Pigeon soup, Tortoise broth, pickled eggs & Rum

rock_pigeonHildagonda Duckitt lived in the Cape at the turn of the 19th century and kept a household diary. The book, with its tips for picnics and outings in the countryside is rather wonderful, but the chapter on cooking for invalids is just frightening. The curative cooking probably worked though – you either died because you didn’t want to eat the food, or got better because you didn’t want to eat the food.

Pigeon Soup for Invalids

1 pigeon

Half pound veal

2 quarts cold water

Boil this down till reduced to less than half. Strain and let it get cold, remove fat. Boil it up when required.

Tortoise Broth

Make the soup by boiling down the whole tortoise, after chopping off its head, scrubbing it well, and then boiling it till the parts separate. Top tip from Hilda about how to kill the tortoise – scratch its back and when the tortoise puts out its head, chop it off.

A Special Restorative

Put 6 fresh eggs whole into a jar with an air tight lid. Fill to the brim with fresh lemon juice; leave for six or seven days till the shells are dissolved. Take a steel fork and prick the inner white fleece covering the egg, stir all together. Add a pint of rum and half a pound of castor sugar. Strain and put into a jar. This will keep for five or six days. Give patients in the last stages of consumption a tablespoonful every two hours.

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3 Responses to “Pigeon soup, Tortoise broth, pickled eggs & Rum”


  1. 1 shoreacres May 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve been sitting here trying to find a response. I can’t.
    I do wonder about that egg business, though. I’m not willing to tackle the pigeon or the tortoise, but in the spirit of scientific inquiry I might be willing to see if those eggshells would dissolve.

    On the other hand, if the patient’s in the last stages of consumption, wouldn’t it be easier to just hand over the rum?

    Ha! I think you have it – the rum was the point, the eggs were just a cover. And, Calvinists that they were, they couldn’t imbibe without making it a really unpleasant experience.

  2. 2 Lisa May 13, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Pigeon I can still fathom, but *tortoise*?! What did the tortoises ever do to deserve such abuse…
    I know! And the sheer betrayal of scratching the poor creature’s back, sharp knife at the ready. . . I’m pretty sure no one messed with Hildagonda.

  3. 3 wonk May 17, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Well, over here pidgeon is something of a delicacy (never had it myself mind you) so the soup isn’t quite such an alien concept.

    The tortoise broth though, ewww! That said, one did bite me once (no teeth but armour plated mouth, still ouchie) so perhaps I could make an exception for him. Good job I don’t bear a grudge huh? 😉

    I’m with Shoreacres too. Forget the eggs, a pint of rum will do me just fine…

    I am quite curious about the shell dissolving aspect though – will try and put an egg in lemon juice just to see what it looks like after 6 days. And I’m with you on the rum too!


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