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.
The sultry nights, scorching noons and long, languorous days of mid-summer produce a relaxed condition in the whole body and this torpor must be overcome before food can be digested. The fundamental principle underlying the summer diet is the toning up of the digestive organs to the point where they will respond quickly to food. There is no better stimulant than a hot soup or bouillon, served without cream. Either will whip the cells of the stomach into action, stimulate the gastric juices and pave the way for assimilation of solid food. One means of cooling the body is through evaporation. When perspiration is profuse, evaporation is increased, and when a cup of hot, clear soup is served, it not only starts the gastric juices, but induces perspiration. If preceded by the soup, a salad, punch or ice will not provoke disturbance, because the stomach juices are already at work and the languid condition has been overcome.
Ice cream and iced drinks are gastronomically pleasing, no doubt, and during the actual moment of eating produce a passing sensation of coolness. However in reality there is no type of food more heating, because the stomach is chilled and digestion is consequently retarded; the sudden cold checks the flow of perspiration, causing waste products, ordinarily expelled through the pores, to be retained, and metabolism, or the burning of the tissues, is thereby increased, because the body machinery is clogged. Besides all this, most ices and cold drinks are dependent upon ice cream, chocolate, or cream in varying degrees as a basis, and are highly sweetened to suit the popular taste. Cream and chocolate are not heating foods, but sugar in any form is a heat producer, so, in addition to the clogging of the system, most so-called cooling creams and drinks become heating agents, because of their constituents. The increase of heat does not mean that the temperature of the body rises above normal, but simply that the sensation of heat becomes more pronounced. In rare cases, however, the sudden chill, or the accession of an over-abundance of heating food, will produce a severe attack of indigestion, with a consequent rise of temperature.
Meat is heating because it contains certain stimulating juices - is a quick fuel - and during assimilation causes a greater breaking down of tissue than any other food. A meat substitute contains all the elements of meat, without being stimulating and heating. Under this heading may be mentioned eggs, nuts, cheese, fish and milk, or combinations of foodstuffs such as macaroni with cheese sauce, or potato and nut salad with oil dressing. In order to be efficacious any substitute dish must contain both protein and fats, which are the principal constituents of meat. For instance, a salad of cottage cheese (which is made of skimmed milk) must be supplemented with an olive oil dressing in order to be a satisfactory meat substitute. The average active family should have a small amount of meat once a day, because the system craves variety. The most acceptable meats for summer use appear in lighter form, as boiled ham or tongue, chicken in various ways, chops, veal, or pressed corned beef and meat loaves. The balance of the meal should consist largely of fresh vegetables with bread, butter and a sweet.
Every meal, in addition to meat, or meat substitute, should be enlivened by green and fresh vegetables. For convenience green vegetables may be termed those which are served raw - including lettuce, cress, escarole, ro-maine, celery, new dandelions and radishes, while under the head of fresh vegetables may be grouped all the remaining products of the garden. Green vegetables should be served raw, as salads - not the usual mayonnaise-drenched, nut-sprinklecl salad of the American home, but the deliciously seasoned, oil-absorbed dish of the French. It is an easy matter to buy a prepared dressing at the groceries - to pour it over a dish of wet leaves and call it a salad. It is another matter to prepare it so that the family longs for it. The reason that Mary will not eat lettuce, or John romaine, is not usually because of the food, but of the faulty preparation. Any green salad must be carefully dried, the French dressing poured over it, and then mixed, or "fatigued" as the French say, until it is so thoroughly mixed that the leaves look wilted. Then only will the salad fulfil its mission. Fresh greens dressed in this way are usually suitable for breakfast, luncheon or dinner, while a salad of mixed vegetables, of fish, eggs, potatoes, or meat should be served only as the main dish at luncheon or dinner. A mayonnaise or a heavy cream dressing has no place with the salad of an otherwise heavy meal. There is no better summer food than olive oil - but it must be used as a part of, rather than as an addition to, a meal, as otherwise the excess fat will upset digestion. Fresh vegetables should be stewed in as little water as possible, so that the liquid may serve as sauce, and be seasoned as needed, with salt, pepper and olive oil, or butter.
During the winter season hot breads have a certain place in the diet, but in summertime they should be foregone as they are liable to cause auto-intoxication. When they are used, they should be of a lighter variety, as baking powder biscuits, or whole wheat gems. There is, however, no better time for the introduction of delicious yeast breads than during this time of automobile luncheons and picnics, and occasionally rasin and nut bread, a loaf of graham or rye, or old-fashioned Johnny-cake will often retrieve an otherwise scanty meal.
For the summer dessert there is no food so suitable as fruit, and, if rightly prepared and served in a variety of ways, it will never become tiresome. When the day is exceptionally warm, a fruit ice has a place in the menu because it introduces both water and fruit juice. When an ice cream is to be served, it should be used in a menu scanty in fat, as otherwise it will be overheating.
If iced drinks must be used, let them be of acid quality, as lemonade, orangeade, pineapple punch, or rasp-berryade, rather than heavy iced-coffee or chocolate. Ginger ale is a good summer drink because it is so peppery that it acts as a stimulant - although too much, like an overabundance of spice, will cause the stomach muscles to become so relaxed that they refuse to respond except to stimulus.
In planning the summer diet, the housekeeper must lay aside all tradition of the particular foods suitable for each meal, and when asparagus is in season, for instance, serve it creamed for breakfast, or introduce lettuce as a breakfast salad, while poached eggs for lunch, or macaroni and cheese at dinner may prove acceptable. In other words the summer diet must not be stereotyped - rather it should be so lenient that the foods may conform to the weather, and the housewife should be conversant with food values in order to plan the meals according to rough dietetic standards.
Meat is by no means the most expensive item in the living budget, and the housewife living on a limited income will find it difficult to plan summer meals within her allowance when the bills for green stuffs and fruits are high. However, menus can be planned to suit every pocketbook, and, while it may not be possible to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables when they first appear, they soon drop to a normal figure. A young wife who was living for the first time in a city flat displayed with pride her garden! She was fortunate enough to possess a back porch, about eight feet square; the ingenious husband had constructed two shelves on the porch floor and on each of the shelves were placed boxes of earth in which cress, lettuce and radishes were growing. "I simply had to have salad," remarked the girl, "and as we can't afford to buy it we've grown it here - and it's such fun," she added.
A woman who is really interested will contrive to feed her family on the right food under all circumstances.