Feeding Your Invalid in the19th Century 9: Milk Cup

In the course of writing my next Marian Halcombe Camlet adventure I needed some invalid fare of my own. Trapped in a burning whorehouse and then extracted from the wreckage, Marian clearly had to be sustained on a special diet. So I called upon author Charles Dickens to supply a (entirely fictional) suitable invalid beverage. The most famous writer of the Victorian age was well known to be a party animal, and his novels abound with the massive meals and delicious drinks that he plainly adored. So I did not hesitate to allocate him the credit for this recipe, what we would call a cocktail, which is eminently drinkable:

 Dickens’ Special Milk Cup

Put a vanilla bean into a jar, fill it with sugar, and set aside for three days. Beat a cup of rich milk together with an egg, strain through ice, and add a spoonful of the sugar and a spoonful of Jamaican Flavoring. Dust the foam with ground nutmeg and serve. May also be taken hot.

And the secret ingredient, that Jamaican Flavoring? In the novel the great man writes to Marian’s husband Theo: “In case she is in need of some slight strengthening, I enclose the following as a tribute to your incomparable wife. The receipt is my own invention – I plume myself on a clever hand with libations — and you will recognize the Flavoring, also enclosed. You will find that the ladies will absorb any quantity of Dickens Special Milk Cup, so long as you assure them that the secret flavoring is from Jamaica but confide no further details!”

Those of you who are fans of musical theater need no more clues. Yes, I stole the gag from Frank Loesser’s GUYS & DOLLS. Charles Dickens gives Marian a bottle of rum, the best dark rum from Montego Bay!




Feeding Your Invalid in the19th Century 9: Milk Cup — 3 Comments

  1. The Jamaican Flavoring will do her the most good, though the protein and calories in the milk will help cure a lot of ailments, mostly to keep her strength up so her own immune system can deal with the problem.

    Unless of course she is lactose intolerant.

  2. Yeah, you have to wonder how many people in the period had dietary issues or gluten allergies, and could never be diagnosed. All those semi-invalids cannot be by chance.

  3. Great post! And it certainly sounds as if it could be a real Victorian recipe. (In fact, it sounds a lot like egg nog.)

    I always assumed that all those children in Victorian novels who were vaguely described as “sickly” actually suffered from allergies to milk, gluten, eggs, or other common ingredients.