Duck Duck Book

39 – soothing broth
11.28.2006, 1:23 pm
Filed under: technology

A soothing broth : tonics, custards, soups, and other cure-alls for colds, coughs, upset tummies and out-of-sorts days / Pat Willard.
New York : Broadway Books, 1998.
[MCL call number: 615.854 W694s 1998; one copy, no holds]

A hundred years ago, every good general cookbook had a chapter on cooking for the sick.  Invalid cookery was an important weapon in the housewife’s arsenal of talents.  In my own kitchen, I rely on two general cookbooks — The Joy of Cooking, which is the basic cookbook my mother used, and The Settlement Cookbook.  Both have chapters on food for comforting the sick and speeding their healing, and though I have only made a few of the recipes included in these books, I do feel it is invaluable to have help when, for example, you are trying to cook for someone who is so nauseated that eating even the plainest normal food is a challenge.

A Soothing Broth is kind of an anthology of sickroom cookery.  Pat Willard has collected dozens of recipes suited for people suffering from (as her subtitle indicates) colds, coughs, upset tummies, and out-of-sorts days.  The book is accessible both as a reference and as a narrative on the history of this particular arm of cuisine.  Vegetarians, it should be said, should take note that many of the recipes involve meat in some way.  I am not unduly grossed out by meat, although I do not cook it myself, and I have to say that while brewing the book I had to skim over some of the more, shall we say, old-fashioned of the meaty recipes.  Steamed cod liver and new potatoes (page 126), and the two recipes for a cold beef jelly (pages 124-125), for example, all intended for people on the final path to wellness, sounded so utterly foul that I had to turn the page quickly.  However, just reading the recipes for sweet fern tea to soothe the stomach (page 86) and for the vegetable tonics intended to ease healthy people through the difficult transition between seasons (pages 172-194) made me feel better.

The main text is followed with an excellent bibliography of cookbooks and general historical references, and a reasonably helpful index.


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