Coal Milk, Beef Tea, and Other Turn-of-the-Century Sick Foods


My newest Forgotten Foods column for Table Matters is about toast water, coal milk, beef tea, and other hideous (or occasionally amazing) foods served to invalids around the turn of the century. Read it here!

Image from Hygiene for the Worker, 1912

From “Happy Living! A Guide for Brides”

So, from what I understand, the garish tulips in the background are to distract and confuse your husband so much that he thinks you’re a catch, not some culinary dolt who believes putting a sprig of parsley in the center of this unattractive monstrosity of hard-boiled eggs mixed with a can of cream of mushroom soup (in a corned-beef crust, mind you) makes you the scientific-miracle love child of Betty Crocker and Julia Child.  Also, Happy Living! somehow thinks a recipe with the three main ingredients of hard-boiled eggs (the easiest thing to cook ever?), canned corn beef, and canned cream of mushroom soup doesn’t fall into the “can-opener method of cooking.”

I really hope that this meal in particular was served “on trays in the living room with soft background music.” Because nothing says “casual, romantic night at home” like eating a heaping, gloppy, grease-glistening slice of egg pie while listening to some late 70s Herb Alpert.

My mom was given this book for free at a department store when she registered for her wedding. Goodness help all brides from 1979.