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Feeding Your Invalid in the 19th Century 4: Toast Water

Sick people in Victorian times got jellies. But water is even better. You can always slip some nutrition into the water!

Toast Water

Procure a slice of stale bread, preferably the crust. Toast it slowly all through without burning it. Allow it to cool, and then pour a quart of boiling water over it. Let stand until cold, and strain through muslin. Throw the bread away; serve the water to the patient.

The great Mrs. Beeton assured us that presentation made dishes like this tolerable. In what I feel is a spirit of real optimism she suggested a tumbler rather than a basin. The above picture is the jug that was manufactured for carrying your toast water up from the kitchen to the invalid’s sickroom —  it has strainer holes in the spout. There may have been a matching tumbler or basin which is now lost. The Victorians wanted special china for every possible occasion and need.

If you feel that your invalid is too peaky to tolerate even this rich fare, you can tame it down further by not toasting the bread, which makes it bread jelly. Doctors of the period insisted that bread jelly had all the nutrition of the slice of bread. The mortality rate in the period was notable. Excuse me, I am just off to eat a double-decker roast-beef sandwich with provolone, tomato and basil on a Kaiser roll. Just reading these recipes makes me feel that malnutrition needs to be held at bay.


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