( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In planning meals for a day or a week there are several very important points to keep in mind, the most important being that a balanced ration should be provided,—one in which all classes of food are in the right proportion. (What per cent of food should be protein?) Unless all food is weighed and the fuel value of each of its food elements computed it cannot be exactly determined how much of each class should be eaten. As this is a long and tiresome process, most housekeepers depend upon their general knowledge of the composition of foods, and upon the guidance of the appetite.
A man of average weight for his height and age, whose work is light, needs seventeen calories per pound of body weight daily; the average woman needs eight-tenths as many. Persons suffering from wasting diseases or convalescing from sickness that has left the body emaciated need a much higher caloric value and a greater proportion of protein than the robust adult. Children need a greater number of calories per pound of body weight—varying from forty-five calories for the first six months, to thirty at nine years of age, to twenty-seven at fourteen, and to eighteen at seventeen years of age. A boy of twelve or a girl of fifteen needs as much protein as a woman, and a boy of six needs half as much as a man.
In planning meals for children see that they get enough protein and fat, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and be sure that they do not eat too much sugar or sweets. A child needs a great deal more food in proportion to his weight than a grown person does, because the child is growing. A child of five needs almost half as much food as a man, but needs proportionately more fat and tissue building food than the adult. An active boy of fifteen requires as much food as a man. A middle aged person needs less protein than a young one. An active worker needs more food than one who leads a quiet life.
When one is out of doors more should be eaten than when one stays indoors. If making a menu for persons who work indoors do not use foods that are difficult to digest; dried beans, for instance, are a good protein food for a man in the field, but not for a bookkeeper. Make a list of foods that are difficult to digest.
Some Coarse Foods Are Needed. Every menu should contain some bulky food rich in cellulose. The green vegetables and fruits and the coarse breads—corn, Graham, and whole wheat—are such foods. They prevent constipation—a condition that causes much ill health.
Another thing that should be considered in menu planning is the season or temperature. In summer, cooling foods are required and nature provides juicy fruits and vegetables, such as peaches, watermelons, and tomatoes. The winter vegetables, beets, turnips, and carrots, are richer in carbohydrates and consequently furnish more heat. For those who keep their houses very warm and who wear much heavy clothing, some cooling foods are needed even in winter, therefore the canned summer fruits and vegetables and fresh ones, shipped from warmer climates are desirable.
Other Points in Menu Making. Plan menus early enough to secure the needed supplies without hurrying the cook or the tradesman. Menus should be made at least a day ahead ; a week is better. One can always modify the selection of foods to suit the supplies on hand or to provide for unexpected guests.
Pleasing Combinations. A menu may be well balanced, and still be unappetizing. The body does not get the most out of food unless it is well digested, and good digestion depends very largely on the palatability of the food. Some foods blend well together; others do not. Broiled chicken and green peas are an appetizing combination but green peas with pork are not attractive. With a food so rich in fat as pork, acid such as apple sauce, tomatoes, or turnips with vinegar is desired. Do not serve more than one starchy vegetable at a meal. Do not serve too many green vegetables at one meal—never more than two and a salad. Do not have at one meal several foods dressed or served in the same way; if one dish has a sauce, another should be dry. Do not use the same food twice in a menu; for example, cooked tomatoes and tomato salad; or chicken broth followed by chicken for the meat course. The only exceptions to this rule are the use of fish and oysters at the same meal, or a soup made from beef stock -with beef in some other form. In planning the dessert be sure that it does not disturb the balance or proportion of the ration.
Giving Variety to the Menu. By using different methods of cooking and seasoning a pleasing variety may be secured. Serving even a staple food like potatoes in the same way every day causes one to tire of it. Plain mashed potatoes, browned mashed potatoes, potatoes with parsley and melted butter, baked potatoes, and puffed potatoes, are all easy to prepare. Using a number of flavors and seasonings is another way of securing variety. Some cooks make the mistake of limiting their seasonings to pepper and salt, with the occasional use of lemon and vanilla for the sweet dishes. Every kitchen should be sup-plied with a variety of herbs and spices. Of the aromatic condiments, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, vanilla, lemon, sage, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf (used in moderation) are very useful. The peppers cause congestion in the digestive tract and irritate the kidneys and should be used very sparingly. The mild red peppers such as paprika are least harmful. Mustard, horseradish, onion, and garlic are all used as condiments but except in very small quantities are irritating. Vinegar and lemon juice in small quantities are pleasing stimulants to the appetite. Vinegar is often flavored with herbs ; tarragon vinegar has a very agreeable flavor.
Time and Method of Cooking. In planning the menu consider carefully the time required for preparation and cooking; if the housekeeper is very busy she should select foods that will not demand too much of her attention. Cook foods requiring long continued heat at a time when the wood or coal range is being used, or put them in a fireless cooker. If the gas oven is to be used select the food which will necessitate the use of as few top burners as possible.
Cost. The money to be expended on food should be definitely decided. If expensive foods are bought for one day, something cheaper must be used on some other occasion; other-wise the food allowance of the housekeeper's budget will be exceeded. After the menu is made, one may substitute a cheaper article of the same class to reduce the cost ; for instance, cole slaw or a jellied vegetable relish may be substituted for hothouse cucumbers to serve with fish.
Some Menus for Comparison. Each of the following dinner menus was served to four people at a total cost of seventy-five cents. Which is the better balanced? Which is more satisfying.? What cheaper vegetable could be substituted for asparagus? What starchy vegetable could be substituted for potatoes? How would the cost be affected?
1. Broiled fish, scalloped tomatoes, baked potatoes, Parker House rolls, grape fruit salad, rounds of plain cake with half a canned peach, and coffee.
2. Broiled meat cakes, asparagus on toast, hot biscuit, cake and coffee.
What fault is there in the following menu? Beef soup with croutons, roast beef, baked potatoes, macaroni with cheese and tomatoes, steamed pudding with hard sauce. Suggest some changes that would improve it.
Which of the following menus is . the better balanced? Shredded wheat biscuit with cream, eggs, toast, butter, dried figs, and coffee, or oatmeal with milk, eggs, rolls and butter, sweet oranges, and coffee? (f orange or other slightly acid fruit is used, it is more digestible if served after a meal.)
The first of the preceding menus is a little higher in fat, but by using milk this could be corrected. Which has the higher food value, oranges or dried figs? In using either of these menus for a family of varying ages each person might select what suited his needs. A middle aged man who wished to restrict his protein might take two helpings of cereal and omit the egg; the housekeeper might do the same; or either might take cereal one day and egg and toast the next. The growing children might eat everything in the menu. Either of these menus with the following luncheon and dinner forms a fairly well balanced ration if only caloric value is considered; but except for very active people in a cool climate they would prove too rich in carbohydrates, and might cause digestive troubles:
Luncheon: Bean soup and croutons; cole slaw, rice pudding.
Dinner: Clear soup, mutton, rice, carrots, steamed pudding with hard sauce.
Common Mistakes in Menus. Some people, particularly women, live largely on starchy foods. They eat white bread and sweets, and drink much tea, or they use quantities of rich pastry and much highly seasoned food. This is bad for the teeth and also disturbs digestion. Some do not eat enough fruit and green vegetables. Many men of middle age consume too much meat. Avoid these errors in making menus. Be sure to use plenty of green vegetables and fruits ; this will prevent the eating of too much of the more solid foods.