Did you know?

Imagine my surprise to learn that Little Miss Muffet, as in the nursery rhyme, saw spiders because she was inebriated from eating her curds and whey, or so says Frank Clark, Supervisor, Department of Historic Foodways, Colonial Williamsburg.
On NPR's Weekend Edition, Dec. 27, 2009 ...Clark in an interview with Liane Hansen talked about food in colonial America.
Curds and whey, any milk solid and liquid, was a diet staple for children. Often the liquid part of the curds and whey was syllabub, a liquid made up of wine and cream, but parents were cautioned to allow their children to eat it in moderation because of the effects from the fermentation; Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey, along came a spider who sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away.
So, remaining on the topic of food and drink, here are some more little known facts:
• The Pilgrims ate popcorn, introduced by Native Americans, with milk for breakfast. A precursor to cornflakes?
• Vitamins and their requisite in diet were unknown in Colonial America. Folklore passed down from Native Americans, convinced Captain Cook to have his crew eat large quantities of wild, pungent onions before sailing. This prescriptive practice prevented his crew from getting scurvy. We now know that these onions were rich in Vitamin C.
• The colonists also learned barbecuing techniques from Native Americans. Colonial cooking required meat, usually whole animals, to be roasted on a spit. Native Americans cooked meat on a horizontal frame over an open fire which allowed cooking smaller pieces of meat.
• During colonial times it was well known that drinking water caused illness and often death, so men, women, and children started their day drinking a tumbler of 'ardent spirits' from containers made from animal hide, wood, or pewter.

Following along this vein, I decided to research medical treatment at this time in history.
Most ailments, from toothaches to arthritis were treated with some type of alcohol in colored water.
Rum and milk were prescribed for pregnant women and nursing mothers, and rum soaked cherries were said to prevent colds.
The chief surgical technique of the time was bloodletting. Doctors knew nothing of virus or bacteria but if enough blood was let out of the body, whatever disorder affected the patient would leave with it, including evil spirits. Doctors were scarce, it was barbers who most often treated people who were ill because they had the tools. The twirling red and white of the barber pole connoted the barber is in. Red for blood and white for bandages. Blue was added later as a patriotic gesture.

• Malaria, or the ague, was so common that people did not consider themselves to be sick.
• Yellow Fever was thought to be caused by foul air and so was warded off by covering the face with a vinegar soaked rag, wearing a bag of camphor around the neck, or chewing garlic.
• To keep Yellow Fever out of the home, interior walls were whitewashed with vinegar. Hence there was a second verse added to yet another nursery rhyme, Up Jack got and home did trot as fast as he could caper. They put him to bed and plastered his head with vinegar and brown paper.
• Without knowledge of causes of disease, treatment, or prevention, the colonial population was decimated by disease. The great killer was smallpox, and those lucky enough to survive bore its pox scars for life, one of those being George Washington.
• Second only to smallpox as a killer of the population was tuberculosis, or consumption, as it was called then.
So now, you know.[[In-content Ad]]