Feeding Your Invalid in the 19th Century 4: Cannnibalism

In his The Body and Its Ailments: A Handbook of Familiar Directions for Care and Medical Aid in the More Usual Complaints and Injuries, published in 1876, author George Henry Napheys is a big fan of the easy-to-digest philosophy. He says, “Small quantities of fluid food at short intervals, will furnish, during the twenty-four hours, a large amount of nourishment, which the irritable stomach, when thus approached, will absorb unconsciously.” How this is reconciled with the notion of eating human body parts is not clear.

Reusing bits of human beings is not unknown to us. What is organ donation but recycling bits of you that you won’t be using? But actually eating the bits, agh. That’s out, thank God. But there has been a persistent belief over the millennia and across cultures that at least some parts of the dead were good for you. For instance, from the Smithsonian Magazine, we learn:

In 1847, an Englishman was advised to mix the skull of a young woman with treacle (molasses) and feed it to his daughter to cure her epilepsy. (He obtained the compound and administered it, as Sugg writes, but “allegedly without effect.”)

Yeah, ya think? Now that we know about bovine spongiform enchephalopathy this will never be a thing again. No recipe for this one, if you want to try it you’re on your own.



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