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Foods are prepared by Nature. She turns out a finished product. There is no need for further preparation. But we have become so artificial in our habits and in our thinking, that a few words of caution are needed.
The less "preparation" foods have undergone, the better and more wholesome they are as foods. The more simple the method used in preparing them, the more valuable they are. As well try to improve the rose by paint or perfume as to try to improve nuts or fruits by cooking. How foolish to cook a peach or an orange and then try to hypnotize yourself into believing that you have improved its delicious flavor or increased its dietetic value!
The modern kitchen is a mass of unnatural and anti-natural things and processes. We have forsaken the natural and have developed our present methods of preparing foods in a hap-hazard and thoughtless way.
Every man and woman should possess a clear understanding of the "complexities and possibilities of modern public cooking," together with a full knowledge of the "significance or the insignificance of the digestive appeals, the safety or unsafely of its unprincipled combinations, and the imperative necessity of moral power, backed by the will, to control the demands of a false, because overstimulated, appetite."
The first step in improving the methods of cooking foods was made by Mr. C. Leigh Hunt Wallace, an English vegetarian and editor of the Herald of Health. This journal was the official organ of the Physical Regeneration Society, of which Mr. Wallace was leader. This society opposed drugs and vaccines of all kinds and stood for living reform. In their "General Rules for the Maintenance of Health," I find these words: "all vegetables shall be stewed in their own juices or served with the water in which they are cooked in the form of sauce or gravy. Or they may be steamed or baked, but in whatever way they are prepared, all their natural salts and flavors must be conserved." Mr. Wallace called this "the conservative system of cooking."
Much of our over praised cooking consists in boiling the minerals out of our foods and pouring these down the drain pipe and conservative cooking seeks, among other things to conserve these minerals. Vegetables, even potatoes, should never be boiled. The old method of par-boiling vegetables and throwing the water away carried away practically all of the soluble salts and vitamins.
Open-vessel-cooked foods are largely devitalized, with the oxygen so combined that it is valueless. The vitamins are destroyed and the mineral salts are disarranged or lost. The waterless cooker is less objectionable in these respects.
Rapid cooking at a high temperature produces less damage, while low heat long continued, causes more damage to food. For this reason the "fireless cooker" and other forms of slow cooking are least desirable. Cooking done under steam pressure quickly destroys all vitamins in our food.
Wilted lettuce is poor food. The same is true of celery and other vegetables. Fresh foods are best. The tops should be cut from beets, turnips, radishes, etc., as these, when wilting, extract the best elements from the roots.
The mere wilting of vegetables impairs their value as food. Dr. Howe says, "Vitamins of the greatest importance are found in the green leaf vegetables as they come fresh from the gardens, but at least one of the most important of these vitamins is either killed or greatly reduced in efficiency if such vegetables wilt or are kept in cold storage. This does not mean, however, that the cold storage process is not a very valuable means of storing some forms of food.
"A knowledge of what wilting or storage will do to these tender vegetables is not confined to man. In fact, the animal knew it first. If we place fresh lettuce and either wilted or storage lettuce at the same time before the animals in our laboratory, not only will they neglect the wilted lettuce for the fresh, but they seem to feel that the wilted lettuce is suitable only for bedding and they contentedly trample or crunch upon it while eagerly devouring the fresh."
Wilted lettuce, wilted celery and other wilted vegetables are poor foods. Foods that are shipped long distances lose much of their food value. Fresh foods are always best. Canned vegetables and fruits lose much of their value by standing for a long time in the cans. The acid fruits seem to be an exception to this, at least they do not lose their quality as early as do other foods.
Never soak vegetables in water for this extracts valuable elements from them and leaves them tasteless and worthless. Lettuce and celery should not be crisped in this way. Vegetables should be washed quickly, care being taken not to bruise them. They may then be wrapped in a damp cloth or wrapped in paper to protect them and placed in the refrigerator or in the fresh air to become crisp. No vegetable should ever be permitted to stand, even for a moment, in water. If they are permitted to stand in water they will be robbed of their precious minerals, which will be absorbed by the water, and you will only eat impoverished vegetables.
Nuts should never be cooked or roasted.
Fruits should never be cooked. This applies with equal force to dried fruits. Dried prunes, figs, peaches, pears, apples and other dried fruits should be carefully washed and then have enough warm water poured over them to cover them well but not enough to float them. Cover the vessel and let them stand over night. When serving, the water in which they have been soaked, being full of the salts of the fruit, should be served with them. No sugar should be added. Fruits thus prepared are much more pleasant than cooked fruits and are also much more easily digested. It requires a better digestion than most people have to digest cooked fruit. Better not try it.
Vegetables should be cooked in their own juices with barely enough water to prevent burning and their juices served with them. When spinach, for example, is boiled and the juice is not eaten most of the soluble salts go down the drain pipe. They are lost.
The more food is cooked the deader it is. It should be eaten raw or slightly cooked. Thoroughly cooked--"dead"--foods may build the body but they can never vitalize it.
Leafy vegetables should never be steamed or cooked until they change color. Cook vegetables as short a time as possible, to preserve the living essence as far as possible, and then eat soon after cooking. Do not cook vegetables ahead and let them stand for hours before eating. Twice cooked vegetables have less food value and are less digestible than once cooked vegetables.
The lowly turnip green, so popular throughout the south, as attested by the words of the song: "Cornbread, buttermilk and good old turnip greens," is a rich source of calcium, iron and other minerals. The stems of the green are also fair sources of calcium, though containing less iron. The total ash of this green is important. But when parboiled and boiled for long periods, most of its value is lost.
Cabbage and onions have their sulphur oxidized by the usual methods of cooking them. Small heads of cabbage or small onions may be placed whole in a waterless cooker and cooked whole.
Carrots, beets, turnips and other tubers, also squash, tomatoes, etc., should not be pared and cut up before cooking. Scrub them thoroughly with a brush and cook them whole. Serve and eat whole, flavored with a little butter or oil only.
Potatoes should always be cooked in their skins and the skins eaten. Bake them 40 minutes in a very hot oven, or steam them in a waterless cooker.
Eggs should be soft-boiled, coddled or poached.
Meats are best baked or broiled under the flame to retain their juices. The juices of the meat should be served with it. Fish may be steamed or baked. No meat should ever be fried. "Frying turns meat into an alkaloid," a poison, says Dr. Gibson.
Cereals should be served dry. They should not be boiled. They may be steamed or scalded and served with a little butter or cream--but not with sugar or milk. Stale bread is better than toasted bread.
Soups, which are usually swallowed without mastication, are bad foods. They are especially bad when starch is added to them Starch, flour, tapioca, rice, etc., should never be added. Okra added to soups thickens them nicely and is not objectionable.
Gravies are objectionable and should not be prepared.
Butter, cream, or oil served on vegetables should be added when serving and not while cooking. Fats should never be cooked.
All the vitamins are quickly destroyed by baking soda or other alkali added to the food. The fats, grease, salts, soda, acids, sugar, spices and pungent extractives so freely used in modern cookery, not only stimulate to overeating, but actually interfere with the digestive processes.
Acids added to food not only interfere with digestion but cause much trouble. Dr. Leedon Sharp (M.D.), of Intercourse, Pa., says that when a girl comes to the doctor complaining of "that tired feeling," "want of energy," "lack of pep," precarious appetite, chronic constipation and some menstrual irregularities, even if "apparently robust, often times over weight and having rosy cheeks;" if she answers "I love them" to the question "do you like pickles?", chlorosis may be diagnosed whether or not the peculiar greenish hue of the skin is presented. Blood examination, he says, will show the red cell count to be about normal with no increase in white cells, but with hemoglobin as deficient in some as 40 to 50 per cent. Bleached vegetables are inferior in food value to green vegetables. Their value decreases in proportion to the time required to bleach them. The bleaching process robs them of vitamins and bases.
Dried foods, other than dried fruits, are now on the market. Milk, vegetables, and meats are often dried. It has been the theory in the past that this deprived the foods of nothing but their water. This is now fully proved to be not so. Barnes and Hume have shown that milk dried by the ordinary processes loses about two-fifths of its antiscorbutic efficacy. Hess and Unger state that the most actively antiscorbutic vegetables lose their efficacy when dried. An outbreak of Scurvy in the Rummelsburg orphanage, a few years ago, was attributed by Mueller and Erich to the use of pasteurized milk and dried vegetables. These vegetables had been bleached before drying and this made them all the worse, for in the bleaching they had forfeited their excess of bases. Heating at a comparatively low temperature, 30 to 40 degrees centigrade, is more injurious to vitamin C, than boiling for an hour.
The drying of cabbage, carrots and dandelion greatly impairs their antiscorbutic qualities. The C quality of cabbage is wholly destroyed at 110 degrees centigrade. Dried potatoes are also deficient in C. Dried cabbage, when stored for two to three weeks, has its vitamin C reduced by about nine-tenth. Three months storage completely destroys its antiscorbutic qualities.
The outbreak of scurvy in the Bulgarian Army during the Balkan war a few years ago, developed in spite of (perhaps, as Berg insists, because of) the fact that dried vegetables were supplied as prophylactics.
Sulphured fruits are unfit for use. They are saturated with the poisonous sulphurous acid used in bleaching them. Sundried and dehydrated fruits are preferable and I am suspicious of the dehydrated articles.
Stefanson's experiences in the Arctic emphasizes the need for fresh foods and confirm the results of many experiments which show that preserved, heated and desiccated foods lose much of their value. The value of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables and the inadequacy of denatured, processed, refined, cooked, canned, dried, desiccated, preserved and embalmed foods, as revealed by experience and experiment, will remain unshaken.
Cooking, bleaching, canning, preserving and drying (with the possible exception of sun-drying) of fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, meat and other food stuffs, are all denaturing processes and have much the same results as the milling of wheat or the polishing of rice. "Since prolonged heat is in any case injurious," says. Berg, "it is obvious that the drying of nutrients at a raised temperature must be extremely disadvantageous."
Canned foods are extensively used. The canning industry is one of the largest industries in America. It yearly spends millions of dollars to increase its business and to induce people to believe that canned foods are excellent foods. Subsidized research workers, scientists, physicians and others issue statements designed to increase confidence in canned foods.
The process of canning foods has undergone a great change within recent years, so that canned goods are better today than they were some years ago. Canned goods, many of them at least, are not without real food value, but they can never be made to take the place of real foods and should never be used when other foods may be had. There are many hospitals and sanitariums which feed canned foods to patients and to children. This I consider a criminal practice. I have never fed canned foods to patients, nor to children.
We are frequently told that present day methods of canning preserves the salts of the foods and does not destroy their vitamins. That their vitamins are impaired does not admit of doubt and Berg tells us "it seems undesirable to trust to the antiscorbutic efficacy of stored products. The antiscorbutic power of expressed cabbage juice, lemon juice and orange juice, seems to disappear in consequence of prolonged storage." Prolonged heating of acid fruit juices does not completely destroy their vitamin C, these qualities are lost after being bottled or canned and stored.
No method of canning is known that does not impair the salts of food and to a greater or lesser extent the other qualities of the food. Home canned foods are also bad. Professor Morgulis rightly says: "A new and serious source of malnutrition has arisen in our modern industrialized civilization. By the implacable economic forces women have been drawn away from their traditional place in the home and into the turmoil of industrial production. At the same time the factory has intruded itself into the home and has preempted much of the woman's function of preparing the family's food. The manufacture of foods dispensed in cans and all ready to be served has insinuated itself into the homes of the people to such an extent that it has become literally true that many households can now-a-days be conducted with the aid of two implements--the cork screw and the can opener. The evil of these industrial conditions is seen not only in the circumstance that the younger generation is deprived of proper maternal care, but also in the fact that owing to qualitative deficiencies, tinned goods, when these are the staple articles of diet, may produce the effects of partial inanition."
Many types of cooking vessels are offered the public. Of these the waterless cooker is best. The waterless cooker should not be confused with the pressure cooker. Cooking vessels are made of many kinds of materials. Some of these distribute heat more uniformly than others and cook the food quicker. The first waterless cookers were made of aluminum. Due to the crusade that was carried on against the use of aluminum, many people are afraid of aluminum. In my opinion, this fear is unfounded, but for those who are afraid of aluminum, there are stainless steel cookers, earthenware cookers, cookers made of manganese, etc.