19th Century and Onwards, Books, Food

John Morrissey’s Three Months Diet, c.1919

I was looking through old scanned health and wellness books on archive.org recently, researching for another blog post, when I came across something so incredible I had to read it three times. And make a blog post about it.

In Edward B Warman’s The Care of the Body, published in 1919, there’s a section that offers opinions from various people regarding good diet. The part that caught my eye was titled “John Morrissey’s Three Months Diet.” There was no preamble or introduction to John Morrissey, but after my own research, and given the reference to prize-fighters in training, I believe he could’ve been the boxer John Morrissey. Even though he died in 1878, this advice could have been compiled by Warman from an earlier source, or perhaps received directly from Morrissey at an earlier time – Morrissey was only 16 years older, and died comparatively young.

Anyway, enjoy:

First—Take a black draught*. Any druggist will put it up. All prize-fighters take this when they begin to train for a fight.

Second—Be sure to get at least seven or eight hours of good sound sleep every night.

Third—In the morning when you first get up drink a glass of hard cider with a raw egg in it. If the cider is not to be had, then use sherry wine, but I prefer the cider. Then start out and walk briskly a couple of miles. When you come back take a sponge bath and rub dry with a coarse towel. Rub until the skin is all aglow.

Fourth—For breakfast eat a lean steak, cooked rare; also eat stale bread. Use no milk, no sugar, no butter and no potatoes, with the exception of about once a week. If you wish you can eat a roast or baked potato in the morning. Drink sparingly of tea and coffee. Tea is better.

Fifth-For dinner eat rare roast beef and stale bread. Use no potatoes or vegetables of any kind with this meal. Change the diet with an occasional mutton chop without fat.

Sixth-For supper a lean steak or mutton chop without fat. Do not eat any warm biscuit or warm bread at any time. Stick to good, wholesome stale wheat bread. Eat no pies, cakes or pastry of any kind. Use salt, pepper and all other seasonings very sparingly.

Seventh—Use no stimulants of any kind. Do not smoke. Drink sparingly of water. Do not eat berries or vegetables of any kind except, occasionally, a raw onion.

Eighth—If you feel weak in the morning before breakfast, it is likely to come from bathing; if so, it should be discontinued a few days.

jimmy clabby boxerThis boxer’s expression is either determination, or he’s feeling the effects of scurvy from the absence of green leafy vegetables!

I really wish Warman had included some sort of individual explanation for this “three months diet.” Based on the intense concentration of protein, I would assume it was intended for men training for some physical activity or to quickly build their muscles (like a prize-fighter). But three months? That length of time makes it seem like a fad diet, which is unusual for a book that seems to focus on overall care of the body. I’d expect something sustainable.

But also, remember everyone – if you feel weak in the morning, it’s probably because you bathed! Not because you’re subsisting on meat, stale bread, and hardly any water.

I do agree that tea is better, though!

* Ed. note: “Black draught” is an anti-constipation aid.

19th Century and Onwards, Books, Food

A Mrs Beeton recipe: Buttered Eggs, Indian Style

Note: This article originally appeared on my other, non-history blog on October 18, 2014. I’m moving it to this blog because it fits better here. And here’s my previous Mrs Beeton recipe: Tomatoes, Stuffed With Mushrooms.


A couple of months ago I stumbled upon my dream book in a secondhand book store.

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Despite the name, Mrs Beeton’s Household Management isn’t my dream book because I yearn for the upper echelons of hausfrauness. I discovered an older version of the book in 2008, and since then I’ve been interested by it from a historical perspective. It was the first book to present recipes in the format we know them today, rather than the ingredients and process all together in a long, linear paragraph. And it provides a fascinating snapshot (if nearly 1,700 pages can be considered a snapshot) of a time when people made morning calls, managed servants, and served beef tea to sick people.

A previous owner has written her name and the year 1944, but references to “The War,” and nothing written about rationing made me doubt this was the year it was published. The “Legal Memoranda” section has dates that make me believe it was published in 1938 or very early in 1939.

Following are a few photos I took while doing my first couple of flip-throughs. I think I’m going to need a few months to really appreciate everything!

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Another reason this is my dream book is that old recipes are a particular interest of mine. I love when they’re startlingly out of place with modern tastes and patience levels (there were a surprising amount of recipes involving sheep heads and brains, for example).

I couldn’t resist trying at least one recipe from this book. I chose to make “Buttered Eggs, Indian Style (Oeufs Brouillés à l’Indienne).” Here’s the recipe:

Buttered Eggs, Indian Style (Oeufs Brouillés à l’Indienne) – from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Ingredients – 3 hard-boiled eggs, 2 raw eggs, 1/2 an oz. of butter, curry-powder, salt and pepper, browned breadcrumbs.

Method – Cut the hard-boiled eggs across into rather thick slices, place them in a well-buttered gratin dish, or china baking-dish, in which they may be served, and sprinkle over them about 1/2 a teaspoonful of curry-powder and a few grains of cayenne. Beat the raw eggs slightly, season with salt and pepper, and pour them into the dish. Cover the surface lightly with browned breadcrumbs, put bits of butter here and there, and bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. Serve as hot as possible.

Time – 10 minutes. Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons.

And here’s how it turned out (pardon the lighting; it’s no longer the good time of year for photographing your breakfast ):

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Despite the bad photo, it was actually pretty good! There was nothing very complicated to it, and it was different, but not as out there as Veal Olives, Baked Bullock’s Heart or Mushroom Ketchup.

19th Century and Onwards, Books, Food

A Mrs Beeton recipe: Tomatoes, Stuffed, With Mushrooms

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Last year, I found a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management in a secondhand book store, and snapped it up eagerly. It isn’t obvious when it was printed. A previous owner wrote her name and the year 1944, but certain things made me believe this was already a few years old when she got it – for instance, references to “The War,” and nothing written about rationing. Based on dates I found in the “Legal Memoranda” section (I love this book!), I believe it was published in 1938 or early 1939.

Since I got the book, I’ve made two recipes from it. However, I hadn’t cooked from this book since November, so on Friday I thought it was time I gave it another go.

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This time, I wanted to be able to compare my finished dish to one of the illustrations provided in the book. Some looked daunting – artfully arranged and towering in their elegant dishes, or formed with the aid of a mold. I ended up choosing Tomatoes, Stuffed, With Mushrooms. The illustration made it look achievable, and it wasn’t as fussy as some other dishes in the book. I’m looking at you, Jellied Eels.

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Here’s the full recipe:

Tomatoes, Stuffed, With Mushrooms – from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Ingredients – 6 medium-sized tomatoes, 2 tablespoonfuls of finely-chopped mushrooms, 1 tablespoonful of breadcrumbs, 1/4 of a teaspoonful of finely-chopped parsley, 1 small onion finely chopped, 6 croûtons of fried or toasted bread, browned breadcrumbs, 1 oz. of butter, salt and pepper.

Method – Remove the stalks of the tomatoes, and scoop out a little of the pulp. Melt the butter in a small stewpan, add to it all the ingredients except the browned breadcrumbs, and stir over the fire until thoroughly mixed. Fill the tomatoes with the preparation, sprinkle on a few browned breadcrumbs, bake in a moderate oven for 10 or 15 minutes, and serve on the croûtons.

Time – Altogether, 30 minutes. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.

And here is the end result:

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Not quite picture-perfect, but passable. Some things I did differently: I went with three tomatoes I think are quite large, instead of six medium-sized ones, and doubled the amount of mushrooms. I think the mutant 21st-century tomatoes were my downfall, because this was a little tricky to eat in a manner befitting a refined, silk-stocking-wearing 1938 lady. Also, the other version of this dish calls for ham and a bit of Parmesan, either of which I thought would have improved the flavour.

Still, I’d say it was a success! I think I might get a little more daring with my next recipe. Not Jellied Eels-level daring, though!