Principles Of Successful Cookery
( Originally Published 1921 )
"Civilized man cannot live without cooks."
THE two fundamental principles of successful cookery are: first, simplicity; second, appetizing serving. The meaning of simplicity in this connection is, to conserve and develop the natural flavors of the particular food under hand, and not to confuse it with so many foreign substances as to make the whole a nameless mixture.
The Creator has placed in each food certain delicate flavors and attractive colors, which may be preserved in the food by proper cooking. A great lack of judgment is often observed in the way different foods are mixed together without regard to the effect of the flavor of one food upon the other; likewise in the addition of large quantities of strong flavored substances, such as bay leaf, sage, thyme, and onion, to foods of delicate flavor, whereby the identity of the food is largely lost.
A sprinkle of onion flavor with the potato, in making potato soup, adds greatly to its palatability ; but a little too much onion will so cover up the delicate flavor of the potato as to make the soup a disappointment. Cream and tomato combined make a very palatable and nourishing soup, and the combination is agreeable. By the addition of fried bones, onion, and spices, however, the tomato flavor is so predominated by the stronger flavors as to make ith that simplicity in cookery which specializes on the development and conservation of those delicate flavors in food which are really satisfying to the natural taste.
The close affinity that exists between coloring matter in vegetable foods and their flavors, precludes any thought of retaining the one without the presence of the other. In order that the green color in fresh vegetables may be preserved, they should be put to cook in boiling water; for this seals up the cells, as it were, and prevents the escape of much of the valuable salts and coloring matter. And the water should be kept boiling continuously until the food is done. Cold water, when added to fresh vegetables in cooking, extracts both color and flavor from the food, leaving it more or less insipid to the taste. Exception is made in the making of soups and vegetable stews, where the object is to extract the flavors into the broth or the gravy.
The second factor in successful cookery is appetizing serving. Palatability is one of the first essentials in nutrition. No matter how wholesome the food may be, one must relish it in order to be fully benefited thereby. The meals should be made to please not only the sense of taste, but all the senses if possible. While it is unwise to use harmful and highly seasoned foods, we must recognize the need of providing foods that please the sense of taste, sight, and smell, as these all have a very direct bearing upon the digestion of food.
It is a well established fact that all the juices which aid the digestive processes are called forth at sight of food that is appetizingly and attractively served. The simple garnitures which all may employ,— a sprig of green, a friendly flower, contrast in color and design,— and care to provide clean linen and appropriate dishes for serving, will greatly enhance the pleasure of the children and the grown-ups at the family board.
God has provided for our eyes fruits and flowers in the most attractive designs and colors. The wonderful hues and tints of the fruits that are "good for food" tempt us to enjoy their delightful flavors. If, however, foods are served with spots of bruise in the soup a sort of nondescript, and consequently not in harmony evidence, or revealing rough, untrimmed surfaces, or in cracked dishes, or otherwise out of harmony, wherein lies the inducement to partake of and appropriate these foods to the needs of the body?
"God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." Genesis 1:31. His injunction to us, "Eat ye that which is good," calls our attention to the reason as well. We are made of that which we eat. Our food becomes our lifeblood. It should therefore be pure and palatable. It should be served attractively, that it may best offer to the human body the nutrition its elements contain.
Hence there is the utmost need that sufficient time be given to the preparation and careful service of the daily food, since this is to become the life of these human temples God has given.
Careful planning, so as to avoid wastage, is one of the first steps in the attainment of successful household management. It has been estimated that from 15% to 20% of all foods going into American kitchens is wasted. A few suggestions as to how the housewife may avoid a needless waste of food material in its care and preparation may be of interest.
In the first place, there should be care in the outlay, with freedom from extravagance. Plan the meals from a select variety of only a few kinds of food, avoiding a large array of hearty and more expensive foods, which are not needed, and a great deal of which would be left over at the end of the meal. Preference should be given to the simpler and more inexpensive yet whole-some foods that are at hand every day.
All foods left over should be reheated before there is the first sign of spoiling. Many foods gain richness in reheating. No food should be left adhering to the kettles in which they were cooked. All fragments should be carefully saved and utilized.
Unbolted corn meal for bread and porridge requires less fat and sweetening than the commercially prepared meal, and is far more tasty and nutritious. Cracked wheat and natural brown rice are excellent breakfast cereals, and should supplant the white, devitamined foods commonly used, which are not adapted to the making of healthy blood and tissue.
Vegetables should not be pared too thickly. Neither should the water from cooked vegetables be thrown away ; it contains valuable salts, and should be saved, as it may be used for various purposes. Rice cooked in spinach water or other vegetable broth, and seasoned with a little butter and salt, is excellent.
An admirable plan is to keep a soup pot into which clean potato parings, carrot, turnip, and beet tops, cabbage, lettuce, and other odds and ends of vegetables which are usually thrown away, may be put and allowed to simmer on a slow fire for a number of hours. Most of the salts will in this way be extracted and may be served up as soup, or as the foundation of various soups and gravies. Such soups and sauces will be found palatable, and are certainly of great dietetic value on account of their richness in salts.
Beets, if cooked the day before they are used, will have far better color than when cooked fresh and served immediately. The water from beet greens, if cooked down until almost thick, is excellent for coloring vegetable soups and gravies. Red onion skins, while they have scarcely any flavor, are rich in coloring matter, and give a nice brown color to soups or gravies, and should be kept in a glass jar for use as needed.
Lettuce and celery may be kept by first wrapping them in dry paper, then wringing another paper or cloth out of water and wrapping it around the outside, and keeping in a dark place.
Bread crusts should not be left to accumulate for too long a time, but should be used for making an entrée, or simple pudding with raisins ; or they may be put into the warming oven and thoroughly dried, ground through a food mill, and kept for various uses.
Thought should be given to the purchase and care of perishable foods. Overripe fruit, if purchased at all, should be used immediately. Raw fruit kept in store should be examined often for the purpose of discarding any that may have begun to decay. Lemons should be wrapped, or laid on a shelf, space being left between, that they may not so readily mold.
The successful housewife appreciates the value of quality, and consequently does not depend on the telephone when laying in supplies, but insists on observing the old rule of "Caveat emptor" (Let the buyer beware), thus being better able to keep the service at the table up to par, and the expenses down.
Lastly, "preach the gospel of the clean plate." Persons differ in their tastes and capacity for food; therefore too large a portion should not be served at the first serving, otherwise, good food which might have been saved finds its way into the garbage can. Moderate portions, with a second serving if desired, are always in good taste.