The Convalescent’s Tray

This is the fifth article in March of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on March 31, 1907, and is a discussion on how to tend to sick children and family, aka, the invalid.

One piece of advice I strongly agree with in this article is never ask the sick person what they would like to eat. It’s always better to just bring them something they can stomach in small doses. I had to Google what ‘Arrowroot’ was and apparently this root was very popular in Victorian times, especially in the colonies, and was seen as an easily digestible food for people with dietary restrictions.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

The Convalescent’s Tray

ONE of the best amateur sailors I know, who has always “absolutely usable to comprehend why one should be seasick,” made a voyage on the same steamer with me some years ago. His theory, expounded ad nauseam to the pale-faced occupants of deck chairs which had not been unfolded for the first days of the tour, was simple and admitted of no peradventure. Seasickness, according to him, was a malady of the imagination.

“Look at me!” he declaimed, standing with his back to the guards on the promenade deck, on a cloudy day in mid-ocean, when at least half of us were too faint with dread of yet rougher seas to open our eyes upon anything. “I have crossed ten times, and in all sorts of weather. I have been over that most villainous of waters— the British channel—every time I have come abroad. I spent five days on the Mediterranean once, when each day brought storm of a different complexion, and I have never missed a meal on shipboard. Yet my internal make-up can’t be unlike that of everybody else. I tell you, it is the mind—the spirit, the will—that renders me immune!”

Matter Conquers Mind.

A fortnight later compensating fate sent me across the channel, from Dover to Calais, and the immune lecturer by the same boat. All the night we had lain in our beds at the Lord Warden Hotel, hearkening, in the intervals of uneasy slumber, to the booming of thunderous waves against the chalky cliffs of Albion.

“And we sadly thought of the morrow.”

The sun arose out of a sea that was wondrous smooth after the passion of the midnight. The short chopping waves we had come to dread through horrible experiences had rounded into low, long rolls, that looked benignant. Before we were out of sight of land half of the passengers had found out what was meant by “a ground swell.” Midway in the passage I heard a jolly chuckle from the companion nearest my deck chair.

We had read “Tartarin of Tarascon” on the Atlantic voyage and laughed, as every one who has a spark of humor must laugh, at the braggart’s rush to the guard—“And France was disgraced!” This was what my companion said between the chuckles that made me lift weary lids from sick eyes.

“And France was disgraced!”

For the ground swell had got the better of Mind; had floored the Spirit; had beaten down the barriers of Will. The immune man had succumbed to circumstance, and as I opened my eyes it was to behold him hanging like a limp rag over the rail.

The scene has come back to me a hundred times since, when I have watched the passage of the invalid through the ground swell of Convalescence to the terra firma Assured Health.

Thirty years ago, when the care of a household, including young children, and the diseases to which human flesh is heir, bore heavily upon my mind, I penned this admonition:

“When, the rack of pain having been removed, the dulled perceptions of the mind reawaken to sensitiveness, and there comes to the sufferer’s mind the bugle call of Duty—sharp, imperative; when every idle moment speaks to him of a slain opportunity and the no longer strong man shakes his fetters with piteous cries against Fate—do not despise or be impatient with him. You see but the poor wreck left by the demon as he tore his way out of him at the Divine command. Gather it up lovingly in your arms and nurse it back to strength and comeliness.”

Tact Is Requited.

Because I meant it so much then; because I mean it so much more now that added years have borne in upon me with far greater force the truth of what I thought the youthful matron comprehended to the full—I claim the right to copy yet other extracts from my talk upon “Convalescence.”

Do not ask your charge what he would like to eat. He will, of a surety, sicken at the thought of selection, and say, ‘Nothing!’

Watch for the slightest intimation of a desire for any particular delicacy, and if you are assured that it cannot hurt him, procure it, if you can without letting him suspect your intention.

Feed him lightly and often, never bringing into his sight more than he may safely eat. A big bowl of broth or jelly will either tempt him to imprudence or discourage him.

Daintiness a Prerequisite.

While he is very weak, feed him with your own hand, playfully, as you would a child talking cheerfully of something else than his food, beguiling him into taking the needed nutriment.

As soon as his meals are over re move every vestige of them from the room. Even the glimpse of a soiled spoon lying on table or bureau may offend his fastidious appetite. Cover the stand or tray from which he takes his food with a spotless napkin, and serve his food in your daintiest ware.

“A hired nurse is a useful, often necessary, attendant, but, while you are upon your feet and mistress of your own house, delegate to no one the dear task of catering for the beloved convalescent.”

This catering is an art in itself. Success in it depends upon natural aptitude to some extent, but skill and tack may be acquired. Cook nothing in the room where the convalescent sits or lies. If you have friends who understand and practice what I call “kitchenly kindness,” make much of the unexpected delicacy you display proudly at the time of “feeding.” It is mysterious, yet invariable, the charm that attaches, in the invalid’s fancy to anything cooked out of the house in which he abides. One could imagine that a flavor of the love that prompted the gift goes with and informs it. Fruit, jellies, broths, game, accompanied by flowers—God’s own message to his weak and restless child—are the choicest decorations love and friendship can devise for the world bounded by the four walls of the convalescent’s chamber.

Very often the capricious appetite of a child can be coaxed a combination of an attractive tray service and a story. An ordinary white china egg receptacle, with a carved hen on the cover, may be used to advantage if the mother will take time to humor the little convalescent. For instance, the story of the little white hen that laid a fresh egg every day for the little sick boy may be made very realistic at just the right moment by lifting “Biddy” from her nest and disclosing the egg. Of course, the child will want to sample the fresh egg that was laid on purpose for him, and as the wonderful story progresses he will forget that he is eating, and the dreaded task will soon be accomplished.

Another treat which will please a convalescent child at any time, but which will greatly add to his enjoyment on Easter, is a “surprise pie.” Take a large baking pan and set into it a dainty tray with the little invalid’s breakfast. Cover the pan with ordinary manila paper, putting a dab of watercolor paint around the edges and in the center to simulate a bona fide pie. Or cover the pan with a huge daffodil made of crepe paper. This can be done easily if precautions are made beforehand, and the surprise will certainly be effectual.

Surprises Tempt Palates.

Let the youngster survey the treat, then tell him to play he is a little Jack Homer, to put in his thumb and pullout a plum. Of course, he will enjoy the joke, and when the pie “crust” is mutilated a dainty tray, decorated with pussy willows, those harbingers of spring which all children love, will be disclosed, and the food thereof he will surely partake.

An invalid, too, may be made the guest of honor on Easter Sunday, and some little surprise should be planned in her behalf. A dainty tray with a few slices of thin, crisp toast, or a “Panada” will entice her into the humor of eating and brighten her whole day.



Arrowroot Water Jelly.

IMPRIMIS—Do not let yourself be deluded into buying any but the best Bermuda arrowroot. I get mine from a responsible druggist, and in small packages. Keep it in dry place.

Stir two tablespoonfuls into as many tablespoonfuls of cold water until it is smooth. Have ready over the fire a cupful of boiling water in which you have dissolved two teaspoonfuls of white sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the dis solved arrowroot and continue to stir until it is clear, keeping the water at a boil all the time. Add a teaspoonful of strained lemon juice and take directly from the fire. Turn into small moulds wet with cold water, and when cold, set on ice. To prepare for eating, empty mould upon a saucer; strew with fine sugar, and drench with cream. Should the invalid like the flavor of rosewater, season delicately with it.

If wine be allowed by the physicians, you may substitute a small glass of it for the rosewater. In this case, heap the teaspoon with dry arrowroot, in measuring as the liquid will make the jelly less consistent. Both of these preparations are delicious and nourishing.

Arrowroot Blanc Mange.

Wet two tablespoonfuls of arrowroot with four of cold water and work into a smooth paste. Heat a large coffee cupful of milk to scalding, dropping in a tiny pinch of salt and the same of soda. Dissolve it in two teaspoonfuls of white sugar; stir in the arrowroot and cook for three minutes, stirring all the while. The three minutes should be counted from the instant the boil recommences. Flavor to taste. Form in small modis wet with cold water. Keep on ice until you are ready to serve. It should be eaten with sugar and cream.

Arrowroot Custard.

This a heavier preparation than jelly and blanc mange, but nourishing and palatable.

Wet three tablespoonfuls of arrowroot with four of cold milk, and stir smooth.

Heat a pint of milk to scalding, adding a pinch of soda; stir the arrowroot and cook three minutes after the boil begins anew. Turn into a bowl. Beat in an egg which has been whipped light with two tablespoonfuls of white sugar. Set the bowl in a saucepan of boiling water, put back on the fire and stir for two minutes after the water in the saucepan begins to boil again. Form in small moulds. Serve alone, or with cream, as desired.

Forbear to make any of these light foods too sweet or, or the patient will take a dislike to them.

Old Fashioned Panada.

Get six of the square old-fashioned Boston crackers our babies used to cut their teeth upon. Split them and lay in a deep bowl, sprinkling salt scantily and sugar rather bountifully among the layers. Cover with water that is freshly boiled. Our mothers and nurses laid stress upon this last condition. The water must cover the crackers two inches deep. Fit a close coyer on the bowl and set in a saucepan of boiling water on the range. At end of an hour you should have a bowlful of a jellied cereal. It should be eaten from the bowl with more sugar and a very little mace or nutmeg dusted over the panada.

Convalescent children are usually very fond of this dish, if it is properly made. It is very good for mothers of babies under a month old. They generally like it, too.

Always provided it is panada, and not mush. Not a cracker should be disintegrated.

Chicken Jelly.

Clean a tender chicken, wash well, and split down the back as for broiling. Set one-half away to be broiled another day. Pound other half with a wooden mallet, cracking every bone and reducing the flesh to a paste. Put into a saucepan with a close cover and cover a quart of cold water for two pounds of the chicken. Set where it will not come to the boil in less than an hour. Then let it simmer—never actually boiling—for three hours more. It must be so closely covered that the steam will not escape. Do not uncover until it has been off the fire so long as to be quite cold. Then strain, pressing hard, through a cheesecloth bag, getting out every drop of nourishment. Season the liquid to taste, return the fire, bring to a quick boil to throw up the scum and drop in the white of a raw egg. Boil one minute, strain again and set away to cool. Then leave in ice until you are ready to serve. Eaten with unleavened wafers or with thin bread and butter. It is very good and full of nourishment.

Unleavened Wafers.

Chicken Jelly.

Ch??? a teaspoonful of butter into a ??? of flour; salt slightly and make into a dough with a scant cupful of milk. The dough should be stiffer than that of a biscuit. Roll out thin, cut into round cakes and roll each of these as thin as paper. It should be as large as a teaplate. Prick with a fork in a dozen places and bake in a pan that has been floured—not buttered. Bake in a quick oven.

The wafers should be brittle and dry. They are appetizing and general favorites.

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange