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.
Diet in the winter differs from that of any other season. It is a time of brisk winds, snow and ice, and the colder the weather the greater oxidation there is in the body. The fact that food is to the body as coal to the furnace means no more to the majority of educated housewives than the falling of a rain drop, for the truth that food makes warmth and heat, activity in little bodies, and the energy of great minds does not seem real.
People who exist in warm rooms and live at low rates of speed can eat hot-house foods in a hot-house atmosphere, but those who really revel in the cold weather are buoyed up by a wholesome winter diet to all vicissitudes of wind and storm. Those who keep warm when the thermometer hovers near zero are not necessarily swathed in heavy flannels, muffled with scarfs and burdened with furs - they may be those whose rosy cheeks, bright eyes and springing step denote correct feeding and adequate digestion. Right feeding in winter does not concern itself with quantity but rather with furnishing a sufficient amount of nourishment with a minimum of waste. The individual who eats too much cannot utilize the surplus, and it must be passed off, partly digested, as waste from the skin, kidneys and bowels. This overexerts the waste channel and much of the energy gained from the food is used in eliminating waste. The vitality is thereby lowered and the individual becomes "rundown" and is subject to colds, grippe, and indigestion. More complete digestion and less waste is the efficient fundamental of the winter diet.
Starches and sweets are fuel or activity foods, their mission being to create quick energy. When a sudden heat is desired, the housewife adds a little kindling to the dying fire. Where the vitality is lowered a cup of cocoa, or a little rice with melted jelly, will restore energy, because it adds kindling to the body flame. But, like the fire of light wood, it is soon consumed, and the inertia again appears. Starch is to the diet as kindling to the fire; it produces a quick heat, then burns itself out. Prodding the body to greater activity on a diet of starch is as criminal as beating a horse that is old and weak, yet it is a common practice in many homes!
Table Set For Home Breakfast.
Besides meat to make muscle and energy, starch to furnish quick energy, and fat to afford reserve force, the body needs, in winter as in summer, the eliminating qualities of fresh fruits, and uncanned or fresh vegetables to cleanse the blood and keep the waste channels awake and active. In England the cranberry is more generally used and appreciated for this purpose than is the case in this country. In northern countries the cranberry is gathered as a precious winter food, dried on long strings, and used as an antidote to the overmuch fat demanded by the rigorous winter. Like the greens of the spring diet the cranberry, through its citric acid and iron, has a definite and neglected place in the winter menu.
Oranges, lemons and grapefruit may also be added to the list of the winter's tonic fruits, any one containing a well defined amount of citric acid. Whenever they can be obtained, grapes are an unequaled winter fruit, bringing tartrates of soda, potash, phosphoric acid, lime, magnesia and iron to the body in such form as to be almost immediately assimilated into the blood. It is needless to state that when canned, made into jelly or marmalade, grapes, like all the preserved fruits, lose their efficiency as tonic fruits and become sweets.
As in the diet for the rest of the year, the fresh vegetable has a definite place in the winter menu. The term signifies not only green vegetables, but all that are not canned, as beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, oyster-plant, onions and cabbage. None of these lose their salts and acids when taken from the ground, although the water is somewhat evaporated, causing a withered appearance. Of the green vegetables peculiar to the winter season, celery is generally available. As it contains a generous proportion of salts or minerals it is peculiarly valuable as a blood food. Watercress may be found under the ice in all northern brooks - a bountiful provision of Nature to supply phosphorous and sulphur in sufficient quantities. Lettuce, endive and parsley can be obtained throughout the year in city markets and are valuable assets to the winter menu. In the country stores they cannot be secured, but there is no reason why any housewife with a scrap of land at her disposal cannot raise them in hot beds. In case this is not feasible they may be grown in window boxes.
As lettuce or endive do not need much sun or demand much heat, it is always possible to find a suitable window for them. Parsley, to be of rich green, needs sunlight. An attractive way to grow it is to obtain a wooden paint bucket, bore half inch holes in the sides, fill the bucket with rich earth, and plant the seeds in the holes. When hung in a sunny kitchen window the seeds will germinate in about two weeks - the final result being not only a delightful seasoning for the winter foods, but a real ornament to the room.
Mince pie, sausages, griddle cakes, roast pork, oatmeal, doughnuts, pork and beans and suet puddings, all have a certain niche in the winter menu but they must be used in proper combination. Sausage is a fuel food, for example, and should not be used in a menu otherwise replete with fat. To illustrate, a luncheon of sausage, fried potatoes, bread and butter, and suet pudding would give indigestion as all contain a large amount of fat. When used properly, sausages should appear in a menu, which would eliminate the large amount of the fat, as mashed potatoes and another vegetable, and a plain dessert.
If possible, the winter meal should be commenced with something hot, as a cup of soup, or a little hot, spiced grape juice, because they stimulate the digestive juices to greater activity. It must be remembered, however, that it is necessary to work in an extra amount of fuel food to overcome the wearing away of the tissues through oxidation, yet this must be done in such a way that nausea will not be produced. A meal consisting of starch and sugar is sure to bring, sooner or later, a sick headache in its wake. Any woman who is guilty of serving the typical New England supper of white bread, an economical supply of butter, cake, cookies, preserves and tea, has only to remember the frequent early morning headaches in her family to prove this statement. Both sugar and fats must be introduced generously into certain of the foods, the remainder of the menu consisting of other elements. Cabbage will take up one-third of its weight in fats, mashed potatoes one-half, baked potatoes three-fifths, and peas one-fourth. When the family seems to lack energy, add extra olive oil or butter to the vegetables, then turn back and add some more! If the family seems tired, a quick energy food is probably needed, but do not urge more food, prepare cocoa or apple sauce, or some other food, making it sweeter than usual, and do not demur when son "loads" his cereal with sugar. He needs it or he would not do it. Let the children make taffy Sunday afternoons, they crave the sugar, but keep careful watch lest the inborn tendency toward a "sweet tooth" is not abnormally developed.