Mrs. Sterling’s Ways – Hot Water No. XVI

This is the first article in June of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on June 6, 1909, and is an article on tea and hot water with specific attention on tannic acid.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Mrs. Sterling’s Ways – Hot Water No. XVI

MRS. BROWN’S “Dietetic Department” took a new turn today. Not that most of us were surprised when she not only declined but denounced the tea which she had lauded, not three weeks ago, as “Tired Woman’s Sweet Restorer, Balmy Tea.” As I have already remarked, we knew the tannic acid stage must come in the natural course of her lectures.

“No tea for me, dear Mrs. Sterling,” she murmured, a regretful glister in her eyes. “Against my will I am convinced that it is absolutely poison to one of my digestive idiosyncrasies. I have nothing to do with other people’s principles and practice in this respect, although I shuddered, this morning, in listening to the professor’s analysis of teas—even those for which we pay preposterous prices as the best and purest brands. We all know, of course, that green tea owns its color to Prussian blue, the base of which is prussic acid. But everybody does not suspect that tannic acid-a deadly poison—lucks in every cup, whatever may be the kind of tea used. After ten minutes maceration” (Mrs. Martin smiled openly at the technical term) “the diffusion is little better than diluted digallic acid.”

“Good gracious!” cried Mrs. Martin, helping herself to a slice of lemon and another lump of sugar, abstractedly. “How horribly and delightfully interesting! Do go on! It is such a comfort to know just what one drinks! And what does the digalltannic stuff do after we swallow three or four cups of it?”

Mrs. Brown was [] up without one ray of humor. She replied, promptly and gravely:

Tannin’s Ill Effects.

“Digallic acid is but another name for tannin. When taken into the human stomach it precipitates all starches and glutens (which is the best principle of bread, you know), all albuminous deposits (that is eggs), and if you have eaten jelly—sweet or aspic or meat jelly—it forms a most insoluble compound, almost like leather!”

“Good gracious!” ejaculated the fun-loving auditor anew—her eyes widened until her forehead was a gridiron of wrinkles. “You make me feel like a tannery! Yet it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a leather-lined stomach, when one comes to think of it!”

Mrs. Sterling interposed the usual buffer between ball and ball:

“But my dear Mrs. Brown, sensible people who have read of the properties of foods—and beverages—do not let tea steep for ten minutes! They know that stewed, or overdone tea, is an astringent, and that it must carry on the tanning process you have described.”

“I beg your pardon” returned the thoroughbred, with perfect temper. “There is not a leaf in the pot! As soon as the boiling water had stood upon the herb five minutes—or less—the tea was drawn off into that pot having been made in another, and set in a vessel of boiling water until I rang for the tea. Once here, the wadded cozy keeps it hot for an incredibly long time, and it loses none of its freshness. Neither,” smiling at the disconcerted reformer, “does it extract tannic acid while standing. Patent neither obtained nor applied for! The trick is free to all. Now, let me give you something to drink! What shall it be? Coffee? Lemonade? Milk?”

“A cup of freshly boiled water, please!” with what remnant of self-possession defeat had left her. “It stimulates and cleanses the mucous lining of the stomach.”

While the water was in boiling Mrs. Sterling went on talking naturally and easily. That a guest should suffer discomfort of body or spirit in her house is, to her notions, a breach of hospitality.

The Virtues of Hot Water.

“My sister, Mrs. Field, never wearies of descanting upon the virtues of hot water as a beverage. A cup—freshly boiled, as you say—is brought to her bedside every morning before she rises. She takes nothing else for sick headache and indigestion. When she is inclined to be bilious in the early warm weather, she adds the juice of a lemon without sugar, and insists that it does her more good than quinine ever did ‘in the dark ages when she pinned her faith to doctors and to drugs.’ If it be a delusion it is harmless—and clean. Here is your invigorator, at last! I thank you for not going away thirsty.”

After a few minutes of desultory chat, the hot water question came up again. It was, I think, Mrs. Green who asked, “What is a ‘bain marie?”

“One meets with the term often in recipes, especially for the preparation of French dishes,” she said. “I judge from the connection in which it is used, that is has to do with hot water.”

“It is rather a grand apparatus in hotel kitchens,” replied the hostess. “I have a simpler form—a very crude construction—in mine which I will show you, some day, if you wish. I had a []zinc box—or pan—made by a stove manufacturer, oblong, about six inches deep and with a deep, round cover. Any tinner could make one. It is about twice as large as an ordinary covered roaster. This stands as the side of the range all day long, or at the back, wherever it will be out of the cook’s way, and is always half or quite full of hot water. Dishes are set in it to heat before they are filled, and to keep the content hot after they are ready for the table. Coffee and teapots go into the same while they await [] convenience. Soups may be kept hot against the master’s coming for an hour without injury. Even the steak, done to a turn, does not lose flavor or juices after it is committed to the warm embrace of the ‘bain marie.’ The same may be said of fish and even oysters, and it is on record that an omlette was once saved from flat ruin by the ‘Cook’s Best Friend.’ That is the name it foes by in our household.”

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

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