Foods which are ordered to be served hot, should be hot, not merely warm, when they reach the patient. To facilitate this, let the dish in which the food is to be served, stand in hot water for a few moments; take out, wipe dry, turn in the hot food, place on the tray, and serve. An oil stove, alcohol lamp, or a pocket stove is very convenient for warming gruels, broths and other similar foods, as either can be made ready for use in a moment, and will heat the small quantity of food necessary for an invalid in one fourth the time in which it could be accomplished over the range, if necessary to reduce the fire.
In the preparation of food for the sick, a scrupulously clean dish for cooking is of the first importance. It is a good plan in every household to reserve one or two cooking utensils for this purpose, and not be obliged to depend upon those in daily use. Utensils used for the cooking of fruits, vegetables, meat, etc., unless cleaned with the utmost call will sometimes impart a sufficiently unpleasant flavor to the food to render it wholly unpalatable to an invalid whose senses are preternaturally acute.
These simple foods, the base of which is usually some one of the grains, play an important part in the dietary for the sick, if properly prepared; but the sloppy messes sometimes termed gruel, the chief merit of which appears to be that they “are prepared in ten minutes,” are scarcely better than nothing at all. Like other dishes prepared from the grains, gruel needs a long, continuous cooking. When done, it should be the very essence of the grain, possessing all its nutritive qualities, but in such form as to be readily assimilated. For the making of gruels, as for the cooking of grains for any other purpose, the double boiler is the best utensil.
[Illustration: Gruel Strainer.]