Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #2 - Culinary Vices

Have any of you been watching the new PBS series Mercy Street? I have not been able to catch the show on Sunday evenings but last Wednesday they reran the first episode so I watched it then. Tonight I will (try to) stay up late to watch the second episode.

While the show has its faults, it is an interesting look at the workings of one of the many makeshift hospitals of the period. I have enjoyed the depiction of a contract surgeon and the frustrations he may have felt while dealing with a difficult and unsympathetic superior. The female nurses, while annoying to me since most nurses of the period were male, offer a look at how women struggled in this field to gain the respect and appreciation of their male peers. 

The poor hospital steward is poorly interpreted, however. His was a difficult and complex role and one that was much more involved in the workings of the hospital than is shown on the series Mercy Street. 

To the pages of the Hospital Stewards Manual I again turned for this fortnights food challenge; culinary vices. While you certainly won't find fancy or expensive recipes in this book there are several that would be a welcome treat for the recovering convalescent. I chose one of the recipes in the Extra Diet section, Sweet Rice. 

Extra Diet was at the discretion of the surgeon and was given to patients who were on Half Diet (one step down from Full Diet) or Low Diet (a step below that). The recipes given are for dishes that are plain and easily digestible, including various puddings and jellies. 

Sweet Rice is a variation of the Plain Boiled Rice recipe also found in this book. The cooking of the rice is different than I am used to. I generally cook my rice in boiling water with a lid until the rice is done and the water has been absorbed by the rice. This recipe calls for boiling the rice for 10 minutes and then draining the rice and putting it into a buttered dish and baking it at low heat for an additional 20 minutes. I had doubts that this would produce nicely done rice but I was pleasantly surprised! The rice was perfect! I will certainly cook it this way again!

Once the rice was finished cooking, I added in butter and sugar, cinnamon and milk. I used cream for mine since that is what I had on hand. 

This all was mixed well  until the butter was melted and evenly distributed. I sprinkled a little cinnamon on top and it was ready to serve!

Miss Rose Marjorie Grace was eager to taste it. She is passionately fond of eating and rarely dislikes anything that goes into her mouth, whether it is indeed food or not. 

In goes the food. . .

Tasting. . .

Verdict? Rose approves. 



  1. Looks really very tasty!
    2 years ago I had a project in my blog: we cooked the 19th century recipes and enjoyed the crafts. It was so interesting! The only not so good try was for pudding :)

  2. This sounds SO nice! Here in Mexico we have a dessert called "arroz con leche" which is basically white rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon (sometimes we can add raisins and nuts). Now I see that butter might be a wonderful add :)

  3. I make something similar but with almond milk rather than cream or butter. It's good stuff - particularly when you add in carrots and raisins.

  4. Sounds delicious! I would try it! And that way of cooking rice sounds intriguing. I've done a baked rice in the oven but it was for the entire time of cooking and not after a boil.
    Baby is an adorable taste-tester. :)

  5. We make the Scandinavian version every Christmas. It's sooo good! Mercy Street is interesting. Female nurses were around during the Civil War. Dorothea Dix recruited plain spinsters over 30 though and not pretty young widows. Mary is based on a real woman though what based on means could be anything. I like how the show portrays the conflicted feelings and complications people had. It's not a good Union free the slaves vs. evil South slave owners thing.

    1. I agree. I appreciate the fact that the show doesn't glorify one side of the conflict over the other. There were good and bad people and good and bad motivations for fighting the war on both sides. It is really good the producers chose to let the viewers draw their own conclusions. I do appreciate the women who portray nurses; my main complaint is the seeming lack of balance between male/female nurses. In period male nurses outnumbered women nurses. The show has improved since my viewing of the first episode though - while still focusing on the female nurses, there are references to male orderlies, who I suppose are the same as male nurses.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!