Cornhill' budgets - Food reformers and lentils - Taste for savoury foods - Nervous appetites - Cabinet Minister and charwoman -The healthy foods - Maeterlinck's appeal against meat and alcohol - Food values - To feed a family of four on 12s. a week - Nut milk - A week's menus, and cost - Ditto, with once-a-week cooking - Advantage of living in country - Goat's milk at a London dairy - Cheapest and healthiest diet at 2s. 4d. a week - To wean servants from the beef-beer-tea faith - Possible purpose of meat-eating phase in evolution -A philanthropist's experiment - Amateur farmers - A pair of Bushey Art Students - Receipts.
In 1901 the Editor of the 'Cornhill Magazine' published a series of five articles called ' Family Budgets,' beginning in April with that of the workman at 30s. a week, by Mr. Arthur Morrison, and ending in August with 10,0002. a year, by Lady Agnew. Between these came, in May, a lower middle-class budget of 1501. to 2001. a year, in June an income of 8001. a year, and in July my own, which I now republish, on 1,800Z. a year. The reviewers found great amusement in the idea that there could be the smallest difficulty in living on such an income, but the proper adjustment of medium or large incomes is often a more complicated matter than the management of one which provides only for the necessities of life. A friend of mine whose inheritance of 2,0001. a year was stated in the newspapers, received a letter asking for a considerable sum out of it, on the plea that the loss of it could not be felt out of her ' boundless wealth.'
The' Workman's Budget' is, I think, the most interesting one of the series, as it deals with the hardships of town life on an income which is ten shillings a week higher than the usual bare subsistence of a pound a week.
My friend, Miss Curtis, has kindly sent me the following suggestions on wholesome food for the poor and the depopulation of rural districts - huge difficulties, which have been dealt with in a most thoughtful and stimulating way in a book of collected essays by various writers, and published by Fisher Unwin in 1901, under the title of' The Heart of the Empire.'
The question of wholesome food for the poor is not in itself a difficult one: the real obstacle lies in the prejudice against a non-meat diet, which is often to be traced to the want of knowledge and sympathetic understanding of the tastes of the poor, in those who champion the economic way of living. Social reformers urge lentils as the article of food which gives the maximum of nourishment at the minimum of cost; but, apart from the little-known fact that the xanthins of lentils and all pulse foods are now suspected by experts to be as unwholesome as those of flesh foods, and therefore to be ruled out from the dietary of all who wish to control as far as possible the causes of disease, we have to face the fact of the people's dislike to all porridgy foods. This dislike cannot be lightly dismissed as a fad: the plain truth is that the appetites of the people are indicative of their constitutions, and these have changed during the last century of meat and tea diet.
Imagine the under-nourished, over-worked mother of a family, after a hot day's washing or charing, sitting down with appetite to a mess of lentils. One might as well expect a delicate, hard-worked Cabinet Minister to enjoy a summer luncheon of boiled bacon and beans. The Cabinet Minister chooses lobster salad and a whisky-and-soda: the charwoman chooses tinned salmon and tea - if she can get it.
The poor like fried food - a bit of fish ready cooked from the shop, a rasher of bacon, a pig's fry, anything crisp and savoury - and failing this, they like the tinned stuffs which give an excuse for just the piquant dash of vinegar or pickles which their jaded appetites require.
Perverted tastes! says the reformer. Yes, but why are they perverted ? Surely the whole conditions of life in our big towns are perverted from the way of health, and it is unreasonable to expect unhealthy men and women to have healthy appetites.
The charwoman's husband, if he has the luck to earn his living by outdoor labour, may have a lentil-hunger; but how can she be ready for stodgy food after a day, or rather a lifetime, spent in wrestling with dirt in a stuffy house set in acres of stuffy streets ?
Before we can expect people to eat lentils and beans we must see that they live under conditions which produce a healthy hunger, and towards this the Garden City Association, 77 Chancery Lane, W.C., is working in a way that deserves the support of all who wish to improve the present state of our towns and cities.
I have lately been asked to advise the best dietary for a family of four, consisting of father, mother, and two young children, in circumstances that allow of only 3s. per head a week for food, and since this is a case which may easily come into the experience of any who work amongst the poor, I include it here on the chance of being able to offer some useful hint. By "best" I understand "healthiest," so I exclude all such articles of food as are shown by Dr. Haig's researches either to produce uric-acid diseases, or to aggravate a previously existing tendency towards them. This cuts off all flesh foods, together with eggs, the pulses (peas, beans, lentils), tea, coffee, cocoa, and alcohol: and leaves milk, cheese, nuts, cereals, vegetables, and fruit, to which may be added Plasmon, which is milk in a dry, concentrated form, requiring discretion in its use, for if taken indiscriminately it may, like all highly nitrogenous (albuminous) foods, cause indigestion. A propos of the many objections from intelligent people to its being an "artificial food," it may be stated that Plasmon is no more artificial than the strong stock which a cook prepares by allowing the water to evaporate. All cooking is artificial to primitive man, and Plasmon is milk so cooked that the water evaporates and the condensed nutriment remains. Being made from skim milk, which explains its extreme cheapness, it is deficient in the fat and sugar present in new milk, and for this reason Plasmon should not be substituted for new milk in feeding children. All young animals require fat and sugar, and a calf brought up on skim milk may be big and bony, but is never so well-favoured and thriving in condition as one which has been even partly fed on whole milk. Moreover, fat, so necessary to good digestion, is very evenly distributed in new milk, and for this reason alone it is, as a rule, unwise to upset nature's balance when feeding children. To adults, invalids, travellers, and athletes, Plasmon is an immense boon, and it should also do much to solve the problem of right feeding for the many whose incomes are insufficient for their needs.