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

NPR3 min readPolitics
Hong Kong Executive Apologizes As Protests Continue Over Extradition Bill
Chief Executive Carrie Lam says her management of an extradition bill caused "disputes in society." Protesters say they want the bill scrapped and Lam to step down.
NPR2 min read
Opinion: Here's A Dad Joke! What Does The Buffalo Tell His Son In The Morning?
Corny "dad jokes" are an outgrowth of the deep and lifelong bond between parents and children.
NPR5 min readSociety
Pregnant, Locked Up, And Alone
Natalie Lynch spent the last two weeks of her pregnancy in a prison cell, mostly alone. As female incarceration rates rise, some states are banning solitary confinement of pregnant women.