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 Sheep is less stimulating, and less nutritious than beef, and in general not so easily digested. Mutton fat often provokes indigestion because of its hircic acid. The remarkable alterative efficacy of the Sheep's throat gland (thyroid) when given as a medicinal food, on the recently discovered curative principle of healthy animal substances, corresponding to the same parts when morbidly affected in the human body, has been already explained. It is strikingly shown also in the reduction of excessive fatness, the vital energy being at the same time low, and mental sluggishness being a prominent symptom. One may note as a suggestive fact that this throat gland is often concerned in producing just such obesity, as, when dependent on other causes, this gland, if given as a medicine, will reduce; but its extract, as prepared by the chemist in a concentrated form, is not proper for aged persons with feeble heart. Obesity in persons of sedentary habits who take freely of carbohydrates in their meals, such as fatty things, starchy preparations, and sweet dishes, must be met by cutting off these matters, which are but incompletely used up under such conditions, and serve to encumber the system with excess of uric acid, so that rheumatic troubles are the result.
Such patients should be kept almost exclusively on lean meat, with those vegetables which contain the least starch, and plenty of hot water between meals. In this way their system will be flushed, and further urates will be prevented; at the same time the excess of fat will be materially reduced. But, on the other hand, lean, spare persons of poor digestive powers, insomuch that animal food, being imperfectly, and incompletely appropriated, clogs the body with an excess of the meat elements as refuse urates, need an altogether opposite treatment for the rheumatic troubles which ensue. Under these conditions animal food is only to be allowed very sparingly, if at all, whilst light forms of carbohydrate nourishment should be liberally given. The paradox of a different line of treatment for rheumatism, apparently the same in both cases, but actually diametrically distinct, is thus explained. In the British Medical Journal (1901) mention has been made of a case of "desperate cancer, internal, in a woman, for which the Sheep's throat gland, in extract, was steadily administered, beginning with a dose of five grains daily, and soon increasing this daily dose to twenty grains.
The result was little short of marvellous, seeing that a complete cure was thereby effected".
Arabs often eat raw Sheep's liver, or kidneys, seasoned only with salt. In Holland, and Germany, Mutton is held in disrepute. Remarkably enough, when considered in relation to the modern approved method of cure by fresh animal extracts, is the circumstance that Jesner, in the sixteenth century, prescribed as follows "for dotage, and diseases of the brain": "Cut off at a blow a young ram's head, and after removing the horns, boil it with the skin, and wool entire; and when it is well sodden, take out the brains, and mix them with a powder of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mace, and cloves, heating them over a chafing dish, and stirring them so that they do not burn. This must be given to the patient, with bread, in an egg, or broth, for fourteen days, fasting being necessary both before, and after." Soup may be made from Sheep's head, and from Sheep's "pluck"; on account of which latter designation the concoction has been named heroic soup. A baked Sheep's head is a "Field Lane Duck." A certain dining house at Rome was made notorious by the poet Horace, who contracted a severe fit of indigestion there by eating "Sheep's head," which dish he studiously shunned always afterwards.
Some humorous incidents about cooked Sheep's head, or "jimmy," are told in Kitchen Physic. "Alice" (in Through the Looking Glass) "found herself all of a sudden in a small, dark shop, leaning with her elbows on the counter; and opposite to her was an old Sheep sitting in an arm-chair, knitting, and every now and then leaving off to look at her through a great pair of spectacles. ' What is it you want to buy?' said the Sheep at last, looking up for a moment from her knitting. ' I don't quite know yet,' Alice said very gently; ' I should like to look all round me first, if I might.' ' You may look in front, and on both sides of you if you like,' said the Sheep; ' but you can't look all round you unless you've got eyes at the back of your head.' " Mattieu Williams records, as an instance of educated appetite, and digestive capability, the case of a Sheep at a butcher's in Jermyn Street, London, which animal was well known by following the butcher's men through the streets like a dog. "This Sheep was seen on several occasions to steal Mutton-chops, and to devour them raw, preferring these to grass, or to other meat (beef). The animal enjoyed robust health, and was by no means ferocious".
Tallow is the coarse fat of Sheep melted down, chiefly for making candles. Richard Boyle (1696) has given, in his Collection of Medicines, a vulgar, but often approved, remedy for a cold, especially one that affects the breast: "Take half a sheet, or a sheet, of brown paper, of as even a texture as you can get, and anoint it evenly, and very well with the oldest tallow, or candle grease, you can procure, so that the paper may be thoroughly penetrated by it; then cover it thinly with grated nutmeg (as you were to put the spice upon a toast), and clap it warm to the pit of the stomach that it may reach a good way both above it, and beneath it." Another excellent old-fashioned application for a cold in the head, with stuffed nostrils, was to tallow the nose at night across the bridge thereof; but this practice, together with the tallow candles, and the snuffers then in vogue to keep them from growing dim, and from guttering through gradual length of wick, are almost beyond the memory of the present generation.
C. S. Calverley humorously writes respecting: -
"A patient of Skey's Who is prone to catch chills like all old Bengalese; But at bedtime I trust he'll remember to grease The bridge of his nose; and preserve his rupees From the premature clutch of his fond legatees".
Among other uncouth habits, Dr. Johnson would turn over the lighted candles head downwards to make them burn more brightly; and the melted tallow, or wax, would drop over the carpet.
On the third day of Dresden the energies of the Emperor Napoleon were impaired by the effects of a shoulder of Mutton stuffed with garlic, partaken of at dinner. The habit of eating fast, and carelessly, is believed to have incapacitated his judgment, and action, on two of the most critical occasions of his life, - the battles of Borodino, and Leipsic. The general order to his household was to have cutlets, and roast chicken, always ready; and this was observed to the letter by his Maitre d'hotel, Dumand, who had been a famous cook.
In cases of extreme bodily exhaustion, as in an advanced stage of continued fever, and similar states of extreme illness, the reeking hot fleece from a newly-slaughtered Sheep has been savingly employed to restore vital warmth by enwrapping the sick person therein. This remedial method is practised throughout Afghanistan, and was told of by Homer. A Sheep is killed, and skinned; then straightway a little oil of turmeric is rubbed over the inside of the fleece, within which, whilst it still steams with heat, the patient is enveloped. Childe, Lord of the Manor of Plymstock, when benighted on Dartmoor in a snowstorm, killed his horse, and got within the body to save his life, being presently found therein by the Benedictine Monks of Tavistock. Again, Sir Walter Scott, in his childhood, became lame from paralysis, and was ordered "as often as a Sheep was killed for the household use, to be stripped, and swathed up in the skin, warm as it was, just flayed from the animal's carcase." "In this Tartar-like habiliment I well remember lying on the floor of the little parlour in the farmhouse, while my grandfather, a fine old man with white hair, used every excitement to make me crawl." In earlier times our English King, James the First, who was passionately fond of the chase (but suffered from those gouty, and rheumatic twinges which too emphatically reminded the Stuart, in the autumn of his days, how "every inordinate cup is unblest, and the ingredient thereof a devil"), invariably, whenever a deer was run down, and killed, would plunge his unbooted limbs within the beast's warm, reeking entrails.
This remarkable panacea was advised by the Court Physician, Sir Theodore Mayerne, as the "sovereign'st thing on earth" for the said rheumatic troubles. The oil of Sheep's wool, now known as "lanolin," has recently come into extended medical use; it is the wool fat, or suint, being prepared from the purified cholesterin fat of lamb's wool; it is stable, not drying quickly, and not supporting germ life, being therefore an admirable foundation for ointments. Also, as a basic constituent of mutton fat (tallow), the syrupy fluid known as glycerine subserves certain culinary uses with remedial effects, though it takes rank more as a drug than as a food. Nevertheless, it is sweet to the taste, and makes a capital addition to foods instead of cane sugar for diabetic persons; furthermore, it obviates constipation when taken by the teaspoonful, and repeated every two, or three hours if needed. It can occupy the place of cod-liver oil for consumptive patients who do not tolerate that fish product, being given to the extent of two ounces a day; it will further help to dissolve gravel when this is observed to occur in the urine; and it promotes the efficacy of red bone-marrow if combined therewith as a special nutriment for the recruital of bloodless patients after haemorrhage, or loss of blood by accident.
Probably the virtue which glycerine exercises as an antiseptic, is due to the withdrawal which it effects of some of the water from the substance of invading microbes, such attraction for water being possessed by glycerine to a singular degree; it is undrying, and remarkably solvent. A small dose thereof will admirably quench intolerable thirst when the amount of liquids allowed to a patient has to be restricted. Against gall-stones, and the colic which they cause by their obstructive presence, the daily taking of from two to four teaspoonfuls of glycerine in some alkaline water has proved most efficacious. Also for flatulent indigestion, with acidity, a dose of glycerine (one, or two teaspoonfuls) will generally afford immediate relief. For a troublesome cough it is often of service to mix a tablespoonful of glycerine with half a tumblerful of cold water, and to take one, or two, teaspoonfuls of this mixture pretty frequently.