VARIED as are the changes which all phases of household and family life have undergone, in none are they more striking than in that which has to do with the satisfying of the primal need of mankind - nutriment. It is true that it is no new thing to realize that people must not be allowed to go hungry. The new questions are: What kinds of food will best serve the real needs of the body; in what quantities shall they be provided; what methods of preparation should be chosen, and how can use be made of modern economic and commercial conditions so that the family income can be utilized to bring about the greatest returns in health and satisfaction with the least expenditure of time, strength, and money?
The fire on the hearth, the spit, the crane, and the brick oven have vanished. Only here and there traces remain of the churn and the cheese press, the curing of meats, the drying of fruits and vegetables, the brewing of beverages, the caring for stored and too often decaying potatoes and apples, and the filling of closet shelves with jars of pickles and preserves. In their places have come gas and electric stoves, the fruit and vegetable trains from Florida and California, the gigantic stockyards, slaughter houses, and packing plants, the factories for the preparation and preservation of every kind of food substance, the cold storage warehouse, the creamery, the Greek and Italian fruit venders, the telephone to the market, and the mail-order house. In fact, there are almost countless devices of the spirit of invention and of commerce which give rise to wholly new problems in regard to proper feeding for a household.
The reader must look elsewhere for a discussion of dietetic standards and approved methods of preparation. The subject presents a large field which the scientist has but recently entered. It is the housekeeper's duty to keep herself informed of the progress of sound knowledge, and to be wary of following the food faddist in all his absurd and grotesque theories.
The following general principles, however, may be laid down as safe guides. Food should be clean and free from injurious substances. It should be varied in kind and sufficient in amount, when meals are taken regularly, to satisfy a hearty appetite. It should be palatable in flavor and attractive in appearance. Meat should be eaten in moderation, which means not oftener than twice a day, preferably once. Milk, vegetables, and fruits should be used freely. Natural flavors should be developed in cooking, and the use of condiments and artificial flavors discouraged.
Principles such as these are founded on common sense and experience, as well as on the teachings of physiology. Some of the newer dietetic considerations are becoming equally plain. For example, increased facility and rapidity of transportation and its lower cost, as well as cold storage plants, have broken down the old distinctions between the seasons, and it is no longer proper to urge the housekeeper not to use foods which are "out of season." It is a fortunate development of civilization which makes it possible for the dweller in Northern cities and towns to have fresh lettuce at low cost the year around, and strawberries as toothsome and cheap in .April as in June. The day has passed when the body, starving for the vegetable acids and mineral matter which during the long, cold winter have been boiled out of the winter vegetables, has had to turn to "spring medicines," sarsaparilla and the like, as tonics, to relieve the languor and lassitude known as "spring fever." The notion is still current that the expenditure of money for foods low in so-called nutritive value is most unwise when the income is limited, but this is a serious mistake; and the Opportunity offered of late years to secure fresh fruits and vegetables and salad plants through the winter, as well as summer, should be eagerly utilized, if housekeepers wish to keep those dependent on their care and intelligence in good physical condition. One proof that this is being done is the increasing substitution of fruits in winter for rich desserts and pastries. Another is the rapid decline of the old-time household industry of "putting up" preserves, which frequently was a gauge of the housewife's thrift and skill. Even in sparsely settled communities, certainly in all towns, she now has the opportunity to serve her family with fresh fruits the year around. This she does at great saving of effort and frequently also of money, if every cost is counted, unless she is still held in the shackles of a family tradition that a woman's devotion to her husband and children can be measured by the contents of her preserve closet.
With the facilities which have largely increased the range of foods within the housekeeper's choice has come the double danger of overtaxing the digestive organs by providing too great a variety of foods at one meal, and of so stimulating the appetite by a succession of different flavors as to lead to overeating. The housekeeper, then, has the new problem of guarding against temptation and of securing proper simplicity in the meals she offers, rather than the old problem of discovering new foods and devising new dishes to tempt the appetites of those under her care.
The greatly increased ease with which, under modern conditions, food is obtained and prepared tempts the unwary housekeeper to yield to the caprices of her family. Frequently there is no other reason for calling for different food from that which has been prepared than the gratification of a whim. This double harm of introducing unnecessary complexity into the household processes and of developing undue self-indulgence must be guarded against.