It is a trite saying that a thing worth doing at all is worth doing well, but, from the inefficiency of the large number of domestics who hold the office of cook, and from the acceptance of careless work by so many families, it would seem that the truism is not regarded in reference to cooking. Since it is upon the kitchen that the health and comfort of the family so greatly depend, is it not a duty, and would it not be a pleasure, for the mistress of every house to understand the science of cooking as well as the arts which give other attractions to the house? A knowledge of its fundamental principles would give her a sense of independence and power, which knowledge is proverbially said to do. If she were familiar with the nature of the yeast plant, and the action of heat as applied in boiling, broiling, and frying, if she could make a sauce and clear a soup, her family would be relieved from the affliction of sour bread, burned meats, and muddy soup. An ordinary kitchen servant can do these simple things well, if she is once told how, and this basis would be a guide in other work, and a safeguard against many failures. There is no such thing as luck in cooking. Laws govern the chemical changes which take place, and can always be relied upon. Water will boil at 212°, and cannot be made hotter by violent boiling in an open vessel. Frying can be properly done only when the fat is smoking hot. Broiling can be properly done only over, or under, hot and bright coals. For baking, the oven must be of the right temperature. The same thing cooked in the same way will always be the same, and failure comes simply from neglect of the rules. It is as easy to have good cooking as bad; the former requires only the elements of care and intelligence. With very little trouble, dishes may be made to please the sight as well as the taste. The difference between the elegance and refinement of one table and the vulgarity of another often lies merely in the manner of dishing and serving. Again, the step from plain to fancy cooking is very short. A simple and tasteful arrangement, or combination, of materials prepared in the ordinary way will make an ornamental dish. Minced chicken pressed into a ring mold to give it shape, and the center filled with a mushroom sauce, will make a more appetizing dish than if placed carelessly together with no regard to symmetry. Potatoes pressed into a fancy mold, a part of the center removed, and the space filled with chopped seasoned meat, will give a chartreuse, and no thought of hash suggested. A jelly with a flower in the top, or of two colors, will make a decorative piece for the table. Uniformity in size and shape of potatoes, chops, pancakes, slices of bread or anything that is served on the same dish, gives a pleasing sense of order and care, which is as marked as the proper arrangement of the table furniture. It is in little things only that fancy differs from plain cooking, but as soon as a cook comprehends the value of the appearance of dishes she is sure to think of their perfection in every other way.
There is a popular prejudice against fried foods, and a belief that abstaining from them will cure us of our dyspepsia, but if articles are properly fried they should contain no more grease than the boiled one does of water. Smoking fat has such a high degree of heat, that certain articles are better cooked by frying than by any other method. Minced meat, rolled into the form of croquettes and fried, assumes a different character both in taste and rank from the minced meat heated in other ways. If the croquettes are coated with egg and crumbs and immersed in smoking hot fat, as the rule directs, the egg is instantly hardened, and no fat can be absorbed through it. That which covers the outside is evaporated by draining and drying in a hot place. The napkin on which the croquettes are served will not be stained if they are rightly fried. Saratoga chips can be handled with a glove without soiling it. We need not be a nation of dyspeptics from eating pie when the French are not from eating puff-paste, or from hot breads when the English are not from plum pudding and pork pies. It is from the manner of preparing our foods that we suffer. Cooking has not been one of the virtues of our new country, as we have been satisfied to get our cooks from France and Ireland, but if intelligent American housewives will take interest and pleasure in this important department, which is delegated to their care, some of the serious trials of life will be overcome, and emancipation from many petty cares and annoyances will follow.