The Anglo-American tendency to see food as medicine (rather than a vehicule for pleasure) runs deep. Reading eighteenth and early nineteenth century cookbooks and dietary advice manuals, all of a summer’s day (like you do), I came across this advice that made me laugh out loud (funniest part in bold):
By being too rich, is improper for weak stomachs, liable to turn rancid, and difficult of digestion. Upon strong stomachs, which can digest it, it is very nourishing.
It is an unwholesome custom to eat cream or milk with apple-pies, strawberries, &c. &c. directly after dinner, if you mean to drink wine; for the wine ferments, coagulates the cream, and makes the whole mass hard of digestion: and upon weak stomachs, such a mixture will promote sickness, vomiting, &c. This I myself have experienced more than once.
–from Thomas J. Hayes, Concise Observations on the Nature of our Common Food, So Far as it Tends to Promote or Injure Health (New York, Swordses for Barry & Rogers, 1790), 22.
Maybe he was a slow learner? That’s too bad–strawberries and cream are delish. He seems to be a little obsessed with imagining what his bile is up to when it meets milk and cream–it’s like he thinks it’s a cheese shop, and we all know the dangers of cheese and curds: they are “apt to produce costiveness” (that is, constipation), 21.
By and large, he offers good advice for his time: water is OK (or even beneficial) to drink, so long as it is “good;” vegetables are the cure for scurvy, which is brought on by “animal food alone, long continued.” He urges us not to eat rancid oils or butter (duh!), and has a weird anti-cream cheese rant. I happen to agree with him that apricots are “a sweeter, richer, less hurtful fruit than either plumbs or cherries.”
Hayes goes on, like the other cutting-edge diet reformers of his day, to tell folks to knock off the drinking of alcohol at breakfast (overmuch), and he even offers up a recipe for a lovely cool tea latte–all the more valuable for its tendency to reduce costiveness, I’m sure:
Drinking rum and milk in a morning is a very unwholesome custom: rich milk alone is often too heavy for weak stomachs, and when rum, which is an inflammable spirit, is mixed with it, of course becomes more pernicious.
Instead of rum and milk, use the following, as it is much more wholesome. Take a large tea-spoonful of common bohea tea, with about three lumps of sugar; put them into a bason, and pour upon them a quarter of a pint of boiling water; cover it over and let it stand all night; in the morning pour it off clear, and add about a quarter of a pint of new milk: drink it fasting, an hour or two before breakfast, (22).
Perfect for a beverage on a hot July morning! Maybe a little sweet to our tastes, but remember–in the eighteenth century, people still believed that sugar had medicinal properties, probably because it was (compared to our contemporary food environment in North America) relatively expensive and hard to come by. Also, most of us would either heat it up again or plunk some ice cubes into it–but both heating and cooling beverages like that was probably seen as an extravagant waste of energy. Room temperature was the way that most beverages were served in most places until well into the nineteenth century.