Wednesday, December 13

Children Food And The Proverbially Of Life

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On the subject of simplicity in children’s food, I should be glad to enlarge. There is nothing more important in diet than simplicity, and yet I think there is nothing
more rare. To suit the fashion, everything must be mixed and varied. I have no objection to variety at different meals, both for children and adults; indeed I am
disposed to recommend it, as will be seen hereafter. But I am utterly opposed to any considerable variety at the same meal; and above all, in a single dish. The simpler
a dish can be, the better.
But let us look, for a moment, at the dishes of food which are often presented, even at what are called plain tables.
Meats cannot be eaten—so many persons think—without being covered with mustard, or pepper, or gravy—or soaked in vinegar; and not a few regard them as
insipid, unless several of these are combined. Few people think a piece of plain boiled or broiled muscle (lean flesh) with nothing on it but a little salt, is fit to be eaten.
Everything, it is thought, must be rendered more stimulating, or acrid; or must be swimming in gravy, or melted fat or butter.
Bread, though proverbially the staff of life, can scarcely be eaten in its simple state. It must be buttered, or honied, or toasted, or soaked in milk, or dipped in gravy.
Puddings must have cherries or fruits of some sort, or spices in them, and must be sweetened largely. Or perhaps—more ridiculous still—they must have suet in them.
And after all this is done, who can eat them without the addition of sauce, or butter, or molasses, or cream? Potatoes, boiled, steamed or roasted, delightful as they are
to an unperverted appetite, are yet thought by many people hardly palatable till they are mashed, and buttered or gravied; or perhaps soaked in vinegar. In short, the
plainest and simplest article for the table is deemed nearly unfit for the stomach, till it has been buttered, and peppered, and spiced, and perhaps pearlashed. Even bread
and milk must be filled with berries or fruits. Where can you find many adults who would relish a meal which should consist entirely of plain bread, without any
addition; of plain potatoes, without anything on them except a little salt; of a plain rice pudding, and nothing with it; or of plain baked or boiled apples or pears? And
could such persons be found, how many of them would bring up their children to live on such plain dishes?
It need not be wondered at, that a palate which has been so long tickled by variety, and by so many stimulating mixtures of food, should come to regard cold water
for drink as insipid; and should feel dissatisfied with it, and desirous of boiling some narcotic or poisonous herb in it, or brewing it with something which will impart to
it more or less of alcohol. The wonder is, not that some of our epicures become drunkards, but that all of them do not.
Dr. Cadogan alludes to a sad mistake everywhere made about light food; and condemns, very justly, hard-boiled custards, pastry, &c. It is very strange that these
substances—for these are among the injurious articles which I call mixtures—should ever have obtained currency in the world, to the exclusion of bread, which, as the
same writer justly says, is among the lightest articles of food which are known.
It is strange, in particular, what views people have about bread. Judging from what I see, I am compelled to believe that there are few who regard it in any other light
than as a kind of necessary evil. They appear to eat it, not because they are fond of it, by itself, but because they must eat it; or rather, because it is a fashionable article;
and not to make believe they eat it, at the least, would be unfashionable. They will get rid of it, however, when they can. And when they must eat it, they soak it, or
cover it with butter or milk, or something else which will render it tolerable—or toast it. And use it as they may, it must be hot from the oven. After it is once cold, very
few will eat it. The idea, above all, of making a full meal of simple cold bread, twenty-four hours old, would be rejected by ninety-nine persons in a hundred; and by
some with abhorrence.
People not only dislike bread, but regard it as unnutritious. I have heard many a fond parent say to the child who ate no meat, and seemed to depend almost wholly
on bread—”Why, my dear child, you will starve if you eat no meat. Do at least put some butter on your bread or your potatoes.” A thousand times have I been
admonished, when eating my vegetable dinner during the hot and fatiguing days of summer—for I was bred to the farm, and ate little or no meat till I was fourteen
years of age—to eat more butter, or cheese, or something that would give me strength; for I could not work, they said, without something more nourishing than bread
and the other vegetables. And yet few if any boys of my age did more work, or performed it better, or with more ease, than myself. And I early observed the same
thing in other vegetable eaters.


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