Planning meals is often thought a very simple piece of work, and perhaps it is comparatively so, if it is not necessary to consider either time or money. But people are beginning to believe that it is really their duty to consider both, and many of us have to, whether we would or no.
Think, then, of all that it is necessary to know in order to do this work well. First, the housewife must know what the income is and how it is to be divided. Only thus can she determine what the family can afford to spend for food.
Next, she must know, in order to decide what is to be served for dinner, what is in the market, and a great deal about qualities and prices. In selecting meats, it is necessary not only to be able to tell whether a given piece is good, but to know what cuts are appropriate for different uses. In choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, a knowledge of what is in season is essential for wise buying, since out of season they may be poor and yet command even higher prices than good ones when these are plentiful. Some knowledge of brands of canned and package goods is useful, but will probably have to be acquired locally. Even with all this information, a knowledge of the part played by these foods in nourishing the body, and of their relative value from this point of view, should govern the actual purchases; and, curiously enough, these considerations have no connection with the price.
It is surely necessary to know how to prepare and serve food in an appetizing manner. At first thought a knowledge of cooking might seem necessary for the planner only when she is also the cook; but without such knowledge how is the manager to look out for the use of left-overs, the saving of fuel, the adjustment of plans to oven space, and above all, the amount of work required? One meal which seems very much like another may involve three times as much work in preparation, and the real cost of food is not merely the price paid for it in the store, but also the cost of the labor required to prepare it, and of the fuel to cook it.
From such consideration, it is evident that the planning of meals requires broad knowledge, and it is easy to see why food study is taking such a prominent place in school work, and why it involves so much more than the art of cookery.