« PreviousContinue »
It must not be supposed, however, that I intend to confine myself to the economical question which I have propounded. If so, however useful my lecture might be, it certainly would be very dry and uninstructive. I aim, therefore, at pointing out to you, not only what you should do, but why you should do it; and with this view I have endeavoured to weave up with the economical information which it is my chief object to impart, such a brief sketch of the general nature of the manufacture of food into blood, flesh, and bone, as will, I hope, render it more interesting, and at the same time more improving, and will furnish those who listen to me with aids to useful thought, which will tend to promote the health and welfare of the mind and soul, as well as of the body. Such are my objects. I think they will commend themselves to my hearers, and, therefore, I will enter on my subject without further preface.
The great use of the food we eat, is to supply the waste that is continually going on in our bodies. Let me say a word or two in reference to this waste. Every act that we perform, every word that we speak, every thought that we think, every emotion that we feel, every motion that takes place within our bodies, whether voluntary or involuntary, whether perceived or unperceived, is made at the expense of some portion of the living substance of which those bodies are composed. That living substance is thus continually becoming dead substance, and must be removed from our bodies, or it will cause injury to them; and if fresh living substance be not continually introduced to supply the place of that which is thus being removed, our strength will depart, and disease and death will speedily ensue. Now, it is from the blood that the waste that is thus going on is supplied, and this blood is manufactured in our bodies from the food that we eat. The manufacture of blood from food is a very complicated affair, and it is my intention to follow it step by step through its various processes, so far as it is requisite, to shew how the greatest qnantity of nutritious blood may be obtained from a given quantity of food, and how the waste may be diminished so that the health of the body may be maintained, at the smallest possible expenditure of food and blood.
Our subject naturally divides itself into two parts. In the first, and by far the most interesting and fruitful, we shall explain how the waste may be most economically repaired; and in the second, we shall point out some means by which it may be diminished. The saving we suggest may be effected in two ways, either by making the food as fully available as possible to supply the waste that is going on, or by making that waste as small as possible, avoiding as much as possible doing things that are calculated to make it go on more rapidly.
When I first turned my attention to this matter, I thought of saying something on the nutritive nature of different kinds of food, but this I found would lead me into a subject which has as yet been very insufficiently explored by our men of science, and would involve me in details which would task rather too severely the patience of my audience. I therefore pass by that subject, and supposing the food to be already obtained, I proceed to consider the various processes to which it is subjected, by and in the consumer.
The first process is that of cooking. This at once renders the food more agreeable to the palate and more manageable for the stomach ; but it is always attended by a certain loss of the nutritious matter which the food contains, and our object should be to diminish this loss as much as possible, especially as in doing so we take the surest means of rendering the food agreeable to the palate. A good deal may
be done in this way by a little care. For instance, in making soup or broth, our object should be to extract from the meat, as far as possible, every particle of the nutritious juices which it contains. This would be best effected by chopping it into very small pieces, taking care however that we do not lose any part of the juices in this operation; or, if you wish to boil the meat in a lump, it should be put on the fire in water that is nearly cold, and gradually heated up to the boiling point. If, on the other hand, you wish to cook the meat for the table, your object is to prevent, as much as possible, the juices which it contains from escaping. With this view, it is much more economical to dress the meat in large joints than in thin slices or in the form of chops or steaks. If the joint is to be boiled, it should be plunged into water that is boiling violently, because this both hardens the outer portions of the meat, and prevents the juices contained within it from flowing out into the water. For the same reason, the roasting of meat should be commenced before a very hot bright fire, which should be suffered to sink gradually as the operation proceeds. Bones contain a good deal of nutritious matter within, which may be extracted by boiling
And here I would ask why should we not have cooking classes as well as sewing classes ? The benevolent gentlemen who have started our sewing classes have conferred on our operatives a benefit which it is scarcely possible to appreciate too highly, not only in giving present employment to their daughters, but in teaching them an art which will be of the very greatest use to them. But, important as it is that the daughters and future wives of the working men should learn to sew, is it not quite as important that they should learn to cook? I venture to say, that if this suggestion should be adopted, and cooking schcols could be carried on for a few
weeks, such a saving would be effected in the food of the working classes, that at least half a pound out of every two and a half pounds would be economised by improved cooking alone; and this assertion will not appear by any means extravagant to those who know how working men's dinners often are cooked.
After I had written the above, I saw a letter in the Manchester papers by Canon Richson, in which he proposes the establishment of a soup kitchen in Ancoats, and as he is a man of great ability and perseverance, I have no doubt that he will succeed. I at once wrote to him to request that he would give me all the information he possessed on the subject, and he has kindly forwarded to me a Glasgow newspaper containing an account of "the opening of the twelfth branch of the Great Western Cooking depot.
It appears from this article that there are twelve branches" in connection with this scheme in various parts of the city; and the grand object the benevolent promoter had in view was, that first class accommodation might be provided for the working classes in large halls, well lighted and well ventilated, with supplies of newspapers, so that many might be prevented from frequenting public houses.
“In such places, every article of diet, such as a bowl of broth or soup, cup of tea or coffee, bread and butter, &c., can be had always ready, and of best quality, at the fixed price of one penny. He was very glad to state that the scheme has become immensely popular, and it is already self-supporting, so that any working man may enter these establishments with the feeling of perfect independence.
“The vast extent of operations may be judged of from the following facts :That 10,800 rations are sold daily. The monthly visitors greatly exceed 100,000. The monthly average consumption of food is as follows:-60,000 basins of soup; 30,000 small plates of beef; 100,000 rolls or slices of bread and
butter; 52,000 cups of tea and coffee ; 14,000 bowls of porridge; 35,000 plates of potatoes; 6,000 eggs; 15,000 rations of milk.
“ There are seventy female servants employed in cooking and distributing these supplies. Each of the separate branches is under the immediate charge of a matron, who is selected for her superior intelligence and integrity; and the entire scheme is superintended by an active manager, while a cashier collects daily from each branch the drawings, pays the accounts, and enters all transactions in a carefully-kept set of books.”'
be permitted to add, that some years ago I suggested something of this kind to my co-operative friends in Rochdale, who had, however, too many irons in the fire to be able to undertake this. These Glasgow establishments, though furnishing us with very valuable hints, do not exactly meet my view, which is, not only to have food cooked, but to teach the rising female generation how to cook, as we are now teaching them how to sew.
This might perhaps be done by means of establishments similar to the Glasgow ones, in which the young women might be employed in succession, under such instruction and superintendence as I have already suggested.*
But I must return from this long digression, which I hope will not be altogether unfruitful.
The next process to which the food is usually subjected, is that of being cut into small pieces previously to its being taken into the mouth. This practice is not only comfortable and cleanly, but saves the teeth a portion of the work which they have to perform. This, however, is far from being always
* Since this was written, establishments have been founded in Manchester with great success. They cannot, however, be made to answer the purpose of cooking schools, because everything used in them is boiled; there is no roasting or baking.