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Advice from a Physician in 1886

December 10, 2013

The Michigan State University Library has an amazing project called Feeding America in which they are finding old American cookbooks and uploading them for us to peruse. These cookbooks, some from the late 18th century, are a great read and tell us something of the life of women in the kitchen throughout our American history.

As we begin another cold and flu season, I offer an excerpt from the Woman Suffrage Cookbook of 1886. The book includes a chapter “Cooking for and Care of Invalids.” The introductory section was written by a woman physician, S. Adelaide Hall, M.D., and brings a clearly feminine touch to the care of those who are sick. Enjoy her insights.

Suggestions in the Care of Invalids

When a tray is prepared for an invalid, everything should be very clean and neatly arranged. Drinks should never be slopped over into the saucer; the butter should be in a small plate by itself. It is well to have the milk in a little pitcher and the sugar in a tiny bowl or cup. If only a bowl of gruel is to be offered, the bowl should be the prettiest in the house, the tray covered with a napkin, and not too much carried up at once. To see a large quantity of food is often enough to take away the appetite of an invalid entirely. Do not talk about what is to be prepared for an invalid in the sick-room. Let the meal be unexpected; it will be eaten with more relish. Never let any food stand in the chamber; remove it at once after each meal. Do not let it remain on the supposition that the invalid will perhaps take a little more after a while; it will be very certain not to be used. The same may be said about anything else used in the room. Remove it at once, and allow nothing to remain to litter up the room or create an odor.

Great attention should be paid to ventilation, as to be obliged to eat in an ill-smelling apartment would revolt the stomach of a strong and healthy person. Air thoroughly bed clothing and room. Bathe the face and hands gently before a meal. Cleanliness and fresh air will do much to improve the appetite.

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