Hints For Those Obliged To Take Their Meals In Restaurants
( Originally Published 1913 )
HE who, like the author, is, as a bachelor, so unfortunate as to be obliged always to eat in restaurants, and during the winter when on long journeys must visit the hotels of various countries, can surely expatiate on his experiences. It is not at all surprising that bachelors, as I have already stated in my book on "Old Age Deferred," are doomed to a short life, for, as we shall now see, they are subjected to a series of injurious experiences which may be of considerable importance. That cats and dogs must masquerade as rabbits and other game in the diet list is in itself repulsive enough, and leaves an unpleasant after-taste in the mouth of the lover of legitimate game, but the nutritive value of the meat itself is not diminished for those who are subjected to this martyrdom of the unfortunate animals. When this sort of "game" is fresh and is well prepared, and does not have a sauce made with bad, rancid butter, no damage will, as a general thing, result for the stomach and intestine of the consumer. We have, how-ever, already referred to the fact that injurious effects may follow after eating the meat of animals having become saturated with secretions thrown out through fright previous to the death of the animal.
That the meat of such animals is actually made use of in the kitchens of establishments of a very inferior order—and sometimes even in those of a rather better grade—in many large cities is proven by the court trials, when such "hunters" are captured with the products of their chase—dead cats and dogs—which they have in their bags and are offering for sale (as I recently read in a foreign newspaper). It is, indeed, much better when we simply devote our attention to our food without attempting to study details as to its origin. I greatly fear that not only I, but also a great many others, would then be minus their psychic gastric juice, and the food would consequently lie longer and heavier on our stomachs. With very sensitive and nervous persons the food would leave the stomach by the way it had entered, if its origin and consequent treat-ment were to be made known to them immediately after its ingestion. How fortunate it is that we are kept in ignorance! The poet says : "Der Mensh versuche die Götter nicht and begehre nimmer zu schauen, was sie gnddig bedecken, mit Nacht and Grauen." (Man must not question the gods and ask to see that which they have kindly covered with the shades of night.) What would many a delicate and fastidious lady say if she knew that the most juicy and fragrant strawberries are those which have been grown when the very fattest cow-dung and perhaps even human excrements—as is done in some European countries—have been spread over the strawberry beds? When the rain falls the salts contained in this manure are carried into the earth, to be again taken up by the straw-berries, which thus develop into the very finest berries.
As stated in the Holy Scriptures, even in the matter of human foods, the lowest shall become the highest, and when we eat the meat of a well-fattened ox we absorb from this meat the salts which the animal obtained from the vegetable food eaten by it; the plant again thrives best upon the manure furnished by the evacuations of animals and of man, and by the excrements of birds—sent from Chili and Peru. The meat of the fat pig is also formed from substances with which we had better not busy ourselves too much. Nothing is lost in this world, and there exists an everlasting circle which carries the salts coming from man into the earth, from the earth into the plant, and from the plant again to man, either directly or through the intermediary of the ox or the sheep.
While therefore for esthetic reasons we would do better not to enter too deeply into the question as to the remote material of which our food is composed, we nevertheless have every reason, in consideration of our health, to acquaint our-selves as far as possible with the food substances furnished to us and prepared in the restaurant kitchen. We will proceed most safely if we give the preference to such foods which show by their appearance just what they are, viz., meats roasted upon the spit, or, at all events, such as are not covered by a crust or a thick sauce in order to hide their defects. It is impossible to say what may be beneath such a crust or thick cream sauce in certain restaurants of a very low order, or what kind of meat has been used in some of the dishes in which it is very finely chopped. Very often one fares badly with the sauce or gravy which covers the meat, and it not infrequently happens that in some of the cheapest places the butter used for cooking is not irreproachable; rancid butter gives rise to many digestive disturbances. It is easy to understand that the proprietor, who must also make some profit, cannot, when the meal is furnished at a very low price, provide the best and most expensive foodstuffs. Especially when traveling, and at large public festivals where many thousands of people frequent the restaurants, it frequently happens that the health is seriously affected by defective foods. It is therefore wiser to provide one's self with the necessary food at some familiar place and to eat this fresh and cold. It is usually much the best plan to eat at some well-known restaurant, and where one is also known; one should as much as possible eat in the same establishment, and not change about from place to place. In Austria-Hungary one generally finds very good cooking everywhere; the coffee especially is always good. This, unfortunately, is not the case in Germany, owing to the fact that in that country it is the custom to take the meals at a fixed price, whereas in Austria-Hungary one almost always eats à la carte, selecting what one wishes and having it freshly pre-pared. The bills of fare in Germany frequently consist of large quantities of meat, but its quality as well as that of the rest of the foods in the beer taverns often leaves much to be desired. In the wine restaurants in Germany the food is excellent. What is to be done, however, by those who do not wish to drink wine? Fortunately, we are not thus compelled to drink wine in Austria-Hungary. One can eat there at the finest hotels and take simply a glass of beer or a small bottle of mineral water. Whenever possible, we should not eat food which is ready, but should select something which will be freshly prepared.
With regard to some of the vegetarian restaurants I can-not, according to my personal experience, give a very good account. Their device, unfortunately, seems to be "cheap and plenty." The result for the stomach may be imagined. In Germany especially it is very difficult to find in certain cities a vegetarian restaurant of a finer class where the above principle does not seem to be the chief one. The fault, to be sure, does not lie with the restaurant, but with the public. For as long as vegetarianism continues to be principally followed by the poorer classes it will be difficult to establish first-class vegetarian restaurants with a selection of finer vegetarian foods, choice fresh vegetables and fruits. It would be well if the owners of vegetarian restaurants would first have to pass an examination in cooking; in fact, this should be required of all hosts by the authorities. In vegetarianism a thorough knowledge of the science of cooking is a prime requisite; other-wise, the nutritive content of the foods will not be properly made use of. In the large German cities there are some really good vegetarian restaurants. I found one of this kind in Leipzig (Pomona), where the cooking is very good; the same may be said of the Pomona restaurants in Holland, with one of which, that at the Hague, I am familiar. In Belgium there is also a series of good vegetarian restaurants, but the finest and most luxurious vegetarian cuisine is to be found in London and Manchester.
When we consider what great damage may be done in regard to public welfare by restaurants of an inferior order—leaving aside the question of the often very insanitary building conditions—it would certainly be justifiable to have all restaurants inspected once or twice a year by an authorized commission, an arrangement which would probably not be objected to in the least by establishments of the better classes. It would be of the greatest benefit for the public health if the authorities would look strictly into the question as to what really is brewed in the "witch kitchens" of the lowest order for the poor, hard-working people. Since such a commission exists for the inspection of drug-stores, in order to test the remedies which are sold to the sick, I see no reason why it should not likewise be seen to that nothing which would impair the health should be sold to those who are well. In this connection, I am especially desirous of calling attention to the serious injury which may be done to our health when falsified foods, sometimes containing strong injurious drugs, are put before us. The food chemists, by revealing these frauds, are rendering incalculable service, and we are surely not saying too much in stating that the average length of life of the people depends in great measure upon them. I would again particularly emphasize the fact—as I have already done several times in this work—that the deleterious effects of these injurious, falsified foods do not at once become evident—and this is just the source of the danger—but slowly and stealthily cause degeneration of some of our principal organs, especially the kidneys, thus shortening our lives. And what of the punishment for such an offense? It is ridiculously slight.
When anyone does a person an injury he is frequently punished by imprisonment during a number of months, but when anyone injures not only one but a very great number of persons—and this in an underhand way—by means of spoiled and falsified foods preserved with injurious substances, in such a manner as to undermine the health for months and perhaps even years, and thereby shortening life, he is punished in Austria-Hungary by a fine of 100 kronen! And yet several crimes are here combined : premeditated, underhand bodily injury; deceit, falsification—all with the object of gain—and this not only in respect to one person, but to innumerable people. The proper punishment for the falsification of foods would be an average of the punishments meted out for the various crimes above mentioned.
The owners of eating-houses and restaurants are, to be sure, helpless in the hands of these falsifiers. The best remedy would be the enactment of a law making it obligatory to state, in regard to every food substance : (I) whether it is absolutely pure ; (2) what admixtures it contains, and, if possible, also the quantity thereof. The substitution of one food for another and the selling under a false name should also be prohibited.
Eating in restaurants may also have an injurious effect because very often too many foods are offered, especially at "table d'hôte" meals with a long menti. In hotels of an inferior order it not infrequently happens that on the menu meats are served which were left over from the previous day. Even in the very finest hotels the "table d'hôte" with its end-less menu is always a serious danger for the health, even when the foods are well prepared and the taste is good—in fact, perhaps for this very reason. There are, unfortunately, very few persons having sufficient strength of will not to eat a series of good appetizing foods placed before them, especially when they have "paid out their good money." When anyone lives in a fine hotel on the Riviera and is given for lunch 2 or 3 dishes of fish and meat, and for dinner in the evening 3 or 4 kinds of fish and meat, very often including some game (even in the spring), it can readily be understood how greatly all the principles advocated in this work are being sinned against. That such unrestrained "rapacity" does actually shorten life when long continued is not to be doubted. It is therefore indicated to eat à la carte, a habit which is fortunately quite general here in Carlsbad, and in fact throughout Austria-Hungary (with the exception of the Tyrol). In selecting from the bill of fare, everyone can take just such food as is best adapted for his constitution and his health in general.
Even in the very finest restaurants one will often not dine as well as at home, when one has the good fortune to be married and when the housewife herself selects the very best and freshest foods in the market, which are then prepared for the family table with the most healthful and best adapted accessories. The above remarks go to prove the correctness of the statement made by the author in his work on "Old Age Deferred," that a married man will live longer and remain in better health than a poor bachelor.