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Everyday Foods in War Time By Mary Swartz Rose Characters: 10057

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

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"Do come and taste how nice the burnt pig eats!" So cried the miscreant son of Hati when his attempt to rescue his father's live-stock from utter destruction resulted (at least according to Lamb) in adding one more delicacy to the table of civilized man. That the "burnt pig" commended itself instantly to the taste of other men is attested by the recklessness with which they ignited their own houses to secure the new sensation again.

Not all flavors make an immediate appeal. Many persons can mark the time when they learned to like olives, or tomatoes, or tea. The taste for some foods was acquired so early that there is no consciousness of any time when they were not enjoyed, and the impression prevails that the liking for such foods is instinctive. Sometimes that is the case, but quite as often not. Children have to be taught by patient repetition to like most of the common foods which make the staples of the diet, and likings thus acquired are as strong as those which seem more natural.

However taste be accounted for, we have to recognize the fact that food is chosen for flavor more than for ultimate benefit. It is one thing to say that oatmeal is more nutritious than bread and coffee; it is quite another to induce a man to give up the latter for the former! And yet the distinguishing characteristic of man is that he can subjugate his immediate impulses for his future benefit, or find a course that will harmonize the two-take coffee with his oatmeal for instance, or find some way to flavor it, perhaps with sugar.

Probably no one flavor is so universally enjoyed as sweetness. "Sweeter than the honey in the honey comb" is an ancient symbol of appreciation. When the sugar bowl is empty how many things lose zest! Tea, coffee, cocoa, breakfast cereals, fruit, might still be acceptable, but cake, pie, and ice cream are unthinkable without sweetness; the soda fountain, the bakery, and the candy shop bear further testimony to our love of sweets. Four million tons of sugar a year for the American people-eighty-five pounds apiece, nearly a quarter of a pound apiece daily-this is no inconsiderable amount of flavoring!

But is not sugar good food? Most assuredly. Three lumps of sugar would furnish the extra energy needed to walk a mile; a quarter of a pound represents about one-sixth of a man's daily fuel requirement. But one baked potato would furnish the same energy as the three lumps of sugar; a quarter of a pound of cornstarch would supply the same fuel as the quarter pound of sugar. Nutritionally starch and sugar are interchangeable, the advantage as far as digestion is concerned being with the starch rather than the sugar. And yet we put sugar on starch! So much for instinct being a guide to scientific food combinations!

The problem of doing without sugar is primarily a problem of flavor-a problem of finding something else which is sweet. Hence we turn our cornstarch into glucose (make corn syrup, for example) outside the body instead of inside it, so that we can taste the sweetness as it goes down. The main trouble with this kind of sugar is that it is not sweet enough to satisfy us and we are apt to use too much, thus endangering our digestions by sheer concentration of what would be, in smaller quantities, most wholesome. Once more we see that nutrition is largely a question of how much; how much glucose or other sugar our stomachs can stand we find out by experience; few stomachs can stand when empty the quantity represented by a lollipop, and yet we frequently see children allowed to suck these between meals. The same amount of sugar diluted with water, as in a glass of lemonade, would do less harm; it might be combined with flour in a cooky with more impunity; better yet, it might be made a part of a whole meal, taking it in several dishes (sauce, dessert, etc.), or, if we must have it as candy, at the end of the meal. Used in this way, the advantages of sugar as a food may be had with relatively little disadvantage.

Honey, "the distilled sweetness of the flower," commands a price commensurate with the exquisiteness of its production, but is not quite as easy of digestion as some other forms of sugar. Because of its intense sweetness it may be combined with advantage with less sweet syrups, such as corn syrup. The cook estimates that by measure it will take one and a half times as much corn syrup as cane sugar to get the customary effects in sweet dishes. By using one part of honey to three of corn syrup a sweeter product is obtained, which is free from several of the disadvantages of honey in cookery.

Maple syrup and sugar are not only prized for their sweetness, due to the presence of ordinary cane sugar, but for the delicate "maple" flavor so difficult to duplicate. Nutritionally a tablespoon of maple sugar is equivalent in fuel value to about four-fifths of a tablespoon of cane sugar, while equal volumes of cane molasses, corn syrup, and maple syrup are interchangeable as fuel, th

ough not of equal sweetening power.

Molasses is a less one-sided food than cane sugar or corn syrup. The latter furnish nothing but fuel, and if used too freely not only disturb digestion but tend to crowd out foods which yield mineral salts. Molasses is quite rich in calcium, one tablespoonful yielding as much as five ounces of milk, and is for this reason a better sweet for growing children than ordinary sugar or corn syrup when the amount of milk which they can have is limited, or when fruits and vegetables are hard to get. Molasses ginger snaps make, therefore, an excellent sweet for children, much better than candy, but of course to be eaten only at meal time.

The aim of good home cooking should be to please the family with what they ought to eat. The chef in a big hotel may have to prove the superiority of his art over that of a rival chef, and vie with him in novelty and elaboration, but the home cooking may be ever so simple provided the result is a happy, well-nourished family. A chocolate layer cake that takes two hours out of a day is no more nourishing than the same materials served as poached eggs, bread and butter, and a cup of chocolate. It is worth while to train a family to enjoy the flavor of simply prepared foods, and to realize that the food is the thing which counts and not the way it is dressed up. On the other hand, if one has to use a few food materials over and over, as one must in many places when the money that can be spent for food is very little, it is by slight changes in their form and flavor that one keeps them from palling on the appetite. If one has to use beans every day, it is a good thing to know a dozen different ways of preparing beans. One may have the plain bean flavor, properly toned up by a suitable amount of salt; the added flavor of onions, of tomatoes, of fat pork, of molasses, or a combination of two or three. One may have plain oatmeal for breakfast (the flavor developed by thorough cooking, at least three or four hours in a double boiler or over night in a fireless cooker); oatmeal flavored with apples in a pudding for dinner; or oatmeal flavored with onions and tomatoes in a soup for supper; the same food but quite different impressions on the palate.

Herbs and spices have from time immemorial given flavor to man's diet. "Leeks and garlic," "anise and cumin," "salt and pepper," "curry and bean cheese," are built into the very life of a people. The more variety of natural foods we have the less dependent we are upon such things. Our modern cooks, confronted in the present crisis with restrictions in the number of foods which they may use, may find in bay leaves, nutmeg, allspice, and all their kind, ways of making acceptable the cereals which make a diet economical, the peas and beans which replace at least a part of the meat, and dried fruits and vegetables which save transportation of fresh or canned goods.

Tea and coffee are both flavors and stimulants. They are used literally by thousands to give flavor to bread or rice. Dependence on a single flavor is apt to result in a desire to have it stronger and stronger, and hence less and less wholesome. This is a good reason for some variety of flavor; better tea one meal and coffee another than the same one all the time. Too freely used, and made too strong, tea and coffee may have a bad effect upon the nervous as well as the digestive system. They should never be given to children. It is better for adults to get their flavor from something without such effects. Because the combination of bread and coffee tastes good, one may be deceived into thinking himself well nourished on a diet consisting of little else. And yet this is a very inadequate diet for anybody, and disastrous to the normal development of children. One must be on guard, then, lest one's desire for flavor be satisfied without the body's real needs being met.

The wise cook saves her best flavors for the foods which would be least acceptable without them and does not add them to foods which are good enough by themselves. The latter course marks the insidious beginning of luxury. "Once give your family luxuries and you are lost as far as satisfying them economically is concerned," remarked a clever housewife. "Even a rat will not taste bread when bacon is nigh," observed a sage physiologist. The demand for flavor grows and grows with pampering, till nothing but humming-birds' tongues and miniature geese floating in a sea of aspic jelly will satisfy the palate of him who eats solely for flavor-who never knows the sauce of hunger, or the deliciousness of a plain crust of bread. We must be on guard, saying, like the little daughter of a classical professor, "If Scylla doesn't get me Charybdis will." Flavor we must have, but not too much, not too many kinds at once, and not applied indiscriminately to foods which need them and foods which do not. The wise cook uses her arts to secure the proper nourishment of the family and not for her fame as "a good cook."

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