Many a well balanced meal has been uneaten because little attention had been given to the aesthetic side of menu planning. Meals must be interesting, well cooked, and attractively served if the menu planner hopes to have her family eat what they should have. The appearance and flavor of food have a direct effect upon the secretion of digestive juices. Everyone has had the experience of having his “mouth water” at the sight of a particularly appetizing dish.
Attention should be given to the color combination in the meal. A meal containing foods all the same color is uninteresting. Colors that harmonize or contrast add attractiveness to the meal. The vegetables, salads, and desserts offer opportunities to consider color. The flavors of the meal should not be overlooked. A bland course should be accompanied or followed by something more tart. The serving of a tart jelly, cranberries, baked orange or other fruit with the meat course often enhances the flavor. A highly flavored vegetable may be used with a bland one. A tart salad may be followed by a bland dessert. A meal should contain foods of different textures,something hard or crisp with the soft foods, as melba toast with soups, or a macaroon with ice cream. The temperature of foods is important. Every meal should contain at least one hot dish. Such a meal is more appetizing than one of cold foods entirely.
Avoid the repetition of a food during a meal, and if possible during the day. How often we encounter cream of tomato soup and tomato salad in the same meal. Leftovers may be used in many different ways and interesting dishes produced.
The order of serving is important as different courses have different effects upon the secretion of digestive juices. A fruit cocktail or a vegetable soup stimulates secretion. The meat course reaches the stomach when the gastric juice is flowing freely. The oily salad and dessert require little digestion in the stomach, and have high satiety value so naturally follow the meat course. .
It is scarcely necessary to mention that food should be well cooked and attractively served. While everyone does not have a natural ability or does not choose to cook, the person in charge of the home should understand the principles of cookery sufficiently well to be able to cook or see that it is correctly done. Attractive dishes, clean linen, a table properly set, simple flowers, candles for the evening meal, and a definite type of service are the little things that add much to any meal.
The science and art of menu planning may be applied equally well whether menus are simple or elaborate. The rules of menu planning may be summarized as follows:
1. Include proper foods to meet food requirements for each member of the family.
2. Arrange meals according to the occupations of members of the family.
3. Plan the menu for the day as a whole, or for several days.
4. Distribute the food between the three meals so that each type of food is represented in each meal.
5. Consider the season of the year in the selection of foods.
6. Consider the digestibility of foods in grouping them together in a meal.
7. Use a variety of foods and avoid monotonous repetition.
8. Arrange the order of serving so that foods which stimulate the flow of digestive juices are served first and those with high satiety value last.
9. Consider the aesthetic side of menu planning.
10. Consider the price of food and economy in preparation to meet the food budget.