YOU have noticed the monotony of existence, of course. With your husband the round of life is by days. With you it is three times as short, or by meals. Having to prepare food three times a day, indefinitely, you find that there are only narrow lines of eatables which can be relied on implicitly. However fancifully you may cook certain things, there are certain other articles which can be simply gotten up, and which will give better satisfaction. You will find that, for a steady jog over the course of life, yourself and husband will rely largely on good bread, butter, coffee, potatoes, beef, and mutton.
These, with the fruits which come along already cooked, make up a constant bill of fare which puts strength in the limbs and, I think I may say, nobility in the heart. Now, if I can give any little hint about these cardinal elements of vitality which will hurry on your own conclusions, then any excuse for having opened my mouth at all will be sufficient.
Now, about bread. The old-fashioned way of making "sponge" is the best. If your mother or your grandmother can tell you how to make the bag of corn-meal stuff and then the more fleeting jar of wet, sour, and uncomfortable mixture, you will have light bread. The compressed yeast of the grocer never yields the same results. Again, if you live in the city, the "Vienna bread " will give you a good deal for your money. The true "Vienna bake " has cracks in the roll, where the gas has escaped in heating. This bread averages better than you or any other person with a small oven can bake. It never palls on the taste. If you have but two in the family, it is cheaper than home-made bakings of equal freshness.
Butter, since the introduction of grease into its manufacture, has become a problem. You cannot be sure that you are getting what you pay for, except during June. In June, butter is grass-sweet, and cannot be mistaken. If your grocer has butter at twenty, twenty-three, and twenty-eight cents, pay him twenty-eight cents. When it comes June, observe whether or not the first-class butter is grass-sweet. If not, your grocer is a rascal, and you must make a change at all hazards. If the grocer be honest he buys honestly. His best butter will have little or no grease in it. I am inclined to think this particular grease brings on the fearful winter cholera which has made its appearance simultaneously with the invention of oleomargarine. "Butter" set in a north window, exposed to the outside air, will often turn deathly white if there be grease in it, and by "grease" I, of course, mean the rendering fat of the slaughter-houses. Let your grocer understand that you resent grease in your butter; he will then make an effort to save you from that trial. Never hesitate in paying the highest price. The grocer deals with many who want "first-class" butter at a second-class price. They do not wish to be told they are not buying the best. Let him know that you are not a hypocrite in this matter. Good butter is the cheapest for all purposes, principally on account of your health.
A good cup of coffee is a "square meal" in itself. I can tell you just how to get it. Buy the best grades. If you choose roasted, have the grocer grind it before your eyes. Buy only one pound. Keep it in a tin canister. You need two-thirds of a pound of Java and one-third of a pound of Mocha. Go to the tinner's with a common, large coffee-pot. This ought to cost 35 cents. Have the tinner make an inside can something like a "plug-hat," with a rim. On the inside of the pot, a little below the top, set out four tin shoulders to catch the rim of the inside can as it is set down into the pot. The bottom of the inside can should almost touch the bottom of the pot. This ought to cost about 60 cents more. Now, this inside can should hold the grounds and water for four cups of coffee. To make the coffee, use a "top-full" and a little more of coffee, and pour water to fill up the inside can. Then hang the can in about three inches of water in the big pot. This will cook the coffee as glue or oatmeal should be cooked. The aroma will be in the coffee, instead of up stairs in the parlor or bedroom. If your husband has to hurry to business in the morning, get an oil-stove without any "extras," two wicks, and the coffee will cook in twenty minutes. That is about all an oil-stove is good for - to hurry up a coal stove. The coffee is done when the grounds have sunk. Put absolutely nothing in it save cream and sugar. This coffee will make your husband love you. It is a love-philter of the strongest nature. He will famish when he goes elsewhere for a meal.
Your potatoes should be of the same size, peeled and cooked in cold water to start with. When they are fairly done, drain them excellently well, and keep the cover off them carefully. Do not let the steam strike in. Mash and mash and mash. Potatoes will stand a great lot of salt, and butter is thrown away on them, I am afraid. You can try that, however; what I am after is a dish of dry, mashed potatoes, as flaky as the snow in a blizzard. Some people's potatoes are as slushy as hop yeast. Bah ! There are housewives who never have wet mashed potatoes, and I have given you their exact mode. If yours continue sloppy, simplify the proceeding; do not slice; be careful about the steam, and mash and mash.
If you live in the city, beef is your constant trouble. It is beef, beef, beef, until you sicken at the sound and turn paler still at the thing itself. Your reliance here must be on the Lord and in the butcher. It is the butcher's interest to sell you all his bad beef first, and you will find him singularly true to his interests. It is a good idea to change butchers once a month. Buy, however, at the center of the city, if possible. The nearer the limits the poorer the meat, as a rule. Good meat costs - but it is all eatable and digestible. I have found it the safest rule to buy the fattest. The marbled appearance sometimes comes from the sudden fattening on swill of a tough old cow. A good porter-house steak is as long as a large platter, and is grateful to the taste, tail, fat, and all. This, broiled on a big bed of coals, turned often, and dressed with melted butter, pepper, salt, slices of lemon and bits of parsely tops, is the best eating in the world. It makes one hungry to think of it ! Never fry meat in lard. But you can neither get nor afford this big porter-house regularly. Do the best you can with your own butcher. His meat is not fit. to eat. Tell him so. He knows it. But it is up to the demand. That is what he is after. When you go down town you get where they have to have better meat. Never buy mutton far from the center of the city, under any circumstances. Have your husband go into a shop where the sides hang. You want a young wether with three inches of fat on the outside. You want no bucks. The buck is high over the shoulders - a regular hump. No real wether ever grows high there. You don't want any ewe, either. Cut from the ribs about as many as you can eat - a hungry man can eat two or three. The butcher will clip off an inch of the fat. You will have a time of broiling it, for it will burn like oil. But, on the table, it is the healthiest meat in the world. It comes close to being the best tasting. The bad popular idea of mutton comes from the fact that the lean bucks all go towards the limits of the city to be sold. After a meal of gilt-edged broiled mutton, your husband will think this is quite a good world to get along in.
As for yourself you thrive best on poultry. Have it often. You are, probably, not a bad judge of a chicken. Twist the wing. See that the butcher has not already twisted it before you! Never, my dear friend, trust your stomach with the digestion of pork. It is a meat unfit for female food. Use lard about as much as you use calomel. Cake is not so dyspeptic as pies. I think the butter makes the difference. Avoid frying for weeks at a time; make your own experiments in this matter. Our fresh water fish are the very best. In little lakes they get bad in July. In cold lakes they keep good longer. Keep honey, dried peaches, and prunes on hand to regulate your bowels. Some people can eat neither milk nor cheese, nor eggs (except in March). Experiment with them. People with the piles must not eat tomatoes at all. Cider is a magnificent thing for bad livers, catarrh, and other troubles which come from or cause bad action of the bowels. You see I mix medicine with meals; it cuts down doctors' bills.
It may strike you that I have laid out a costly schedule. You must, therefore, be more economical elsewhere. I have calculated on shaving off a little from physic and tonic in order to put it on the porter-house and mutton chops. Physic and tonic come high. Think how much longer your husband will live on first-class food! Waste of such materials can have no fitting apology. John McGovern.