Everybody will agree that when you are not feeling good, you need a proper diet. It is the diet itself that causes all the disputes.

Back at the end of the 19th century when people enthusiastically embraced the advent of mass production, and science seemed to have answers for all the questions, a typical diet for the sick included numerous ingredients that may seem a bit surreal now.

First, in the old days it was widely believed that nothing cures diseases better than a bit of brandy or wine. Second, porridges with such now exotic thickeners as Irish moss or arrowroot were very common. Third, such a beverage as ‘beef tea’ (basically, a bouillon with hardly any salt and pepper in it) was routinely offered to anyone who were unwell.

List of other popular menu items included ‘toast water’ (essentially, a combination of ‘beef tea’ and barley water): every housewife knew how to infuse it.

The food was usually presented in small quantities; serving bowls were pleasantly colored; it was not recommended to speak loudly during the meal. Long hospital stays were rather unusual at the time, and many people continued their convalescence at home.

Large families were commonplace in those days, and practically every woman was expected to know the basics of nursing the sick and the old. Life expectancy was much shorter which meant that untimely death was something everybody was used to (and most certainly women who were typical caretakers back then).

An illuminating book Perfection Salad written by the famed culinary historian Laura Shapiro is a fascinating read that provides tons of information about the cooking that American women did at the turn of the 20th century.

Although these days liquid-like diets for the sick are not as popular as they used to be, the book helps you to better understand our past – and, therefore, our present.