Some dietetists, who are neither cranks nor simpletons, disbelieve in cereals of whatsoever sort as a first course at breakfast. They urge that to spread a hot poultice all over the lining of the stomach is to relax and weaken that organ; that it goes to sleep, as it were, and is too inert to dispose properly of the rest of the meal.
Others are strenuous in the belief that the act of chewing is necessary to the proper assimilation of even semi-solids, and since few people think of chewing porridge, the value of it as nutriment is doubtful.
There is force in the latter demur. Children should be taught to chew porridge of all kinds, also bread and milk. One zealous dietist insists that milk - "the one and only perfect food" - ought to be masticated. The motion of the jaws excites the salivary glands, he says, causing the flow of a secretion most favorable to digestion.
As to the "hot poultice," there is a grain of reason in the objection. As I have explained in urging the propriety of beginning breakfast with fruit, the coat of the stomach is masked, after the sleep of the night, by a thin mucus, which interferes with the task of the digestive agencies. If fruit is not eaten, a draft of cold water, not iced, will do the work in part. A few swallows of really hot water are better still. A sip of tea or coffee - or, perhaps, best of all, vichy, apollinaris or other good mineral water, may precede the nourishing cereal.
That it is nourishing when the stomach gets hold of it, is undeniable. Oatmeal builds up bone, and muscle, and brain; Indian meal mush and hominy are gently laxative and cooling to the blood; preparations of wheat are less laxative, and therefore safer in hot weather, and for teething children, than oatmeal in any form. Rice boiled tender in milk is both palatable and wholesome. Each and all of these should be eaten with cream, and except as a dessert, never with sugar. Children who are trained to eat porridge and milk, or cream, without sugar, find the addition of this unpleasant. It certainly tends to acidity of the stomach.
Every cereal, with the exception of rice, that needs any cooking needs a great deal of it. Soaking over night is indispensable to the excellence of most of them. Four hours of boiling make oatmeal good; eight hours make it better; twenty-four hours make it "best."
Soak over night. Even the varieties which are advertised "to require no soaking, and but fifteen minutes' cooking," are improved by this process. Turn a deaf ear to the charmer who would persuade you to the contrary. "Steam cooked" is often a delusion and a snare. Put your oatmeal into the inner vessel of your farina kettle, cover deep in cold water, put on the lid and set at the back of the range at bedtime. In the morning add boiling water, salt to taste, and draw to the front, filling the outer kettle with hot water. Cook steadily for an hour and as much longer as you can. My own taste is for oatmeal boiled to a jelly. It is as far superior to the ordinary preparation of the cereal as creamed cauliflower is to Dutch cabbage.
Send to table and eat with cream.
Never throw away oatmeal "left-overs." Cook again, and yet again, always in a double boiler.