While researching our current book display I became interested in sick-room cookery. (Watching too much of the Great British Bake Off has made me a bit baking mad). Practical nursing by W.T. Gordon-Pugh contains a selection of diets including the Liver Diet used to treat patients with pernicious anaemia which is caused by a lack of vitamin B12. The photo on the right shows the interesting ways the liver can be prepared including the recipe for a liver cocktail. A. Millicent Ashdown’s The complete system of nursing contains a whole chapter entitled “Diets-sick-room cookery”, this chapter comes after the section on poisons therefore giving us the nice plot for a murder mystery.
The Diabetic diet doesn’t seem to be that bad until your realise that after two days it changes and all the patient is allowed is weak tea and coffee with no milk and beef tea, with the added bonus of “More beef tea is permitted if required”. Beef tea appears in the broth section of recipes and involves the following:
Take one pound of lean beef (gravy beef), remove all fat, skin, and gristle, cut into small cubes about ¼ inch square; place it in a jar and add one pint of cold water, cover it tightly. Place the jar in a pan of cold water over a slow fire, or better in a hot oven, and allow to simmer for four hours; strain through a sieve, pressing all the goodness out of the meat, remove any fat or scum from the surface, add salt to taste, and serve hot
There are chicken, mutton and veal version for those who don’t like beef. For those with less time on their hands Volume two of The science and art of nursing contains a recipe for quick beef tea. This involves leaving the meat, salt and water in a pan to stand for 15-30 minutes then gently cook it for 20 minutes before turning the heat up and cooking for a bit longer. This recipe seems to think it’s a good idea if the tea looks red, but does suggested adding food colouring if it puts the patient off. There is no mention of what to offer vegans or vegetarians, there are recipes for barley, rice or oatmeal water and my favourite toast water (see below). There’s a lack of information on the nutritional value of these basic recipes and no mention of what the benefits are of drinking lots of beef tea but it must have done some good, it is, however, one recipe I won’t be trying.