NPR

Food To Cure What Ails You: When Cookbooks Treated Meals As Medicine

At the turn of the 20th century, when access to professional care was spotty, many cookbooks served up recipes for the sick — some (brandy) more appealing than others (toast water).
At the turn of the 20th century, when access to professional care was spotty, many cookbooks served up recipes for the sick ? some (brandy) more appealing than others (toast water). Even the Joy Of Cooking included sickbed recipes up through the 1943 edition. / George Marks / Getty Images

Browse through some turn-of-the-century American cookbooks, and it's obvious that popular tastes have changed (such as the presence of fried cornmeal mush and the absence of cilantro). But more striking than the shift in flavors and ingredients is the focus on feeding those who are sick — or, to use the parlance of the time, "cooking for invalids."

Whether you're looking at The Settlement Cook Book (1901), Jennie June's American Cookery Book (1870) or The Woman Suffrage Cook Book (1890), sections on nourishing the sick are all somewhat similar in approach.

First, there are a lot of fluids. Teas and lemonades

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR2 min read
Protesters Continue To Fill Streets Of Lebanon, United By Their Calls For Change
The government has taken notice and announced some changes: No new taxes. Halving officials' salaries. Approving new power plants. But the demonstrators say they're not going away.
NPR2 min read
Turkey, Russia Reach Deal To Control Syrian Areas Once Patrolled By The U.S.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to jointly patrol an area in northern Syria previously controlled by Kurdish forces with U.S. support.
NPR6 min readPolitics
Mark Zuckerberg Offers A Choice: The Facebook Way Or The China Way
In prepared remarks to Congress, the CEO acknowledges Facebook is not "the ideal messenger" for its digital currency plan, but says innovation is essential to American financial leadership.