Home Economics is still so new a study that no apology-is necessary for placing another textbook in this subject on the market. Many of the best books which are now available obviously are intended for the benefit of the teacher rather than for the student, while others are little more than carefully selected collections of recipes. The present work is an attempt to present a manual of definite directions which will aid the student in her adventure into the subject, but it is by no means intended to supersede the teacher or to furnish material which can be taught by one untrained in the subject.
As in physics and chemistry, there are principles in cooking which are worthy of consideration, and, as in any science, they should be taught from an inductive standpoint. But, equally, no attempt at a completely inductive course should be made. The accumulated experiences of mankind can be used with benefit. To show a cake, for example, to a student who knows nothing of cooking, and let her guess the ingredients, the methods of combining them, and the temperature used in baking, and then to let her experiment until she produced a perfect cake, might teach cooking, but the road would be long and arduous. On the other hand, here, as in other sciences, sufficient discovery to arouse interest, to enable the pupil to question understandingly, and give control of the situation, is of undoubted benefit and leads on naturally to research.
Where inductive courses have failed, the reason has been most often that the preparatory steps have been omitted by the teacher, and the student has been set to find out something when she has no knowledge of what she has set out to find. Chance discoveries, of course, find their applications later on, but this is not education. The student needs to have clearly in mind the results looked for, before she begins an experiment. This by no means implies that the result itself should be known, for then interest is dulled. References should be looked up only after the practical work, or its chief value is lost.
If it is necessary to economize on time, where comparative results are to be obtained, as in making tea, the experiments may be divided among the class so that one student compares her results with those of her neighbors. This distribution of work, however, is not possible when preparing dishes which call for skill in handling or involve some special principles in combining or in cooking; but there is no reason why one student may not prepare bean soup while her neighbor makes potato soup. Such a practice often helps to impress underlying principles. College classes have been known to finish their course in cooking with the idea that a special recipe was necessary for each kind of soup or cake, and without knowledge of proportions which would tell them when a recipe was outside the bounds of possibility. This is the result of cooking entirely from recipes. On the other hand, an error quite as bad is made when recipes are never used.
The order of the topics in this book is not that of the conventional cook book, nor is it based on the chief food principles, but is a logical working out of the subject and makes possible certain advantages in presentation, as the early introduction of such subjects as meals and serving. This gives opportunity for the economic study needed as a basis for household management - too often omitted from courses in home economics - and also affords an occasion for necessary repetition of work, if skill as well as knowledge is to be acquired. Another excellent way to introduce repetition is by contests, in which, for example, the students not only try to see who can make the best bread but also are required to judge the results and show why one is more desirable than another. In this way they learn standards of perfection otherwise difficult to teach. Regulation "score cards" may or may not be used for such work.
The laboratory notes should show clearly the results obtained in all experiments and should also answer all questions asked in the directions. Recipes may be written here, or better, kept in card catalog form. It is well to accustom the student to the handling of a cook book, and familiarity with more than one is surely desirable.
The divisions I, II, III, and the like do not mean divisions of single lessons. The experiments and the cooking presented in each chapter can be carried out in a double period of an hour and a half. Following the laboratory work of each chapter of the text is material intended to be taken up in subsequent recitations. Double periods are not needed for recitation. If the schedule calls for them, part of the time may well be occupied in writing up note books. A double period for laboratory work and a single period for recitation form a unit of work which may be given once in a week, or twice if time permits.
The questions at the end of the lessons are not intended to be written up in the laboratory notes, as they are often much too comprehensive. Neither are they intended to be exhaustive. Their object is to show the student the scope of the subject, to give definite material to look for in the references, and to start the student thinking.
The laboratory work may be extended indefinitely by preparing under each section other dishes which are similar in principle. (See list of supplementary laboratory work.) For convenience in using supplies, other dishes can be substituted for those mentioned. In jelly-making, for example, crab apple and grape are the fruits given, one chosen as a juicy fruit requiring the addition of no water, the other needing water in its preparation; any other fruits answering these requirements may be substituted. Jelly-making, pickling, and preserving are placed first in the course, not because it is the logical order, but because autumn is the best time in the school year to obtain the necessary fruits. An attempt has also been made to consider the amount of skill required in every process. For this reason the dough and batter series has not been introduced directly after the first study of starch, but has been placed after the meat and vegetable work. Since a laboratory using many ovens becomes exceedingly warm, the roasting of meat and the baking of bread, cake, and pies are not left until the end of the course, for the least possible hot work is desirable at the end of the school year.
It has not seemed desirable to explain such processes as how to break an egg, how to beat eggs, how to "fold" in the whites, how to use a rolling-pin, and all the rest. The teacher who shows the process can make it plainer than any words can do.