ENTIRELY too much time and entirely too little intelligence is ordinarily expended on the home preparation of food, or to use the more ordinary word “cooking.”
Cooking, as a matter of fact, is a wholly artificial process for which no argument can be found in nature. Cooking was originally adopted by man as a means of rendering grain and meat more palatable. Raw dry grains are too hard and too dry for any creature to eat unless provided with heavy molars, or a gizzard full of sharp rocks, for grinding purposes.
It is commonly taught in cook books that raw starch is indigestible. This is a fallacy. Farm animals fed experimentally on cooked grain do not digest it as well as the raw grain. This evidence may be rebutted by stating that man has been a cooking animal so long that his digestive system is no longer adapted to raw foods. This argument, however, is not correct, as has been proven by experimental tests. A man can digest practically all kinds of food raw, including cereal starch. Cooking, therefore, is not to be defended on hygienic grounds, except in so far as the cooking of food may render it more palatable.
Meats might be cited as an exception to this, or for that matter so might any dirty or contaminated food, on the ground that cooking is needed as a sterilizing process. I certainly do not advocate the eating of raw meat, chiefly because the idea is repulsive to me, as it is to most civilized people. Moreover, animal parasites may find entrance to the body through the consumption of raw meat. Even the consumption of raw oysters may lead to typhoid fever, if the oysters are from sewage-polluted water.
Just as the heating of food is necessary to kill germs of decay when preserved by canning, so cooking is recommended to kill disease germs. The fear of disease germs is nine-tenths non-sense; even those who painstakingly sterilize much of their food eat freely of lettuce and similar raw vegetables that have been exposed to the germ-laden air of the city streets. The germ-hunting doctors may some time get so tied up what with laws and fears that everything we eat will come in sterilized capsules. Until that time arrives I propose to continue to eat my fruit and vegetables and dairy products without sterilization, provided that I can get them in a reasonably fresh and cleanly state.
Every diet should contain at least some portion of uncooked foods. Although scientists have not fully settled the matter, the evidence at present indicates that the vitamines and perhaps some of the mineral salts and proteins are rendered less digestible, or their nutritive attributes destroyed by cooking. At least we know, as a practical proposition, that the addition to the diet of raw milk or milk and eggs and uncooked fruits and vegetables frequently results in marked benefits.
Grain products can be eaten raw, in fact, raw rolled wheat, rye and barley eaten with milk and raisins form excellent cereal dishes. Raw rolled oats is also edible, when one learns to like the flavor, and is certainly as digestible as the pasty, mushy mass usually made by cooking the same material. Perhaps the best forms in which to prepare grainsall things consideredis a form of cooking that leaves the grains whole so that they still require some mastication, as boiled wheat, whole corn hominy and rice cooked Chinese fashion.
Ground grains may be used as porridges, but in the case of the resulting “mush” there is always the temptation to bolt the food, whereas, being a starchy food, there is, particularly, need of mastication. For that reason it is much better to use cereals in the whole grain forms or to make them into bread. The effort to get bread that is so soft and delicate and that “melts in the mouth” without chewing is a mistake. This lightness and softness of white flour bread is a fault almost as grave as its chemical deficiencies. Many people object to genuine whole wheat bread on the ground that it is too coarse and hard; they are too lazy to chew it; such people would also object to taking exercise. If they carried their objection to the labor of living to a logical end, they should be put on a feather bed and fed gruel with a hose. Doubtless on this system of living they would become nice and plump like a goose stuffed with noodlesthe goose gets fat and also develops an enormous liver which is used for the making of pate de foie gras.
It is possible in many of the large cities and in a few of the small ones to buy an honest whole wheat bread. But in the majority of American cities and towns it is difficult to secure the genuine article. Almost anything is called Graham breadany cheap mixture of poor white flour, bran and by-products. In many millions of homes, therefore, the only practical solution to the problem of securing whole wheat bread is to “bake your own.”
The trouble begins with the flour. Whole wheat flour should be the most uniformly good of all flours, since the process of its making is the simplest; but it is often the worst. The correct recipe for making whole wheat flour is “Grind the wheat.” The commercial practice is to assemble in one sack various proportions of the low priced offal of the white flour milling process and sell it for more than the price of. the white flour.
These wheat offal compounds will not make good bread, not because there is anything wrong with the food qualities of the various portions of the wheat rejected in the process of white flour milling, but because the proportions are wrong and the mechanical condition is wrong. The usual commercial mixture sold as whole wheat flour has too little of both the bran and of the interior of the wheat kernel and has too much of the middlings and shorts and wheat germs. Such a flour is sticky, without possessing sufficient true gluten, and makes a soggy loaf and sometimes a bitter loaf because of the rancidity of the oil of the wheat germ that has stood too long exposed to the air.
I have never yet seen a miller’s formula for making whole wheat flour out of fine flour offals that can equal the pure ground whole wheat. Part of this fault is mechanical; the fine flour milling process rubs the bran to thin, papery flakes and grinds the rest of the kernel to impalpable powder. On the contrary, the simple grinding of wheat in a mill not too finely set results in breaking up the kernel into particles of varying sizes. The interior portion easily reduces to a fine powder, but the outer part breaks up into flakes of bran to which adhere the inner bran coats and portions of the white meat of the kernel; such natural ground wheat with its particles of various sizes makes a loaf that is superior to that composed of papery bran flakes and other ingredients finely powdered.
The surest way to get good whole wheat flour is to get good whole wheat and grind it yourself or have it ground. A coffee mill will do itlaboriously; the little home mills now happily on sale for the purpose will do it faster; an ordinary stock food mill such as exists on many farms will do it splendidly, and an old water mill with its stone burrs will do it to the queen’s taste. However obtained, the flour should be as fresh as possible, that freshly ground from wheat of the year’s harvesting being the ideala thing equally true of corn meal.
Whole-wheat bread without leaven is possible, but it is heavy, damp and soggy. White flour bread without leaven is “impossible” unless it be the completely dried out cracker form. Made with soda and sour milk or with the various forms of quick chemical leavening, -the whole wheat is superior to the fine flour. But these various forms of gems, cakes and muffins are not bread in the strict sense. which limits the term to the yeast raised loaf that is palatable cold and improves with a few days’ age.
True yeast breads are frequently judged by the degree of their lightness. It is an erroneous standard of judgment, for the really best bread, even when made of white flour, is not the most extremely light and airy loaf. But certain lightness .bread must have, or it will be soggy, tough, hard and generally unpalatable. Whole-wheat bread can be made light enough for palatability though the process is difficult and the difficulty is increased by the breadmaker having learned her art on white flour breads, and attempting to apply its procedure to whole-wheat doughs.
Whole-wheat flour dough will not raise to the same degree as white-flour dough, hence, in trying to attain this end the thing is overdone, the dough falls, or, what is worse, bacteria get their work in and the dough sours.
The simplest method of allI do not say the bestis the direct method. Take the usual ingredients, i.e., two cups of milk scalded and cooled, a teaspoonful of salt, a fourth cup of sugar or molasses, and a cake of yeast dissolved in one-fourth cup of warm water, and mix with enough whole-wheat flour to form a dough as thick as can be stirred with a strong arm and a stiff wooden spoon. And keep on stirring for sometime, as there is not going to be any kneading it. Then pour into. greased pans, filling them half full. Set them to rise in a temperature between 75 and 80 degrees. When the dough risen to twice its bulk and so fills the pans, put them into an oven hot enough to bake them done in one hour this is the simplest method of making yeast bread that has been or can be devised. If you have failed with more complicated methods, try it.
Here is a more complex method: Take the same ingredients other than flour and set a “sponge.” For this sponge whole-wheat flour may be used, but as the sponge forms only a portion of the finished loaf, white flour may be used for it and it has the advantage of being more glutinous and better holding the gas bubbles. This sponge is a thick batter but not a dough. Set the sponge at the same temperature
This process, if each step is conducted exactly right, securing the maximum raising without going beyond that point, will give a loaf of maximum lightness. But there are three chances to go wrong and have sour or soggy bread.
Hence between these two extremes the experienced teacher in bread-making usually recommends the following compromise, and I will give the recipe in fuller detail:
Two cups of milk (water may be used).. If milk is used, scald it and coal to lukewarm. A teaspoonful of salt.
A fourth of a cup of sugar or as much or a little more of molasses. (This sweetening is not essential.)
A cake of yeast dissolved in one-fourth cup of warm water.
(A little oil, butter or other fat may be used.)
Whole-wheat flour, about five cupfuls On this point of exact flour quantities g.,Mapy ttles of failure; Whole-wheat flour absorbs more, water when cold than white flour; hence the danger of soggy bread. Moreover, the flours differ; better learn to judge flour quantities by the stiffness of the dough and make the dough rather drier than white flour dough.
Add salt and sugar to the milk. When the milk is cool, add the dissolved yeast and then the flour, stirring thoroughly. The temperature of the whole should be between seventy-five and eighty. This requires that the flour should be warmed in winter, and there are plenty of places where it needs to be cooled in summer. Yeast grows most rapidly at a temperature of 86 degrees, but it is best that the temperature be under rather than over this and the higher temperature increases the danger of bacterial growth and sour bread. Where the bread in a sponge or dough is to be set over night the temperature should be betwcen sixty-five and seventy.
Now for the stirring or kneading. The purpose is to get an intimate mixture of flour and yeast; otherwise some spots will be heavy and others get light too quickly and “fall” or sour. Stir the dough till it becomes too stiff and then take out and knead for a few minutes. Now set aside at the proper temperature to raise. If things are right it should raise to twice its bulk. Then shape into loaves without much kneading and put into the pans. Let it raise again one-half its bulk and then to the oven.
Whole-wheat bread requires a little slower oven than white bread. If you” have an oven thermometer start the bread in a temperature of 425, let it fall during the baking to about 380 at the end. The cooking time should be from one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. Naturally this will .depend on the size of the loaf. Whole-wheat bread crust is liable to bake harder than white. Hard top crusts can usually be avoided by shielding the top of the loaf with paper or tin covers during the first part of the baking process.
The above process is about as near as one can get it from printed recipes. Here is a slight modification of it: Instead of adding all the flour the first time use only enough to make a batter thick enough to drop slowly from a spoon.
Then let this batter raise to twice its bulk before adding the rest of the flour and kneading. Then put into pans and proceed as before. It is only a difference of when the last part of the flour is added and when kneading is done. Try both ways and stick to the one which produces better bread.
Whole-wheat bread is about the solidest staff of life on which frail man has yet learned to lean. Sometimes the staff is too solid. If you, or the others who dine at your table find it so you can compromise by using part white flour.
After you once acquire the fine art of judging when the yeast has bubbled just enough, then there is infinite variety of possible alterations in the ingredients. Add ground nuts and it is a nut bread; add chopped figs, dates and raisins, and it is a fruit bread.
Those who have not the facilities or time to make whole-wheat bread from yeast and who cannot buy it in the market will do well to use the rather plentiful supply of warm breads made either from whole-wheat flour or from corn meal. Warm whole-wheat or corn bread, that is gems, muffins and even pancakes, are much more whole-some and digestible than similar preparations made of white flour. The Graham flour and the corn meal are coarser and more granular and do not make the sticky, doughy mass that is so objectionable in warm white-flour breads. .
The following recipes for making various corn breads will serve as a guide to those inexperienced in such cookery. The making of these forms of bread from either corn meal or whole-wheat flour is much simpler than making yeast bread, and the recipes may be varied, or one who has the general principle in mind can make a wide variety of such breads off-hand without following a definite recipe.
SOUR MILK CORN BREAD Corn-meal, 3 cups Sour Milk, 2 cups Salt Soda Stir to a thin batter, and bake in shallow tin.
CORN PONE OR ASH CAKE Corn-meal, 3 cups Salt Water
Mix corn-meal with salt and scald with boiling water. Shape into cakes and bake in quick oven. The classic product of log cabin days was baked wrapped in green leaves and placed in the ashes, or on boards set before an open fire.
ONE-EGO CORN BREAD White flour, 1 cup Sugar, 1 tablespoon Eggs, one Baking powder, 3 teaspoons Milk (skim), 2 cups Salt to taste
Scald corn-meal with one cup boiling water. Add egg well beaten, fat, sugar and milk. Sift flour with baking powder, stir to soft batter, and pour into pan in sheet three-quarters of an inch thick.
CORN MUFFINS Butter, 1 cup Baking powder, 5 teaspoons Sugar, 3/4 cup Milk, 1 1/2 cups Eggs, one Flour, 1 cup Corn-meal, 2 cups
Mix cream, butter and sugar; add well-beaten eggs gradually, and milk. Then add dry ingredients mixed and sifted. Bake in individual tins.
The root vegetables are for the most part unpalatable unless cooked. There are some exceptions to this: raw grated carrots, tender turnips, or beets make an excellent ingredient for salads.
The greatest mistake made in cooking vegetables is that of boiling them in too much water and then discarding the water; both the flavor and valuable mineral salts are lost in this way. All vegetables that are boiled should be cooked in as little water as possiblemany of them may be steamed in a closed pot without being covered with water. The juice that remains from the boiling of vegetables should not be discarded; it should either be used for the making of soups or should be boiled down until the quantity of juice remaining is not too great to serve with the vegetables. Such vegetable juice may be made exceedingly palatable by the addition of either milk or butter. Almost all vegetables make delightful soups, either alone or in various combinations; for this purpose the vegetables should be cut fine, as the object is to get the flavor into the soup and not to retain it in the vegetables as when they are served as such. The mere addition to finely chopped vegetables cooked in water or milk, condensed milk or cream and a little butter makes the least expensive and, the most wholesome form of soup that may be served. Do not add flour or other thickening. Potato soup, celery soup and onion soup made in this fashion are especially fine.
One of the best methods for cooking practically all vegetables is to bake them in a covered dish with a little water or milk. This method is known as “cooking en casserole” The process retains the full flavor and all the soluble mineral salts. Either milk or butter, or both are the best dressings or sauces for vegetables cooked in this fashion.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips may be baked. In the baking of these vegetables the skin should not be removed. Wash thoroughly with a stiff brush, or wash and scrape. This will remove the dirt and the skin may be retained. Buttering or oiling of potatoes before baking will keep the skins from drying out and make them more palatable. To pare off the skin of potatoes wastes a large portion of the substances and, as in the case of removing the bran from wheat, the most valuable ingredients are lost. When boiled, the thin outer skin is not so palatable and becomes detached in papery layers; in such case the best method is to bring the potatoes to a boil, which will loosen the outer skin, which may then be removed; after this the cooking process may be finished in any way desired. But the baking process is preferable, as no substance at all is lost; even the outer skin is delicious, and valuable in the diet for the reason that it supplies indigestible fibre similar to the fibrous element in the wheat bran.
Although there are some exceptions, as in the case of old turnips or beets in which the outer skin of, the vegetable is not palatable, yet as a general rule one should retain the outer skin of vegetables and not pare it off in thick layers and discard it.
The leafy vegetables should for the most part be served as salads uncooked. Cabbage is commonly served both raw and cooked; but the uncooked cabbage used as salads or slaw is the more wholesome and digestible. Practically all green vegetables may be used in raw salads, when one becomes accustomed to the flavor of them. For use in this form they will naturally be more appetizing if young and tender.
The purpose of leafy vegetables in the diet is to supply vitamines, minerals and cellulose or fibre. The cooking process may destroy or re-duce the available quantity of vitamines and if all juice is not retained will waste the mineral salts. Hence the importance of using leafy vegetables in uncooked form. Some of the tougher and older varieties of leafy vegetables may be cooked as greens. Greens are most appetizing when served with a dressing of oil and lemon juice; those who prefer meat flavors in the diet may cook greens with a little bacon, ham or chipped beef. The chipped dried beef in small quantities is also an excellent ingredient to add flavor to uncooked salads.
The salads may be made in almost an endless number of forms, but the leafy vegetables, usually lettuce, celery or raw cabbage, should always be the chief ingredients. The salad dressing should have a vegetable oil as the main ingredient. Some sort of acid is necessary to give piquancy and flavor; vinegar is commonly used for the purpose, though I recommend lemon juice, as being the more wholesome and natural form of food acid. Mayonnaise dressing is made of oil, vinegar or lemon juice and egg yolk. In order to make a good Mayonnaise dressing one should first beat the egg yolks until they are perfectly smooth, then drop in the necessary quantity of oil drop by drop, stirring the mass the whole time; when all the oil has been incorporated, add vinegar or lemon juice and salt to taste, Some prefer also to add some small portion of mustard. In order to get a perfect emulsion all the ingredients should be as cold as possible.
Salad dressings may also be made with the use of evaporated milk or cream to replace all or part of the egg yolks and oil. Peanut but-ter thinned with a little milk or water may be used in a similar fashion. Sugar may be used or omitted from salad dressing according to taste. Dressings for salads for use in the reducing in cases of obesity should omit the oil; and in this case a little mustard or ketchup to give flavor to the dressing is quite excusable.
Legumes, which include beans, peas, lentils and peanuts, all require cooking to make them palatable. )Peanuts are occasionally eaten raw, but most people do not care for the flavor. This group of foods is more benefited by cooking than foods of almost any other sort; not only is this true because of the improvement of flavor, but raw legumes are not readily digestible. The increased proportion of vegetable protein mixed with the starch seems to be one of the most difficult to digest of all food substances; hence thorough cooking, which softens and disintegrates the substance, is really necessary. Peanut butter is made from roasted nutsonly they are not nuts at all, but belong, to the legume family. The roasting and grinding renders the peanut much more digestible.
Nuts, like legumes, are somewhat difficult of digestion because of the insoluble nature of their vegetable proteins, but in the case of nuts the additional ingredient is fat rather than starch and, therefore, they are not benefited by cooking. The important thing in using nuts is their thorough mastication. When nuts are desired to flavor other foods, they may be ground finely in a chopper. Such chopped nut meat is an excel-lent ingredient of salads and may also be used with cereals ; or they may be added to give the nutty or meaty flavor to baked vegetable combinations, which are frequently used in vegetarian cookery to replace the meat dish of the meal.
Fruits are rarely benefited. by cooking and, as in the case of leafy vegetables, I advise the use of fruit uncooked wherever possible. The exception might be taken in the case of green fruit, but the better plan is to use thoroughly ripened fruits only, rather. than to attempt to substitute cooking for the natural ripening process.
Evaporated fruits such as prunes, peaches and apricots are usually cooked, but a more natural flavor may be obtained by soaking such dried fruits over-night. If one likes a little cooked flavor they may be brought to a boil the next morning, but the prolonged cooking of evaporated fruits is wholly unnecessary.
The banana more nearly resembles the starchy vegetables than it does the true fruits. In order to get it to our markets the banana is picked green; it should not be used until thoroughly ripened. The thoroughly ripened banana has a
speckled black and yellow skin; because of the bruising of the fruit, bananas often spoil before this stage of ripening is, reached. Because of the starchy nature of the unripened banana its flavor may be improved by cooking. The best method of doing this is to bake the banana in its skin. Bananas may either be used in this form or used raw, if well ripened. It is an inexpensive and wholesome food, deserving wide use.
The habit of preparing fruit with too much sugar is a dietary error; the making of thick, syrupy fruits and of jellies, jams and marmalades is excusable if the appetite calls for sweets, for such dishes are certainly preferable to the wholly denatured cane and glucose syrups. But the better method is to use the fruits uncooked, and if well ripened most fruits may be so used with little or no sugar. The better forms of sweets are the natural sweet fruits, such as raisins, dates and figs. To this list of natural sweets we may add honey. These splendid foods deserve more extensive use. They may be eaten alone or with nuts, or used to sweeten cereal dishes.
Fruit juices, or drinks made therefrom, are most palatable and wholesome. Fruit juice drinks together with milk are the true health drinks or beverages. A Alcoholic drinks have been abolished by law, and the health of the nation, would be improved if the narcotic tea and coffee were also abolished. Cocoa contains a small percentage 67 an alkaloid narcotic, but the nutritious ingredients of the cocoa, and particularly the milk with which it is combined, so overbalance this narcotic effect that we may place the cocoa on the permissible list for those who insist upon some form of warm drink. Cereal coffees are not particularly nutritious except for the milk and sugar they contain; but they are, of course, harmless. Their great utility has been as a substitute for the harmful coffee.
The methods of cooking, which I do not advise, either from the standpoint of health or economy, are those in which starches and fats and often sugar are mixed together. This includes all manner of pastries, as well as many of the complicated hashes, gravies and dumplings, ctc. Such methods of cookery add unreasonably to the housewife’s labor and the products, while tasty, are neither digestible nor wholesome, and usually lead to over-eating. Such dishes as mince pies and plum pudding are notorious offenders. But the general list of foods made from white flour, fats and sugars with or without meat combinations are all worthless, except for their fuel or caloric value, and our conventional diet is already overburdened with food material of this sort.
Frying is the least wholesome method of cookery, especially when applied to foods containing starch. Purely protein foods such as eggs, fish and lean meats, may be fried without much injury to their nutritive or digestible qualities. If one must fry potatoes the best method is the French fried, in which the potatoes in comparatively large pieces are dropped into hot grease, so that at least the entire substance does not become saturated.
The amount of time, worry and labor expended on preparing foods in the average Americn household is an utterly inexcusable waste of human energy Whenever possible foods should be use their natural al forms or the dishes made there from should be simple. Complicated and elaborate cookery serves no purpose whatever, except to waste a woman’s time and lead her family to over-eating and gluttony.
As ordinarily practiced this system of elaborate cooking runs in a vicious circle. The foods are too highly flavored, and too readily swallowed without mastication. This results in over-eating. Over-eating results in loss of appetite, and with a poor appetite, and the belief that one must forever eat to keep up one’s strength, comes the demand for more complicated dishes and more highly seasoned food.
The cure for this vicious system is to go back to a natural diet of simple foods, and to wait for the return of natural appetite, before eating. This will often result in the eating of less food, with the resultant loss in weight; but such loss of weight is usually beneficial. Unless a man has been educated away from the erroneous view that an enormous appetite, the consumption of huge quantities of food, and the resultant over-weight are all desirable, he will, of course, be frightened, imagine that he is starving to death, and return to his flesh pots, and continue his health destroying habits.