The cook exercises a greater power over the public health and welfare than the physician, and if he should be a charlatan in his art, alas! for his employers. Hitherto, or until of late years, the cook has had to educate himself, while the physician appropriates all the knowledge of antiquity, and of every succeeding age; his individual cases are all classed according to general principles, while the rules that have regulated the preparation of our food, have been discordant and unnatural. In the present age, indeed, cookery has been raised to the dignity of an art, and sages have given their treatises to the world. Very has a monument in the cemetery of Pere La Chaise, among the tombs of warriors, poets, and philosophers, recording of his life that 'it was consecrated to the useful arts.' Virgil however, writes that the best delights of Elysium were showered upon those who received wounds for their country, who lived unspotted priests, who uttered verses worthy of Apollo, or who, like Very, consecrated their lives to the useful arts. On the utilitarian principle the cook should be much elevated in public estimation, and were he to form a strict alliance with the physician, the patriarchal ages would return, and men would die of nothing but sheer old age.
After insanity, the most grievous affliction of Providence, or rather of improvidence and imprudence, is Dyspepsy: a malady that under different names has decimated the inhabitants of civilized countries, and of almost all countries, in which man is a 'cooking animal.' To the dyspeptic, the sun has no cheering ray, the air no elasticity or balm; the flowers are without fragrance, music is without melody, and beauty without charms. Life is a blank; affection has lost its power to soothe, and the blessings scattered by Providence, are converted into ministers of torment. Food becomes a bane; the very , staff that supports life, gives the flagellation that renders life a curse. All that can delight is lost, - but all that can depress and sting, has a tenfold activity and power.
The dyspeptic's 'May of life, has fallen into the sear, the yellow leaf.' Sleep that should visit every pillow but that of guilt, is to him no friend; if he slumbers, it is to dream, like Clarence, of hideous forms of suffering, and to wake to their reality. This is but a faint picture of Dyspepsy
'Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene, Shades every flower and darkens every green, Deepens the murmur of the falling floods, And breathes a browner horror on the woods.'
This malady is beyond the science of the physician, but within the art of the cook; in the proverb, Doctor Diet is ranked above Doctor Quiet and Doctor Merryman; though all are good.
The late Mr. Abernethy referred almost all maladies to the stomach, and seldom prescribed any remedy but a proper diet. This it is the province of the cook to provide; and the design of this book to indicate. The work is not designed to spread a taste for pernicious luxuries: and every recipe has been sanctioned by custom. The responsibility of the cook is lightened, and his duty facilitated, He has here a dictionary of reference, an encyclopedia of his art. The details are full, and the authority is perfect. There were various works of merit that it was useful for the cook to study, but here are collected the best parts of all, with the convenience of alphabetical arrangement, and in the compass of a moderate volume. If it is a sin to waste the best gifts of Providence, it should be little less than a felony to spoil them. When we have collected the materials for a house, we never trust the building to an unskilful architect: yet we are often obliged to commit the preparation of our feasts as well as of our common food, to agents without knowledge. This knowledge is now supplied.
More than health depends on the proper preparation of food: our very virtues are the creatures of circumstances, and many a man has hardened his heart, or given up a good resolution, under the operation of indigestion. Who that knows the world, ever solicits with confidence a friendly or charitable act of another before dinner.
The natural and moral world are reciprocally dependent; soul and body are so linked, that when one loses its tone the other is deprived of its equanimity. The system of morals therefore becomes identified with that of cookery, and the great English moralist, who was learned in both systems, thus spoke of the connexion; 'some people ' said Doctor Johnson, ' have a foolish way of not minding, or of pretending not to mind, what they eat. I for my part mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully, and I look upon it that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind any thing else.'
It has been the study of the author, to make every recipe plain, and the proportions certain; little is left to discretion, that could be reduced to measure. The system of confectionery is perfect; and if strictly followed every cook may become a first rate confectioner. Labor, care, and expense have been bestowed upon the work, and the publishers feel so secure of its merit, and of the public want of such a book, that they have caused it to be stereotyped. This would have been hazardous with a novel or almost any literary work; but the number of those who eat is far greater than of those who read. A good book few can estimate; all can enjoy a good dinner, and the publishers anticipate a proportionate encouragement.
Having devised this work for families, we hope that it may offend no one, that we give a word of counsel to domestics: our book may be every way good, yet will its usefulness be much impaired if domestics are not docile and faithful.
We have fortunately, in this country, but one class of people: all are free, and all are politically equal. Our domestics are in New England designated as help, to indicate that they are the equals, and assistants, rather than the inferiors of their employers. Yet the feeling of independence may be carried too far, and it may be ungraciously expressed. There is no disgrace, and there should be no shame in filling well a subordinate station; the hired ploughman, maid, or cook are not, in an offensive sense, any more the servants of their employers, than the merchant and the lawyer. All these engage to perform certain services for an equivalent, and it is the duty of all to do them faithfully.
The number of domestics is very large - perhaps the average is five to four families - and it may be even greater. Yet, unfortunately for their welfare, interest, or character, they are almost constantly shifting, and in few families do they remain long. In England, a good domestic is often provided for during life, and it is a desirable situation. It might be so here, if our domestics would strive to accommodate themselves to their situation. There is hardly a family, in which a kind, respectful, and faithful domestic might not be retained for years, and at the best wages. Here then is a home, comfort, and friends. Yet the greater number are contented to live a few months in a place, till the best years of life have slipped away, without provision for age, and without friends, or home. The proverb of the rolling stone contains the best lesson for domestics.
Service in any department is no sacrifice of independence. A domestic is in all things as free as any other class, but it is a bad kind of independence that would lead one, when desired to do a tiling in the line of a common employment, to do it ungraciously and rather as an irksome or unjust task, than as a duty.
Minor vexations, frequently repeated, are equal to greater individual calamities; as many small enjoyments constitute much of the pleasures of life. Around the social board every member of the family is collected thrice at least in twenty-four hours. Thither the head of the family returns from the labors or cares of his business to recruit his strength and to relax his mind. If he return to a table constantly and invariably ill spread; to a dinner to which he could invite no friend, and in which he can have no enjoyment; a cloud will gather on the calmest brow, and a feeling of dissatisfaction may be extended to other things. It is not beneath the solicitude of a good wife, who would not suffer any abatement in the affection of which she is the object, diligently to study this book, and constantly to provide a neat and well dressed repast.
Boston, March, 1832.