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 softer parts of the shields, and fins, are cut into squares when cold, or into oblong pieces, these constituting the favourite morsels in Turtle Soup, and being often erroneously mistaken for the green fat by complacent eaters; the green fat will communicate a green colour to the urine. Mock Turtle Soup is made either with Sturgeon flesh, or with the glutinous scalp integuments of the calf's head. American cookery books order the addition thereto of ' as much curry powder as will lie on a shilling." Plain Turtle Soup is often concocted from dried Turtle after it has been sufficiently soaked, seasoning this with a little salt only. "The Tortoise " (says Clarke, 1678), "which they call Turtle, eats like veal".
In May large numbers of the same come ashore to lay their eggs, which are much esteemed, and are eagerly sought for. The Turtle digs a hole in the sand, and deposits its eggs therein, then proceeding to cover them over. For ascertaining where the nest is located a sharp stick, or iron rod, is used to prod the ground. The edible Tortoise (Sculpetje) supplies restorative food for children who are atrophied, or wasting away; the juice of the boiled flesh to be taken when strained. It is remarkable, by correspondence, that the vitality of the Turtle is wonderful, and its strength prodigious. If you want to kill him he clings to life with a tenacity almost ridiculous. Redi, the well-known Zoologist, deprived a large Turtle of its head, and it insisted upon living for twenty-three days afterwards. Another Turtle, which had its head cut off in the evening by the cook, knocked him down the next morning with its fin. A quart of real Turtle Soup, with the same quantity of good stock, makes an excellent combination. Add a small piece of lump sugar.
All Soups should have a little sugar added.
Dr. Haig admonishes that "Meat Soup contains one decimal our per cent of uric acid, or xanthin, which is objectionable for gouty persons. Soup Maigre is made without meat. "Take a well-grown Savoy Cabbage, i.e., one possessing a good green heart; wash it thoroughly in salt, and water, and trim off the outer leaves, putting it in an earthen crock, and pouring on sufficient boiling water to entirely immerse it; cover, and stand it aside for a quarter of an hour, when it will be ready to be sliced with a sharp knife, and mixed with three onions, a couple of small turnips, and a large carrot, these having been previously chopped into dice. Melt two ounces of dripping in a stewpan, put in the various ingredients, and cook them through (without browning them in the least degree,) which process will extract the flavour. Next, wash, and drain a quarter of a pound of pearl barley, throw it into the pan, and pour in a quart of boiling water, simmering the whole slowly for two hours, or more, according to whether, or not, the barley becomes soft; and, at the end of that time, if, as will probably be the case, the Soup is too solid, liquefy it with another pint and a half of boiling water; no straining will be required; but flavour with salt, and pepper to taste, and serve with sippets of crisp, toasted bread".
Nevertheless, the extractives of meat have unquestionably a marked effect on the digestive organs when conveyed thereto in the form of good animal Soup; they are the most powerful stimulators of gastric secretion that we possess, and thus they are eminently calculated to rouse the appetite, and aid the digestion of any food with which they may be taken. This is, indeed, their true role, both in health, and in disease; they are flavouring agents, and their proper place is in the kitchen, not by the bedside. Sydney Smith, writing about one of the Utilitarian School, said: "If everything is to be sacrificed to utility, why would you bury your grandmother? Why not cut her up into small pieces, and make portable Soup of her?"
For a simple Potato Soup ("Potage parmentier"): "Wash, and peel six, or eight Potatoes, put them into a saucepan with two onions cut into quite small pieces, and three pints of cold water. Bring them to a boil, and when perfectly tender (in thirty-five, or forty minutes) pour the whole through a sieve. Return it to the fire, and season with pepper, and salt, a pinch of grated nutmeg, and a lump of butter the size of walnut; bring it again to the boil, stir in quickly a cup of new milk, and serve.
Julienne Soup, a vegetable clear concoction, was first made by a cook named Jean Julien, in 1785. Olla Podrida was a Spanish Soup in the spring season, named from Olla, Soup of animal and vegetable matters stewed together, and Podrida, simmered.
With respect to strong, clear Soup for the invalid, or the aged person, "It may be a useful means," says Dr. Hutchison, "of rousing the appetite, and stimulating the digestive powers of the stomach, but it cannot be regarded as a serious contribution to nutrition in itself." Some light cereal food must be added at all events. Pope Leo the Thirteenth was dieted at ninety-three almost exclusively on chicken broth, with bread in it; two small glasses of Bordeaux were his daily allowance of wine. "Ah 1 si la jeunesse savait: si la veillesse pouvait".
"There sat an old man on a rock, And unceasing bewailed him of fate (That concern where we all must take stock, Though our vote has no hearing, or weight!).
And the old man sang him an old, old song,
For he sang the song ' Too late! too late! ' He sang the song ' Too late! '
While we send for the napkin the soup grows cold, While the bonnet is trimming the face grows old, When we've matched the buttons the pattern is sold,
And everything comes too late, too late,
And everything comes too late".
Ox-tail Soup, being made from what is really one of the most nutritive parts of the animal, is of wide reputation as the principal thick Soup for substantial repasts. To cook the tail it should be divided at the joints, and. stewed with pieces of carrot, or other vegetable; some of the tail should be served in the Soup. At the beginning of last century the tail of an ox (which is now dearer than rump steak) cost only from sixpence to sevenpence; whereas an ox-tail of first quality will fetch at the present time half-a-crown, its amount of flesh being about a pound and a half.