THE problems of the household are more difficult to-day than they have ever been, for each advance in science, each modern invention, has brought in its train new responsibilities and new duties. In every department of the administration of the home more knowledge and skill are required than ever before. With the increase of conveniences has come increased care. Standards of living have changed as well, and greater perfection in all household service is demanded of the home-maker.
We still carry on in the household many of the numerous trades that were formerly a part of the home life, as cooking, cleaning, laundry work, sewing. At the same time more close supervision of the life of the children, mental, moral and physical, is required; more knowledge is needed to control materials if we would have that power over our environment which makes us the masters and not the slaves of our belongings; and the social demands upon time and strength can not be ignored.
If to-day we would lead "the simple life," it must be as a result of determined effort, often in the face of more or less conscious opposition on the part of relatives and friends and of society in general.
Yet a simpler life is not to be attained by ignoring the results of science, and refusing to apply the knowledge made available by the investigator; but rather by making use of every help that will give knowledge of the materials with which we work, that will cultivate the power to distinguish between the essential and the non-essential, and that will give control of the situation.
The food problem is perhaps the most difficult of all the physical problems that present themselves in the household, partly because it is so vital to the welfare of the family, and partly because it is so inclusive. The food question once meant the providing something palatable and presumably wholesome at a cost within one's means. To-day it implies a knowledge not only of the cost and nutritive value of food materials, their composition and digestibility; but of the balanced ration, the proportion of different food principles necessary for perfect nourishment, and of the way in which this proportion should be varied to suit the needs of the child or of the aged, of the laborer, or of the student. An understanding of the principles involved in the preparation of food is demanded, as well as a knowledge of food adulterations that will insure pure food materials.
The importance of the question can scarcely be exaggerated. Mrs. Ellen H. Richards tells us that "the prosperity of a nation depends upon the health and morals of its citizens; and the health and morals of a people depend mainly upon the food they eat, and the homes they live in. Strong men and women can not be raised on insufficient food; good tempered, temperate, highly moral men can not be expected from a race which eats badly cooked food, irritating to the digestive organs and unsatisfying to the appetite. Wholesome and palatable food is the first step in good morals, and is conducive to ability in business, skill in trade, and healthy tone in literature".
It is quite true that we may put food in a wrong position, making it an end rather than a means in living. We should eat to live, not live to eat. Yet we must keep in mind that right food, clothing and shelter are the primary conditions of health, and that health is essential to the most complete happiness and to the highest usefulness.
Some one has said that "well dressed men and women, well fed men and women, are still an ethical possibility of the future." However this may be in regard to dress, certainly an age that has devoted so much time and thought to feeding on the stock farm, so much attention to the right nutriment for plants, and that has solved so many difficult problems in these directions, should be able to lay down the principles which govern the diet of human beings.
While the food question then is by no means the one thing in housekeeping as it is apparently so often considered, it yet is of real and vital importance; and the housekeeper who desires to make the most of her opportunities to contribute to the extent of her ability to the welfare of her family, should master the principles of diet so far as they are known, should keep an open mind toward new knowledge, and should apply with discretion and intelligence the knowledge now available in this direction.