Worm Cakes

Exploring 20th Century London offers this explanation of these worm cakes:

In the early 20th century, children were regularly fed 'worm cakes' to keep tapeworms at bay. Such 'medicine' was unpopular and often tasted revolting. The cakes in this tin have been made more palatable through the addition of chocolate flavouring.

I wish they provided more information, since I'm not sure whether these cakes actually consisted of ground-up worms or whether they were some kind of anti-worm medication, such as pomegranate extract (which has been known for centuries to be effective against tapeworms).
     Posted By: Alex - Fri Sep 20, 2013
     Category: Medicine

"... made more palatable" really isn't in the British cook book. Think 'moth balls'.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 09/20/13 at 09:27 AM
Here's an interesting bit from "Chocolate as Medicine: A Quest Over the Centuries"-

http://books.google.com/books?id=7DzjN3MJs5wC&lpg=PA130&ots=EnQCpppCOO&dq=20th century medicine worm cakes&pg=PA130#v=onepage&q=20th century medicine worm cakes&f=false
Posted by Laura T. on 09/20/13 at 10:39 AM
Your second assumption is probably correct, Alex. I'm sure that the name doesn't refer to cakes made of worms. I believe arsenic has been used at times to clear roundworm / pinworm / tapeworm infestations. I didn't know about pomegranate also used for that purpose.

This product name reminded me of another product called "Ant Paste" that my grandmother used in her home. It is a sticky, spreadable substance, with a sweet odor to attract ants. The name sounds like one would use it to paste ants into a scrapbook if read literally.
Posted by KDP on 09/20/13 at 10:43 AM
Are you sure you don't mean Papaya extract?
Posted by Muddy Valley on 09/20/13 at 11:07 AM
People that assume British cooking is dull have no idea what they´re talking about, or they´ve lived with the wrong people.
Posted by F.U.D. on 09/20/13 at 01:38 PM
Maybe it's just the names... toad in the hole, spotted dick, etc.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 09/20/13 at 01:44 PM
One of the vagaries of the English language is the ambiguity that arises when two words are combined to create a new term, as "worm cakes", "moth balls", "grape nuts" etc.
Often prepositions could elucidate the relationship, but modern usage (misusage) elides these in favor of oversimplification.
Latin used a complex set of grammatical modification to nouns, verbs, and adjectives to achieve the same goal of clarity.
I worked something called the "Hazardous Materials Information Service", and was amused that the adjective could apply to any one of the three nouns: 'hazardous materials', 'hazardous information', and 'hazardous service'. The phrase 'service for information on hazardous materials' would have been far less ambiguous.
That said, I doubt that worms make cakes, or that people feed cakes to worms.
Posted by tadchem on 09/20/13 at 03:15 PM
Thanks Laura T. in N.C. for posting the link to the google book article. That was very informative and interesting. It's amazing what can be found on the internet now, with some work!
Posted by Kyle Morgan on 09/24/13 at 12:20 PM
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