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Recipes from The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Department of Dietetics

The relevance of nutrition in the care of patients was recognised by the Royal Infirmary as far back as 1742 when managers of the hospital were given guidelines in the form of a ‘Bill of Fare for the Infirmary Patients’.  By 1843 there was a selection of diets available for patients with particular conditions such as a low fat diet, a rice diet and a steak diet with bread. 

Continuing this ground-breaking role, in 1924 the Royal Infirmary became the first hospital in Britain to appoint a dietician.  Miss Pybus, a nursing sister, was given the post with the title Sister-Dietician although she had no formal training in the field.   As a reflection of the growing importance of nutrition, in 1928 science graduates were appointed as dieticians.  The kitchen work was undertaken by student trainees on a 6-month placement as part of their courses.

Eventually greater formalisation was required and in 1936 the British Dietetic Association was founded to help maintain professional standards and develop a code of conduct.  Then in 1944 state registration was introduced.

Lothian Health Services Archive holds records relating to the Department of Dietetics.  These include student applications and assessments, prospectuses, nutrition leaflets and photographs. 

Amongst them are a number of recipes that the department prepared for patients in the hospital’s care. They are not dated but are probably from the 1940s or 1950s. Some of these are very basic – how to make tea and coffee for example – and some would not be particularly appetising now, such as tripe! But some are also quite tempting. An inviting lunch menu could have consisted of fish soufflé followed by baked custard.  The two recipes are pictured below. 

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  Recipe for fish souffle Recipe for baked custard
Recipes from the Department of Dietetics (LHSA ref:  LHB1/89/4/1)