Hints Upon The Mode Of Eating, And The Rational Division Of Meals
( Originally Published 1913 )
When one sits down to a meal he should not be restricted or harassed in any way, for just as a singer will be unable to sing well when not in the humor for doing so will our nutrition fail to progress satisfactorily when we are not well disposed for it. When a man eats he is satisfying a craving, that of hunger; and just as is the case in all other impulses, he must, when eating, devote his entire attention to it. In a measure, eating is a sort of religious procedure, upon which depends the health and progress of mankind.
This was well known to the ancients, and they invested the act of eating with a sort of sanctity, as was also the case in the accomplishment of the other impulses of life, pertaining to its origin and maintenance. Some religions require that their high priests shall eat alone, as does the Dalai Lama in Thibet, and the same custom is observed by some oriental potentates. I saw this myself when, several years ago, I was treating the Shah Muzaffer Eddin, who was served by his courtiers, but sat alone at table.
While eating, and thus accomplishing a function of nature, neither man nor beast should be disturbed. The most good-natured dog will growl when disturbed while eating, and he has reason to do so, for Pawlow has shown that when a dog is thus disturbed, or when his attention has simply been diverted, the process of digestion, both in the stomach and in the intestine, is disturbed, and it takes a little while to set it in order again. Much less should a person be disturbed, and it ought to be made a law that no master should ever disturb his employes during their mealtime, or require them to serve a customer, especially when taking into consideration their frugal meal and the rapidity with which it is consumed. A consider-ate person will not even disturb a cab-horse when he sees it devouring its meal at the cab-stand ; he would rather step into another cab.
Rapid eating is very injurious. An animal cannot restrain itself, and I saw a fox-terrier, before his food had been placed on the ground, leap into the air to seize it, and commence at once to devour it. He could not wait patiently until his food had been put down. Owing to their great eagerness and their appetite, animals secrete so much gastric juice that they are able to digest insufficiently masticated foods. Man, how-ever, does not have the same gastric juice as the hog or dog, which would enable him to digest so easily; consequently, with him, much depends upon the proper chewing of the food.
We must therefore eat slowly, and, above all, sufficiently masticate the food. This causes more saliva to be secreted, and the digestion of the food, especially that of a very starchy nature, is greatly facilitated; the food substances are also divided into such small parts that the stomach and intestines have less work to perform. According to Horace Fletcher, the food should be masticated until it has no more taste. We owe to the works of Fletcher, van Summeren, and Harry Campbell our knowledge of the great importance of a thorough mastication of our food for our welfare and the maintenance of our health. We should only swallow that which can be dissolved in the mouth or can be finely masticated ; all the rest had much better be removed from the mouth than swallowed.
It is a very unhygienic practice to swallow one's food as hot as it can be borne. One could learn much in this respect from the dog. This sensible animal will not touch food which is hot, even when he is hungry, but will wait until it has cooled. How often do we burn our tongues with hot soups, and the whitish color of the pharynx, fauces, etc., shows that one has frequently taken such hot foods. Hot drinks, too, have an injurious effect upon the stomach, as has been demonstrated by Boas, According to the experiments of Best and Cohnheim, however, this, as well as the drinking of ice-water, has but little disturbing effect upon healthy persons.
A very important rule in eating is to wait until one has an appetite. It happens very often, however, that when in consequence of professional duties or bodily exertions there is no particular appetite it comes gradually after one has begun to eat, in accordance with the old French saying, "l'appetit vient en mangeant." Bouillon, or meat extract, taken with a piece of bread will bring about this result, or what is still more simple, and not in the least injurious for anyone, a glass of fresh, cold water. In order that the appetite should be aroused, it is desirable to have a sufficiently long interval between the meals. When the breakfast is very frugal and limited in quantity, as is, unfortunately, the custom in this region, consisting only of coffee and a roll, the midday meal should come about four hours later, not later than at 12 o'clock, and, six or seven hours later, according as the midday meal has been more or less plentiful, the evening meal should be taken. When, however, we consider that after the supper, which takes place, say, at 7 o'clock, and which, with us, is also not to say abundant, nothing further is taken until 7 or 8 o'clock the next morning, the stomach remaining empty during twelve or thirteen hours, the perversity of our habit of taking such a light breakfast appears in its true light. It would certainly be more to the purpose to eat more at breakfast, and all the more so since very frequently the greatest amount of work is done immediately after that meal. It is certainly the main object of our food to furnish fuel for our machine in its work, be it bodily or mental; to replace lost tissues, and to protect us against disease. To eat little and to work hard with an empty stomach—very often mental work is more difficult than the bodily—certainly does not conform to the main purpose of our diet, and in growing children, who are to build up new tissues, is certainly most dangerous. Even though children are some-times given a slice of bread and butter between the meals, and adults, driven by hunger, indulge in rather objectionable alcoholic drinks and—in German countries—sausage, possibly no longer very fresh, this certainly does not afford any real help. And since in some cities the midday meal is taken at 11 o'clock,