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.
Veal is the flesh of a young calf (Vitellus); of which the skin is made into vellum. It contains much less iron, and alkali salts, than beef, but is, on the other hand, richer in connective tissue. This flesh affords 19 per cent of proteids, that of the ox 20 per cent, and that of the sheep 17 per cent. "Weal pie,' 'said Sam Weller, soliloquizing (at the shooting party in Pickwick), "is a wery good thing when you know the lady as made it, and is quite sure it ain't kittens." "I lodged in the same house with a pieman once, Sir, and a wery nice man he were: regular clever chap, too! make pies out of anything, he could! ' What a number of cats you keep, Mr. Brooks,' says I, when I got intimate with him. ' Ah,' says he, ' I do, a good many,' says he. ' You must be wery fond of cats,' says I. ' Other people is,' says he, winking at me. ' They aint in season, though, till the winter,' says he. ' Not in season? ' says I. ' No,' says he; fruits is in, cats is out.' ' Why, what do you mean?' says I. ' Mean 1 ' says he. ' Mr. Weller,' says he, a squeezing my hand very hard, and vispering in my ear, ' don't mention this 'ere again, but it's the seasonin' as does it; they're all made of them noble animals,' says he, a pointin' to a wery nice little tabby kitten; ' and I seasons 'em for beefsteak, weal, or kidney, 'cording to the demand; and, more than that,' says he, ' I can make a weal a beefsteak, or a beefsteak a kidney, or any one on 'em a mutton, at a minute's notice, just as the market changes, and appetites vary.' "Veal, though not of an exciting nature, is nevertheless difficult to be digested by most persons, and should not be permitted in complaints of the stomach.
At the same time it is the most delicate in flavour of all meats, though sometimes provoking nettlerash, or other outbreaks on the skin. In The Newcomes (Thackeray) we read of "the famous Veal cutlets which Miss Martha Honeyman used to prepare with her own hands, to be offered on the shrine of Colonel Newcome when he posted down from London to pay her a flying visit".
Again,' Lear relates in his Booh of Nonsense: -
"There was an old man of Three Bridges, Whose mind was distracted by midges: He sat on a wheel, eating underdone veal, Which relieved that old man of Three Bridges".
On January 1st, 1661, Pepys "supped with Mr. Pierce, the purser, and his wife, and mine, where we had a calf's head carboned, but it was raw: we could not eat it; and a good hen. But she is such a slut that I do not love her victuals." Lemon-juice, and a stuffing of herbs, aid the digestion of Veal. "Good Veal stuffing! - reflect! - is in itself a triumph of culinary instinct; so bland is it, and yet so powerful upon the gastric juices ' Did I call Veal insipid? But it is only so in comparison with English beef, and mutton. When I think of the ' brown' on the edge of a cut of really fine Veal! "(Henry Ryecroft). Ignotus, the physician, has commended Veal broth maigre for persons who habitually indulge in rich soups, and highly-spiced dishes, so as to give their digestive organs an occasional rest. "Stew a knuckle of Veal in about a gallon of water, to which put two ounces of rice, or vermicelli, with a little salt, and a blade of mace; when the meat has become thoroughly boiled, and the liquid reduced to one half, it may be sent to table, with, or without the meat." Voltaire advised his friend Lambert to St. Cirey, where Veal gravy broth was to the fore in everything. "We are going," said he, "to live a hundred years." The recipe for this "Blond de veau" had been given by the famous Tronchin, whose system of hygiene was to "keep your head cool, your feet warm, and your bowels open'.
Sydney Smith, writing from London to Mrs. Maynell (1841), told her "he had been living for three days on waiters, and Veal cutlets." Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer (in Pickwick) sat together in the little surgery behind the shop "discussing minced Veal, and future prospects." A delicious, and very nourishing Veal cream is to be made, of which a small quantity may be eaten occasionally by delicate invalids, in alternation with other light foods. Bruise half a pound of lean fillet of Veal in a mortar, and when it is reduced to a pulp, pass it through a fine sieve, together with an ounce and a half of pearl barley which has been previously soaked in cold water for several hours; dissolve half an ounce of Russian isinglass in two gills of thick cream, and bring the whole to the boil, adding salt to the taste, and flavouring with an infusion of mixed herbs'; pour into a wetted mould to set, and turn out into a glass dish, or plate, and garnish with sprays of parsley.
The true Sweetbread of a calf, from its throat-front, renews defective growth in children by reason of its constituent earth-salts, as described elsewhere; whilst the stomach-bread, or pancreas (often substituted by butchers in lieu of the sweetbread), serves to augment the supply of natural fats, for warmth, and for growth of the adipose structures. The true (throat) sweetbread contributes organic phosphorus, which goes to repair and recruit the nervous system when feeble, and impoverished.. A lamb's sweetbread, or throat-gland, is likewise beneficial as a general restorative in suitable cases. Similarly, even in its uncooked state the calf's stomach-bread (pancreas) exercises by its juices powerful digestive effects on flesh, milk, starch, and kindred substances. But this property becomes destroyed by boiling; so that the so-called sweetbread, when cooked, is to be eaten by the invalid, not as producing any digestive effect, but rather on account of its delicate flavour, and its invariable tenderness.
In France each sweetbread, whether from calf, cow, or ox, is called "Ris de veau," the word "ris" signifying laughter. "Betr than olde Boef is the tendre Veal" (Chaucer, Merchant's Tale).