Vintage Recipes – Invalid Cookery, 1902-1930

If you look at practically any general cookbook from Victorian times up to the 1940s, you’re likely to find a section that has now entirely fallen by the wayside in modern books – special recipes for the sickroom, often called “Invalid cookery”.

This is the kind of thing:

(This is where I had embedded a video of the Fry and Laurie period sketch on broth vs soup, and which doesn’t exist anymore, and is also not in any of their sketch books. Which is a shame because it sums up invalid cookery perfectly.)

Incidentally, I seem to remember the recipes for Talbot’s Broth and Henry’s Soup actually did appear on Ceefax as mentioned in the sketch.

Now we have Heinz Tomato Soup, Lucozade, and better medicine, perhaps these gently nourishing recipes aren’t needed so much anymore. But I do like the idea of a special menu if you’re unwell. It marks the occasion, in a way. Recipes included gruel in many forms, blackcurrant tea, barley water, invalid custard, toast water and beef tea.

I’ve also got a number of recipes for the slightly alarming-sounding raw beef tea. I haven’t got a certificate in food hygiene admittedly, but this sounds like rather a potential nightmare. I mean, it’s not quite Talbot’s fried bull penis, but still.

Raw Beef Tea

1/4 lb lean beef
1/4 pint water
Few drops of lemon juice

Remove all fat and cut the beef up finely.
Put into the water with the lemon juice.
Let it stand for 6 or 8 hours, pressing beef with a spoon occasionally.
Serve in a covered spoon.

This is only given in cases where it could not be assimilated if cooked.

Here’s some more recipes for the sick. Not sure if I’d fancy tripe as the best of times, to be honest, let alone while under the weather.

From Mrs Rea’s Cookery Book, 1910:

From The Liverpool School of Cookery Book, 1902:

From The Essex Cookery Book, 1930:

If you’re interested in this, I’ve previously posted about gruel and how Horlicks is the modern equivalent here –

And I’ve tested out the nursery treat of Blackcurrant tea here –

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5 Responses

  1. March 26, 2015

    […] recipe section was in nearly every cookbook up until around 1950. I’ve got some recipes here if you’re feeling a bit […]

  2. June 24, 2015

    […] she should do, cannot say.” At this point, she need only refer to any cookery book – Invalid Cookery was a hot topic in all of them at this point. She “likes dancing better than anything […]

  3. June 29, 2015

    […] 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, to be […]

  4. July 16, 2015

    […] basic form, this could be “Beef Tea” – either in invalid cookery form or as a kind of Bovril drink, like this one, “Bouillon Fleet” from 1889: Aberdeen […]

  5. July 16, 2016

    […] love so many things about old cookbooks, particularly the craziness of the Invalid Cookery sections, but one thing bugs me – there’s no pictures of the food, most of the time. […]

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