It is not enough that good and proper
food material be provided; it must have such preparation
as will increase and not diminish its alimentary value.
The unwholesomeness of food is quite as often due to
bad cookery as to improper selection of material.
Proper cookery renders good food material more digestible.
When scientifically done, cooking changes each of
the food elements, with the exception of fats, in much
the same manner as do the digestive juices, and at
the same time it breaks up the food by dissolving
the soluble portions, so that its elements are more
readily acted upon by the digestive fluids. Cookery,
however, often fails to attain the desired end; and
the best material is rendered useless and unwholesome
by a improper preparation.
It is rare to find a table, some portion
of the food upon which is not rendered unwholesome
either by improper preparatory treatment, or by the
addition of some deleterious substance. This is
doubtless due to the fact that the preparation of
food being such a commonplace matter, its important
relations to health, mind, and body have been overlooked,
and it has been regarded as a menial service which
might be undertaken with little or no preparation,
and without attention to matters other than those
which relate to the pleasure of the eye and the palate.
With taste only as a criterion, it is so easy to disguise
the results of careless and improper cookery of food
by the use of flavors and condiments, as well as to
palm off upon the digestive organs all sorts of inferior
material, that poor cookery has come to be the rule
rather than the exception.
Another reason for this prevalence
of bad cookery, is to be found in the fact that in
so many homes the cooking is intrusted to an ignorant
class of persons having no knowledge whatever of the
scientific principles involved in this most important
and practical of arts. An ethical problem which
we have been unable to solve is the fact that women
who would never think of trusting the care of their
fine china and bric-a-brac to unskilled hands,
unhesitatingly intrust to persons who are almost wholly
untrained, the preparation of their daily food.
There is no department of life where superior intelligence
is more needed than in the selection and preparation
of food, upon which so largely depend the health and
physical welfare of the family circle.
The evils of bad cookery and ill-selected
food are manifold, so many, in fact, that it has been
calculated that they far exceed the mischief arising
from the use of strong drink; indeed, one of the evils
of unwholesome food is its decided tendency to create
a craving for intoxicants. Bad cookery causes
indigestion, indigestion causes thirst, and thirst
perpetuates drunkenness. Any one who has suffered
from a fit of indigestion, and can recollect the accompanying
headache and the lowness of spirits, varying in degree
from dejection or ill-humor to the most extreme melancholy,
until the intellectual faculties seemed dazed, and
the moral feelings blunted, will hardly wonder that
when such a condition becomes chronic, as is often
the case from the use of improperly prepared food,
the victim is easily led to resort to stimulants to
drown depression and enliven the spirits.
A thorough practical knowledge of
simple, wholesome cookery ought to form a part of
the education of every young woman, whatever her station
in life. No position in life is more responsible
than that of the person who arranges the bills of
fare and selects the food for the household; and what
higher mission can one conceive than to intelligently
prepare the wherewithal to make shoulders strong to
bear life’s burdens and heads clear to solve
its intricate problems? what worthier work than to
help in the building up of bodies into pure temples
fit for guests of noble thoughts and high purposes?
Surely, no one should undertake such important work
without a knowledge of the principles involved.
THE PRINCIPLES OF SCIENTIFIC COOKERY.
Cookery is the art of preparing food
for the table by dressing, or by the application of
heat in some manner.
FUELS. Artificial heat
is commonly produced by combustion, caused by the
chemical action of the oxygen of the air upon the hydrogen
and carbon found in fuel. The different fuels
in common use for cooking purposes are hard wood,
soft wood, charcoal, anthracite coal, bituminous coal,
coke, lignite, kerosene oil, gasoline, and gas.
As to their respective values, much depends upon the
purpose for which they are to be used. Wood charcoal
produces a greater amount of heat than an equal weight
of any other fuel. Soft wood burns quicker and
gives a more intense heat than hard wood, and hence
is best for a quick fire. Hard wood burns slowly,
produces a larger mass of coals, and is best where
long-continued heat is desired. Anthracite coal
kindles slowly, and burns with little flame or smoke,
but its vapor is sulphurous, and on that account it
should never be burned in an open stove, nor in one
with an imperfect draft. Its heat is steady and
intense. Bituminous coal ignites readily, burns
with considerable flame and smoke, and gives a much
less intense heat than anthracite, Lignite, or brown
coal, is much less valuable as fuel. Coke is
useful when a short, quick fire is needed. Kerosene
and gas are convenient and economical fuels.
MAKING FIRES. If coal is
the fuel to be used, first clean out the stove by
shaking the grate and removing all ashes and cinders.
Remove the stove covers, and brush the soot and ashes
out of all the flues and draft holes into the fire-box.
Place a large handful of shavings or loosely twisted
or crumpled papers upon the grate, over which lay some
fine pieces of dry kindling-wood, arranged crosswise
to permit a free draft, then a few sticks of hard
wood, so placed as to allow plenty of air spaces.
Be sure that the wood extends out to both ends of the
fire-box. Replace the covers, and if the stove
needs blacking, mix the polish, and apply it, rubbing
with a dry brush until nearly dry, then light the
fuel, as a little heat will facilitate the polishing.
When the wood is burning briskly, place a shovelful
or two of rather small pieces of coal upon the wood,
and, as they ignite, gradually add more, until there
is a clear, bright body of fire, remembering, however,
never to fill the stove above the fire bricks; then
partly close the direct draft. When wood or soft
coal is used, the fuel may be added at the same time
with the kindling.
CARE OF FIRES. Much fuel
is wasted through the loss of heat from too much draft.
Only just enough air should be supplied to promote
combustion. A coal fire, when well kindled, needs
only air enough to keep it burning. When the
coal becomes red all through, it has parted with the
most of its heat, and the fire will soon die unless
replenished. To keep a steady fire, add but a
small amount of fuel at a time, and repeat often enough
to prevent any sensible decrease of the degree of
heat. Rake the fire from the bottom, and keep
it clear of ashes and cinders. If a very hot
fire is needed, open the drafts; at other times, keep
them closed, or partially so, and not waste fuel.
There is no economy in allowing a fire to get low before
fuel is added; for the fresh fuel cools the fire to
a temperature so low that it is not useful, and thus
occasions a direct waste of all fuel necessary to again
raise the heat to the proper degree, to say nothing
of the waste of time and patience. The addition
of small quantities of fuel at short intervals so
long as continuous heat is needed, is far better than
to let the fuel burn nearly out, and then add a larger
quantity. The improper management of the drafts
and dampers has also much to do with waste of fuel.
As stoves are generally constructed, it is necessary
for the heat to pass over the top, down the back,
and under the bottom of the oven before escaping into
the flue, in order to properly heat the oven for baking.
In order to force the heat to make this circuit, the
direct draft of the stove needs to be closed.
With this precaution observed, a quick fire from a
small amount of fuel, used before its force is spent,
will produce better results than a fire-box full under
An item of economy for those who are
large users of coal, is the careful sifting of the
cinders from the ashes. They can be used to good
advantage to put first upon the kindlings, when building
the fire, as they ignite more readily than fresh coal,
and give a greater, quicker heat, although much less
METHODS OF COOKING. A proper
source of heat having been secured, the next step
is to apply it to the food in some manner. The
principal methods commonly employed are roasting,
broiling, baking, boiling, stewing, simmering, steaming,
Roasting is cooking food in
its own juices before an open fire. A clear fire
with intense heat is necessary.
Broiling, or grilling,
is cooking by radiant heat over glowing coals.
This method is only adapted to thin pieces of food
with a considerable amount of surface. Larger
and more compact foods should be roasted or baked.
Roasting and broiling are allied in principle.
In both, the work is chiefly done by the radiation
of heat directly upon the surface of the food, although
some heat is communicated by the hot air surrounding
the food. The intense heat applied to the food
soon sears its outer surfaces, and thus prevents the
escape of its juices. If care be taken frequently
to turn the food so that its entire surface will be
thus acted upon, the interior of the mass is cooked
by its own juices.
Baking is the cooking of food
by dry heat in a closed oven. Only foods containing
a considerable degree of moisture are adapted for cooking
by this method. The hot, dry air which fills
the oven is always thirsting for moisture, and will
take from every moist substance to which it has access
a quantity of water proportionate to its degree of
heat. Foods containing but a small amount of
moisture, unless protected in some manner from the
action of the heated air, or in some way supplied with
moisture during the cooking process, come from the
oven dry, hard, and unpalatable.
Proper cooking by this method depends
greatly upon the facility with which the heat of the
oven can be regulated. When oil or gas is the
fuel used, it is an easy matter to secure and maintain
almost any degree of heat desirable, but with a wood
or coal stove, especial care and painstaking are necessary.
It is of the first importance that
the mechanism of the oven to be used, be thoroughly
understood by the cook, and she should test its heating
capacity under various conditions, with a light, quick
fire and with a more steady one; she should carefully
note the kind and amount of fuel requisite to produce
a certain degree of heat; in short, she should thoroughly
know her “machine” and its capabilities
before attempting to use it for the cooking of food.
An oven thermometer is of the utmost value for testing
the heat, but unfortunately, such thermometers are
not common. They are obtainable in England, although
quite expensive. It is also possible at the present
time to obtain ranges with a very reliable thermometer
attachment to the oven door.
A cook of good judgment by careful
observation and comparison of results, can soon learn
to form quite a correct idea of the heat of her oven
by the length of time she can hold her hand inside
it without discomfort, but since much depends upon
the construction of stoves and the kind of fuel used,
and since the degree of heat bearable will vary with
every hand that tries it, each person who depends upon
this test must make her own standard. When the
heat of the oven is found to be too great, it may
be lessened by placing in it a dish of cold water.
Boiling is the cooking of food
in a boiling liquid. Water is the usual medium
employed for this purpose. When water is heated,
as its temperature is increased, minute bubbles of
air which have been dissolved by it are given off.
As the temperature rises, bubbles of steam will begin
to form at the bottom of the vessel. At first
these will be condensed as they rise into the cooler
water above, causing a simmering sound; but as the
heat increases, the bubbles will rise higher and higher
before collapsing, and in a short time will pass entirely
through the water, escaping from its surface, causing
more or less agitation, according to the rapidity
with which they are formed. Water boils when
the bubbles thus rise to the surface, and steam is
thrown off. If the temperature is now tested,
it will be found to be about 212 deg. F.
When water begins to boil, it is impossible to increase
its temperature, as the steam carries off the heat
as rapidly as it is communicated to the water.
The only way in which the temperature can be raised,
is by the confinement of the steam; but owing to its
enormous expansive force, this is not practicable
with ordinary cooking utensils. The mechanical
action of the water is increased by rapid bubbling,
but not the heat; and to boil anything violently does
not expedite the cooking process, save that by the
mechanical action of the water the food is broken
into smaller pieces, which are for this reason more
readily softened. But violent boiling occasions
an enormous waste of fuel, and by driving away in
the steam the volatile and savory elements of the
food, renders it much less palatable, if not altogether
tasteless. The solvent properties of water are
so increased by heat that it permeates the food, rendering
its hard and tough constituents soft and easy of digestion.
The liquids mostly employed in the
cooking of foods are water and milk. Water is
best suited for the cooking of most foods, but for
such farinaceous foods as rice, macaroni, and farina,
milk, or at least part milk, is preferable, as it
adds to their nutritive value. In using milk
for cooking purposes, it should be remembered that
being more dense than water, when heated, less steam
escapes, and consequently it boils sooner than does
water. Then, too, milk being more dense, when
it is used alone for cooking, a little larger quantity
of fluid will be required than when water is used.
The boiling point for water at the
sea level is 212 deg. At all points above
the sea level, water boils at a temperature below 212
deg., the exact temperature depending upon the
altitude. At the top of Mt. Blanc, an altitude
of 15,000 feet, water boils at 185 deg. The
boiling point is lowered one degree for every 600
feet increase in altitude. The boiling point
may be increased by adding soluble substances to the
water. A saturated solution of common baking
soda boils at 220 deg. A saturated solution
of chloride of sodium boils at 227 deg. A
similar solution of sal-ammoniac boils at 238
deg. Of course such solutions cannot be used
advantageously, except as a means of cooking articles
placed in hermetically sealed vessels and immersed
in the liquid.
Different effects upon food are produced
by the use of hard and soft water. Peas and beans
boiled in hard water containing lime or gypsum, will
not become tender, because these chemical substances
harden vegetable casein, of which element peas and
beans are largely composed. For extracting the
juices of meat and the soluble parts of other foods,
soft water is best, as it more readily penetrates the
tissue; but when it is desired to preserve the articles
whole, and retain their juices and flavors, hard water
Foods should be put to cook in cold
or boiling water, in accordance with the object to
be attained in their cooking. Foods from which
it is desirable to extract the nutrient properties,
as for broths, extracts, etc., should be put
to cook in cold water. Foods to be kept intact
as nearly as may be, should be put to cook in boiling
Hot and cold water act differently
upon the different food elements. Starch is but
slightly acted upon by cold water. When starch
is added to several times its bulk of hot water, all
the starch granules burst on approaching the boiling
point, and swell to such a degree as to occupy nearly
the whole volume of the water, forming a pasty mess.
Sugar is dissolved readily in the either hot or cold
water. Cold water extracts albumen. Hot
water coagulates it.
Steaming, as its name implies,
is the cooking of food by the use of steam. There
are several ways of steaming, the most common of which
is by placing the food in a perforated dish over a
vessel of boiling water. For foods not needing
the solvent powers of water, or which already contain
a large amount of moisture, this method is preferable
to boiling. Another form of cooking, which is
usually termed steaming, is that of placing the food,
with or without water, as needed, in a closed vessel
which is placed inside another vessel containing boiling
water. Such an apparatus is termed a double boiler.
Food cooked in its own juices in a covered dish in
a hot oven, is sometimes spoken of as being steamed
Stewing is the prolonged cooking
of food in a small quantity of liquid, the temperature
of which is just below the boiling point. Stewing
should not be confounded with simmering, which is slow,
steady boiling. The proper temperature for stewing
is most easily secured by the use of the double boiler.
The water in the outer vessel boils, while that in
the inner vessel does not, being kept a little below
the temperature of the water from which its heat is
obtained, by the constant evaporation at a temperature
a little below the boiling point.
Frying, which is the cooking
of food in hot fat, is a method not to be recommended Unlike
all the other food elements, fat is rendered less
digestible by cooking. Doubtless it is for this
reason that nature has provided those foods which
require the most prolonged cooking to fit them for
use with only a small proportion of fat, and it would
seem to indicate that any food to be subjected to
a high degree of heat should not be mixed and compounded
largely of fats. The ordinary way of frying,
which the French call sauteing, is by the use
of only a little fat in a shallow pan, into which
the food is put and cooked first on one side and then
the other. Scarcely anything could be more unwholesome
than food prepared in this manner. A morsel of
food encrusted with fat remains undigested in the
stomach because fat is not acted upon by the gastric
juice, and its combination with the other food elements
of which the morsel is composed interferes with their
digestion also. If such foods are habitually
used, digestion soon becomes slow and the gastric
juice so deficient in quantity that fermentation and
putrefactive changes are occasioned, resulting in
serious disturbance of health. In the process
of frying, the action of the heat partially decomposes
the fat; in consequence, various poisonous substances
are formed, highly detrimental to the digestion of
the partaker of the food.
ADDING FOODS TO BOILING LIQUIDS. Much
of the soddenness of improperly cooked foods might
be avoided, if the following facts were kept in mind:
When vegetables, or other foods of
ordinary temperature, are put into boiling water,
the temperature of the water is lowered in proportion
to the quantity and the temperature of the food thus
introduced, and will not again boil until the mass
of food shall have absorbed more heat from the fire.
The result of this is that the food is apt to become
more or less water-soaked before the process of cooking
begins. This difficulty may be avoided by introducing
but small quantities of the food at one time, so as
not to greatly lower the temperature of the liquid,
and then allowing the latter to boil between the introduction
of each fresh supply, or by heating the food before
adding it to the liquid.
EVAPORATION is another principle often
overlooked in the cooking of food, and many a sauce
or gravy is spoiled because the liquid, heated in
a shallow pan, from which evaporation is rapid, loses
so much in bulk that the amount of thickening requisite
for the given quantity of fluid, and which, had less
evaporation occurred, would have made it of the proper
consistency, makes the sauce thick and unpalatable.
Evaporation is much less, in slow boiling, than in
more rapid cooking.
MEASURING. One of the most
important principles to be observed in the preparation
of food for cooking, is accuracy in measuring.
Many an excellent recipe proves a failure simply from
lack of care in this respect. Measures are generally
more convenient than weights, and are more commonly
used. The common kitchen cup, which holds a half
pint, is the one usually taken as the standard; if
any other size is used, the ingredients for the entire
recipe should be measured by the same. The following
points should be observed in measuring:
1. The teaspoons and tablespoons
to be used in measuring, are the silver spoons in
2. Any material like flour, sugar,
salt, that has been packed, should either be sifted
or stirred up lightly before measuring.
3. A cupful of dry material is
measured level with the top of the cup, without being
4. A cupful of liquid is all
the cup will contain without running over. Hold
the cup in a saucer while measuring, to prevent spilling
the liquid upon the floor or table.
COMPARATIVE TABLE OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES. The
following comparative table of weights and measurements
will aid in estimating different materials:
One heaping tablespoonful of sugar weighs one ounce.
Two round tablespoonfuls of flour weigh one ounce.
Two cupfuls of granulated sugar weigh one pound.
Two cupfuls of meal weigh one pound.
Four cupfuls of sifted flour weigh one pound.
One pint of oatmeal, cracked wheat,
or other coarse grains, weighs about one pound.
One pint of liquid weighs one pound.
One pint of meat chopped and packed solid weighs one
Seven heaping tablespoonfuls of sugar = one cupful.
Five heaping tablespoonfuls of flour = one cupful.
Two cupfuls of liquid or dry material = one pint
Four cupfuls of liquid or dry material = one quart.
MIXING MATERIALS. In the
compounding of recipes, various modes are employed
for mingling together the different ingredients, chief
of which are stirring, beating, and
By stirring is meant a continuous
motion round and round with a spoon, without lifting
it from the mixture, except to scrape occasionally
from the sides of the dish any portion of the material
that may cling to it. It is not necessary that
the stirring should be all in one direction, as many
cooks suppose. The object of the stirring is to
thoroughly blend the ingredients, and this may be
accomplished as well by stirring in one
direction as in another.
Beating is for the purpose
of incorporating as much air in the mixture as possible.
It should be done by dipping the spoon in and out,
cutting clear through and lifting from the bottom
with each stroke. The process must be continuous,
and must never be interspersed with any stirring if
it is desired to retain the air within the mixture.
Kneading is the mode by which
materials already in the form of dough are more thoroughly
blended together; it also serves to incorporate air.
The process is more fully described in the chapter
TEMPERATURE. Many a cook
fails and knows not why, because she does not understand
the influence of temperature upon materials and food.
Flour and liquids for unfermented breads cannot be
too cold, while for bread prepared with yeast, success
is largely dependent upon a warm and equable temperature
throughout the entire process.
COOKING UTENSILS. The earliest
cookery was probably accomplished without the aid
of any utensils, the food being roasted by burying
it in hot ashes or cooked by the aid of heated stones;
but modern cookery necessitates the use of a greater
or less variety of cooking utensils to facilitate
the preparation of food, most of which are so familiar
to the reader as to need no description. (A list of
those needed for use will be found on page 66.) Most
of these utensils are manufactured from some kind
of metal, as iron, tin, copper, brass, etc.
All metals are dissolvable in certain substances,
and some of those employed for making household utensils
are capable of forming most poisonous compounds when
used for cooking certain foods. This fact should
lead to great care on the part of the housewife, both
in purchasing and in using utensils for cooking purposes.
Iron utensils, although they are,
when new, apt to discolor and impart a disagreeable
flavor to food cooked in them, are not objectionable
from a health standpoint, if kept clean and free from
rust. Iron rust is the result of the combination
of the iron with oxygen, for which it has so great
an affinity that it will decompose water to get oxygen
to unite with; hence it is that iron utensils rust
so quickly when not carefully dried after using, or
if left where they can collect moisture. This
is the reason why a coating of tallow, which serves
to exclude the air and moisture, will preserve ironware
not in daily use from rusting.
“Porcelain ware” is iron
lined with a hard, smooth enamel, and makes safe and
very desirable cooking utensils. German porcelain
ware is unexcelled for culinary purposes.
“Granite ware” is a material
quite recently come into use, the composition of which
is a secret, although pronounced by eminent chemists
to be free from all injurious qualities. Utensils
made from it are light in weight, easily kept clean,
and for most cooking purposes, are far superior to
those made from any other material.
What is termed “galvanized iron”
is unsuitable for cooking utensils, it being simply
sheet iron coated with zinc, an exceedingly unsafe
metal to be used for cooking purposes.
Tin, which is simply thin sheet iron
coated with tin by dipping several times into vats
of the melted metal, is largely employed in the manufacture
of cooking utensils. Tinware is acted upon by
acids, and when used for holding or cooking any acid
foods, like sour milk, sour fruits, tomatoes, etc.,
harmful substances are liable to be formed, varying
in quantity and harmfulness with the nature of the
acid contained in the food.
In these days of fraud and adulteration,
nearly all the cheaper grades of tinware contain a
greater or less amount of lead in their composition,
which owing to its greater abundance and less price,
is used as an adulterant of tin. Lead is also
used in the solder with which the parts of tinware
are united. The action of acids upon lead form
very poisonous compounds, and all lead-adulterated
utensils should be wholly discarded for cooking purposes.
Test for Lead-Adulterated Tin. Place
upon the metal a small drop of nitric acid, spreading
it to the size of a dime, dry with gentle heat, apply
a drop of water, then add a small crystal of iodide
of potash. If lead is present, a yellowish color
will be seen very soon after the addition of the iodide.
Lead glazing, which is frequently employed on crockery
and ironware in the manufacture of cooking utensils,
may also be detected in the same manner.
Cooking utensils made of copper are
not to be recommended from the point of healthfulness,
although many cooks esteem them because copper is a
better conductor of heat than iron or tin. The
acids of many fruits combine with copper to form extremely
poisonous substances. Fatty substances, as well
as salt and sugar, act upon copper to a greater or
less degree, also vegetables containing sulfur in their
composition and produce harmful compounds.
Utensils made of brass, which is a
compound of copper and zinc, are not safe to use for
Bad cooking diminishes happiness
and shortens life. Wisdom of
Says Mrs. Partington:
“Many a fair home has been desiccated by poor
cooking, and a man’s
table has been the rock on which his happiness
SIGNIFICANT FACT. Lady “Have
you had much experience as a cook?”
indeed I have. I was the cook of Mr. and Mrs.
Peterby for three years.”
did you leave them?”
didn’t leave them. They left me. They
Cooking is generally bad because
people falling to routine; habit
dulls their appreciation,
and they do not think about what they are
Lilly (Secretary of
the cooking class) “Now girls, we’ve
nine cakes, two kinds of angel
food, and seven pies. What next?”
Susie (engaged) “Dick’s
father says I must learn to bake bread.”
Indignant chorus “Bread?
How absurd! What are bakers for?”
It is told of Philip Hecgnet, a French,
physician who lived in the 17th, century, that
when calling upon his wealthy patients, he used often
to go to the kitchen and pantry, embrace the cooks
and butlers, and exhort them to do their duty
well. “I owe you so much gratitude,
my dear friends,” he would say; “you are
so useful to us doctors; for if you did not keep
on poisoning the people, we should all have to
go to the poorhouse.”
There are innumerable books of recipes
for cooking, but unless the cook is master of
the principles of his art, and unless he knows the
why and the wherefore of its processes, he cannot
choose a recipe intelligently and execute it successfully. Richard
They who provide the food for the world,
decide the health of the world. You have
only to go on some errands amid the taverns and hotels
of the United States and Great Britain, to appreciate
the fact that a vast multitude of the human race
are slaughtered by incompetent cookery. Though
a young woman may have taken lessons in music,
and may have taken lessons in painting, and lessons
in astronomy, she is not well educated unless
she has taken lessons in dough! Talmage.