"The more the fire eats starch, the less we have to eat it."
In considering cereals one rarely thinks of them as seeds or fruits of grasses, but such they are. In these seeds, cultivated for food supply, are secured the various nutritive ingredients; and when reduced to a form readily digestible, which means thoroughly cooked, and used with milk, cream, butter, cheese or eggs, they form a perfect diet.
Cereals include oats, wheat, rye, barley, corn, rice, and buckwheat. Hominy, samp, and farina are unfamiliar cereals which should be more often served. The first is a fine grain made from white corn. Samp is also made from corn, but coarsely broken. Farina is a meal composed of wheat and corn.
The necessity of modern conditions among people has produced a variety of patented preparations, partially or wholly cooked or prepared in such a manner that the shortest possible time is required for their serving. Some are the transposition of the whole wheat into shreds, others are granular preparations, while still others are in the form of flakes. Then there are the unnumbered sorts of biscuits and cakes made from cereals, thoroughly cooked; and so the housewife is presented with the entire grain in a more digestible form for food than can be produced by the average cook.
When unpatented cereals are cooked, a reliable rule is that the coarser the grain the more water will be required and the longer will be the time of cooking. Whole grains are much improved by soaking in cold water to soften before cooking. Finely ground preparations, such as corn meal, ground rice, etc., should be mixed with cold water first to prevent the formation of lumps, while flaked preparations must be sprinkled through the fingers into boiling water, one teaspoon of salt being used for every four cups of water. Scotch oatmeal needs four times its bulk of water, cracked wheat requires four and one half times its bulk, while rolled grains require but twice their bulk. The uncrushed oatmeal and cracked wheat require long cooking, and even the rolled cereals are not injured by cooking longer than directions call for. All starches must be thoroughly cooked.
Cereal breakfast foods of different kinds are used to a greater or less extent in the preparation of made dishes. Thus, a steamed fruit pudding may be made with oatmeal, and very dainty little cakes can be made from some of the dry flaked cereals. Fried hominy and fried corn meal mush are standard foods sometimes served with fried chicken and some other dishes, and boiled rice is a common substitute for potatoes or other starchy foods. Cereals should be bought in small quantities, and kept in glass jars, tightly covered and labeled.