The first point to ascertain is whether the patient will take the arrowroot thick or thin; some persons have strong prejudices on this point, and thick arrowroot will require double the quantity of thin. Arrowroot is also made with water and milk, but the method is the same for both. Take a spoonful or two of cold water or milk, as the case may be, and mix in the powdered arrowroot in the cup or basin, and stir it up thoroughly; then pour the boiling water or milk slowly on to it, keeping it stirred the whole time. A little sugar may be added, and of course, when allowable, a little wine or brandy is a great improvement. When made with milk, a little grated nutmeg on the top also vastly improves the compound both in flavour and appearance.
A great deal of the prepared cocoa sold is simply cocoa and arrowroot mixed, consequently when the boiling water is poured on, the arrowroot causes the cocoa to look thick and nourishing. If you want to make a good cup of chocolate out of cake chocolate, all you have to do is to mix a little arrowroot in the cup with it, and the result will be that the chocolate will appear to be ten times as strong as it would otherwise do.
With regard to chicken broth, that fashionable invalid's preparation many years ago, we ought to say a few words, and these few will be unfavourable. There is, comparatively speaking, but little nourishment in it." In any case, however, should you make any, bear in mind that it is the bones, and not the flesh, that make the broth; so instead of wasting the whole fowl over the broth, cut off the meat, which can be made into nice rissoles or mince, and use the bones only for the broth.
Now minced mutton or chicken is often recommended for invalids, as being easily digested; but pray remember that invalid mince is very different from the ordinary mince of every-day life. In the first place, we all know that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred mince is made from meat that has been cooked before. Now mince so made, though very nice and wholesome for persons and children in ordinary health, yet is by no means so easy of digestion —i.e., the remains of a leg of mutton minced -the second day would be less digestible than the cut off the joint on the first day, the warming-up process having naturally a tendency to harden the meat.
To make nice mince for an invalid, the meat must be minced raw. It must then be sprinkled with a little salt, moistened with a little good broth, and warmed slowly with the greatest care, as, should the broth boil for one second, the mince will be rendered tough and indigestible. It is obvious that mince made this way differs enormously from the ordinary mince. A very few minutes is sufficient, if the meat has been minced fine, to cook it—in fact, as soon as it is hot it is done.
Mince made in this manner is exceedingly nutritious, and it will often be found that weak digestions can take this when they can take nothing else.
Our two next preparations will be barley-water and toast-and-water. Two very simple things, it will probably be thought, and very unnecessary to describe. I will describe them, however, first as they generally are, and next as they ought to be.
How very often do you find the barley-water dirty ! For instance, when you drink it out of a tumbler, you come to some black-looking stuff at the bottom. Again, how often do you find the toast-and-water thick, instead of bright ! and far less appetising is it when it is so. Now both these defects arise from thoughtlessness or want of care.
First, then, barley-water. Take a couple of ounces of pearl barley and wash it thoroughly, and then place it in some boiling water, and boil it for about ten minutes. This has the effect of dissolving the outside of the barley. Strain it off, and put it into a couple of quarts of fresh boiling water, and let it boil gently till it has nearly half boiled away. Then strain it off, and flavour it with a little sugar and lemon-juice, putting in a small piece of peel. Barley-water is often made too thick. Patients, especially feverish ones, want something to drink. By adding water to it, it can, of course, be made as thin as wished. Barley-water should be kept in a jug, with a spoon in it, and stirred up each time before it is poured out, and only the quantity required poured out, as it settles and does not look nice—milky at the bottom and watery at the top.
Next, toast-and-water. First, "how not to do it." You will find a servant generally cut off a knobby piece of crust, stick a toasting-fork in it, and toast it very black, put this in a jug, and pour boiling water over it, and this great hunk of bread will be floating at the top. This toast-and-water will be poor, muddy-looking, and have a slightly floury taste. The proper method is to cut the bread thin, and toast both sides thoroughly, and also haves' plenty of it. Let the bread be toasted through— i.e. let the bread be toasted^so as to be thoroughly dried up. >»Then pour the boiling water on it, and, if liked, add a small piece of lemon-peel. Let this be carefully drained off, so that no crumbs remain in the fluid after it has got cold ; and this toast-and-wrater, which will look bright like sherry, will be a welcome draught to the feverish invalid.
To make bread-and-milk, you must cut the bread up into small square pieces, and pour boiling milk on them. There are a good many persons who don't fancy bread-and-milk, who yet will take toast-and-milk. For this purpose you must pour the boiling milk over small pieces of toast similar to those that would be handed round with pea-soup.
In making bread-and-milk for infants, it is generally recommended to pour boiling water on the bread, and then drain it off, and then add the milk, as, the boiling water renders the bread softer; and as medical men generally recommend a little water to be mixed with the milk for very young children, it will not be weaker. It is not for me to i put up my opinion against the medical profession, but in London I would recommend mothers to give their children the milk pure when they have to buy it. I fear that many of the cows that supply London have iron tails, and that the doctors' recommendation has been already fully carried out—if anything, probably too fully.
Another very refreshing drink for invalids, especially in hot weather, is lemonade. This is too often made by simply squeezing a lemon into a tumbler, picking the pips out with a spoon, and then adding sugar and cold water. The best method of making lemonade is to peel the lemons, or otherwise the lemonade will be bitter; cut them into slices, taking away the pips, and then pouring boiling water on the slices, adding, of course, sufficient sugar to sweeten. This, after being well stirred, and the pulp pressed with a spoon, must be carefully strained through a piece of fine muslin, and allowed to get cold. When cold, a piece of ice is a great improvement. Cold, weak lemonade made this way, not too sweet, is one of the most refreshing drinks for hot weather possible; and in cases where there is a tendency to take fluids too often, a tendency, we fear, rather of the age in which we live, a large jug of lemonade, made in the manner we have described, will often prove a harmless substitute for a glass of sherry, or a little drop of cold brandy-and-water, or a glass of beer, as the case may be.
Gruel is a compound which I would despair of making palatable ; nevertheless, fortunately all palates are not alike. A table-spoonful of groats—or, as I believe they are pronounced, grits—must be mixed in a little cold water, and worked smooth with a spoon. About a pint of boiling water must then be poured on them, and the whole quantity boiled gently and stirred over a clear fire for about a quarter of an hour. Gruel can, of course, be made with milk, or flavoured in a variety of ways. For a bad cold, a table-spoonful of treacle is sometimes serviceable, or a little sweet spirit of nitre, or a table-spoonful of rum, a little sugar being of course added.
As a rule, in cooking for real invalids, the aim should be nourishment combined with the greatest simplicity of flavour. There are, however, of course, many cases where the palate has to be tickled, while at the same time the digestion has to be consulted. In these cases the cook's art is often put to the test. In many cases of diseases that may be termed wasting, really rich but, at the same time, light dishes are requisite. We would instance sweetbreads, stewed oysters, calves' brains, lambs' tails, etc.; but to enter into an elaborate account of the proper method of preparing such delicacies would be out of place in an article on invalid food, which is of necessity cursory.
Objections have, however, ofttimes been made to cookery as an art, when the object in view has been simply to stir up the jaded appetite in the overfed, whose proper treatment would be in accordance with the famous advice of Abernethy to the dyspeptic alderman—viz., " Live on a shilling a day, and earn it." When, however, our object is to alleviate those who suffer from disease, and who loathe food unless brought to them in a palatable form, even those who lead lives that may be termed severely simple will admit, skill in the preparation of food may at times vie with, and even excel, skill in the preparation of drugs.