This section is from the book "Cookery For Invalids", by Thomas J. Murrey. Also available from Amazon: Cookery for Invalids.
A general impression prevails that to eat before going to bed is an injurious and altogether an unwise habit. Much depends on the individual habits of persons ; in the case of one accustomed to dine at six o'clock, and whose hour for retiring is nine o'clock, we must admit it would be unwise to partake of food before sleep. On the other hand, the six-o'clock diner, whose hour for retiring is from midnight to 3 a.m., and whose rising hour is from 8 to n a.m., must eat before going to bed if he wishes to avoid doctors' bills and sleeplessness. The interval between meals is decidedly too long a period for fasting. Empty stomachs have much to do with insomnia and kindred diseases so prevalent among writers and other brain-workers. The languid, half-rested feeling on rising, and the cross, irritable peevishness of many wrhen spoken to about breakfast are other symptoms of altogether too long a period of fasting. The question of what -food is the most suitable to eat before going to bed naturally arises. This must be decided by circumstances. One who has spent the evening in dancing or other exercise, naturally requires something more substantial than one who has spent the evening in a quiet manner.
Raw Oysters thoroughly masticated are easily digested, although weak stomachs should avoid condiments with them, and if the oysters are large, the ligament or muscle should be removed.
Oyster Broth, stew, or soup when prepared with milk is acceptable at late suppers ; but the pernicious habit of many late diners of drinking cold ale and beer with cooked oysters, is one which the author strongly deprecates.
Pigs' Feet when boiled until tender, then nicely broiled over a charcoal fire, are quite digestible, and, should Bass's ale be served with them, see to it that it has not been on ice, and is free from all evidence of carbonic-acid gas, which is found in the 11 white label " bottling of Bass, making this particular brand objectionable for night drinking.
Stewed Tripe with Oysters may be eaten at night, and a glass of very light Moselle wine —either still or sparkling—may be served with it.
Boiled Sweetbreads-, cut into slices and warmed up in a light sauce, or served on toast en brochette, are not apt to prevent sleep, or produce indigestion.
Poached Eggs are easily digested, but the soggy toast usually served with them is something to avoid.
Boiled Calf's Head cut into pieces as large as an oyster, then fried as one would fry doughnuts, and served with a sauce tartare, is a favorite night dish of the author, as is also shad-roe stewed in cream.
Cold Roast Beef, mutton, lamb, venison, or poultry, served with a dainty salad of watercress, or escarale, and a glass of generous claret, is not apt to be despised by one who sits up at night writing.
A dainty surprise for the night-worker would be a plate of sandwiches made from thin slices of the breast of a cold roast canvas-back duck. Crisp celery may accompany the dish. Sandwiches made of cold roast beef and venison are very nice.
Hamburg Steak when reduced ro a pulp, and served raw, or but slightly singed to give it the appearance of being cooked, is most easily digested. A raw or slightly poached egg may be served with it.
Raw Meat is invariably recommended in cases of debility when an easily digested nutriment is required. A method of treating diarrhoea, long practised in Prussia, consists in the use of raw meat, beaten in a mortar until all traces of fibre disappear. It is then seasoned to taste, and served in the form of sandwich. Fruit jelly is sometimes added to disguise the flavor of the meat.
Venison Steak cooked in a chafing-dish, or nicely broiled over a charcoal fire, is unquestionably one of the best of meats to eat late at night. While it does not possess the same nutritive value found in beef, it is more easily and quickly digested.