Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Invalid Cookery

Not many cookbooks these days include chapters on cooking for invalids but if you pull out older ones, especially from the early 20th century, they often have a chapter on preparing soothing draughts such as barley water or nourishing dishes like blancmange or some type of gruel. Sound delicious, huh? Here's a link to an online cookbook circa 1902 with a chapter on the subject.

I'm thinking of this as I'm home from a short hospital stay during which I shared a room with a fellow surgical patient who will be on an all-liquid diet for 21 days, clear liquids* only for the first week. It got me considering her options and my own. My diet isn't restrictive but is still limited by how I'm feeling; I couldn't tolerate a steak and loaded baked potato right now if you paid me.

Some meal planning guidelines for invalids come easy. If the doctor recommends clear liquids or no citrus fruits that's clear cut but if you're in charge of setting the menu without medical directives keep these things in mind. Invalid meals should be healthy, easy to digest, easy to swallow or chew as necessary, served at the right temperature for the food and/or the patient's preference.** Easy on the pocketbook, good for the whole family (meaning fewer separate dishes to prepare) and quick to prepare are things worth considering, too. Remember comfort foods may be as much about presentation as ingredients. Toast cut into triangles or cookie cutter shapes, applesauce sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, orange slices arranged in a sunburst on a small plate -- something mom used to make for them when they were small.

I have at least one cookbook devoted to invalid cookery and it's from modern times: Laurel's Kitchen Caring: whole food recipes for everyday home caregiving by Laurel Robertson of Laurel's Kitchen: a handbook for vegetarian cookery and nutrition
fame. Robertson includes simple recipes like Ginger Tea which she recommends for relief of mild stomachache or headache, or for nausea, colds or fever. It's a standby at out house for mild stomach problems.

Ginger Tea

1 quart water
2" nub of peeled and thinly sliced gingerroot

Drop gingerroot into boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and serve plain or with honey. Cool and keep extra in a jar in the fridge for a few days. Serve cold or reheat as needed.


This one's in Robertson's book, too, but my mom's made this blend as a sore throat or light cough relief for years.

Lemon and Honey

Squeeze a lemon and stir in honey in an approximate equal amount, to taste; then add boiling water to make a cup. Sip to soothe throat. Add a shot of whiskey to an adult's cup for a hot toddy.

For heartier fare, rice is a good choice. It can be served bland with just salt, pepper and maybe a pat of butter or you can tempt appetites with Robertson's Green Rice Casserole:

1 small bunch green onions or 1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
vegetable oil
2-1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated cheese (try swiss, mild cheddar, or Monterey jack)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Saute garlic and onion in oil until soft. Crush garlic with fork. Combine with remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into greased 2-quart casserole. Bake about 45 minutes, until set. Cool slightly if you want to slice it into squares.

Tailor it to diet needs--

Lower fat: Cut cheese in half, use skim milk. Sub 4 egg whites for whole eggs.
Vegan: Omit cheese, milk and eggs. Add plenty of sauteed mushrooms and chopped grilled bell peppers. Lighter dish -- delicious.
Bland, but good: Leave out sauteed onion and garlic, cosider substituting a preferred salt-free seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash or Spike for salt.

Robertson even includes a recipe for barley water. It's suggested for anyone with weakness, irritated digestive tract or sore throat.

Barley Tea

2 quarts boiling water
1/2 cup barley, whole-grain "naked" or hulled, but NOT pearl
3 cardamom pods (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom)

Boil water in large saucepan. Wash barley in cold water and drain. Put it in boiling water and simmer actively about 30 minutes, until water is a deep pink and cloudy. Either strain it or let stand and then pour off the clear liquid. If desired you can add another quart of water to the barley and boil again, combining the liquid from both batches. You should end up with about 8 cups of barley tea but you can make it stronger or dilute as desired.

With mortar and pestle, finely grind seeds from cardamom pods and add to hot tea. Serve hot with honey or sugar. May store extra in refrigerator to reheat over the next couple of days as needed.

For more kitchen tips check out Tammy's Kitchen Tip Tuesday posts.

*The test is, if you put it in a glass, you can see your hand through the glass. Water, weak black tea, weak herbal teas like chamomile or raspberry leaf, mild clear broth, and diluted apple juice can be appropriate.

**I can still remember ending up in the hospital overnight after a bicycle wreck as a young teen. No food since the previous morning and I thought I was starving. My mouth was filled stitches so I needed something soft or, even better, liquid and not too hot temperature-wise. Instead I was served a steaming (truly!) bowl of oatmeal, thin toast and canned orange juice. I couldn't eat any of it. The toast was dry and had to be chewed thoroughly, the juice was too acidic and by the time the oatmeal had cooled enough to try, the tray had been removed. I spent the next week eating all my food thru a straw. That was one of the few times I would have appreciated something like Carnation Instant Breakfast drink...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Out of sight, out of mind?

I feel like Dr. Zeus' Whos down in Whoville. So many things have kept my "shouts" from being heard lately. I was optimistic in mid-October that I could get on with our usual winter activities but we didn't get a hard freeze till the very end of October so I kept canning beans (over 150 quarts put up), tomatoes in several forms (salsa, whole tomatoes, and juice to name the main ones) and those pears! We went back to the still-loaded tree with a 15-foot ladder in late October and DH picked three more bushels. Some I wrapped in paper and the rest we spread out to ripen then dried or ate in all their oh-so-sweet juicy glory. The last of the paper-wrapped ones kept till the week before Christmas -- still tasted great, were extremely juicy but the skins had begun to toughen. I will definitely wrap some the next time we have such a bumper crop. I managed to write a few posts off and on during Novemeber and early December but they're stored away as document files till I can get photos sorted and really just TIME to put them up.

Christmas came and went in a blur. I made a few gifts this year but not as many as I'd planned so I've started on next year's in an attempt to spread the work over as many months as possible. I cast-on this yarn Christmas night in order to start a simple garter-stitch hat with a rolled brim for one of DS's cousins. To go with the hat, I'm planning to make a pair of felted mittens trimmed with the same yarn using the fulled shetland sweater showing underneath the skein. The cousin is in the fast-growing age range so I'll wait till closer to next Christmas before cutting out the mittens. The yarn came from GardenPartyFibers.com several years ago but I've lost the label to tell me the name of the colorway. It's very soft, probably merino, and the colors blended together well in the sample I knitted.

One thing I did make this year was knitted cotton dishcloths. I made variations of the two styles shown in the photos below. They're very fast to knit and I can remember the patterns without having to refer to a printout. Along with some handmilled soap or, when short on time or inclination, liquid soap from someplace like Bath & Bodyworks, they made a thoughtful gift that was quick to put together.

Tho I've used the pattern often over the past five years or so I noticed that the pattern for the blue-and-white dishcloth was printed on the yarn's label and it's also listed in Mason-Dixon Knitting as a ballband dishcloth and can be found on-line under other names such as textured slipstitch dishcloth. The other dishcloths are diagonally-knit and the pattern is so simple. It can be found all over the place including in one of my posts from earlier this year.

For the my fiber guild's gift exchange I made a paper star (sometimes called a Polish Star) just like the ones my mother taught me to make as a kid. In exchange I received two inkle-woven chenille ornaments with tassels. They're too lovely to pack away till next Christmas so I'm going to hang them in my workroom. Wish I had a picture but no time tonight. One of those things that have kept me from posting regularly requires surgery scheduled for tomorrow so I'm off to pack for an expected short hospital stay and have a last drink of water before the no food-no drinks rule kicks in at midnight. On the positive side, I'm looking forward to downtime during recovery as I may be able to catch up on some knitting and posting.