day, is that (in lieu of drugs) an adequate sufficiency of component curative parts stands similarly embodied within most of our ordinary dishes and drinks if judiciously appointed and skilfully applied. It rests with the enlightened physician, and the well-informed housewife, to make themselves practically acquainted with these principles for cure, as possessed by foods and beverages which can be specially prepared and prescribed for the several maladies as they come under management. In which respect we likewise in our case advocate a practice of treating the sick and the ailing, chiefly with "twa simples,' 'representative of leading kinds, to wit the Cabbage and the Egg. These are our laudamy and calamy of to-day, our compendiums of restorative, sedative, and alterative powers and virtues. The Cabbage, as Culpeper reminds his readers (1650), "was, for Chrysippus his god, and therefore he wrote a whole volume about it and its virtues; whilst honest old Cato, as men said, made use of no other physick."In common with its vegetable congeners it affords sulphur, a potential antiseptic; also an abundance of mineral salts for tissue-building and repair; starches, too, as fuel for the bodily combustion; and volatile aromatic oils in rich plenty, as of special virtues for subduing and repelling diseases.
Similarly concerning the Egg, this is aptly pronounced "the only complete food afforded by the animal kingdom, for full sustenance, and physical curative benefits." It comprehends all the alimentary substances required for the support and maintenance of animal life; contained within its body are proteids for structural renovation, arsenic, phosphorus, easy to assimilate, an antibilious oil of remarkable energy, fats against wasting illness, iron to reanimate the bloodless, and lime salts (largely present in the shells) to subserve numerous other reparative ends.
But far be it from our meaning to imply that of comestibles and drinks, besides the Cabbage, the Egg (and perhaps Milk, as a third representative support), other therapeutic forms of food are lacking, up to any number, from the cook, or of healing potions from liquid sources as supplied for the table. Convincing evidence to the contrary is borne by the copious testimony of the lengthy volume which we now undertake. It will be found that an entire armament of weapons is provided herein, ready at hand for active service alike in sickness and during convalescence therefrom. Some of the food principles obtained thus, are indeed so potent as to become poisonous if accumulating redundantly in the blood.
"Somnambulism," says Dr. Wynter Blyth, "can be produced by starches in excess within the body so as to form amylene; under the influence of which toxin a person will walk about unconsciously in the same way as the somnambulist does. Afterwards, when the effect goes off, the said person becomes all right again."So again a sulphur compound, mercaptan, may be produced in the digestive chemistry of certain foods which have been taken at table, causing therefrom an intense melancholy, almost leading to suicide. "I have no doubt," adds Dr. Blyth, "the day is coming when it will be proved that several forms of mental derangement are due to substances resulting morbidly from food products inside our own bodies".
As long ago as in the seventeenth century the Aqua Toffana played a notorious part in serving to destroy (by its secret admixture with the Naples drinking-water) more than six hundred persons, among whom were two popes. This poison is said to have been prepared by killing a hog, disjointing it, salting it (as it were) with arsenic, and then collecting the juice which dropped from the meat; which juice was considered far more fatal than an ordinary solution of arsenic. Combined therewith was a little plant which is most familiar to ourselves, - the ivy-leaved toad-flax, (linaria cymbalaria), or "mother of thousands," - growing commonly on old garden walls, and now esteemed as harmless, though bitter and astringent. Again, our English King John, of disreputable memory, is recorded to have shut up Maud Fitzwalter the Fair, in the dingiest and chilliest den of the Tower; and, when neither cold, nor hunger, nor solitude broke her strength, while she still disdained his shameful suit, he foisted on her a poisoned egg, of which she ate and died.
The leading motive of the present work is, then, to instruct Teaders, whether medical or lay, how to choose meats and drinks, which can afford precisely the same remedial elements for effecting cures as medicinal drugs have hitherto been relied on to bring about: and which, plus their vital force, are of supreme advantage, because energetically derived straight from the fresh animal and vegetable sources. So that a culinary "Materia Medica" will stand thus competently and agreeably provided, on which dependence can be placed, even with greater trust than on prescribed drugs.
In previous publications we have discussed at some length the groundwork of Vegetable, Animal, and combined Alimentary Physic. That our Herbal Simples fairly met a public requirement in this direction, was proved by the speedy demand for two editions of the said Manual, insomuch that it has been for the last three years out of print, the publishers repeatedly urging a third edition; and therefore the main portions of Herbal Simples,are reproduced in the present Meals Medicinal (particularly as regards their curative edible belongings). But of our Animal Simples, and Kitchen Physic, scarcely any of the same literary substance finds place again here, except in brief allusion, and plainly stated as such; furthermore some few of the pleasantries are repeated, for adding zest to the present fare, with a better savour, like that of a twice-cooked curry. "Saepe stylum vertas, iterum quae digna legi sint scripturus".
Having done assiduous scullion service in these three branches of medicinal apprenticeship, and thereby acquired a skilled knowledge of the complete culinary art, as to its needs and methods for the benefit of the sick and the sorry, we now promote ourselves to the advanced office of a physician chef; and we proceed to furnish curative nutriment of as finished a quality as prolonged experience, and the modern scientific progress of the times in such regard, justify us in attempting to advance. Our menu provides a complete dispensatory of remedial diet, applicable to the treatment throughout of most diseases and ailments. Its modus medendi is made lucid and plain, so that any intelligent reader may straightway pursue its directions. As to our discursive condiments interposed, such "Digressions,"saith Tristram Shandy, "are incontestably the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading; take them out of this book, for instance, you might as well take the book along with them. One cold, eternal winter would reign in every page of it; restore them to the writer, he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids all hail, brings in variety, and forbids the appetite to falter.
All the dexterity is in the good cooking, and management of them, so as to be for the advantage, not only of the reader, but also of the author".
Nevertheless, Si te forte mece gravis uret sarcina chartce, - abjicito!
For ourselves we venture to adopt the instructive parable related by Saint Luke in his gospel: "A certain man has made a great supper, and bids many thereto. He sendeth forth his servant to say to them that are bidden, "Come, for all things are ready." Idle excuses, let us hope that but few will begin to make. Else we shall have to seek further in the streets and lanes of the city, for bringing in hither the poor, and the maimed, the halt, and the blind; which being done as commanded, there will yet be room.
Our forefathers did not forget piety in their feasts. At the Coronation of Henry the Sixth, 1429, "After a soteltie (at the first course) of Seynt Edward, and Seynt Lewis, armed in their cootes of armes,"the second course opened with a "Vyaande inscribed with the Te Deum Laudamus." "In the third course was again a soteltie of our Lady syttynge, holding hyr child in hyr armes, in every hand a crowne, and Seynt George knelying on oon syde." Finally then, in the same spirit, we "Bless the Trinity which hath given us health to prosecute our worthless studies thus far: and we make supplication with a Laus Deo, if in any case these our poor labours may be found instrumental to weede out bodily ailments, black melancholy, carking cares, and harte grief, from the minds of men. - Sed hoc magis volo quam expecto. - I, nunc liber; goe forth my brave treatise, child of my labours with the pen; and ye, candidi lectores, lo, here I give him up to you: even do with him what you may please, my masters! "
"All we know of the matter is, when we sat down, our intent was to write a good book: and, as far as the tenuity of our understanding would hold out, a wise, aye, and a discreet: taking care only, as we went along, to put into it the wit and judgment, (be it more or less) which the great Author and Bestower of them had thought fit originally to give us: so that, as your worships see, 'tis just as God pleases." "Take therefore, gentle readers, in good part what's projected for thee: so shall our pains not quite want their recompense; nor thyselves be branded with the base mark of mean ingratitude." "Fare ye well!"