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Cookbooks Used to Have More Than Just Dinner Recipes

In the 1800s you might find how to roast a turkey and cure a cough, all in one book!

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The kitchen was where most medicines were made.

Before Google, long before drop-in medical clinics and health insurance, and even before drug stores, just how did people find a remedy or medicine for their ailments? They used their cookbooks of course! Yes, cookbooks were filled with recipes but some of those recipes were for medical remedies -- and we don't mean mom's chicken noodle soup.

 

"People mostly, especially people of modest means, didn't go to the doctor if they could help it," Arlene Shaner, historical collections librarian at the New York Academy of Medicine told Atlas Obscura. "These (cookbooks) are kind of home family guides with directions of how to take care of common ailments."

 

(TRY: natural remedies for seasonal allergies)

 

One of the most popular cookbooks in 18th century England was The Prudent Housewife. For a sprain, the book suggested soaking the afflicted area in warm vinegar, then applying a paste made of stale beer grounds, oatmeal, and hog's lard. For an earache "the smoke of tobacco blown into the ear" was recommended, and for heartburn, a glass of water or chamomile tea with scraped chalk. We prefer our chamomile tea with a little honey.

 

(LEARN: Medicinal uses for herbs)

 

Back then cookbooks were not as replaceable as they are today. The knowledge contained in these books was so valuable that in some instances they "were considered worthy enough to be mentioned in wills and bequests alongside other household objects of value," according to Elaine Leong of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.