"What shall I plan for the three meals?" is a question as new each day as the day itself. That many women ask it, and are glad for an answer or a suggestion is proved by a glance at the daily or weekly paper or woman's magazine, whose publishers know that it pays to print menus innumerable. Indeed, the daily press is full of signs that the food problem is an acute one, for the current joke about food prices, the accounts of boycotts by housekeepers, popular articles on nutrition and pure foods, and the records of state and national legislation, all show that as a nation we are awake and seeking a way out of our present difficulties.
carp in the pond, and deer in the park, but the beef question is puzzling, for the steward does not wish to kill his choice steer. Then appear in the courtyard two fine oxen, and several wethers, or sheep, gifts from a neighbor, and the menu is complete. Lady Peveril is described as an excellent housekeeper, and doubtless felt burdened by many cares, but how different were her problems from ours, and how simple by comparison ! Beef trusts and the high price of beef, tuberculous cattle, unsanitary transportation and markets were not factors in her problem. In her day, and in the time of our grandmothers, less variety in diet was possible, and less expected except on state occasions; food was not transported over great distances, and the cost was not so much out of proportion to the average income.
Now every large city, and even the small town, is the market of the world. We have long been accustomed to the importation of oranges and lemons, and dried fruits from distant lands; but now we have peaches and pears from South Africa, melons from Spain, pineapples from the Azores, hothouse grapes from England, and apples from Australia, and in 1913, we read of the shipment of beef from Argentina. In our own country, early fruits and vegetables travel from the south to the north, so that the season of some foods is long extended. The large amount of canned food also does away with the natural limits of the season, and this is further affected by cold storage. Both the quality and the cost of food are modified by these new methods of commerce, and furthermore, modern methods of manufacture have changed the quality. In an ideal community these changes would be for the better, but manufacturers often think more of their own profit than of the quality of their goods, and as a result adulterations have crept in, making necessary the enactment and enforcement of pure food laws. This is by no means so simple a matter as it seems, for we must first understand what pure food really is.
Instinct guides somewhat in the selection of food where conditions of living are simple. Under more complex conditions there must be a scientific study of the whole situation in order that the individual may cope with it. Then, too, with such a variety of foods from which to select, it is easy to be tempted beyond our means, and to disregard the simple and the wholesome. We know that it is easy to develop a taste for some one food in excess, as for instance, sweets or dishes rich in fat and too highly flavored, and the physician adds his word here to the plea for a study of food and its functions.
The conclusion is this, that the housekeeper who has the welfare of her family at heart will not] confine her interest in food to cooking processes and new recipes. Good cooks we must have, and our standard of cooking could easily be raised. But other facts about food are important to-day, and as we learn to prepare and serve food daintily, we must study such topics as the following:
What food is, its composition and how it nourishes us; how it is manufactured and transported; "pure food"; sanitary and convenient markets; the cost of food and how to buy; principles of food preparation; suitable combina- tions and amounts of food. These topics are all treated in this volume, and should be considered as important as the actual preparation of food.