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.
Two triangles of pie, a piece of cake, some white bread sandwiches, spread sparingly with butter, usually put together with jelly or jam, a dill pickle, and, on rare occasions, a bit of cheese - this is the typical noon lunch carried by the average workman. If eaten constantly, this diet, which consists almost entirely of starch and sweets, is liable to cause ill health and lead to disease.
Few realize that dinner-pail meals need greater thought than those served at the table. Only too often they lack variety, are unattractively packed, and are made up of any left-overs that chance to be at hand in the early morning hours.
The choice of a luncheon receptacle is of great importance; leather is not to be considered, because foods absorb the odor; the ordinary collapsible tin box does not hold enough for a full meal; papier mache soon grows musty, while the usual tin pail is apt to rust. The most attractive utensil is an enamel dinner pail, fitted with trays. This may be thoroughly scalded and aired each day, and, with care, will last indefinitely. The next best solution is a pasteboard box, fresh daily. These may be obtained in quantity from any wholesale stationer, and occupy little storage space. Unattractive packing often spoils an otherwise good meal. Waxed or paraf-fine paper is indispensable, as, by its use, foods are not only kept moist, but are prevented from taking on the mixture of flavors that permeate a lunch box when the foods are not carefully wrapped. This may be purchased, inexpensively, by the pound, from the stationer. Each sandwich should be wrapped in the paper, separately, and secured by a rubber band. This makes possible the introduction of piquant flavors, as onions, horseradish, etc. By this means pie, sliced cold meats, cheese and cake may be kept moist; even fruit should be wrapped to keep the odor from escaping.
A large jelly tumbler, or small fruit-jar, may be used for moist foods, like baked beans, creamed vegetables, meats and salads, and for cooked cereals, with milk, preserved fruit, baked custards or puddings. For such foods the spoon should not be forgotten, while a small linen napkin is always a much appreciated luxury.
While the noon lunch should be neatly packed, with due regard to the order in which the foods will be eaten for the working man is only too seldom supplied with a table on which to "spread" his meal - it should not be too "dainty." No hungry man will be satisfied with a few paper-thin sandwiches, a piece of delicate cake, and small portions of fruit or pudding. He usually reports for work by seven in the morning, and the long stretch of five hours till noon, coupled with actual physical labor, creates a ravenous appetite that demands quantity. If care is taken to balance the meal, leaving, however, more starch and sugar than is usual to re-supply this rapidly dissipated energy, he will eat less and keep in better trim than when it is disregarded. As a general rule men feel that they have "nothing to eat," unless meat is provided; so, when meat substitutes are given, they must be planned so that they "look" like a large amount in order to appease the hungry eyes. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that many meat substitutes are not so concentrated as meat, thus making it necessary to prepare a larger amount to provide the same degree of nourishment.
The season of the year should always be considered a luncheon of heavy foods, suitable to cold weather, being unappetizing during the warm summer months. A man at hard labor always needs substantial foods, but fruit, vegetable and meat substitutes may be more generally introduced with the coming of spring - they will largely overcome the usual tendencies toward" spring fever."
An earnest housewife said, "My husband carries a dinner-pail and is dyspeptic; he has no means of heating the food. What can I do to make it more digestible?" The answer was, "Provide a hot soup by means of a hot-cold bottle." When the body is weary the stomach needs "toning up." The best way to do this is by means of a hot soup or drink, as it stimulates the stomach to immediate action. As "hot-cold" bottles may be purchased from fifty cents up, a little economy will place them within reach of almost anyone. Occasionally, factories provide "hot closets," so that coffee or food may be left there to heat. This makes possible a greater variety of foods.
There is nothing so jading to the appetite as monotony. A constant diet of white bread, some kind of pie and cake, always made by the same recipe, soon gets a man to the point where nothing "tastes good." The lunch box offers just as great opportunity for thought and skill as the finest company meal - if imagination is called into play. Many foods ordinarily served hot are acceptable when cold; sandwich fillings may be prepared in many odd combinations and desserts replace the too frequent pie. A surprise now and then, as salted or cracked nuts, or a few pieces of candy, mean as much to a grown-up as to a child.
The following menus contain suggestions for the different seasons:
Baked Apple with Top Milk Gingerbread
Coffee or Cocoa
Stewed Lima Beans in Tomato Sauce
Cranberry Pie Coffee
Potato Salad Date Tapioca with Top Milk Chocolate Cake
Coffee or Tea
Split Pea Soup (Hot-Cold Bottle)
Minced Ham Sandwiches Onion Sandwiches
Indian Pudding with Top Milk A Few Grapes
Coffee or Tea
Brown Rice with Sugar and Top Milk Peanut Butter and Lettuce Sandwiches
Nut Bread and Creamed Bean Sandwiches
Club Sandwich Succotash
Buttered Rolls New Apple Pie Cocoa
The best gauge of a hungry man's appetite is what is or is not left over in the pail. There can be no definite rule given as to quantity - the amount needed by various people differing with the kind of work and individuality. If the ration is approximately balanced, amounts may soon be judged.
Occasionally a few slices of cold meat may be introduced, as in the first menu. As these are usually eaten with the fingers, this should not be done unless there is a lavatory at hand. When pie is used, it belongs in a menu that seems deficient in heavy food, as in the second and last menus. When cereals are used, care should always be taken to secure the whole grains, such as brown rice, cracked wheat, and oatmeal, as they are not only more bulky, but far more nourishing than the denatured kinds. Fruits, either fresh or dried, should be fully introduced, as they are invaluable tonics and appetizers, and every menu should contain some one food of marked flavor to give it point.
To put foods together that harmonize, that are, at the same time, inexpensive and nourishing is worthy the highest effort, for what a man is and does depends largely upon what he eats.