In America of yesteryear, you often had to be sick to eat well
You have to feed a flu and starve a cold, the saying goes. I’ve never been one to insist on such distinctions. When I get sick, I feed. Nothing makes my appetite go viral like a cold or flu. This otherwise unpleasant condition becomes for me a sort of camphor-scented Carnaval, a brief time when forbidden foods are not only permitted but altogether transfigured, acquiring healing powers unknown to me when well. Fever calls for a chocolate bar taken every two hours, a sore throat for a banana shake sipped as needed. The staunchest resistance mounted by stuffed sinuses melts when met with a buttery toddy. Apricot conserve eases the worst miseries of congestion. The medicinal properties of milk are well known, but they require vodka and Kahlua to activate them.
“A man of taste is seen at once in the array of his breakfast-table. Chocolate, coffee, tea, cream, eggs, ham, tongue, cold fowl, — all these are good, and bespeak good knowledge in him who sets them forth: but the touchstone is fish; anchovy is the first step, prawns and shrimp the second; and I laud him who reaches even to these: potted chard and lampreys are the third, and a fine stretch of progression; but lobster is, indeed, matter for a May morning, and demands a rare combination of knowledge and virtue in him who sets it forth.”
–Thomas Love Peacock, Crotchet Castle (1823)
Early Americans brought a “can do” attitude to the problem of food storage
Once I’ve settled in a town, I make a point of visiting the local farmer’s market. Only there may I get a sense of what’s in season, as well as a sense of place — no mean feat in a country littered with strip malls housing Trader Joe’s, where kale and apples spring eternal.
“To dine in company with more than two is a Gaulish and a German thing. I can hardly bring myself to believe that I have eaten in concert with twenty; so barbarous and herdlike a practice does it now appear to me: such an incentive to drink much and talk loosely; not to add, such a necessity to speak loud, which is clownish and odious in the extreme.” –Walter Savage Landor, “Lucellus and Caesar” (1829)