Dishes for the Sickroom investigates historical invalid recipes from Scotland.

Welcome to Dishes for the Sickroom. This project, conducted by Lindsay Middleton with guidance from her mentor Carole McCallum – University Archivist at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) – beginning in September 2021 and ongoing, examines the links between food, health, education and international ingredients in the culinary collections of the GCU Archive Centre.  You can find more information about the links between the University, food, and health here.

The food we consume has a tangible impact on our health and wellbeing, and in writings that aim to educate readers about food and cooking, food and health are often interlinked. While not as common today, historical printed and manuscript cookbooks typically had sections on ‘Invalid Cookery’, instructing readers how to prepare foodstuffs for the ill. Indeed, before their association with food preparation, recipes were derived from the Latin ‘recipere’ meaning ‘to give’ a cure, indicating the word’s medical origins. Cookbooks, recipes, and teaching materials can therefore provide rich insight into how we understand attitudes towards food and health.

Using visualiser technology to record and display materials from the GCU archives, this website explores three key themes:

– Invalid Recipes in the printed cookbooks from the GCU collections
– Invalid recipes in editions of the Glasgow Cookery Book
– Cookery and health in the educational materials of the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science

By exploring the pages of this online resource, you can get a sense of how food, health and education were linked in Scotland’s culinary past.

This site is a work-in-progress, and sections will be added over time.

Focusing on the ingredients used in these invalid recipes demonstrates that Scottish invalid cookery often relied upon ingredients from all over the world.

Dishes from the Sick Room uses the rich resources from the archives of GCU to illuminate how food was used to treat the ill, and how perceptions about cooking, eating, and health changed throughout time.


This project has been designed and undertaken by PhD researcher Lindsay Middleton, whose PhD project ‘The Technical Recipe: A Formal Analysis of Nineteenth-century Food Writing’ is funded by SGSAH and supervised across the University of Glasgow and the University of Aberdeen.

‘Dishes for the Sick Room’ has been funded by an Early Career Foundation Award from the Wellcome Trust and the Glasgow Medical Humanities Network. The project has been supported by two mentors: Carole McCallum, University Archivist at Glasgow Caledonian University, and Dr Manon Mathias, Lecturer in French at the University of Glasgow. The project was made possibly by the visualiser technology loaned by the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections department.

Contact Us:

Lindsay Middleton
Twitter @lindsmiddleton
ORCid: 0000-0002-1441-2554

GCU Archive Centre