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Diligent study of the question and resolute abstention from luxuries will solve the problem, if it can be solved.
We indulge ourselves and our children too much in what tastes good, while all the time we know we have not money enough to buy necessaries. For instance, the consumption of sugar in America was, in 1887, fifty-six pounds per head, in Germany hardly more than one third that amount. This means a larger consumption of sweetmeats than we can afford and at the same time be well fed otherwise.
We seem, in general, to spend too much money in our country on food compared with what we use in other directions; one great trouble is that we do not know how to save every scrap of food and use it again in some form. For one thing, we have yet to learn the great art of soup making, — and it seems, also, of soup eating.
The American housekeeper would say to me: “ This is nothing new ; for years we've been hearing about soups. We don't like soups !” I only ask, “ Have you tried them for a considerable length of time, so that you have become skilled in making them, and your family used to their taste?" One fact alone ought to insure for them a good trial; that at least three nations, the French, German, and Italian, make daily use of them and have for generations. To take part of our food in this form is an absolute necessity if we are to do the best possible with a certain amount of money.
PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES. The practical difficulties in the way of improvement in household cookery are not small. As cook, we have the wife and mother, who has too little time for this important branch of household work; she has had, perhaps, no good training in the art of cookery (for it is an art), and besides, her kitchen and kitchen utensils are not at all what they should be. Indeed, the qualifications for a given task could not well be further from the ideal.
In Europe families of small means have many helps unknown to us. In the first place, bread is never baked at home, the baker's bread being both excellent and cheap. It would seem that among us bakers' bread must shortly improve in quality and decrease in price; either the profits must be too large or the business not well managed. For instance, in those parts of Germany where white bread is eaten as a staple, it costs a trifle over three cents a pound, while flour of average quality costs about the same. In contrast with this, compare the prices of bread and flour in our own country where in no large city is bread quoted at less than seven cents, while flour costs three cents. That is, bread costs in Germany about the same as flour and in America more than twice as much ; and yet the German baker is notably a prosperous person!
The foreign housekeeper has still further help from the baker. If she makes a cake or pie she sends it out to be baked, and pays from one to two cents (the fuel would have cost more); joints of meat and mixed dishes are also sent to be baked for the same price; and before any bakeshop in a German city, at noon on Sunday, can be seen a line of servant girls each in turn receiving a steaming dish as it is taken from the oven. The soup kitchens (Volks Küchen) of various grades are also a great help. The writer has repeatedly had brought from one of them an excellent meat broth (one pint for two cents), and good cooked vegetables are furnished for a price less than they could be cooked for at home, if one took any account of time and fire.
But such helps are not yet to any great extent available to the American woman; she must wrestle with her own problem at home and solve it as best she can.
The kitchen of a woman of average means is not the ideal kitchen. It is perhaps too small or not light enough, or it may have still more serious defects, as a bad drain. We must take it as it is, however, requiring only that it contain what is necessary to the end we have in view, - plain cooking for a family of six.
. In the cheaper city dwellings the kitchen is small, Size of kitchen.
nen. too small for good ventilation and for the heavier kinds of work, as washing; but for cooking, a very small kitchen can be so arranged as to answer every purpose.
Any one who has seen a ship's kitchen can understand this. The cook as he stands before his range is within reach of all his stores, for rows of drawers and shelves literally line the walls from floor to ceiling, little tables for pastry or cake-making are drawn out of the wall and pushed in again when not wanted, and every inch of floor and wall space is used to the best advantage. This cook would tell you that he did not want a larger kitchen ; he would only lose time running about in it.
Begin to utilize the wall space. If you have not angement, yet as many shelves as the walls will accommodate, put up more, and especially about and above the stove, so that as you stand at your cooking you can reach salt, pepper, and every other flavor that can be used in a soup or stew ; cooking spoons and forks and knives, potlids and holders, — all these should be at your hand. Let a carpenter fasten into the mortared wall strips of wood that will hold nails and a few shelves, and if the stove is in a niche with wall on two or even three sides of it, all the better. On these nails should hang nearly every implement used in cooking, and on the shelves should be found all spices and flavors ; farther back can be placed what is more seldom used. If there are no drawers, never mind, use close tin boxes for as many things as you can ; if no closed cupboard for your dishes, hang a curtain before the open shelves.
The nearer your sink is to the stove the better, that is the path your feet must oftenest travel. There must be a table of some sort very near the stove ; if it is a movable one, all the better, or it may be a broad shelf with a very strong and safe hinged support under it, letting down when not in use.
I take for granted that the main part of your work is to be done on this stove and table, and that a well stocked pantry, fitted out for the making of pastry and cake and elaborate dishes, is not within your reach any more than the time for making such.
The utensils you need are few, but these few you Utensils.
Se must have. Consider the value of the food materials that you use ; a few burns on an old saucepan will quite buy a new one. We will speak only of the most important and absolutely necessary utensils.
First, do not use tin; it is cheap, but coal is not, and you will waste a great deal of coal in trying to cook in tin. Brass and copper cooking vessels are to be avoided by one who must economize, as they are expensive and require too much care to keep them free from poisonous verdigris.
Of chief importance among your utensils is a flat-bottomed iron pot with close-fitting iron lid. Get the smoothest and best, even if it cost double. In this you will roast meat with little fire, cook vegetables, all but peas and beans, cook anything indeed that is not acid. Have two of these, if you can, of different sizes. Next, an iron frying-pan, also of the smoothest wrought iron and light; this, too, should have a close fitting cover. Some people consider iron utensils heavy and old-fashioned, but where economy is an object, no other ware is so good and satisfactory. The blue or gray enameled ware is very nice, but will not stand great heat and easily chips and cracks, but you should have one kettle of this ware, as it is valuable for cooking fruit and anything acid. You must have a wire gridiron for toasting bread and broiling meat ; this you should use for many things which you now cook in the frying-pan. The tea-kettle is a matter of course, and the griddle. There is one other utensil not as common, but which deserves to be, viz., a steamer ; a simple pot with perforated bottom which will fit tightly into the top of the iron pot, and have a very tightly fitting cover. Its use will be discussed later.
You can hardly do without a number of earthen jugs, glazed with lead-free enamel, especially for cooking and holding milk. Get also a number of wooden spoons; they are cheap and clean, and of convenient shape for stirring. The old-fashioned pudding stick of the Yankee kitchen is the earliest form among us, and many people know no other.
A good stove is of first importance in a kitchen, *** but fortunately good stoves have become common. A graver question, however, is the cost of fuel to be burned in them. Of course coal must be the stand-by, and when the stove is heated up, as on ironing and baking days, care can be taken to use the fire to its fullest capacity ; in winter, dishes can be cooked ahead for several days.
To cook a single dish or for boiling a tea-kettle a Coal oil.
coal oil stove is a saving; it is also invaluable for keeping a pot at a simmering heat, - a thing very difficult to accomplish on a stove.
For the same purpose and for any steady cooking, coase and above all for broiling meat, every housekeeper ought to have appliances for burning charcoal ; it only needs a grating with a rim two or three inches high, to let down into the stove hole (a sort of deep spider with a grated bottom). For such purposes a bushel of hard wood charcoal costing fifteen or twenty cents would last a long time. Charcoal is almost the only fuel used in Paris for cooking ; indeed, throughout France and in Western Germany it is in very common use. “Cooking safe.” For “cooking safe" as a saver of fuel, see page 226.
PROTEID-CONTAINING FOODS AND THEIR PREPA
We have already in the Introduction called attention to the importance of this food principle. It is well for us to bear in mind that there are three great classes of proteids, albumens proper, caseins, and fibrins, and that in both plants and animals are found representatives of these three classes. Thus, in plant juices and in eggs we have things belonging to the albumen class; in the curd of sour milk and in the legumine of the pod-covered plants we have examples of caseins; and in the gluten of grains and in the clot whipped out of blood we have examples of fibrins.
ANIMAL FOODS. Our animal food contains some other things that the housewife ranks with proteids and we have a few words to say about one of them, viz., gelatine, that nitrogenous substance boiled out of bones and cartilage.
In the history of foods this gelatine, like meat exof. tract, has played a great part. Before the real functions of the food principles were understood it was thought that