DR. CHASE’S RECIPES – A “CURIOUS” BOOK (July 10/98)

Found at the Kentville library in a box of used books selling for 25 cents each – a hardcover copy of Dr. Chase’s Recipes, 1862 edition. In excellent condition and no doubt a reproduction of the original.

An unusual book containing among other things, medicines once used to treat ailments common in grandpappy’s day. People of the older generations will recall the multitude of patent medicines once offered by Dr. Chase. Some of the older local newspapers I’ve looked at recently, the 1890 to 1910 editions of the Western Chronicle and Advertiser, for example, carried a host of the venerable Doctor’s advertisements, often two or three a page.

It really wasn’t that long ago that Dr. Chase’s Nerve Pills and Dr. Chase’s Ointment could be found on pharmacy shelves. Perhaps a few of his products are still being sold but I couldn’t find any when I called several drug stores recently. One pharmacist told me the nerve pills and ointment were the last products to carry the Dr. Chase name.

As mentioned, old Dr. Chase offered a great many treatments, usually for afflictions that had strange names and were curious in the sense of being uncommon or having exotic characteristics. In some cases, the “medical” concoctions were as curious as the maladies they treated.

Dr. Chase’s suggestion for treating “felons” (an old-fashioned term for inflammation around finger or toenails) is a perfect example: “Take a sweet oil, 1/2 pt., and stew a 3 cent plug of tobacco in it until the tobacco is crisped; then squeeze out and add red lead 1 oz. and boil until black; when cool add pulverized camphor gum 1 oz.”

Consumption (tuberculosis) was a common and deadly disease in Dr. Chase’s day and he offered a syrup as treatment. “Take tamarack bark, 1 peck, spikenard root, 1/2 pound, dandelion root, 1/4 pound, hops 2 oz. …” These ingredients were boiled in several gallons of water to which brandy and honey were added and the consumptive drank three or four glasses a day.

Following this recipe – and despite all the patent medicines bordering on quackery -there is a discussion about tuberculosis which reveals that Dr. Chase was ahead of his time. After admitting that the above syrup contained no ingredients “usually put into syrups for this disease,” Dr. Chase offers this sagacious advice for tubercular patients:

“First then, do not go south to smother and die; but go north for cool, fresh air; hunt, fish and eat freely of the roasted game; cast away care. Take a healthy, faithful friend with you to lean upon when needed in your rambles.”

On the subject of fat in the diet, however, Dr. Chase contended that a healthy lifestyle was impossible without it. Avoiding fat meat, butter, and oily gravies and substituting milk and eggs for them is a mistake, he said. “They (milk and eggs) constitute an imperfect substitute for fat meat, without which sooner or later the body is almost sure to show the effects of deficient calorification.”

If you found this amusing, Dr. Chase’s argument that chicken is worse than pork will leave you laughing: “Set a piece of pork before a lady; ‘Oh, horrible! The dirty, nasty, filthy stuff. Give us chicken, clean, nice chicken.’ Now this lady was no farmer’s wife or she would have observed that the habits of chicken are ten times more filthy than the hog, for even the hog’s leavings and droppings are overhauled by them, and much of it appropriated by ‘ladies meat’.”

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