Thursday, November 11, 2010

When You Feel Like A Teapot

Dr. Alvin Wood Chase (1817-1885) was the author of Dr. Chase's Recipes for Everybody, first published in 1867. It was a cookbook, a household guide and a set of informal medical management courses - and it also provided solace and advice to regular non-medical people. Today I'm looking through it to see what he says about the Vapors or Low Spirits. Now I am not in Low Spirits at all, but I am feeling a little like lying on a chaise longue fanning myself, which pretty well equals the Vapors in my opinion (here is another explanation of the vapor phenomenon). Let's see what he has to say, then we can all take a break!

 Library of Congress
Dr. Chase says that doctors ought to know better than to call the vapors a real disease, but they hadn't had a medical teaching course for doctors and did not know any better. Maybe those doctors got the vapors too. Dr. Chase says it feels like you are "converted into a glass bottle" that is so fragile it - or rather you - cannot be handled, and you just lie down and take a lot of naps.  He also says that patients can "fancy themselves dumb waiters, tables, teapots, or to have lost their legs." Now this rather indicates that Dr. Chase hadn't had a medical teaching course any more than his colleagues had, but no matter. I guess if you feel like a teapot that needs a nap, that's what you feel like.

But there comes a time when you want to do other things besides sing about being tipped over and poured out. Dr. Chase says we need to energize our brains again with "tonics of quinine and iron, and anti-spasmodics, [such] as those of camphor, valerian, opium, ether, etc." And we need to take warm or cold baths, combined with a "carefully arranged" diet which includes wine. If all else fails, we must take a tablespoon of tincture of cardamom three times a day or "a tea-spoon of Gregory's powder in a little peppermint water."

Well, Dr. Chase, I am going to conduct a one-minute teach the teacher course and tell you what I think we should do if we get the vapors: go for a long walk on a wintry beach; come home to a tonic of hot chocolate; have a carefully arranged diet of your favorite takeout (I will agree with Dr. Chase here about the wine). And if all else fails, follow this with a warm bath and a tablespoon of Harvey's Bristol Cream (Gregory can take his powder* somewhere else). That ought to cure any tendency to feel like a sleepy teapot.

*Gregory's Powder was a mixture of powdered rhubarb, powdered ginger and "light magnesia" - see here. I guess the ginger - plus the peppermint water - would wake you up a bit.

Source: Chase, Alvin Wood. Dr. Chase's Recipes; or, Information For Everybody (1888), pp 279-80.


Shieldmaiden96 said...

I seem to recall reading once that they also attributed the fainting and 'vapors' to tight corseting. It just renews my gratitude for being born in a decade where the only fashion misfortune inflicted on my young body was polyester bell bottoms.

IludiumPhosdex said...

Obviously, VanBeil's Rye and Rock shouldn't be confused with a certain Faygo flavour known as "Rock 'n Rye," a longtime favourite around Detroit, I understand....

Lidian said...

Shieldmaiden96 - I am glad we do not live in the age of corsets, too!

IludiumPhosdex - I've heard that Faygo is really good though, so maybe she would be looking that happy!

Veggie Mama said...

Haha this is hilarious! I'm totally up for a carefully arranged bottle of wine... maybe the doc was onto something.

Bill said...

My grandmother gave me a cook book that had belonged to her grandmother, and it had a large section devoted to medical remedies. The one I remember best said if someone was struck by lightning, place the victim in a cold shower for an hour. At that point, if there were no signs of life, salt them down and continue the shower therapy for another two hours.