German Invalid Cookery, 1922
Another peek at a book from the brilliant Forgotten Books website, and one which includes one of my favourite topics – the disappeared art of invalid cookery. This book, “The Art of German Cooking and Baking” by Mrs Lina Meier is a general cookbook from 1922. I like looking at the slight through-the-looking-glass effect of recipes from other countries with their different ingredients and food traditions.
Pre-NHS (in the UK), there were a lot of sick people being looked after in the home, and effective medicines for many diseases were either new or non-existent. If you look at any cookery book from Victorian times to pre-World War Two, you’ll find a chapter on “Invalid Cookery“, aimed to help those looking after sick loved ones, and designed to be appropriately nutritious and easily digestible. However, they are significantly different to what we might think of as food for sick people now. When I’m ill I want either Heinz Tomato Soup, toast and butter or my mum’s mashed potato. When I was a kid the upside to feeling ill was that it was the only time you could have Lucozade. It would have been weird to drink it while not ill in the 1970s. However, if anyone had tried to give me toast water or raw minced beef soaked in lukewarm water, I wouldn’t have considered that my first choice to settle my stomach.
Looking at the Invalid Cookery section, this doesn’t differ much from what was suggested for British invalids – a lot of beef tea and bouillons.
We’re getting on the train to crazy town now, though – with “Fried Calf’s Brain” and “Calf’s Tongue” being offered as suitable sickness foods. Also “macaroni” is classed as a vegetable for some reason.
Mmmm, invalid puddings. It starts off sensibly and recognisably with a kind of rice pudding, but quickly starts getting quite raw-eggy. “Chocolate Cream with Red Wine”, is a strange chocolately-wine cross between a jelly and an uncooked meringue. I object to “Beaten Egg” (ingredients – egg and salt) being classed as a “sweet dish”. Interestingly, there are strict instructions on where to beat the egg – “The egg should be beaten in a well-ventilated room only, because the air in the room influences the nourishment served to the invalid.”
I can’t help noticing that invalids were expected to drink quite a lot of wine. It’s in nearly all the recipes. Here there’s the disgusting-sounding “Milk Lemonade” – water, sugar, milk, lemon juice and, of course, white wine. Even the ascetic-sounding “Water with Lemon Juice” contains sherry.
This is an interesting recipe – “Iron and Wine“. Iron deficiency was a big problem then, as it still is now. In fact, I recently read about a simple remedy to combat endemic anaemia seen in parts of the world today – an Iron fish which you add to your cooking pot, and which leaches out small amounts of iron into the food. In 1922, you could either have your Pink Pills for Pale People or you could cut to the chase and add iron filings directly into your wine, like the kind of reckless experiment I would have done with my chemistry set aged 9. Ignoring the iron, which I imagine would give the wine a bit of a bloody tang, wine with ginger and horseradish sounds pretty exciting.
I object to to this one – “English Cake“. It contains ammonia as a raising agent, not something I believe is traditional in English cookery, but is seen in German and Greek baking. Ammonia, though. Apparently, it smells as a raw ingredient but the aroma bakes off during cooking. I don’t think I’d chance it, to be honest – the fear of ending up with “Cat Litter Cake” would be too much.