I see even restaurants now advertise suppers which are not indigestible! An interesting pandering to the growing faith that good health comes far before good feeding.
I was asked the other day to give a lecture on the right spending of money. Oh! what a fraud these appeals to my knowledge or wisdom make me feel! I who have so little knowledge of figures that I cannot even keep my own accounts! But most certainly, if I were to give a lecture, I should say to everyone, high and low:
'spend far less in food and drink.' To the under-fed and poor: 'Live twice as well as you do, on what you have, by spending judiciously.' To the farmers: 'Grow more peas and beans for wholesome human food.' And to the seedsman: 'sell these food-producing seeds much cheaper, and put the price on to something else.'
I have said nothing about the cheapness of the diet I recommend, as it is not cheap if it does not make you well. If it does, it is very satisfactory, I think, to spend so very little on food; and eating so much less at each meal is so delightfully comfortable! I could not have believed some years ago that it was possible to keep in excellent health on so little.
In Dr. Haig's little book 'Diet and Food' he holds out a kind of millennium where cooks might cease to exist, and he gives a table of food requiring scarcely any cooking, and which yet contains what he considers a sufficient amount of albumen. This might prove extremely useful under exceptional circumstances.
A reform I should much like to see is that, when a doctor leaves a house at the end of an illness, he himself should burn his prescriptions; and that it might be made penal for chemists to make them up except by a doctor's orders. Doctors frequently give strong remedies in severe cases, but they themselves would be the first to regret these remedies being taken again and again on the smallest provocation by the patient. The insane desire to kill pain and to gain relief by narcotics and strength by tonics which pervades our modern society, from the youngest to the oldest, is in my opinion very likely to act more dele-teriously on the constitution than the excesses of past generations. People become aware of the loss of health, but the mysterious ways in which remedies may have injured us are wrapped in as complete darkness as is the origin of most of the diseases from which all classes suffer.
I wonder if other people have noticed, as I have done throughout my life, that the families where medicines are least in use are those of doctors themselves. This want of faith in drugs on their part was one of the first things which years ago opened my eyes.
What strikes me is, how few people are really well! And if they could put side by side the pleasure of eating food which is harmless, and the better health and strength this would bring, compared with the pleasure of eating large dinners and the feeling of the following morning thrown into the balance, I believe the bird-in-the-hand pleasure would lose most of its attractions. It has been a real surprise to me, though apparently doctors know it well, how vast a number of people would much rather be ill, or even die, than be convinced that the food they like does them harm. The young especially seem to think that one of the chief pleasures of life would be removed if they did not eat what they preferred, quite forgetting that fruit and sugar and many other good things are quite harmless - nay, beneficial - to the non-meat-eater. What we do daily soon ceases to be the penance that abstinence once a week was supposed to inflict. It may be said that 'starving,' with many people, does not make them feel well. All I can say is, it is very seldom tried on the right lines; at any rate, not for long enough time to give it a chance.
It is curious how things repeat themselves. Sydney Smith says in one of his letters: 'All gentlemen and ladies eat too much. I made a calculation, and found I must have consumed some waggon-loads too much in the course of my life. Lock up the mouth, and you have gained the victory. I believe our friend Lady Morley has hit upon the right plan in dining modestly at two. When we are absorbed in side-dishes, and perplexed with variety of wines, she sits amongst us, lightly flirting with a potato, in full possession of her faculties and at liberty to make the best use of them - a liberty, it must be owned, she does not neglect. For how agreeable she is! I like Lady Morley; she is what I call good company.'
The really difficult part of practising any form of diet, especially if you have gained immensely by the results, is the irritation it causes to the people who surround you. I was told the other day that having mentioned in a letter the fact that I had become a vegetarian was more than enough to account for my receiving no answer. If any sufferers feel tempted to follow my example of a strict diet, I strongly recommend them to do all in their power to make it as unobtrusive a factor in family life as possible. It will also be found a great advantage to those who go out in Society to cheat; by which I mean, take things on your plate as a 'blind,' though you have no intention of eating them. The sympathy expressed lest you should kill yourself, and the terror lest your influence should prove the death of somebody else, make life a martyrdom for a very insufficient cause.
I never realised till this year that there is considerable danger in a sudden change of diet, especially in hot weather and to those who are most in need of it. One is always hearing of cases where abstention from meat answers for a few months, and then has to be given up because the patient finds himself less well, and attributes everything to his change of diet. Dr. Haig fully explains the reason for this. He may, of course, be wrong in his deductions; if he is right, it should lead to great changes in diet in this country through the conversion of the medical profession.