This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
Every housewife is the mistress of the destiny of her family. In the foods which she prepares and serves she has the power to build strong, healthy bodies, the bedrock of brilliant minds, to furnish energy for work and life, and to create a reserve against worry and disease. Within her hands she holds the glorious manhood and splendid womanhood of to-morrow.
The balanced ration furnishes the solution of the house-mother's difficult problem in providing the right food for the needs of her family. As usually explained the problem of the balanced ration seems so difficult, technical, and obscure, that the average woman, although anxious to place her cookery on a scientific basis, becomes appalled by the host of technical terms and numerical calculations and finally abandons all attempt at science and falls back into the old routine of unscientific cooking. Nevertheless the problem is really simple, and can be worked out for each individual family by the expenditure of a little time and thought at no extra cost, for the balanced ration tends to reduce the food bills.
But first, what is the balanced ration? It is simply the correct combination into meals of the proper amounts of food and the proper food constituents in such ways as to please both the eye and the palate, appease the hunger, furnish each section of the body the food required for energy, and allow for the storing-up of reserve force against the time of need.
Our bodies are made of many different elements, which, in conjunction with water, combine to form flesh, bone, blood, and so on. But each time a motion is made, a thought flashed in the brain, or even a word spoken, a small part of the body tissue is broken down or exhausted. This waste is carried off through the pores of the skin and by the excretory organs, but there Nature pauses. She cannot mend a break without material, and, just as the plumber needs solder, she requires food to repair the wornout tissues. As the body is so complex, a wide variety of foods is needed in order that there may be sufficient material to repair each part. This is one reason why human beings crave variety in their food and thrive best upon a mixed diet.
The housewife, in working out her food problem, may classify foods in the following six groups of constituents:
A. Starchy Foods - as potatoes and all starchy vegetables, macaroni, spaghetti, noodles and the like, cooked and prepared cereals, bread, muffins, biscuits, crackers, bananas, cocoa, corn starch and tapioca puddings, cereal puddings and so on.
3. Fats, or Reserve-Force Foods - as fat ham, pork, bacon, fat fish, sausages, cream soups, full milk cheese, cream cheese, olive-, corn- and peanut-oil, ripe olives, mayonnaise and all salad dressings, rich gravies and sauces, rich pastry, most nuts, suet puddings, fritters and all foods cooked in fat, sweet chocolate, ice cream made with cream, mousse, parfaits and Bavarian creams.
5. Bulky Foods, or Cleansers - as all mineral foods, coarse breads, woody vegetables, gritty cereals and bran foods.
6. Liquids, or Dissolvent Foods - as water, stock and milk soups, broths, tea, coffee, skimmed milk, whey, buttermilk, fruit drinks, gelatines, water ices, frappes, sherbets and watery fruits and vegetables.
While this classification is only a general one, it is sufficiently accurate and practical to enable any housewife to place her cookery on a scientific basis without any trouble or abstruse calculations. All foods contain certain properties, as proteins possess a small proportion of heat-giving properties, while most carbohydrates contain a trace, or more, of protein. For convenience's sake in planning a balanced ration each food must be grouped according to its predominating characteristic, for the underlying principle in the preparation of food lies in cooking properly the ruling constituent, as protein in proteins, starch in carbohydrates, and so on, at the same time retaining as much of the total food value as possible.
In arranging meals the principal or main dish should usually be a protein food - a roast, baked eggs, a rarebit, or any food from the muscle-making group. Then come the carbohydrates (starches and sugars), the fats (as butter, olive oil and the like), the minerals (in the form of fresh fruits or vegetables) and the bland and "filling foods," listed under the dissolvent or bulky group (as stock soup, gelatine', apples, and so on).
If the wrong foods are prepared and served, it is almost as easy to starve in the midst of plenty, as when there is nothing to eat, and Nature creates a feeling of dissatisfaction which results in a constant appetite, or a craving, for the lacking food. A mother was utterly discouraged because she could not seem to provide her athletic boy of fifteen with enough to eat. One night, after eating ten slices of bread and butter, three helpings of potato salad, six slices of cake, and three dishes of preserves, he was rummaging in the pantry a half hour after supper for "something to eat." She finally decided that he was not being supplied with the right kind of food, so she studied dietetics and the balanced ration, and instituted scientific meals. The boy's appetite be- . came normal almost at once. He was starving on starch, while all his healthy young muscles demanded their portion of protein.
A meal often leaves a craving sense of incompleteness, caused by a similarity in flavor in all the foods served.
A small quantity of any of the vividly seasoned foods furnishes an appetizer. For convenience the foods suitable for use in this way may be termed "esthetic foods," and include all condiments, pickles, green olives, chili sauce, ketchup, crystallized ginger, green peppers, pimen-toes, sour oranges and fruits, tart jellies, lemon juice, wintergreen and peppermint candies and so forth. The esthetic touch may be added to any course desirable, although it relieves monotony if it appears midway of the meal. If the esthetic touch is added properly, the whole meal assumes point and every food fits into its niche.
In planning any meal the bulky group of food constituents must predominate in quantity; starches should appear second, the proteins third, sweets fourth and fats fifth, while the liquid group should be sufficient to act as a dissolving agent. In general, two starches should figure in a meal, one protein, one fat besides butter, at least one bulky food, one. mineral, or more if desirable, one sweet, and a dissolvent besides water. If foods are apportioned in this way, in quantities of the usual "helping," suited to the occupation and age of each member of the family, second portions will seldom be requested; when each part of the body is receiving adequate nourishment, less food is needed.
The food of each meal should be suitable for the needs of each member of the family. Briefly, the man at hard labor and the active boy from twelve years up require hearty foods that "stick to the ribs" - usually meaning those consuming a long time in digestion; the housewife, active school girls from twelve years on, and men at sedentary occupations need lighter food or that more easily digested; while children from four to eight and old people need a fair quantity of simple food. Children under four demand small quantities of easily digested foods, supplemented by plenty of minerals and milk, while the child from eight to twelve may eat the usual family meal in quantities suited to his growth and activity. No matter whether the income is large or small the balanced ration can always be maintained. It must be borne in mind that beyond a certain point the cost of
. food is for flavor and luxuries rather than for the necessities of diet.
A day's menu for a family, consisting of a father at clerical work, a mother who acts as housekeeper, an athletic son, a girl of ten, and a child of four, might be as follows:
Coddled Apples, B, 4, 5, 6
Cracked Wheat, A, 5
Light Cream, 3
Baked Eggs, 1
Popovers, A, and Butter, 3
Coffee (for grown-ups), 6
Cream of Tomato Soup, 1, 6
Escalloped Cheese, 1
Bread, A, and Butter, 3
Steamed Whole Wheat Pudding, A Raisin Sauce, B
Clear Soup, 6
Lamb with Gravy, 1, 3 Boiled Rice, A
Cabbage Slaw, with Minced Mint, 3, 4
Baked Parsnips, A
Sliced Oranges in Jelly, B, 4, 5
The numbers following each item refer back to the table of food constituents, proteins being called 1; starches A; sweets B; fats 3; minerals 4; bulky foods 5 and liquids 6. Some of the foods may be included in two or more classifications; in this case several numbers appear after each item.
These menus are roughly balanced, and approximate dietetic standards in so far as is practicable. A sufficient quantity of sugar is added in preparing coddled apples to classify them as sweet (B), but at the same time they are mineral (4), ballast (5), and liquid (6). Cream of tomato soup is at once a protein (1), because of the milk it contains, and a dissolvent (6), because it is a liquid. A knowledge of cookery and familiarization with the table of food constituents given above will enable anyone to classify all foods in their relation to the balanced ration.
In these special menus each food constituent appears in correct proportion, and every member of the imaginary family can obtain from them the foods suited to his or her needs. The cracked wheat at breakfast is sufficiently bulky to "stand by" the athletic son, who will doubtless eat steadily through the meal. The father and mother will eat smaller quantities because they are not so active and burn less energy, while the girl of ten will probably be satisfied with a choice of either eggs or cereal. The four-year-old child should be given either eggs or cereal, but not both. Milk 'is also needed, if the cereal serves as his main dish. As he is too young to eat hot breads, a slice of bread and butter may be substituted for the popovers. The same common sense disposal may be made at the other meals.