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.
Frumenty, a dish made of mulled wheat boiled in milk, and seasoned, has been known since very early days of English history. In the Fabyan Chronicles (1516), we read that "In the Great Halle of Westmynster the Kynge in his astate was servyd with iii coursys: Frument with venyson, etc., etc." It was also at one time a Lord Mayor's dish. For obstinate constipation, no food is so effectual as "cracked wheat," by which the difficulty is generally soon overcome; some of it should be steeped in water for about twelve hours, then boiled for an hour, and served with cream or milk. It may be further used for making a milky pudding therewith, containing also split raisins, free from the stones. Mr. Albert Broadbent, of Manchester, Secretary to the Food Reform Organization, declares that, "In cases of constipation long chronic, the entire wheat grain, bruised in some way, and thoroughly cooked, never fails to bring about a cure." He "cannot praise it too highly".
A capital combination of wheaten flour with lean meat, freshly cooked, and then minced finely, has been given here (page 475) in the form of a loaf, wherein the meat is so thoroughly dissolved as not to be discernible. This, together with fresh butter, or fat of bacon, constitutes a complete food for a convalescent invalid. Likewise about buttered toast as admirably suitable for supplying bodily warmth, and energy, (assuming sound digestive powers), particulars have already been given, pages 116-117. This is especially appropriate for old persons. In Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, 1858, "At the so-called Castle of Mr. Wemmick, in Walworth," says Pip, "we found Miss Skiffins preparing tea. The responsible duty of making the toast was delegated to ' the Aged.' And that excellent old gentleman was so intent upon it that he seemed to be in some danger of melting his eyes. The Aged prepared such a haystack of buttered toast that I could scarcely see him over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the top bar; while Miss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea that the pig in the back premises became strongly excited, and repeatedly expressed his desire to participate in the entertainment.
We ate the whole of the toast, and drank tea in proportion; and it was delightful to see how warm and greasy we all got after it. The Aged particularly might have passed for some clean old chief of a savage tribe, just oiled." Again, (see Alice through the Looking-glass), in the song, "Very, Very Beautiful," of "Haddock's Eyes," or the "Aged, Aged Man," as sung by the White Knight, "slowly beating time with one hand, and with a faint smile lighting up his gentle foolish face," we pathetically read: -
"I'll tell thee everything I can; There's little to relate. I saw an aged, aged man A sitting on a gate. ' Who are you, aged man? ' I said, 'And how is it you live?' And his answer trickled through my head Like water through a sieve.
" I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,
Or set limed twigs for crabs; I sometimes search the grassy knolls,
For wheels of hansom cabs: And that's the way, (he gave a wink),
By which I gain my wealth - And very gladly will I drink,
Your honour's noble health.'"
But, as Scripture tells us (reverently paraphrasing Saint Matthew), "Man shall not live by bread alone," any more profitably than by animal food in excess. The former would lead to fatness without a complement of strength, bodily and mental; whilst with regard to the latter mistake it may truly be said, "that way lies the lunatic asylum." When poor half-starved Oliver Twist, stung to madness by taunts from the bullying Noah Claypole about his dead mother, felled that craven-spirited charity-boy, and was dragged off to the parish beadle by Mrs. Sowerberry. "Its not madness, ma'am," said Mr. Bumble, after a few moments of deep meditation, "its meat! You've overfed him, ma'am! "
For staying the summer diarrhoea of infants, and young children, it is very efficacious to give wheaten flour properly prepared as a cooked ball for scraping. Two or three pounds of wheat flour should be tied in a bag of pudding-cloth, and then boiled continuously for twelve hours. After doing which let the outer crust be removed, so that the dry inner yellow portion can be grated, and used for making a thin gruel. This inner dry cake consists of dextrin. On the other hand wheaten flour from the bruised grain, or as contained in the whole corn, steeped, and boiled in the old-fashioned form of frumenty (which is fully described in Kitchen Physic) proves excellent against chronic constipation of the bowels. This culinary preparation, now almost absolete, was very popular in farm-houses a century ago. At Weydon Priors' village fair, Dorset, September, 1829, (The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy) was a certain refreshment tent among many others which dotted the Down. A little iron stove-pipe came out of it at the back, and in front appeared the placard "Good Furmity Sold Hear." "A rather numerous company appeared within, seated at the long narrow tables that ran down the tent at each side.
By the upper end stood a stove containing a charcoal fire, over which hung a large, three-legged crock, sufficiently polished round the rim to show that it was made of bell-metal. A haggish creature, of about fifty, presided, in a white apron, which, as it threw an air of respectability over her, as far as it extended, was made so wide as to reach nearly round her waist. She slowly stirred the contents of the pot. The dull scrape of her large spoon was audible throughout the tent, as she thus kept from burning the mixture of corn in the grain, milk, raisins, currants, and what not, that composed the antiquated slop in which she dealt. Vessels holding the separate ingredients stood on a white-clothed table of boards and trestles close by. This was very well so far for furmity, as nourishing, and as proper a food as could be obtained within the four seas; though to those not accustomed to it, the grains of wheat, swollen as large as lemon-pips, which floated on its surface might have a deterrent effect at first. But there was more in that tent than met a cursory glance! By closely watching the hag's proceedings might be seen the game which she played.
With a wink from an observant member of the company his basin was passed up, in reply to her nod; when she took a bottle from under the table, and slily measuring out a certain quantity of its contents, tipped the same into the man's furmity. The liquor poured-in was rum; the man as slily sent back money in payment".