The larger part of this work is taken up with a consideration of the most suitable diet for those living in Australia. In this way a greater restriction in the amount of butcher's meat is counselled, while a more widely extended use of fish, vegetables, and salad plants is advocated. And as far as beverages are concerned, Australian wine of a low alcoholic strength is recommended as being the most natural beverage for every-day use. But there are a few other matters connected with food, and drink, and daily habits which will deserve some little reference, and accordingly they will be dealt with. These are fruit, tea, coffee, iced drinks, and the use of tobacco. All these are important enough to merit notice; indeed, they are subjects possessing more than usual interest.
Before proceeding to give attention to these, however, it will be most convenient, at this stage, to make some remarks upon the vital topic of the first meal of the day. With the great bulk of our population sufficient heed is never given it, and yet it is of infinite consequence. By far the greater number of people dawdle in bed till the last possible moment, when all at once they jump into their bath - that is, if they take a bath - swallow a hasty breakfast, and make a frantic rush for their steamer, train, or tram, in order to begin their daily work. How very much better than all this bustle, hurry, and scuttle an hour's earlier rising would be! It would afford ample time for the bath, which should be a bath in the truest sense of the term; it would, above all, give a proper opportunity for a leisurely breakfast, which is in every respect the most important meal of the day; and lastly, it would save that wild dash at the last, which is so fatal to proper digestion and well-being.
But it is a sad fact that, in most cases, even when there is due time given to it, the monotony of the ordinary breakfast is almost proverbial. With regard to the average household it is a matter of deep conjecture as to what most people would do if a prohibition were placed upon chops, steak, and sausages for breakfast. If such an awful calamity happened, many the father of a family would have to put up with scanty fare. It is very much to be feared that the inability to conceive of something more original for the morning meal than the eternal trio referred to is a melancholy reproach to the housekeeping capabilities of many. To read an account of a highland breakfast, in contradistinction to this paucity of comestibles, is to make one almost pensive. The description of the snowy tablecloth, the generously loaded table, the delicious smell of the scones and honey, the marmalade, the different cakes, the fish, the bacon, and the toast, is enough to create a desire to dwell there for a very prolonged period. However, revenons a nos moutons; this has been adverted to, not so much with the idea of urging people to copy such an example, because expense would render it an impossibility, but to try and awaken a determination to make more variety at the breakfast table. It is to be hoped that some of the recipes at the end of the volume will serve as a means of initiating a reform in this respect.
But under all circumstances, whether brain or muscle be employed by the bread-winner, a substantial breakfast is of first-rate importance. There is one form of food which it is especially necessary should constitute part of the meal, and which must be referred to. This is that variety known as the hydro-carbons or fats. The value of fat, in any of its many forms, in promoting the health of the body and preventing the onset of wasting diseases is hardly appreciated, and besides this action it markedly serves to nourish the brain and nervous system. Dr. Murchison, the late eminent physician, was wont to declare that bacon fat or ham fat was worth a guinea an ounce in the treatment of wasting diseases. Cod liver oil, also, has a wide repute in the treatment of the same class of maladies. Indeed, it is related of an eminent barrister that he used to take a full dose of cod liver oil some time before going to plead an important case, for he found it better brain food than anything else.
In our semi-tropical climate, however, a dislike is often taken to butter when it is presented at breakfast in the form of semi-liquid grease. It would require a person with the stomach of an ostrich to digest, to say nothing of relish, such an oleaginous compound during our hot months. But if this necessary and all-important article of diet can be presented in an appetising shape, what a desirable result is achieved ! The mass of the people - I am not referring to those who are well endowed with worldly gifts - are apt to look upon the ice chest as a luxury which is altogether beyond their means. But, as I have said elsewhere, I am firmly persuaded that if the price of ice were brought down to one-halfpenny per pound, and if a company were formed to deliver such a small quantity as six pounds per day, or every second day, it would be a great boon, and moreover a wonderfully profitable speculation. A very small and suitable ice chest could be constructed, to sell at a few shillings, solely to preserve the butter in a congealed, and therefore palatable, state, for children as well as for adults. The former would take it with great avidity, and the benefit to health resulting therefrom would be incalculable. Even in some of the better-class houses ice is looked upon too much as a luxury, and not, as it should be, a necessity; indeed, the money saved from gas during the summer months might well be expended in ice.
Not only is this fatty breakfast a necessary feature in the diet of everybody, particularly of the young and growing population, but it is likewise a most important matter with all brain workers. If the business or professional man can put in a liberal breakfast, consisting largely of butter, fat bacon or ham, he can go on all day with a feeling of energy and buoyancy. It is in this aversion to fatty matter, in any shape or form, that the bilious and dyspeptic are so fearfully handicapped. And not only is it necessary for an active mental worker to be supplied with a good proportion of fatty material, but, as I have just said, it is essential that his breakfast should be a substantial one, in which his food is not stinted in any way. As Dr. Milner Fother-gill said : "I would always back a good breakfaster, from a boy to a game cockerel; a good meal to begin the day is a good foundation." So, too, Mr. Christopher Heath, the well-known London surgeon, in his advice to house surgeons and other medical officers living in hospitals, says, "the first symptom of 'knocking up,' is an inability to eat breakfast," and goes on to point out how important a meal it is, and that it should be taken deliberately and without undue haste.