Thursday, December 31, 2009

Epidemiology: 1773

This evening he disputed the truth of what is said, as to the people of St. Kilda catching cold whenever strangers come. 'How can there (said he) be a physical effect without a physical cause?' He added, laughing, 'the arrival of a ship full of strangers would kill them; for, if one stranger gives them one cold, two strangers must give them two colds; and so in proportion.' I wondered to hear him ridicule this, as he had praised M'Aulay for putting it in his book: saying, that it was manly in him to tell a fact, however strange, if he himself believed it'. He said, the evidence was not adequate to the improbability of the thing; that if a physician, rather disposed to be incredulous, should go to St. Kilda, and report the fact, then he would begin to look about him.
--From Boswell's Life of Johnson--

People who lived in an isolated community noticed they would catch colds when strangers came to visit. Johnson found the idea ridiculous, and later jokes that they must just not like the visitors they were getting.

It's easy to dismiss ideas when they go against a consensus. Fortunately, in science, people make decisions about truth based on falsifiable experiments and not consensus. That's why today we worry about germs instead of our humors.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Echinacea: 1599

Marg. A maid, and stuffed! there's goodly catching of cold.
Beat. O, God help me! God help me! how long have you professed apprehension?
Marg. Even since you left it. Doth not my wit become me rarely?
Beat. It is not seen enough, you should wear it in your cap. By my troth, I am sick.
Marg. Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus, and lay it to your heart: it is the only thing for a qualm.
Hero. There thou prickest her with a thistle.
--From Much Ado About Nothing--

If you take Echinacea because people say it will fight a cold, why not try Carduus Benedictus? Shakespeare recommends it and he's better than "people", isn't he?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Germ warfare: 1790

When those who labour for their daily bread have the misfortune to catch cold, they cannot afford to lose a day or two, in order to keep themselves warm, and take a little medicine; by which means the disorder is often so aggravated as to confine them for a long time, or even to render them ever after unable to sustain hard labour. But even such of the labouring poor as can afford to take care of themselves, are often too hardy to do it; they affect to despise colds, and as long as they can crawl about, scorn to be confined by what they call a common cold. Hence it is, that colds destroy such numbers of mankind. Like an enemy despised, they gather strength from delay, till at length they become invincible.
--From Domestic Medicine--

Now I understand the phrase: "that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger." It's about colds. If you spread them to others and they die you have less competition.

[Note that the author isn't talking about the disease spreading to uninfected people from infected people who refuse to isolate themselves. That idea isn't mentioned in this medical treatise.]

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Health advice: 1889

...Mutton, pork, ham, and even venison all dance to the same music. Spinach, turnip-tops and other greens were boiled and baptized with grease. It was hog meat, hog meat everywhere; hog meat for breakfast, hog meat for dinner, hog meat for supper, always fried and served up in its own grease. A caustic observer says that the devil of indigestion holds full sway in certain localities because the frying-pan has a firm grip on the affections of the people. He complains of seeing tall, gaunt men, sallow faces like corpses, having perfect satisfaction with the country, a lack of strong high ambition; women, gaunt, haggard, and hopeless looking, all trace of womanly beauty long since gone, every line of their faces speaking of want, privation, neglect of all sanitary laws, and unvaried monotony of unwholesome food; little children, flabby, yellow, pallid, with old men's faces. This is not malaria, he says, but the frying-pan.
--From Good Housekeeping--

To avoid fried foods is something your great-grandmother might have told you. Granted, she might have said it would make you waste away, but then people have been sure their food was killing them for some time.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Recycling: 1888

Old shoes have uses as raw material for certain industries. In many countries abroad and to some extent in the United States, they are collected with care, ripped apart and the leather subjected to treatment that renders it soft and makes it available for sundry purposes. Patterns are stamped upon it, trunks are covered with it, and it is also used for making shoes again. The soles are extensively used in making heels for ladies' and children's shoes. The nails also are saved and made profitable, and the useless scraps are converted into fertilizers.
--From Good Housekeeping--

I guess we couldn't do something like this today because of all the manual labor it would take. The minimum wage and all sorts of regulations would make it impossible. How much recycling isn't done simply because regulations make it too expensive to be profitable?

Politicians say global warming is the biggest issue facing humanity, but they never act like it, except when it comes to raising taxes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Journalism: 75

Whilst Scipio was thus employed, Caesar with incredible dispatch made his way through thick woods, and a country supposed to be impassable, cut off one part of the enemy and attacked another in the front. Having routed these, he followed up his opportunity and the current of his good fortune, and on the first carried Afranius's camp, and ravaged that of the Numidians, Juba, their king, being glad to save himself by flight; so that in a small part of a single day he made himself master of three camps, and killed fifty thousand of the enemy, with the loss only of fifty of his own men. This is the account some give of that fight. Others say he was not in the action, but that he was too far disordered his senses, when he was already beginning to shake under its influence, withdrew into a neighbouring fort where he reposed himself.
--From Plutarch's Lives--

Caesar either killed 50,000 people in a brilliant battle or was quietly having a seizure, but at least the author admits he doesn't know. That's all it takes to be unbiased, a willingness to admit you may not have perfect knowledge of events. Who is willing to do something like that anymore?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas presents: 1888

Christmas is coming, bright, jolly Christmas-tide, with its attendant train of work and worry, surprises and delight, and every lady reader of Good Housekeeping is puzzling her brain to think of what to make for Christmas gifts, and it may be taken for granted that each one would be glad of a few hints on what to make and how to make it.
--From Good Housekeeping--

Because who needs to buy Christmas presents when you're competent at making things?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Economy: 1888

False ambition is one prolific source of false economy, and it is truly pitiable to see the woeful ignorance that exists regarding true economy....
People coming up with big schemes, ostensibly to save money, that end up wasting money. What does that remind me of? Pretty much everything now-a-days.
...A lack of a knowledge of true economy keeps many a family in squalor and filth. True economy consists in a рrореr adjustment of time, strength and money. It does not consist solely in saving money; it may consist in spending it.
The difference between economizing and economics is that economizers will talk about both saving and spending money while economists will only talk about spending it. It's no wonder the government hires all sorts of the latter, but not a single one of the former.

--From Good Housekeeping--

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dance music: 1888

You may not recognize it at first, but if you pay attention, you'll realize you've heard it before.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Microwave ovens: 1888

After a winter of "light housekeeping " over a diminutive lamp stove—the size costing one dollar, or a trifle more or less, and which holds a quart of kerosene— Abbie Fletcher would have no more parted with it than would Aladdin with the lamp that so readily summoned a powerful genie to his aid....
A lamp stove?
...During the winter, the lamp—with one or two utensils such as a small frying pan, double boiler, etc.,—had been sufficient to provide due variety of food for two or three persons, as excellent bakeries were close at hand to supply deficiencies...
It was a tiny stove, powered by a lamp, that you could use to cook small, convenient meals.
...Water may thus be quickly heated at all hours, in case of sickness, or to warm a baby's food ; tea is quickly prepared for any belated traveler who comes after the range fire is out; a flatiron can always be ready for the dressmaker....
You could use it for simple things, like heating water or making tea.
...Being a wise woman, Miss Fletcher did not attempt great reforms in the family routine at first, but let her favorite introduce itself gradually. It was first used to make tea on hot summer nights, and once when bread failed she made biscuit for supper thus: One pint of flour,...
...True, they required half an hour for baking, while fifteen or twenty minutes would have sufficed in a range oven...
They had special recipes with special cooking times. was necessary to turn them à la griddle cake that they might brown well on top...
And browning was an issue.

--From Good Housekeeping--

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chidren's literature: 1888

Why no scholar familiar with recent advances in the ethnological, philological and sociological sciences had undertaken to prepare a comprehensive account of the origin and achievements of the Aryan race until the task was taken in hand by Mr. Charles Morris, it would be hard to say....

...To the student, Mr. Morris' book is a necessity, and it should be in the library of every cultivated household. There could be no more broadening and stimulating reading for the boys and girls just growing into maturity.
--From Good Housekeeping--

Here's an excerpt from the book (just so there's no misunderstanding):
The one perplexing problem of America is the Negro. Between him and the white the race-antipathy seems too strong for any great degree of amalgamation ever to take place, while the mulatto has the weakness and infertility of a hybrid.
What's especially creepy is how Good Housekeeping gives the book a glowing endorsement without really saying what it's about. They didn't publish an excerpt, just the names of some of the book's chapters. If it wasn't for the use of the word "Aryan" over and over again, I would have thought it a droll work of anthropology.

You have to wonder, if everyone thought these ideas were good enough to compliment, why they wouldn't express them more openly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whole Food: 1896

In the fall, when apples are at their best, do not add spices to apples, as their flavor cannot be improved; but towards spring they become somewhat tasteless, and spice is an improvement.
--From The Boston cooking-school cook book--

Over the past week or so, I've made some apple dishes which didn't have spices added to them. One of the first things I noticed about them was that they taste like apples, and it was a revelation. Why do we put so many spices in apple pies? Why can't apples taste like apples?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rhode Island Apple Slump: 1888?

This is from the June 8, 1888 edition of Good Housekeeping. It was considered an old-fashioned recipe at the time; something people's grandmothers "used to make."
Take ten or twelve tart apples—none so good as the "Rhode Island Greenings,"
I used McIntosh apples, since they are my favorite apple, they were on sale, and they date back to 1811.

pare, core and quarter them. Add one cupful of water, place in a kettle to stew. As they begin to soften add two cupfuls of molasses.
I used sweet sorghum molasses.
Prepare a crust of one pint of flour— measured before sifting; one teaspoonful of sugar, one-half teaspoonful of salt, one-half teaspoonful of soda, one teaspoonful of cream of tartar.

Mix thoroughly, run through the sieve. Then, add sufficient sweet milk to make a soft dough. Roll out, and cover over the sweetened apple which by this time is boiling.

Steam without lifting the cover for twenty or thirty minutes.

The end result:

It was a hot mess, but good! I also added one of the suggested sauces: equal parts sugar, butter, and boiling milk, which was like gilding the lily. Vanilla ice cream is the only thing that could cut through all that sweetness.
Some use sugar instead of molasses, but if you want the "regulation slump," be sure to use the molasses.
Oddly, the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Assocition provides a recipe for apple slump which uses sugar! And they bake it. Heretics!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

To broil fresh salmon: 1823

This recipe is from A modern system of domestic cookery, published in 1823.
Cut some slices from a fresh salmon, and wipe them clean and dry; then melt some butter smooth and fine, with a little flour and basket salt. Put the pieces of salmon into it, and roll them about, that they may be covered all over with butter.

Make a batter out of flour, salt and butter. Make sure this is cool because you're not supposed to be cooking the salmon at this point.
Then lay them on a nice clean gridiron, and broil them over a clear but slow fire.

Easy enough to duplicate.

While the salmon is broiling, make your sauce thus: take two anchovies, wash, bone, and cut them into small pieces, and cut a leek into three or four long pieces. Set on a sauce-pan with some butter and a little flour, put in the anchovies and leek, with some capers cut small, some pepper and salt, and a little nutmeg; add to them some warm water, and two spoonfuls of vinegar, shaking the sauce-pan till it boils; and then keep it on the simmer till you are ready for it.

You only have about five minutes to do this, so be prepared. Chop, and have everything measured ahead of time. (Also, don't take pictures like I did!)

I used anchovy paste instead of anchovies, none of the ingredients are exotic. It's a lot simpler than it sounds; just making a roux, throwing in all the ingredients, and adding hot water.
When the salmon is done on one side, turn it on the other till it is quite enough; then take the leek out of the sauce, pour it into a dish, and lay the broiled salmon upon it . Garnish with lemons cut in quarters.

The salmon ends up with a fine brown crust on all its cooking surfaces. It contrasts well with the chewy leaks, smooth sauce, and tender meat. The taste was excellent, too. Nothing overpowered anything else and there was some sort of sweet and sour thing going on.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Living simply: 1889

There are so many dainty things for the adornment of modern tables, that come to my notice when I visit my friends on the main-land, from the exquisitely embroidered pieces for the center of the table, the napkins for the tea-pot and cups, for the carver, for the roast potatoes and for corn, for the bread and cake-plates, to the dainty doylies for the finger-bowls, that one becomes bewildered, hardly knowing what to choose.
Many people think formal silverware is confusing, but there used to be all sorts of special plates, bowls and table linens that went along with it.
One can keep house with a few table-cloths...
The magazine has hired a Quaker to give newlyweds some simple folk wisdom on how to set up a household. She'll cut down on the bewildering array of table cloths:
I would have one very handsome table-cloth, with large dinner napkins to match; one breakfast cloth, with napkins to match, which of course will be a smaller size; one lunchcloth, which can be colored, if preferred, with napkins to match; and to these can be added four other table-cloths and two dozen napkins, and two heavy table-cloths for kitchen use, which can be bought by the yard.
There you go, you only really need nine table cloths.

Everyone who reads this should take a moment and wonder if they need all the extra table cloths which I'm sure they have, being overly complicated modern people.

--From Good Housekeeping--

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The birth of an industry: 1889

California raisins compete in quality with the famous Malaga varieties and the large crop of last year has been in in part shipped abroad to supply a deficit in the Malaga product. The culture of raisin-grapes is increasing so rapidly in California that the raisin industry there bids fair to become one of the largest in the world...

...The scarcity of the right kind of labor is the main difficulty with which California growers have had to contend so far.
--From Good Housekeeping--

Industries springing up and growing so fast they can't find enough people to hire. That's what unbridled capitalism can lead to.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Help with housework: 1889

Most women heartily despise a "Betty," by which is usually meant a man who pokes his nose into the details of household affairs, dabbles in the work of the kitchen and irritates the housewife by assuming, regularly or occasionally, functions which she deems exclusive to herself. The dislike of women for this kind of man is in the main wellgrounded. The average man is unfortunately unable to make himself useful in household work, without making himself, also, more or less a nuisance....

...There is no reasonable reason why a man should not be able to broil a steak, boil or bake potatoes, cook an egg, make coffee or tea and prepare other articles of food should an emergency arise to make it desirable (and such emergencies do often arise), and do it too without turning the kitchen and diningroom topsy-turvy in the operation. Some men can and do accomplish such work, and even make biscuits, griddle-cakes and the like.
--From Good Housekeeping--

This article was written by a man, trying to convince women to let men who were able, help them around the house. The big problem for women wasn't that men didn't help with housework, but that they tried to!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amber Pudding: 1889

This is from the February 2, 1889 edition of Good Housekeeping.

Line a dish with pie-crust and fill with this mixture: Six tart apples stewed (covered) three-fourths of an hour,

It would probably be cheaper to just use apple sauce.
the juice and rind of one lemon, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one-fourth of a cupful of water. Rub through a colander and add one cupful of sugar, the yolks of three beaten eggs.

I skipped adding extra water and put the apples through a blender instead of a colander. Also, I added all the ingredients after the apples were blended.

Bake one-half hour, and cover with meringue, the stiff whites of three eggs, one-half of a cupful of sugar, and brown.
I baked the pie at 375 degrees F and the meringue at 350 degrees F (for 15 minutes). I made the crust without lard, it was just plain old butter, flour, salt and water.

The results were interesting. It kind of tasted like lemon meringue pie, but distinctly different. I don't think the pudding was supposed to set; it only had three egg yolks in it after all. On the plus side, I didn't have to worry about a dry crust; this thing is its own sauce. It tasted good so I might make it again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Women in the workforce: 1888

In the entrance of women into the occupations of men, the former have done so well in their ventures that the men are complaining about the competition. In 1840 there were but seven occupations outside of domestic industry that were open to women; the number had risen to 287 in 1880 and every year adds to the list. These occupations call for ability to understand the work of machinery and to operate it; and in such an industry as the making of boots and shoes, which employs a large amount of machinery in all departments of the work, more than one-sixth of those employed are women.

In the occupations that call for business knowledge women are pushing everywhere; they are found in insurance, in real estate business, in mercantile establishments, in manufactories, in lawyers' offices, doing portions of the work of management, of marketing goods, of correspondence and of driving bargains.

--From Good housekeeping--

The Victorian Era: a time of changing gender roles and a greater self-awareness among women of their ability to compete with men.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Raised Wheat Muffins: 1888

This is from the May 26, 1888 edition of Good Housekeeping, which called itself a fortnightly journal at the time.
Use one pint of milk, one generous quart of flour, one teaspoonful of salt, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one tablespoonful of sugar, one-fourth of a cupful of yeast, and two eggs.
This is for two dozen muffins (seem more like rolls to me). I cut the recipe in half and used a package of yeast. A package of yeast would probably work just as well for a full recipe, too.
Put the flour, salt and sugar in a deep earthen bowl. Boil the milk and add the butter to it.

Let this mixture stand until only tepid, then add the milk, butter and yeast to the flour and beat well.

Cover the bowl and let it stand in a rather cool part of the kitchen, unless the weather be very cold, in which case it will be necessary to keep the bowl in a warm place. When morning comes the batter will be found to have risen to a light sponge.

Beat the two eggs till very light and add them to this sponge, beating them in well. Half fill well buttered muffin-pans with the batter;

cover, and let the muffins rise in a warm place for one hour. Bake for half an hour in a moderately quick oven.
I let the muffins rise in a warm oven, uncovered (I worried the batter would stick to a towel), for about an hour. I guessed 350 degrees F was a moderately quick oven.

These muffins should not be set to rise before nine o'clock at night. They are nice for luncheon or tea, but when they are intended for luncheon use almost twice as much yeast as you other, wise would. With the quantity of materials stated above two dozen muffins can be made.
They tasted like yeasty biscuits. They were good with butter and jelly. You could also probably mix in herbs or other ingredients when you stir in the eggs just before the final rise.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our hectic modern world: 1888

Civilization has become so artificial that many know nothing of such life, or regard it as savagery. The vast horizon and overarching sky, silence and space where the voice of God speaks directly to the soul of man, the mysterious processes of nature, terrify them. They miss conventional forms as much as matutinal [morning] warm water, rocking-chairs and the daily paper. Having learned neither to observe nor to think, they are as lonely, awe-struck and unappreciative as a deserted babe under the dome of St. Peter's.
--From Good housekeeping--

Warm water in the morning, newspapers, and rocking-chairs; it's amazing anyone can feel a spiritual connection to anything with all the decadence which surrounds them, especially the rocking-chairs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lactose intolerance: 1888

Some complain that they cannot drink milk without being "distressed by it." The most common reason why milk is not well borne is due to the fact that people drink it too quickly. If a glass of it is swallowed hastily it enters into the stomach and then forms in one solid, curdled mass, difficult of digestion. If, on the other hand, the same quantity is sipped, and three minutes at least are occupied in drinking it, then on reaching the stomach it is so divided, that when coagulated, as it must be by the gastric juice, while digestion is going on, instead of being in one hard, condensed mass upon the outside of which only the digestive fluids can act, it is more in the form of a sponge, and in and out of the entire bulk the gastric juice can play freely and perform its function.
--From Good housekeeping--

Can you imagine people watching a clock as they drink a glass of milk, making sue it takes them at least three minutes? And they'd still have intestinal problems.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prisoner rehabilitation: 1888

Good conduct and good food go hand in hand in the California state prison. The convicts are chiefly employed in quarrying and dressing granite. The new arrivals are supplied with rather poor fare, as are, also, those who are ill-behaved, and they get boiled beans, salt meat, cabbage, mush, bread and coffee without milk. Within smelling distance from this table is another table where fresh beef and mutton, various kinds of vegetables, rice, and many other toothsome articles of food, are served to all convicts who have earned the privilege by diligent and faithful conduct. Those who eat at the better table are allowed considerable liberty. It is said that the inmates of this prison so order their conduct that, within a few months after their entrance they win the better food. They have an incentive to attend strictly to business, to respect all the rules and to observe a constant propriety.
--From Good Housekeeping--

It sounds exactly like a child rearing technique. I bet it worked pretty well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I think I have an eating problem: 1888

But when artificial life, with its meager exercise, its seclusion from pure air, its jading cares and conventional excesses, destroys natural appetite, its victims may justly demand that artifice shall supplement, as it has supplanted, nature. The languid appetite must be beguiled and tricked into activity by an appeal to senses other than those of hunger.
--From Good housekeeping--

Oh, the things you read in women's magazines!