Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Blogger Ann Parker

Dear Readers:  You're in for a real treat today. I'm part of a blog tour for Ann Parker, whose writing I adore. Seriously, there are people like me who can, on occasion, write, and there are people who are artists with words. Ann is one of these writers. I've had the privilege and joy to watch her write her way through three books, and here now is a spotlight on number four. If you like mysteries and you love historicals, Ann Parker is the writer for you.

Eat Well and Thrive… or Not – by Ann Parker

Firstly, I want to thank Claire Johnson for the chance to guest post on Roux Morgue as part of my virtual tour for MERCURY’S RISE, the fourth in my Silver Rush historical mystery series.
Since I write mysteries, people die and my sleuth, Leadville saloon-owner Inez Stannert, must ferret out the criminal and the crime. This latest book in my series takes Inez to Manitou Springs, a fast-rising health resort and tourist destination, where there was a whole lotta dying going on, not all of it (or even most of it) of a nefarious nature.

In 1880, during the time the book takes place, Manitou was famous for its mineral waters. It also had a mild climate, wide open spaces, and beautiful scenery. It had some very high-class (for the West, anyway) hotels, and it had many many physicians. The reason being that Manitou was a “destination resort” for many from the East Coast and Europe who suffered from a variety of ailments, particularly tuberculosis.

The cause of tuberculosis, or consumption as it was popularly called, was still unknown in 1880. Robert Koch, the physician who would discover the bacteria that causes the disease, was still conducting his research in Germany. Even though no one knew for certain what caused this dreaded disease, that didn’t stop physicians from developing their own theories and regimens for “curing” or at least slowing its progress.

Diet, in particular, was seen as an important element in controlling TB. However, some of those diets are pretty alarming by today’s standards: if the tuberculosis didn’t kill you, it seemed that your plugged arteries probably would. For instance, a Fannie Farmer cookbook from 1904 (long after Koch’s discovery), advises a dining schedule that a Hobbit would appreciate: besides breakfast, dinner, and supper, “there should be a luncheon in the morning, another in the afternoon, and still another before retiring.” Fats, in the form of cream, butter, olive oil, bacon, and beef fat were part of the recommended diet. And eggs. Lots of eggs. Preferably raw. Some doctors advised 18 eggs a day. Milk and beef were also staples of the consumptive’s diet (and we’re talking full-fat milk here, cream and all).

Still, eggs, cream, and beef fat would have been far preferable to the “slaughterhouse cure,” that became popular among consumptives in Denver in 1879. This particular cure involved drinking the blood of freshly slaughtered oxen and cows. And if we’re to segue into talking other comestibles taken to forestall the march of tuberculosis, I should mention the patent medicines and nostrums peddled to a desperate public, who lived in fear of the “white plague.” These so-called medicines and tonics contained ingredients such as cod-liver oil, lime, arsenic, chloroform, turpentine, kerosene, the ever-present alcohol, and yes, mercury.

We can all shake our heads in dismay and wonder what people were thinking of back then, to turn to some of these diets and remedies. But we have the virtue of hindsight. What will folks a couple generations from now think of our efforts to tame diseases such as cancer with diet? It would be interesting to know…


Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880s Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY’S RISE, was released November 1. Publishers Weekly says, “Parker smoothly mixes the personal dramas and the detection in an installment that’s an easy jumping-on point for newcomers.” Library Journal adds, “Parker’s depth of knowledge coupled with an all-too-human cast leaves us eager to see what Inez will do next. Encore!” Learn more about Ann and her books at

MERCURY’S RISE and the other Silver Rush mysteries are available from independent booksellers,, and Barnes and Noble.

Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win a Silver Rush mystery prize! Winner will be announced later this week. To see the rest of Ann’s virtual tour, check out her Appearances page on her website.


Liz said...

Still tagging along to enjoy your insights. I can say only that today's diet recommendations seem so ephemeral as to defy description.

Linda said...

Wonderfully interesting post but the raw egg idea certainly made my stomach lurch :-0

Were there many heart attacks in those days from all the cholesterol?

I'm looking forward to reading Mercury's Rise as much for the medical information as the mystery.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Liz! Nice to see you here... :-) I know what you mean about diet recommendations these days. Here today, different tomorrow. I finally pretty much have given up, and just try to eat a "balanced diet" (heavy on the chocolate ;-) ).

Ann Parker said...

Hi Linda!
Don't know about the incidence rate of heart attacks, but the diet in those days (even aside from the TB "all you can eat plus some" approach) was heavy on hearty fare. Certainly digestive problems were rampant... One of the things the mineral springs at Manitou were advertised to solve were problems such as (ahem) constipation.

Anonymous said...

I seem to have heard of the eggs before, but not the multiple meals. An active man might need that much, but I doubt any tuberculosis patients were burning that many calories! Then again, perhaps it was effectively a case of "Offer them lots of food lots of times, and maybe they'll eat enough to keep alive, since they'll only be picking."


Ann Parker said...

Hi Sandra!
I think you're right. What with all the coughing, TB patients probably couldn't eat much at any one meal. Too, there were the fevers and the sweats that were very debilitating