Tales from the Archives: ‘Infallible’ Missionary Cures

Everything seems to be unseasonably in bloom in England at the moment–blossom, daffodils, snowdrops, crocus… It is beautiful, to be sure, but horrible for us hayfever sufferers who are walking around with blossoming noses and eyes.

The Recipes Project now has over 700 posts in our archives. (Thank you to our wonderful contributors for sharing such a wealth of knowledge on recipes!) But with so much material on the site, it’s easy for earlier pieces to be overlooked. So the editors have decided that, every now and then, we’ll pull something out of the archives to share with our readers, making old material new once again.

Unsurprisingly, this month I was inspired to look for various flowers in our archives. What inspired me most was the sole entry on crocus–which, in this case, does not even refer to a flower! I’m going back to Tara Albert’s post from 2014.


Two ‘Infallible’ Missionary Cures in Seventeenth-Century Southeast Asia

by Tara Albert

The life of a seventeenth-century Catholic missionary in Asia could be arduous. Many newly arrived missionaries documented their difficulties with the local climate, food, water, and troublesome insects. Above all they fretted about the unfamiliar illnesses that plagued them, and which could bring their endeavours to a premature end. Their letters are peppered with references to concerns about health, and with requests for and advice about available remedies. Preserved in the archives of the Société des Missions Étrangères in Paris is a copy of such a letter, sent in 1692 by missionaries in the Society’s seminary in Siam (Thailand) to their confrères working in Tonkin (Vietnam) (AMEP vol. 850, pp. 152-64). The letter is typical of its genre, containing news, requests for information, pious sentiments, and advice. It also contains intriguing and unusual paragraph – described as a ‘recette’ in the archive’s descriptive catalogue – concerning the use of two curative substances. Breaking off from some unrelated news, the authors suddenly decide to advise their colleagues that:

Crocus metallorum is made from prepared antimony, and if it is infused in grape wine it makes emetic wine, so this crocus is taken solely for purging and evacuating from above and below; it is used for almost every sort of illness, as long as the patient still has enough strength. The dose is from 18 to 30 grains, which is given to the strongest. It is neither heated nor boiled, nor mixed with anything else, it is simply swallowed in wine, or in water, or with sugar, or with a fig – indeed it doesn’t matter with what as long as it is swallowed. Cinchona is a bark from a tree which comes from the New World: an excellent and near infallible remedy to cure all sorts of fevers which are not accompanied by oppressions or inflammations of the chest: it was an English doctor who recently brought these barks to France. We think we sent you the method to use this in the last year, but just in case we’re sending it again this year. (p. 160).

The inclusion of this paragraph raises a number of questions about missionary medicine. In my previous work, which explored conversion to Catholicism in Southeast Asia, I discussed how missionaries often presented themselves as healers in order to convince people of their spiritual powers. This ‘recipe’, however, points to another set of issues which merits further investigation, relating to missionary engagement with medical developments and controversies in Europe, and about missionaries’ interests in using relatively ‘new’ techniques and materia medica on their mission fields.

The first cure – crocus metallorum – is a preparation of a substance which has been discussed before on this blog: antimony. The discussion of its use in this letter is almost an anti-recipe: the remarkable effectiveness of this remedy was such that the composition of the delivery mechanism was unimportant. Indeed the initial illness of the patient hardly mattered – this was a true cure-all. The use of antimonial cures had been extremely controversial throughout most of the seventeenth century. Following a décret of the Sorbonne’s faculty of medicine, and an arrêt of the Parlement of Paris in 1666 permitting their use, they became increasingly sought after.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London La calcination Solaire de L'antimoine. From Nicholas Le Fevre, Traicte de la Chymie (Paris, 1660), opp. p. 899.  Wellcome Library, London
Credit: 
La calcination Solaire de L’antimoine. From Nicholas Le Fevre, Traicte de la Chymie (Paris, 1660), opp. p. 899.
Wellcome Library, London

The second remedy is also a miracle cure of sorts: the ‘near-infallible’ bark of the Cinchona tree, a source of quinine, effective against malarial fevers. No mention is made of the rival missionaries who were associated with this remedy in Europe: the Jesuits, who played an important role in its dissemination. We know from other letters that French Jesuits had supplied some of this bark to Missions Étrangères priests in Siam in the 1680s.  But this letter – which had earlier mentioned the tensions between the two societies – only mentions the ‘English doctor’ credited with introducing the substance to France. This is most probably a reference to Robert Talbor, whose secret recipe for a fever cure based on Cinchona had been revealed in a book published in 1682, shortly after his death. The letter promises that a fuller account of the means of preparing this bark will be sent to Vietnam. I have yet to find this account, but it would be interesting to compare the method to the Talbor recipe, and to Jesuit recipes of the same period.

Both substances held great promise:  they seemed to be extremely efficacious and had become famous, even fashionable in France in the last decades of the century. The use of both medicines by royalty had undoubtedly added to their appeal, and encouraged their acceptance by the medical establishment. Louis XIV had been successfully treated with antimonial wine; Talbor’s cinchona remedies were also credited with saving the life of the king’s son. Yet both remedies were also controversial. Naysayers continued to raise doubts about their efficacy and safety, and about the probity of those who would prescribe them. In many ways they represented new approaches to medicine, championed by those who sought to isolate universal remedies and infallible cure-alls. It seems that members of the Société des Missions Étrangères embraced these approaches, and helped to introduce these ideas to their mission fields.

You’re Invited! Brunch at the CLGA

Today, Michael Pereira of the Canadian Lesbian + Gay Archives shares some of the outstanding items in their Toronto-based collections, including a wide range of recipe books. A version of this post will also appear on the CLGA blog.

Michael Pereira

When it comes to meals, brunch is the queerest of them all. I may not have the empirical evidence to back up this claim, but I would bet that brunch is itself a queer invention. It’s not quite early enough to be breakfast nor does it have the requisite midday feel to be lunch. It’s boldly in-between. It foregoes traditional boundaries and crosses widely agreed upon lines—just like the queer folk among us.

It was clear to me  where I needed to look when asked to feature the Canadian Lesbian + Gay Archives’ collection of cookbooks. With heavenly hybrids of breakfast and lunch fare, brunch is the most versatile meal of them all. It’s also a perfect opportunity to pop open your finest (or cheapest—we don’t judge) bottle of champagne before 11am! Catch your local drag queens and kings for drag brunch at a queer-friendly cafe, restaurant, or early-rising bar on a Sunday morning for a different kind of spiritual experience.

Fig. 1. Illustration from Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking (San Francisco: Congregation Sha'Ar Zahav, 1987). Image courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 1. Illustration from Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking (San Francisco: Congregation Sha’Ar Zahav, 1987). Image courtesy of CLGA.

 

The CLGA is the world’s largest independent LGBTQ2+ archive. Established by The Body Politic’s editorial board in 1973, it maintains a vast collection of records, artifacts, artwork, periodicals, and books generously donated by members of our communities that are available for the public to learn from. Our collections have been meticulously archived largely by and for LGBTQ2+ people, many of whom dedicate their time on a volunteer basis. The cookbooks featured here are held in our James Fraser Library, named in honour of the late James Fraser, an early member of the Canadian Gay Liberation Archives who logged over 500 hours of volunteer service in just one year.

 

Fig. 2. Cover of Lou Rand Hogan, The Gay Cookbook (Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965). Image courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 2. Cover of Lou Rand Hogan, The Gay Cookbook (Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1965). Image courtesy of CLGA.

 

You can find cookbooks that range from informative to campy by a wide range of authors in and out of drag. This includes:

  • The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book by Alice B. Toklas (1954)
  • Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking by Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (1987)
  • But Can She Cook? by Christopher North (1993)
  • Healthy Eating Makes a Difference: A Food Resource Book for People Living with HIV by Sheila Murphy (1993)
  • Be Gay! Eat Gay!: The Gay of Cooking by The Kitchen Fairy (1982)
  • The Gay Cookbook by Chef Lou Rand Hogan (1965)
  • Cookin’ With Honey: What Literary Lesbians Eat edited by Amy Scholder (1996)
  • La Gay Gourmet by Carl Mueller (1983)
  • The Drag Queen’s Cookbook & Guide to Sensible Living by Honey van Campe (1996)

Fig. 3. Covers from Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking (San Francisco: Congregation Sha'Ar Zahav, 1987); Be Gay! Eat Gay! The Gay of Cooking (Laguna Beach: Fairy Publications, 1982); Honey Van Campe, The Drag Queen’s Cookbook & Guide to Sensible Living (New Orleans: Pontalba Press, 1996). Images courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 3. Covers from Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking (San Francisco: Congregation Sha’Ar Zahav, 1987); Be Gay! Eat Gay! The Gay of Cooking (Laguna Beach: Fairy Publications, 1982); Honey Van Campe, The Drag Queen’s Cookbook & Guide to Sensible Living (New Orleans: Pontalba Press, 1996). Images courtesy of CLGA.

 

So call up your besties, try-out some of the recipes that follow, and have a gay ol’ time!

 

“Kaffi’s Corn Bread” from But Can She Cook?

Don’t be afraid to get a little corny for your brunch party! A fabulous line-up of drag queens pose for glamour shots alongside their favourite eats in this cookbook published in support of Casey House Hospice, established in 1988 as Canada’s first stand-alone hospital for people with HIV/AIDS.

Fig. 4. “Kaffi’s Corn Bread,” from Christopher North, “But Can She Cook?” (Toronto: Bittersweet Press, 1993) 45. Photography by George Leet. Image courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 4. “Kaffi’s Corn Bread,” from Christopher North, But Can She Cook? (Toronto: Bittersweet Press, 1993) 45. Photography by George Leet. Image courtesy of CLGA.

 

“Oeufs Francis Picabia” from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book 

Fig. 5. Cover of The Alice B Toklas Cook Book (London: Brilliance Books, 1987) and Alice B. Toklas, photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1949. Images courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 5. Cover of The Alice B Toklas Cook Book (London: Brilliance Books, 1987) and Alice B. Toklas, photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1949. Images courtesy of CLGA.

Alice B. Toklas’ cookbook is a charcuterie board of the who’s who of 20th century art and culture in France. It includes recipes and anecdotes featuring Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and, as the name of this dish suggests, Francis Picabia. “The only painter who ever gave me a recipe was Francis Picabia and though it is only a dish of eggs it merits the name of its creator,” Toklas explains.

Break 8 eggs into a bowl and mix them well with a fork, add salt but no pepper. Pour them into a saucepan—yes, a saucepan, no, not a frying pan. Put the saucepan over a very, very low flame, keep turning the eggs with a fork while very slowly adding in very small quantities 1\2 lb. butter—not a speck less, rather more if you can bring yourself to it. It should take ½ hour to prepare this dish. The eggs of course are not scrambled but with the butter, no substitute admitted, produce a suave consistency that perhaps only gourmets will appreciate.

 

The Cooking Fairy’s “Queerberry Crepes” from Be Gay! Eat Gay!

On a cold wintry morning wrap yourself up in the warm, tender love and care of these silky strawberry crepes.

Fig. 6. “Queerberry Crepes” from Be Gay! Eat Gay!: The Gay of Cooking by The Kitchen Fairy (Laguna Beach: Fairy Publications, 1982). Image courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 6. “Queerberry Crepes” from Be Gay! Eat Gay!: The Gay of Cooking by The Kitchen Fairy (Laguna Beach: Fairy Publications, 1982). Image courtesy of CLGA.

 

Michelle DuBarry’s “City Park Apple Tart” from But Can She Cook?

Any good meal must be topped off with a sweet treat. For dessert we have a recipe for a delectable apple tart from the legendary Canadian queen Michelle DuBarry.

Fig. 7. “Michelle DuBarry’s City Park Apple Tart,” from Christopher North, “But Can She Cook?” (Toronto: Bittersweet Press, c. 1993) 53. Photography by George Leet. Image courtesy of CLGA.
Fig. 7. “Michelle DuBarry’s City Park Apple Tart,” from Christopher North, “But Can She Cook?” (Toronto: Bittersweet Press, c. 1993) 53. Photography by George Leet. Image courtesy of CLGA.

 

Bon Appétit!

That’s all we have on the menu today friends! Join us at the CLGA to feast your eyes on the rest of our collection and visit us at clga.ca for more information. You can sign-up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, too, to follow along as we continue to preserve and tell the stories of LGBTQ2+ people in Canada.

Regulations and Realities: Standardizing Diets in British Prisons

By Jess Clark

“The Penitentiary, Millbank” from The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life (London: Griffin, Bohn & Co, 1862). Image courtesy of British Library, Shelfmark 6057.i.7, Public Domain
“The Penitentiary, Millbank” from The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life (London: Griffin, Bohn & Co, 1862). Image courtesy of British Library, Shelfmark 6057.i.7, Public Domain

I was recently in the British Library, and among the sources that came across my desk was a small, thin text published in 1902: Manual of Cooking & Baking for the Use of Prison Officers. Compiled by Britain’s Prison Commission (est. 1877), it offered suggestions on selecting ingredients, preparing food, and serving different classes of inmates. As the preface noted, the text served to meet recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Prison Dietaries of 1899, stating that all prisons should receive the same guide “for everyday reference for the Cook and Baker.”

 

Four cooks in prison uniform standing in a line in front of buckets and baskets, at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London. After P. Renouard, 1889. Image courtesy of Wellcome Collections.
Four cooks in prison uniform standing in a line in front of buckets and baskets, at Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London. After P. Renouard, 1889. Image courtesy of Wellcome Collections.

 

The text aligns with moves, from the early nineteenth century, to reform prison conditions in Britain in both local and convict institutions. As many historians have noted, institutional reform was a key focus of the period, with a broad range of writers and observers weighing in on optimal conditions of inmates. This led to increasing regulation and overseeing of Britain’s prison system, albeit in ways that didn’t necessarily guarantee prisoner comforts so much as set increasingly stringent policies. These attempts at uniformity extended to food, and directives in 1843, 1864, and 1878 recommended standardized prison diets comprised of “bread, gruel, potatoes, meat, soup and cocoa.” However, this was enforced in a piecemeal fashion, and not all local and convict prison officials abided by dietary suggestions.[i] By the late nineteenth century, reform initiatives like the Gladstone Committee of 1894-1895 continued to scrutinize British inmate diets. Members offered a number of suggestions, including revised recipes for dishes like “stirabout,” a gruel-like concoction of Indian meal (or maize), oatmeal, and salt that was reportedly refused by three-quarters of inmates.[ii] 

It was in this spirit, then, that Manual of Cooking & Baking appeared, in yet another effort to uniformly administer prison diets across Britain. The 1902 text outlines a relatively robust set of instructions on the selecting, cooking, and serving of food. First, cooks and bakers were responsible for attaining and inspecting ingredients. Beef, fish, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, bacon, fowl, vegetables, peas, beans, ice, sugar, tea, wheat, and oatmeal were to be examined and carefully measured for freshness, size or weight, and overall quality. Readers were then instructed on the official methods of cooking in H.M. Prisons, which consisted of “boiling, steaming, baking, roasting, stewing, broiling, and frying,” the latter three primarily confined to “Hospital or Sick-room Cookery” (45).

Female convicts at work in Brixton Women’s Prison. From Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life (London: Griffin, Bohn & Co, 1862), page after 196. Image courtesy of WikiCommons.
Female convicts at work in Brixton Women’s Prison. From Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of Prison Life (London: Griffin, Bohn & Co, 1862), page after 196. Image courtesy of WikiCommons.

Having procured desirable ingredients and employed various cooking methods, what did prison cooks serve for inmates’ daily meals? From 1899, local and convict prison diets were divided into five categories – Diets A, B, C, D, and E – with food diversity and allowance increasing with each letter. The meanest of diets, Diet A, consisted of bread and either gruel, porridge, potatoes, or suet pudding.[iii] Diet B added cooked meat to the mix, as well as beans and soup. Diet C received tea instead of gruel, with breakfast and cocoa for supper. Finally, Diets D and E received similar foodstuffs but in greater quantities, as they applied to male convicts assigned to labour details.

The designation of diets depended on the length of stay of inmates: the longer the stay, the richer and more diverse the diet.[iv] The lack of variety and quality of food for short-term inmates was to dissuade “temptation to the loafer or mendicant,” who reportedly got themselves thrown in prison for the steady meals.[v] Meanwhile, long-stay male labourers received a seemingly varied diet: bread and butter, potatoes, fat bacon, cooked mutton, pea soup with pork, cocoa, and cheese. If we are to believe the cooking instructions, these dishes were prepared in sanitary conditions with acceptable cuts and ingredients, under the careful watch of a state-appointed cook or baker.

However, as we know, what’s written in guidebooks and prescriptive literature doesn’t always reflect the realities of life on the ground. Food functioned in the institutional setting as a mode of control and bodily regulation of incarcerated subjects, a trend that is clear in alternate accounts of prison life. For example, the anonymous author of 1877’s Five Years Penal Servitude by One who has Endured it described a common punishment for unruly behavior—“smashing the teapot”—in which an inmate’s tea was traded out for gruel until he regained his standing.[vi] During the Gladstone Committee, inmates complained of the nauseating quality of foods, which caused diarrhea and other digestive ailments. Meanwhile, following his release from Reading Gaol in 1897, Oscar Wilde described the systematic underfeeding of child prisoners. Such trends were supposed to diminish following the circulation of texts like Manual on Cooking & Baking, yet no doubt endured in some institutions.[vii] In this way, prison dietary guides speak to objectives rather than material conditions, laying bare potential disjunctures between recipes and realities.

 

[i] See, for example, Michelle Higgs, Prison Life in Victorian England (Stroud: The History Press, 2013), Chapter 7; and Sean McConville, A History of English Prison Administration (New York: Routledge, 2016) 303-305.

[ii] Higgs, Chapter 7; McConville, 313.

[iii] This diet replaced the “No. 1 Diet,” a category dating from the mid-century. It was a restrictive diet of gruel which, as historians note, could result in death if misapplied to short-term inmates doing labor. McConville, 306-307, 310-313.

[iv] Diet A applied to those serving seven days and under; Diet B came into effect after seven days; and Diet C came into effect after four months stay, for the remainder of an inmate’s term.

[v] Quoted in McConville, 690. Men, women, and minors received the same diets, albeit in different quantities with women receiving less food overall (save for Diets F and G, designed for female convicts and allowing two ounces of golden syrup with suet pudding for “those female convicts who desire it”).

[vi] Five Years’ Penal Servitude by One Who Has Endured it (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1878), 86.

[vii] Higgs, Chapter 7.

Recipes for Waste Reduction

Kesia Kvill

Fig. 1. "Waste Not - Want Not," 1914-1918. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 2894436
Fig. 1. “Waste Not – Want Not,” 1914-1918. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-706, MIKAN no. 2894436

In June of 1917, the Canadian Government introduced the Office of the Food Controller under the direction of Conservative Ontario politician and businessman, W.J. Hanna. The introduction of Food Controller during the First World War was part of Canada’s recognition that they were one of the main sources for food staples to Great Britain.

One of the Office of the Food Controller’s main goals was to educate the public on how to reduce their use of essential foodstuffs like beef, bacon, and wheat, that were high in energy source and easily shipped overseas. The government encouraged women to voluntarily free up these essential food products by changing their food consumption and diets. The Food Controller encouraged the use of less popular cereal grains and flours, cheaper cuts of meat, and larger amounts of fresh and persevered local produce. Kitchen managers were also encouraged to free up food for the Allies by reducing their food waste.

As part of their educational efforts, the Office of the Food Controller published a variety of pamphlets that explained the importance of food control through careful meal planning and thoughtful waste reduction. While these pamphlets did not include specific recipes, they clearly emphasized the threat of food waste and encouraged Canadian women to alter their families’ eating habits from the extravagant diets that had been a feature of the pre-war era.

Fig. 2. "Waste Means Defeat," 1914-1918. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-710, MIKAN no. 3667237
Fig. 2. “Waste Means Defeat,” 1914-1918. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-710, MIKAN no. 3667237

The “Waste Not – Want Not” section in the government-published Food Service: A Handbook for Speakers called food waste in a time of war a crime. It professed that Canadians wasted at least $50,000,000 in food every year and warned women to guard against “waste in the kitchen and pantry” and in the dining-room. They suggest that instead of throwing bones into the garbage that that “every scrap of marrow” should be boiled out and made into soup. As a handbook for speakers, the suggestions for waste reduction made in Food Service focused on using the facts to demonstrate the importance of food control to the war effort.

War Meals, another Food Controller published pamphlet, aimed to provide more practical suggestions for saving beef, bacon, wheat, and flour through waste reduction. This publication suggests that careful planning and meal preparation “will enable a housekeeper to make her food purchases go as far as possible.” Several suggestions for meals were made, with attention paid to the type of work performed by men and what they should eat and the age of children. To feed a family of five (with children’s ages ranging from 3-12) for a week it was suggested that the woman of the house plan for meals with 10 lbs meat/substitute, 20lbs cereal product, 20lbs potatoes, 28lbs of veggies and fruit, 3lbs of fat, 14 quarts milk. This, it was noted, would fulfill the family’s nutritional needs, but left no room for “the waste of anything usable.”

Fig. 3. "Sign the Food Service Pledge," 1914-1918. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-719, MIKAN no. 3667246
Fig. 3. “Sign the Food Service Pledge,” 1914-1918. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-719, MIKAN no. 3667246

The government suggestions in War Meals include ideas for conserving wheat, like diluting wheat flour with other grains, potatoes, and cooked breakfast cereal. War Meals provided some ideas on reducing food waste by preventing food spoilage and through transforming one food product into another. Bread, it was noted, could be saved by cutting no more than needed and drying it thoroughly to save from mould if it could not be finished. Leftover cooked breakfast cereal could be added into batters and doughs, and leftover bread could be made into “new bread, cake or puddings.” Cooks were encouraged to waste no ham and salt pork (used as a bacon substitute), as “even the rind and bones … [could be conserved] for the flavour” they provided to other dishes. Locally grown vegetables and fruits could be preserved to prevent their spoilage and to lengthen their enjoyment into the winter months.

The Office of the Food Controller knew that its primary audience was women and that their work as kitchen managers was essential to reducing food waste. Throughout their literature, it acknowledged the pride that women took in providing plentiful and varied diets for their families. The Food Controller’s appeal asked that the “foolish notion that carefulness in serving food without waste is ‘stinginess’” be abandoned in the name of duty and common sense. The Office reinforced the expertise of women by suggesting that cooks use and modify their favourite recipes; their “ingenuity will devise many ways of saving” important foodstuffs for the Allies. By recognizing the importance of women to the food situation, the government was simultaneously reinforcing gendered boundaries of work while also encouraging women to participate fully in the war effort as citizens.