We are drawing nearer and nearer to an appreciation of the power which Cookery wields in the preservation of health, but this awakening as to its value has been too tardy, indeed, it has been from a slumber of centuries. Not that good Cookery has not been practised from time immemorial, but its recognition from a scientific point of view is almost within our own day; and even at the present time, dietetics, or that department of medicine which relates to food and diet, is only gradually assuming a position which is destined ultimately to become second to none. Moreover, there is still ample room for improvement in this direction, and matters will not be rectified till a comprehensive study of food and its preparation, both for the healthy as well as the sick, is embodied in the curriculum of modern medical education.
Not so long ago The Lancet made reference to the Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy, which had been opened by the Princess Louise. It was pointed out that good cookery had more to do with health and comfort, and therefore with domestic happiness, than any other known accomplishment. In the same article, moreover, it was remarked that it would be out of all keeping with the position of Edinburgh as a medical centre, if the importance, in sickness, of good cookery and suitable food were not fully recognised. In conclusion, the same authority expressed the hope that this commendable example would be adopted by many other towns.
All this is satisfactory in showing that the preparation of food for the table is a subject which can no longer be pooh-poohed, and there are other signs and tokens which unmistakably point to the same conclusion. As a proof of this it is only necessary to point to the fact that eminent physicians have written prefaces to works on cookery, and more than this, have contributed to the literature of the same. There is a very excellent handbook by Phillis Browne, to which the late Sir J. Risdon Bennett, a former President of the Royal College of Physicians, London, contributed the prefatory note. In it he remarks, the value of wholesome and properly-cooked food has never been sufficiently understood or appreciated in the United Kingdom. "In scarcely any other country," says he, " does so much prejudice and ignorance prevail on the subject of food and its employment." And in proceeding to speak of the growing tendency to make instruction in Cookery a part of ordinary education, he adds that this must be a subject for sincere rejoicing with those who desire both the moral and physical welfare of the poorer classes. This is not the only evidence of interest which the same physician took in this matter, for he has also written an admirable and lengthy article on Food and its Uses in Health.
But there is another writer to whom the English speaking people are deeply indebted for a knowledge of all that pertains to food and cookery; I refer to Sir Henry Thompson, the eminent London surgeon. His work on Food and Feeding has already run through six editions, and one can only hope that he will long be enabled to benefit his race by a succession of issues. He has written other volumes on the same subject, and further, by his contributions to The Nineteenth Century and The Lancet, he has materially raised the status of the culinary art. And there are also quite a number of works on diet, and on food, written by well-known authorities in the medical world, so that the science of dietetics must eventually attain an unassailable position.
The preceding naturally leads up to the main point, namely, the controlling influence which cookery exercises over health. Now if I were asked to name the one single cause which produces more indigestion than anything else, I should unhesitatingly answer, bad Cookery. Many people run away with the idea that good Cookery is necessarily elaborate Cookery, and that in consequence it is quite beyond the ordinary purse. Such is not, by any means, the case, and as a matter of fact good Cookery aims at getting the best possible results at the least possible cost. Herein lies the excellence of French Cookery, and as I have occasion to remark elsewhere, the bulk of the population in that country live infinitely better than does the average Briton.
Indigestion, then, is the great primary result of bad cookery. But, on the other hand, let us hear what Dr. Lauder Brunton has to say on the score of food when properly prepared. "Savoury food," says he, "causes the diges-"tive juices to be freely secreted; well cooked and palatable "food is therefore more digestible than unpalatable, and "if the food lacks savour, a desire naturally arises to supply "it by condiments, not always well selected or wholesome."
But important as good Cookery, in itself, may be in its influence upon health, there is still another essential, which must not be overlooked. And it is that of variety. The oft-quoted phrase of toujours perdrix bears upon this very point. It is a way of saying that even a luscious dish when constantly repeated becomes wearisome, or, in other words, that there is too much of the same thing over and over again. And if a ceaseless repetition of the same dish - however well it may be cooked - palls upon the palate, it is at least certain that it is equally burdensome to the stomach. Dr. Horace Dobell well expresses this fact when he says that it is of the highest importance to avoid unnecessarily limiting the variety of food allowed to all persons, but especially to those of poor appetites and troublesome digestions. Monotonous, uninteresting meals depress the spirits and are subversive of appetite, digestion, and nutrition.