Youth At Any Age
( Originally Published 1923 )
There is an old story of a bride, who, as she was changing into her traveling suit, turned to her maiden aunt and said:
"Oh, auntie, how can I make sure that Horace will always be as good and kind and lovable as he is now? How can I hold his affection and love?"
"Feed the brute," snapped the old lady.
Now this perhaps is vulgar but it is undoubtedly the truth. A good dinner will turn the roaring, raging lion into a sweet-tempered and docile lamb. No man, I care not who he may be nor of what nationality, can fail to fall to the blandishment of a "swarrie," and for those unregenerate ones who despise Dickens, perhaps it might be well to remind them that in "Pickwick Papers a soirée is de-scribed by "Old Blazes" as "biled leg o' mutton and caper sauce." There may be those who say that they do not like 'biled leg o' mutton and caper sauce," but I can only reply that if such be the case they have never had it properly cooked. Mark ye, it is a man's dish just as a lark's tongue fried in honey is a woman's, and yet there are some of the superior sex who fall for it.
I am not too modest to say that I have always been fond If the pleasures of the table. To me the hour or so spent over dinner is the mast pleasant of the day. I love good food, I love good wine, and the best of dinners is not complete without a good cigar. Nor, speaking from personal experience does enjoyment of food and drink tend to gross avoirdupois. So few people draw the line of distinction between gourmet and gourmand. Good living, careful living and study of gastronomy will keep one's youthful sveltness; fat comes from carelessness, ignorance or gluttony.
Daily I am amused by people who eschew the harmless potato, who take saccharine in their tea and coffee, who even take Swedish exercises so as to reduce, and then eat quantities of butter, drink pints of cream and buckets of water. Zola had a scheme for reducing fat which worked absolute wonders on himself. He gave up drinking and taking liquids in any form-no gravies even. In six months he brought his weight down from 220 pounds to 160 pounds. After that he drank a little wine without in any way increasing his girth.
Abstinence from water has a dual advantage. Not only does it help one to preserve one's figure but it eliminates one of the great causes of indigestion, which is the national complaint of the United States, just as rheumatism is the national complaint of the British Isles. To drink water without harm, it is necessary to take quantities of violent exercise to overcome the ill effects of such overindulgence.
There is a story told of an old South Carolina darky who, in the days before the State went dry, was a preacher on Sunday and a liquor-store keeper during the week. When the movement was started to prohibit the sale of liquor in the State, he realized that if it went through, his livelihood would be swept away and therefore he conceived it to be his duty to preach to his flock on "temperance." "My bruvvers," said he, "just 'member the fust miracle o' the Good Lawd was to turn water into wine; an' then St. Paul rec'mends a little wine for the stomach's sake. De on'y time water is mentioned in the Good Book is when Dives asked Lazarus for one drop—'member that my breveren, one drop—and he was in hell, where he ought to ha' been." I once had a friend—poor chap, he's dead now full of German bullets-who, at the age of fifty looked about thirty-five. When the Boer war broke out he lied about his age, said he was thirty-eight, and the doctor passed him for thirty-five. He came back with four bullets in him and lived to tell the tale. I asked him how it was that he es caped enteric fever which accounted for five-sixths of the British death list.
"Simply," said he, "because I didn't drink water. It was only the damned fools who drank water who had enteric."
"What did you drink?" I asked.
"Nothing," said he, "I never drink."
So that his reputation may not suffer I ought to lay stress on the fact that he was a rigid teetotaler. He had never tasted wine, beer, nor spirits. He was one of the first to volunteer in the Great War and was killed at the first battle of Ypres. At sixty-four he looked a well pre-served forty. I have always admired him. He was a man if there ever was one, and I have endeavored to follow in the steps of my old friend "the punctured patriot," as we called him. Although I have not led a life of total abstinence, the medical examiner for the regiment I joined at the age of forty-eight passed me for thirty-five. Therefore, why should I deny that his was a good recipe?
I have never denied myself any dish my soul desired and my pocket could afford, and I have never had indigestion. I weigh around a hundred and fifty-five pounds and am told by the local manslaughterer that I am under weight for my height of six feet. Nevertheless I do not think in the course of my life I have had more than a hundred dollars' worth of medical advice, which works out at two dollars a year, surely a modest amount when it includes measles, whooping-cough and other childish ailments. The most violent exercise I ever take is to read a novel in a hammock, throwing an occasional stone at a robin in the strawberry patch. Not that I am against violent exercise. Perish the thought. But it is one of those virtues that I am content to admire in others without attempting to emulate.
I have always admired Joseph Chamberlain—not only as a politician but as one who appeared to have found the Fountain of Perpetual Youth. At sixty-nine he looked a well preserved forty. His hair was gray but there was plenty of it. His figure was upright and jaunty and his manner was buoyant. For nearly thirty years he had been in the public eye, and in a newspaper interview he attributed his youth and beauty to the fact that he never took exercise. He never walked if he could ride, he never stood if he could sit down. He jumped into a cab to go round the corner. And then-at the age of seventy he had a stroke to which, after some time, he succumbed. But that does not alter the fact that he was wonderful while he lasted, and after all did he not complete the psalmist's allotted span of life?
Youth. We all love youth and envy it. The older we grow the more we admire it, hunger for it, and perhaps it is this very yearning that brings us to second childhood. Who knows?
Sleep, sound, restful, dreamless sleep is the great preserver of youth. No matter what the worries of the day, no matter what the physical or mental exertion, a good night's rest will make one as fit as a fiddle the next morning. And sleep can only be obtained naturally by a perfect digestion. A perfect digestion can only be acquired, and when acquired, maintained by a natural way of living. After all, the main item in living is food, food that will keep the digestive organs in good condition, enable them to do their work and thus nourish the entire system. The best engine in the best automobile is useless without good gasoline. Play tricks with your gasoline and your engine will be out of business in no time. Then you go to the garage man who finds that you have been mixing kerosene or water with your gas. And what does he say? This is an exact parallel of a case where a man goes to a doctor, saying he is a martyr to indigestion. He has ruined his internal engine with all sorts of imitation food; the only thing about it is that one's interior is so much more wonderful than an automobile engine that it takes much longer to get out of order. But when it has succumbed, so much longer does it take to get into condition again, if it ever does.
Careful living does not mean plain or ugly living. The best cooking is the tastiest, the most delicious. The varied menu is not only the most pleasant but the most healthful. I have absolutely no patience with faddists, food cranks and vegetarians. It is as natural for us humans to eat meat as it is for a horse to chew hay. A certain proportion of vegetables is necessary to us, besides which they are very nice and there is no reason why one should not indulge one's desires; but to confine oneself to a vegetarian diet is not only unpleasant but an evidence of lack of self control and playing tricks with nature. I do think that all children should be trained to eat a little fat with their meat, for not only is fat good for them but to me, it is positively disgusting to see a person trim off every little bit of fat and decorate the edge of the plate with it. It is bad manners, to say the least of it. Some people think it is fattening; it is not, but it is nature's way of providing heat to the body. In very cold climates it is absolutely necessary to eat fats and we know how, during the Great War, some of the nations suffered from lack of fats.
Where the poor dumb animals are more wise than we humans, is the way they eat. They eat their food first and then drink their water. They do not imperil their lives by drinking water before they eat. Nature tells them that such a proceeding dilutes the gastric juices, rendering them too weak to perform the necessary process of digestion.
In days gone by pepsine was obtained in a remarkably cruel way. A pig was kept in a pen without food of any kind for several days. Then the food trough outside the bars of the pen was filled with steaming hot potatoes. Poor piggy rushed at them; could not get at them because of the bars and, in his hunger and desire, the gastric juices would flow into his empty stomach, when he was immediately killed and the gastric juice—or pepsine—was collected from his poor little stomach.
It is much the same with us. When our stomachs are empty, even the thought of food, let alone the sight or smell of it, will cause the gastric juices to trickle therein, causing hunger. The stomach is then in a condition to receive food and commence the work of digestion. Does it not stand to reason that if these juices are diluted with water they are not sufficiently strong to do their allotted work? Hence indigestion.
Another Feat cause of indigestion is over-eating. One's digestive organs will only perform as much work normally as they are, by nature, intended to do. They will digest what is called digestible food more rapidly than indigestible food, and here again the ignorant will go out of their way to impede digestion, for instance, by drinking tea with a meal, one of the courses of which consists of meat. The process of turning skin into leather is accomplished by treating the skin with tannic acid—in other words the skin is "tanned." Tea contains tannic acid and while the quantity is comparatively small, it is sufficient to start the process of "tanning" the meat consumed. Consequently the gastric juices, already diluted with the water with which the tea is brewed, are powerless to perform their duty when they also have the tannic acid with which to contend.
Another grave cause of indigestion is too much preserved food. While it is not a very nice thing to talk about, when it comes down to cases, the process of digestion is decomposition. The more easily the food consumed decomposes after the nourishing qualities have been absorbed by the system, the sooner is digestion accomplished and the residue ready to pass out of the system. Preserved foods are often treated with benzoate of soda or some other preservaative, which preserves them after they have been consumed as much as when they were in their original container.
I have always been very fond of a story we used to read in our "Unseen Papers" at school. I fancy it was attributed to Livy, though that does not matter, but it went in this wise:—There was a Bolshevist uprising in Rome. The people contended that they supported the State, While the State did nothing to support them. Therefore they agreed to give up working and cease to support the lazy, good-for-nothing, blood-sucking State. Then an orator up and told them a story. He told them how, once upon a time, the various limbs and members of the body formed an agreement to rebel against the stomach. "Why," said they, "should we work for, and feed the stomach, while it does nothing at all but consume all we give it, and batten on our work?" So the legs refused to carry the body toward the food, the hands refused to convey food to the mouth, the teeth refused to chew food and the tongue to taste it. The stomach, powerless, reposed in the body which could do nothing but lie on a couch. The discontented members at first enjoyed their holiday; they agreed that at last they had got even with their lazy associate. But day by day they became weaker, until in the end the entire body was reduced to the last degree of emaciation. Then one of the members realized that they themselves received nutriment and life from the stomach, which, far from being a lazy glutton, nourished the entire body. Of course the speaker likened the stomach to the State and the limbs to the people, who understood a parable better than plain talk, and we presume at once went back to work.
I have retold this ancient yarn merely to emphasize my point that most bodily ills come from a disordered stomach, which can only be kept in good order by a sufficiency of good food. As the old copy-book maxim had it, "We do not live to eat, but we eat to live," and too much stress cannot be laid on the advantageous effect of good, well-cooked food. It keeps one well, it keeps one young and happy and it goes a long way toward keeping one's figure.
The room in which I write overlooks a training track for fat men. Portly persons in sweaters and shorts run around the track daily, all with one idea—that of girth and weight reducing. They pant and puff and positively ask for heart failure, and then most probably go off and eat a big meal and drink copious draughts of water, than which nothing is more fattening.
Go to the Turkish Bath and you will see practically the same thing. Fat people endeavoring to reduce, by perspiration, the fat they acquired at the dinner table the night before.
There are more fat people in the United States than any-where in the world. This is due largely to the plentiful supply of food and the general prosperity of the country. Immigrants who had scarcely any food and less money in Europe, come here, make money for the first time in their lives, and find plenty of food. They have few wants but food, and they are prodigal in their expenditure. The so-called "poor are by no means thrifty, and gluttony is most assuredly one of the vices of the uneducated. I have always thought that it is quite as disgusting as drunkenness, and if our dear, old grandmotherly Government, that takes such an interest in our drinkitite, would only pass a nineteenth or twentieth, amendment to prevent people eating too much, it would be performing a real service to the nation. It is much better to get the full nourishment out of a small quantity of meat and vegetables by proper cooking, than to eat large quantities of food, out of which three-quarters of the nourishment has been boiled or baked.
Good food, properly cooked and taken in moderation, keeps one in good health, keeps one young and happy and makes life one continual joy. There is an old platitude to the effect that "He who is healthy is wealthy," and there is certainly little pleasure in being wealthy unless one is also healthy, although money may go a long way toward alleviating bad health. Still a great many people seem to "enjoy" bad health, but in these cases the same is often produced, or at all events aggravated, by injudicious eating and drinking.
I propose now to talk about food and drink in, what I consider, a rational way. I will give they recipes for the dishes I mention and I will guarantee that if my suggestions be followed, indigestion will shortly be eliminated and superfluous fat will be reduced. At the same time it must be remembered that there are some people whose nature it is to get fat just as there are others whose nature it is to keep thin. But it is much easier to reduce fat than it is to pile it on.