Plutarch tells us that Themistocles laughing at his own son, who got his mother, and by his mother's means his father also, to indulge him, said to the boy that he had the most power of anyone in Greece : "For the Athenians command "the rest of Greece, I command the Athenians, your mother "commands me, and you command your mother." In the same way it is easy to make a defective system of education responsible for much of the existing drunkenness. First of all we have a scheme of education which fails to provide instruction in a girl's domestic duties; then we have the wife who undertakes the task for which she has never been properly trained; next, instead of well-cooked and very much varied meals, we have a conspicuous and a disastrous failure; and finally, we have the bread-winner driven to the public-house - and happiness has left that home for ever.
But this is an old story, yet, unfortunately, it is a true one; and it will continue to be true until a clearer perception of what a domestic training should be is more universally recognised. I am sure that I do not exaggerate when I say that millions of our English-speaking race are living this life without the slightest glimmering of what domestic content might be theirs. Surely the word "home" for the artisan should signify something more than a place where he is badly fed. Still, it is a solemn fact that no more concrete definition of the word has ever been forthcoming. Now, such a state of affairs cannot be excused on the score of expense, for the crowning triumph of good Cookery is its very cheapness.
It has already been mentioned that the late Sir J. Risdon Bennett did not think it beneath his dignity to write a prefatory note to a Cookery Book. He has also pointed out that Cookery is a subject which deserves more attention at the hands of those who have the welfare of temperance at heart. He believed that a knowledge of wholesome Cookery would do much to make home happy; to keep the men away from dissipation and intemperance; and to make the children healthy and cheerful.
The same idea is expressed by Sylvester, who remarked that Cookery should be most popular, because every individual human being is directly interested in its success. As he says, the real comfort of the majority of men is sought for in their own homes, and every effort should be made to increase domestic happiness by inducing them to remain at home. And long, long ago a quaint old book, Markham's English Housewife, published in 1637, contained the idea in a nutshell, as the following quotation will show : "To speak, then, of the knowledges which belong to our "English housewife, I hold the most principal to be a "perfect skill in Cookery. She that is utterly ignorant "therein, may not, by the laws of strict justice, challenge "the freedom of marriage - because, indeed, shee can per-" form but half her vow - shee may love and obey, but shee "cannot cherish and keepe her husband."
Opinions such as these are based on the soundest common sense, indeed no one could honestly oppose them. But it powerfully adds to their weight to find them thoroughly endorsed by the representative medical authority of The British Medical Journal and The Lancet; the former has from time to time insisted upon the self-same truths, and strenuously urged their practical adoption. These contributions are somewhat too lengthy for complete reproduction, but the views expressed may be briefly referred to. It was maintained that English people have much to learn from the French methods of Cookery; that these are not merely tasteful and appetising, but that they are extremely economical; that materials which the English housewife throws away as useless, her French sister skilfully converts into toothsome and nutritious food; and that it is only an increased knowledge of Cookery which the poor need to render life more agreeable.
The Lancet also, in an admirable article on "Culinary Civilisation," spoke of the need of women becoming acquainted with the modes of concocting palatable food, if they wished to maintain their domestic power. It was further pointed out that if the husband was to be prevented from neglecting his family, the wife must see that he had well-cooked food at home. And lastly, it was tellingly set forth that when women had fully mastered this lesson a step in civilisation would have been gained, which would show in increased health, increased prosperity, and happier domestic hearths.
But I cannot conclude this portion without a special reference to some remarks by Madame Emilie Lebour-Fawssett. They occur in her most admirable book French Cookery for Ladies, and are so sensible that they should never be forgotten. " I like," says Madame, " to place "before my husband, who has been hard at work all day "long, a nice tempting dinner, very much varied and well "cooked; and I cannot repeat it too often, it is one of the "strongest ties of home life, and I am sure many a man in "the day, when he is most busy, unconsciously smiles "inwardly at the prospect of the nice little dinner awaiting "him at home, when his hard day's work is over. Small, "dainty, well-made dishes gratify your husband's appetite, "help to keep him healthy, prepare him a good digestion "for his old age, and save your purse."
In another part of the book, a little farther on, she remarks : - "One of my chief objects also is to teach the "great mass of people to make better use of the numberless "good things there are to be obtained, and thereby keep "their husbands away from the public-house. It stands to "reason that if a man who has worked all day comes home "and finds nothing warm and appetising prepared for him, "he will go away quicker than he came, and spend at the "first hotel the money he would otherwise have gladly "spent on his family if his wife had tried and knew how to "make him comfortable; and, there is no denying it, the "greatest comforts a man can have after a day's work, be "it manual labour or brain work, are a good meal and a "quiet corner in which to smoke his pipe or cigar."