This section is from the "The Young Mother. Management of Children in Regard to Health" book, by William A. Alcott. Also available from Amazon: The Young Mother
Potatoes, added to unbolted wheat flour, make excellent bread; and so, as I am informed, does rice. Of the latter, however, I have never eaten. Oats and barley, and many other grains and substances, will make bread; but it is of an inferior kind.
The question may again recur, after this extended series of remarks, whether I intend to confine the young almost exclusively to bread, in one or another of its forms. We shall see how this is, presently.
While bread, therefore, should constitute a part, at least, and sometimes the whole of a meal, a great variety of other articles are not only admissible, but desirable. Among these may be mentioned plain puddings.
One of the most wholesome puddings is made of Indian meal, enclosed in a bag and boiled. Nearly allied to this is the common hasty pudding; but the last is less wholesome, because it requires less chewing; and it ought to have been observed, before now, that after weaning, any food is digested better which has undergone the process of thorough mastication.
Boiled rice, though hardly to be regarded as a pudding, is very nutritious, and very easy of digestion. I am not without doubts, however, in regard to the utility of a large proportion of rice, as food. A dinner of it, two or three times a week, I believe to be wholesome; but used too frequently, it seems to me not active enough for the stomach and bowels; having in this respect precisely a contrary effect to that of warm Indian cakes. The common notion that rice has a tendency to make people blind, is entirely unfounded. Its worst effect is when eaten without being boiled through. In such cases, I have known it to do mischief; perhaps because it was swallowed without much chewing. Some grind it, and use the flour; but I cannot recommend it to be used in this manner.
The best pudding in the world is a loaf of bread, (What!—you will say—bread again?) three or four or five days old, boiled, or rather steamed, in milk. All kinds of bread are excellent for this purpose, but wheat and Indian are the best. They are excellent even without milk—that is, simply steamed.
Puddings made of the flour of wheat, rye, buckwheat, &c., are less wholesome than those which have been already mentioned. And all sorts of puddings are less wholesome, when eaten as hot as our unreasonable fashions require, than when their temperature is quite below that of our bodies. I would not have them so cold as to chill us, for this would be to go to the other, though less dangerous extreme; but they ought to be cool. Too much heat is an unnatural stimulus, likely to leave more or less debility behind it. In addition to this, those who eat hot food are more exposed to take cold, in consequence of it.
With none of these puddings ought we to mix any fruits, green or dried—not even raisins. Some of the more important properties of nearly every kind of fruit or berry are lost by boiling, unless we eat the water in which they are boiled, and save the vapor which would otherwise escape. I am not in favor of boiled fruit generally, especially if boiled in puddings.
Puddings, like most other kinds of food—even bread—may be slightly salted: not that this is indispensable, but because the balance of human testimony is in its favor. The argument that we evidently need salt because the other animals require it, is without much weight. The other animals do not generally require or use it.[Footnote: Some considerable savage nations use no salt, and a few have a strong aversion to it.] The cases so often triumphantly mentioned, where animals appear to thrive better from the use of it, are only exceptions to the general rule, nor are they very numerous in comparison with the whole race of animals. Still I have no objections to its moderate use. It may be useful in preventing worms; though there are doubts even of that. In large quantities, it is unquestionably hurtful.
But neither fruits nor berries—permit me to repeat the sentiment—no, nor any such thing as cinnamon or spices, nor even sugar or molasses in any considerable quantity, should go into the composition of any sort of pudding. If the puddings are not sweet enough without, it is better to add a little sugar or molasses on your plate. Nor should sauces, or cream, or butter, or suet be used in or upon them; though of all these substances, cream is least injurious. Nutmegs, grated cheese, &c., are unnecessary and hurtful. Cheese should never be eaten, in any way.
There is one thing, however, which may be eaten in moderate quantity with all sorts of puddings and with bread; I mean milk. I say eaten with, for it is better never to put these substances, nor indeed any other, into the milk. The bread, pudding, &c., should be eaten by itself, and the milk by itself, also. In this way we shall not be liable to cheat the teeth out of what is justly their due, and then make the deranged stomach and general system pay for it.
Potatoes are a good article of diet—to be used once a day—though they are not very nutritious. They are best either steamed or roasted in the ashes. They are also excellent when boiled. Turnips are also good. Onions are not so useful as is generally supposed, except for the purposes of medicine.
Beets; in small quantity, and carrots and asparagus, and above all, beans and peas—but not their pods—are tolerable food once a day, during most of the year, except it be the middle of the winter. But neither these, nor potatoes, nor any other vegetables, ought to be cooked in any way with fat, or fat meat, or butter; or be mashed after they are cooked, or eaten with oil or butter.
If there be an exception to this general rule—which may seem to be rather sweeping—it should be in favor of a little sweet oil on rice, or on bread puddings. But the common practice, founded upon the apparent belief that we can scarcely eat anything until it is well covered with lard or butter, is quite objectionable—nay, it is even disgusting. No pure stomach would ever prefer oily bread, or pudding, or beans, or peas; and most people would abhor the sight of such a strange combination, were not habit, in its power to change our very nature, almost omnipotent.