Pellagra: The Corn Disease

Poor Guy!
Poor Guy!

Pellagra can be common in people who obtain most of their food energy from maize, notably rural South America, where maize is a staple food. If maize is not nixtamalized, it is a poor source of tryptophan, as well as niacin. Nixtamalization corrects the niacin deficiency, and is a common practice in Native American cultures that grow corn.

Following the corn cycle, the symptoms usually appear during spring, increase in the summer due to greater sun exposure, and return the following spring. Indeed, pellagra was once endemic in the poorer states of the U.S. South, such as Mississippi and Alabama, where its cyclical appearance in the spring after meat-heavy winter diets led to it being known as “spring sickness” (particularly when it appeared among more vulnerable children), as well as among the residents of jails and orphanages as studied by Dr. Joseph Goldberger

“In the early 1900s, pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the American South. Between 1906 and 1940 more than 3 million Americans were affected by pellagra with more than 100,000 deaths, yet the epidemic resolved itself right after dietary niacin fortification.[29] Pellagra deaths in South Carolina numbered 1,306 during the first ten months of 1915; 100,000 Southerners were affected in 1916.  Wikipedia

Desperately In Need of Someone To Make Supper . . .

Knowledge, uplift and a mutton chop.
Knowledge, uplift and a mutton chop.

We all agreed only yesterday that women should remain attractive in all they do. A well-made apron adds the perfect touch. The Delineator Magazine of January 1886 offers us some much needed further advice for planning our day. Slip out for a nice morning walk and then heat up the wood stove for an average day of cooking in your favorite dress–watch the ruffles and the trains! There are meals to be made:


Cooked Wheat with Cream

A Ragout or Mutton Chop

Lyonnaise Potatoes    Graham Gems

Home Baked White and Graham Breads



Warm Meat in Slices

Baked or Fried Potatoes   Canned or Cooked Fruit

Rebecca Cake

Tea or Coffee


Tomato or Bisque Soup

Baked Fish with Oyster Sauce

Roast Goose

Apple Sauce   Boiled Onions

Potato Puff   Celery Salad

Spanish Cream

Nuts   Fruit



Hmm, now where's my apron?
Hmm, now where’s my apron?

Contrary to popular belief many middle class women did not have servants but for the lucky ones here was some very useful advice:

“Pick a sturdy German girl for drudgery (Buck Crenshaw in my fifth novel picks a German girl to help his wife but she quits)

Where hours are irregular, and where the house mother needs sympathy . . .the warm-hearted Irish.

For loyalty and conscientious attention to duty . . . the Scotch cannot be surpassed.

Whatever the nationality of our domestics we are all one family and one in our Father.

In Englewood where my books take place it was more common to hire black servants since after the Civil War many settled in the Fourth Ward of the town. Margaret Crenshaw’s servant Lucretia is a trusted friend and Margaret promises Buck she will find the best house servant for Buck’s new wife even if it’s only an Irish girl.