The Doctor in the Kitchen.
Mr. Earnest Hart writes in the ‘ ‘ British Medical Journal,” in continuation of a previous article that the public mind is not sufficiently awakened to the importance of a thorough and active campaign against the waste of food which characterises the habitual dietary of rich and poor in Great Britain. A good doctor, it has often been said, must be a good cook ; and it is reported of a cynical physician of great repute that, being seen to issue from the kitchen of a large institution which he was visiting, he said, on being interrogated, “ I always go to salute the cook: the cooks are the doctors’ best friends ; if they were not so bad we should have but few patients. I owe half ray income to bad cooks.” A bad cook is wasteful of material, of money, of fuel and of health; and, with a few-exceptions, English cooks are all bad cooks in, one sense, or other ; unskilful in executipn or. extravagant ip selection, and destitute of sound and economical traditions ....
In the French household the little piece of stewed meat is preceded by a pleasantly-flavored soup, made with the bones and parings of the meat and some of the remnants of yesterday’s dinner, with perhaps crusts of bread and some vegetables added; the meat itself is served with stewed beans, or carrots and onions, or potatoes. If the joint of one day be a piece of beef, next day the cold meat appears, perhaps cut in slices, with oil and vinegar, or with a mustard sauce. The cold potatoes and cold stowed beans or cauliflower of the previous day make an excellent salad next day, with perhaps a tomato added, cut in slices. The macaroni and cheese left over from a previous meal reappears at the next, - reheated with other sliced cold vegetable, celery or salsify, or whatever else, and covered with a little browned scraped cheese. “ The commonest fish is served habitually with a little ‘ brown butter ; ’ and and neither workman nor epicure need despise the nourishing and toothsome dish. Cold fish reappears either ‘ a l’huile,’ or with a sauce of oil and mustard beaten together into a cream, and is at least as welcome as on the first day, when eaten hot; or, with bread-crumbs and pepper and salt, a ‘parade’ is made, in which much bread and a little fish make up a most nourishing and appetising ‘plat.’ Even conger soup and dog-fish soup are not below the appreciation of a maritime population ; and those who have tasted both on the coast of Normandy can answer for them being botli palatable and nourishing. ‘ Bouillon baisse,’ the fish soup of Marseilles, is a specialty which it might not be easy to import ; but anyone who has tasted it, either in Marseilles or in the Rue Boieldieu, in Paris, will not think it a dish to ho' despised. What a plebeian and usually coarse and tasteless dish is tripe as usually prepared in England ; how digestible, nourishing and cheap a dinner may be made off ‘ tripe k la Caen ’ at a hundred restaurants in Paris; and ‘soupe k la fromage,’ the plebeian ornament and charm of many a ‘petit souper fin ; ’ and the whole tribe of vegetable purees—potato soup, carrot soup, turnip soup— so simple, so nourishing, s« inexpensive, and easily made. They are not unknown in England ; but how rare ! Again, in the art of cooking potatoes and fish, when shall we learn to fry fish, say, as the poor Jews in Whitechapel do 1 or potatoes as is done at the corner of every poor street in Paris ? this mode of cooking is physiological ; it is scientific; and, properly done, it is econoiliical and'delicious. English cooks use shallow frying-pans—in which it is impossible to fry properly—chiefly because they are too careless to strain or clarify the fat or olive oil which they have used once, and to make it serve again and again, as all economical and reasonable cooks do or should do. Olive oil is the best material for frying either potatoes or fish, and if used carefully, and strained, and from time to time cleansed, may be used over and over again. Any who chooses to take a lesson in frying potatoes at the corner of the street may see the wire bowl plunged into a deep saucepan full of boiling fat, and rapidly cooked and browned in a sea of fluid without ever 1
having touched the bottom of the vessel ; j and if he choose to carry off a pennyworth j in a paper bag ho will observe that they are of a delicate aml'er color ; the water having been driven off by the great heat, they are dry, floury, digestible, and nutritious as they are savory ; and the proof of the perfection of the operation is that they do not grease the paper hag. “We are reminded that we spoke last week of pork and beans as an economical and physiologically excellent food, unusually popular in some parts of America ; and that bacon snd beans are much used in rural districts of England. It is true, and bacon and beans make an excellent food ; but as they are generally boiled, and as the beans are often tough, the dish is open to improvement. Cooked in a * Warriner ’ pot, in which the liquor of the meat is not lost, and the beans are well steeped and softened first, and cooked 'with the bacon and impregnated with its juices, bacon and broad beans are an excellent dish ; and boiled as it is usually—if the liquor be not wasted, but used for next day’s pea-soup ; and if the beans be soft, and if what are left be used with the sliced cold boiled potatoes for next day’s salad —wo have nothing to say except in praise of the dish. It becomes, however, monotonous, and the beans, unless young, are apt to have hard shells, which are not easily vanquished. The American pork and beans are prepared by placing a piece of fat pork on a little iron tripod in a piedish, of which the bottom is filled with haricot beans well softened or partially stewed, with a little salt and pepper strewed over the beans ; this is put in the oven, and the fat of the pork as it falls upon the beans, softening them, adds its carbon to the nitrogen, and makes a dish
of the smallest possible cost, on the level of the lowest culinary intelligence, and yet which may tempt any honest appetite. ' “Im the simplest things the grossest ignorance prevails. Fried steak and onions is a sort of bourgeois specialty of England ; and yet how few English cooks can prepare a fillet to equal the Chateaubriand of a French cook -and how few cooks know how to make a good purse of onions. The onions should be fried first—Breton fashion. • “At the dinner which the German Emperor gave this week to the great officers of State and of the army of fetrashurg cooked, no doubt, by a French cook —the piece do resistance was a gigot Breton. What is a gigot Breton ? Nothing else but a leg of mutton roasted, served in a dish with haricot beans stewed closely in stock gravy, and a of onions fried and rubbed through a sieve. It is a dish for a king, for an emperor; hut it is the simplest of bourgeois luxuries, within the means of every well-to-do artisan or small tradesman.
“ The grave side of this question is that with improved cooking power and with a wider range of selection of food comes greater economy. All vegetables—beet root, radishes (which hardly ever appear at our dinner-tables) ; celery, which we mostly eat in chips ; raw chestnuts, which our cooks hardly know except roasted or boiled at dessert ; red beans, white beans, maize, rice, coarse fish, cold fish, scraps of meat; the previous day’s remnants of vegetables—these' are among the elements out of which a reasonable and economical .cook constructs a savoury and nourishing diet-list, with-tt-due proportion of meat chosen not always from the choice • parts. The servant of the tradesman learns in time to practise the like ingenious and pleasant economies in her own home ; and 'the French artisan lives twice as well as the Engish working man, at half the cost, and that, too, in a capital such as Paris, where bread, butter, milk, sugar, coffee, in fact most of the necessaries of lifa, are frem 20 to 50 per cent, dearer than they are in London. ”
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 32, 9 December 1879
The Doctor in the Kitchen. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 32, 9 December 1879
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