This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
"We must bear in mind," as Sir Wm. Roberts has taught, "that among civilized races the preparation of food for the table is carried to a high degree of practical effect. The cereal grains, for example, which are employed for making bread, are first finely ground, and sifted from the bran by the miller; the flour is subjected, with the aid of moisture, and artificial heat, to a cooking process; the meats and fish we eat are boiled, or roasted; the vegetables we use are carefully deprived of their coarser parts, and are then boiled. All this preliminary preparation and cooking, serve to make the food more capable of being thoroughly exhausted of its nutritive qualities. Even as it is, some waste occurs, and the faeces always retain considerable elements of undigested food. But it is obvious that if food be rendered too easy of digestion, there arises a risk that the nutriment will pass unduly quick, and wastefully, into the blood, and on through the tissues into the excretory organs; so likewise out of the body before this food has been made fully and economically available for the completion of the slow nutritive processes.
Moreover, a sudden irruption into the blood of large quantities of newly-digested aliment would tend to disturb the chemical balance of that fluid, and thus interfere with the tranquil performance of its functions. A too rapid digestion and absorption of food may be compared to feeding a fire with straw, instead of with slower burning coal. Thus is it also with human digestion, our highly-prepared and highly-cooked food requires in those persons who are healthy, and vigorous, that the digestive fires shall be damped down in order to ensure the economical use of food; a slow digestion being quite a different thing from an imperfect digestion. The practice of the Irish peasant to underboil his potato so as to 'leave a stone,' as it is said, 'in the middle of it,' and the practice of the Scotch peasant to underboil his oatmeal, making his brose by simply pouring boiling water on the meal - both these processes are designed to enable the meal to stay the stomach for a sufficiently long period".
Admirers of the Jewish mode of cooking claim for this a great wholesomeness, and adaptability to a weak digestion; and it is certainly worthy of note that Christian children do not compare favourably with the Jewish in healthiness, longevity, and the power to resist disease. Their (Jewish) meat is most minutely inspected to ensure its cleanliness, and healthiness; its slaughterer must be a practised hand, and make use only of the keenest weapons, as any bruising, or lacerating of the wound inflicted, renders the meat unfit for consumption. When forming combinations of their food they never mix milk, or its products, with meat; to do which would be regarded by them as a breach of the precept, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk;" the principle being that food killed by violence shall not be mixed with that which is rendered up peaceably; such a mixture is an abomination! Some persons who suffer from faulty digestion, having tried the Jewish system, affirm that it suits them much better, because mixed foods are disallowed; so that healthier blood is made, and the whole vital system is purer (A. Blyth, 1884). Also, by the Jews a strict examination of the animal slaughtered for food is made straightway after its death, with the view of discovering'whether anything was amiss with its condition of health before it was killed; and many are the laws, and tests laid down by the Rabbis to this end, which is not by any means a mere formality.
Thus, of the 21,000 sheep which were slain in the second half year of 1900, no fewer than 6,000 were rejected as not wholly sound, and therefore not "kosher"; and the same strict precautions are taken with respect to other animals. "But what becomes of all these rejected animals?" asked a representative of Cassell's Journal. "Oh," was the reply, "they are bought up by the Gentiles, and eaten by them!"
That man is essentially a cooking animal, is a fact borne out by the knowledge that cooking utensils have been discovered wherever human life has been found to have existed. We all believe that fingers were made before forks; but it is not generally known that forks were in the first place constructed to imitate fingers - originally by the Romans with two prongs, as the finger and thumb, then as three fingers, and later on as the whole hand. The English people are indebted to one Tom Coryat for introducing the fork amongst them, because of which .boon he was given the sobriquet "Furcifer:" Furca, being really a pitchfork. ("Expellas naturam furca: tamen usque recurret") Not until some time after the Restoration were forks in general English use. About Pepys' time each guest at table was expected to bring his own spoon and fork to a meal, and to use it throughout without change. During the sixteenth century, at a man of position's table plates could not be provided for all who sat down to the meal; and the original trencher was a thick slice of bread on which the meat was placed, and which after being so used was given to the poor.