Weight for weight, milk contains nearly four times as much tissue-building material, and eighteen times as much fat, as potatoes. Four pennyworth of milk gives to the body as much tissue-forming material as five pennyworth of beef, and two tumblers of milk are equal in food value to half a pound of beef.
Milk is often said to be the one " perfect food," because it contains all the necessary constituents of diet in the right proportions. The casein of milk, which goes to form cheese, is a tissue-builder. The cream is a fat of a very easily digested type. Then milk contains milk-sugar and various mineral substances, in addition to water.
It is unfortunate that there is no standard by which the quality of milk bought by the consumer can be estimated, as its value varies greatly. The quantity of fat or cream in the milk is, however, a very good guide as to its nutritive value. A milk poor in cream is very much inferior to rich, creamy milk.
No food is of so much value in illness. In health, also, milk is a splendid food. The housewife should use it freely with other foods at every meal. An entire milk diet, however, is not to be advised for everyday life. For one thing, it would be too expensive. We should have to spend eighteenpence per day per head to buy sufficient milk to live on, and an ordinary mixed diet can be obtained for about tenpence. Milk, also, because it does not leave sufficient residue after digestion, induces constipation. Combined with bread-and-butter, milk makes an excellent meal, easily digested and inexpensive. It should be mentioned that skim milk is a most valuable food. It lacks only the fat, and this can be provided in the diet in the form of butter, dripping, lard, etc., spread on bread.
The housewife must be careful to serve a certain amount of fat in her menus. Fat is a very important part of the diet. It is the best kind of fuel for the body. The amount of fat consumed varies with the climate. The Esquimaux and other Northern races take very large quantities of fat, the Hindoos exceedingly little. Travellers in the Arctic regions have often said that the only way to keep warm and comfortable is to take fat liberally. Extra clothing is of far less importance.
Too little fat in the dietary is a serious matter. There is something of a fashion nowadays not to eat fat. People will carefully remove the fat pieces from their meat, either with the idea that it is vulgar or harmful in some way to consume them? They ought to know that by taking a fair quantity of fat with their meals they would escape the discomfort of cold feet, chilblains, and red noses.
Fat, again, is valuable as a digestive of other foods, and if people take a certain amount of fat with lean meat, they require to consume much less butcher's meat. Thus there will be less risk of overloading the blood with waste products.
But fat need not be given in the form of fat meat, as cream, butter, dripping, etc., are valuable fats. One of the cheapest and most useful fat foods is the old-fashioned, well-cooked suet pudding. Cream is an expensive fat. Weight for weight, cream is three times as dear as butter, so that it has to be considered as a luxury from the point of view of food values.
Butter is a very useful fat in sickness, because it is easily digested, and there are many illnesses, such as dyspepsia and consumption, where fat is essential. Four-fifths of every pound of butter consists of pure fat, the remaining one-fifth containing water, milk-sugar, and casein. Margarine, sold as a butter substitute, is a different substance altogether. It is made by melting and clarifying animal fats, and, weight for weight, it contains as much fat as butter. Thus it is a very valuable foodstuff, its nutritive value being slightly higher than butter, weight for weight.
Most people are somewhat vague as to the relative food value of jam and butter. In many households, for reasons of economy, the children get bread-and-jam alternately with bread-and-butter. Now, sugar is certainly an important source of heat and energy, but, in the case of children, sugar can never take the place of fat without detriment to health. For this reason, bread, butter, and jam should be combined in the nursery menu at least. To cut off a child's fat supply is folly, if one remembers that health is the greatest asset in childhood.
The substitution of jam for butter is by no means economical, as butter is three times as valuable as jam as a fuel for the body. Three pounds of any preserve of fair quality would cost more than one pound of butter. Granted that one ate less jam to make up for the extra cost, the result would be a definite loss of energy and vigour for the body.
Dr. Robert Hutchinson has declared that he finds that it takes a greater weight of jam than butter to cover any given piece of bread, and that, by measuring the amount used, he estimated that five pounds of jam would go as far as one pound of butter. Thus jam is a much more expensive article of food for the housewife than butter.
Egg is concentrated nourishment. Indeed, the so-called vegetarian who includes eggs, cheese, butter, and milk in the dietary, and only excludes flesh meats, can rarely be defeated in argument. They are as nourishing as meat, weight for weight, and they contain relatively more fat. Two eggs will yield in heat and energy as much as three ounces of fat meat or a tumblerful of fresh milk.
So far as nourishment is concerned, it may be said that two eggs are equivalent to an ordinary portion of meat per person - say, a little less than a quarter of a pound. Thus the economic value of the hen is very considerable. A pullet from a good laying strain will produce per year eggs to the value of half a sheep.
Eggs, however, are not a perfect food, because, although they are rich in oils and flesh-forming foods, they are deficient in what are called carbohydrates, of which rice, sago, potatoes, etc., largely consist. By combining these two in the form of a milk pudding made with egg a perfect food is produced. And when these puddings are provided, the housewife can be assured that she is giving good value to the family, and being strictly economical also.
The digestibility of eggs depends very much upon the cooking. The more lightly cooked an egg, the more easily digested it is. A hard-boiled egg will take three hours to digest, when a soft-boiled egg is digested in less than two. A poached egg is more quickly digested than an omelette. By chopping a hard-boiled egg very finely, it is more easily and more rapidly digested. When one egg provides too much bulk for a meal, the yolk should be chosen in preference to the white. A little milk pudding made with the yolk of an egg is an excellent dish for a child. This part of the egg is rich in fat.
Cheese is one of the most highly nutritive foods we have. One fairly thick slice of bread-and-butter, a portion of cheese weighing about two ounces, and a glass of milk make as nourishing a meal as the ordinary soup, meat, vegetables, and stewed fruit. One pound of beef contains no more nourishment that half a pound of cheese, and one authority declares that a cheese weighing twenty pounds contains as much nutriment as a sheep weighing sixty pounds.
Now, this is very important information for the housewife, who knows very well that cheese is very much cheaper than meat. Better still, the less expensive cheeses, such as Canadian or Dutch, are, weight for weight, more nourishing than Stilton or Parmesan, and because the cream cheeses contain more water, they also are less nourishing than the harder, cheaper cheeses. At the same time, they are more easily digested.
In advocating cheese as an article of diet, it ought to be said that unless it is well chewed it is difficult to digest. The harder cheeses should not be given to children unless they can be grated and served with potato or bread-and-butter. When cheese is indigestible, the fact is due to one of two causes - either it is not sufficiently chewed or it is taken at the end of a big meal, when the stomach has already plenty to digest.
Cheese should not be regarded as an etcetera of diet, but as one of the most important items in the menu, which can take the place of meat in many cases with advantage. Cheese is also nourishment in a concentrated form, as can be illustrated by the fact that one pound of cheese will contain most of the nourishment of a gallon of milk. A great many households would benefit if the amount of butcheit meat per week was reduced and cheese substituted.
Some Facts for the Housewife
The economical housewife has now a good many facts to go on.
Expensive foods are not necessarily the best value.
Meat need only be given once a day. or even three times a week, when expense has to be considered. Cheese dishes with fish or eggs can be served in its place.
Ninety per cent, of people could reduce the food they eat per day with advantage to themselves.
If food were chewed properly. Mr. Fletcher declares, the housewife could save fivepence per head per day.
Good cooking preserves the nourishing properties of food. Bad cooking renders it indigestible to the extent that one-half the value of the food is lost.
If women studied food values as they should, they could reduce their household account 50 per cent, every month.