Select the daintiest china, finest, glass, and choicest silver, making changes as often as possible. Cheer the patient with a bright blossom laid on tray, or a small vase of flowers placed in left hand corner. Place plate at front of tray, near the edge; knife at right of plate, with sharp edge toward plate; fork at left of plate, tines up; spoon at head of plate, or, if more convenient for the patient, at right of knife, bowl up; cup and saucer at right of plate, with handle arranged so that cup may be easily lifted; tumbler above knife, and filled two-thirds full of freshly drawn water just before taking into the sick-room. The individual butter, or bread and butter plate, should be placed at left hand corner over fork. The napkin may be placed at right of cup. Salt should appear, but pepper never. Avoid having too many things on the tray at one time. If soup, meat, and a light dessert are to be served to a convalescent, have one course removed before another appears. Foods which are intended to be served hot should be placed in heated dishes and kept covered during transit from kitchen, that patient may receive them hot. Equal care should be taken to have cold foods served cold; never lukewarm. A glass of milk, cup of gruel, or cup of beef-tea should be on a plate covered with a doily.
Liquid Foods may first be considered. Barley water and rice water are known as astringent or demulcent drinks, and are generally used to reduce a laxative condition. The starch of barley is perhaps more valuable than that of rice. Toast water is often beneficial in cases of extreme nausea. A small quantity of clam water may be given when the stomach refuses to retain other foods. Clam water is also used to increase a secretion of mother’s milk.
Fruit waters are principally used for fever patients. They are cooling, refreshing, and mildly stimulating, and are valuable for the salts and acids they contain. Lemons, being easily procured and of moderate price, are most extensively used.
Semi-solid Foods comprise the gruels. When made from corn or oatmeal they are heat-producing, and should never be given when inflammatory symptoms are present. Imperial Granum makes a delicious gruel, which has largely superseded the more common kinds. It is quickly made, and unless expense must be considered is generally to be preferred. Although containing much starch, in the process of manufacture the starch has largely been converted into dextrine; therefore it may be given even when there is inflammation. Flour and cracker gruels to many prove a pleasant variety, and often assist in reducing a laxative condition. Arrowroot makes a delicate gruel, is more easily digested than any other form of starch, and is often valuable in cases of gastric irritation. It should never be given to infants.
Solid Foods comprise the principal diet during convalescence. At this time the nurse shows her skill and judgment quite as much as during the critical part of the disease. Foods must be taken which are nutritious, easy of assimilation, and given frequently, in small quantities, and at regular intervals. The convalescent, if allowed to follow his own inclinations, often produces a relapse by improper diet.