Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/173

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General directions for making Soups and Stock, with observations on the materials required for Soups. Thickenings and Flavourings.

The valuable dietetic properties of soup have been, and indeed still are, much overlooked in this country. Soup forms the first course of the meal of those who dine in the true sense of the term, but its importance as a part of the every day diet is not sufficiently appreciated by the multitude in these islands. Yet no form of food is more digestible and wholesome, nor does any other method of preparing food afford so many opportunities for utilizing material that would otherwise be wasted.

Nearly a hundred years ago Count Rumford, the famous scientist and founder of the Royal Institution, wrote:—

"The richness or quality of a soup depends more upon a proper choice of ingredients, and a proper management of the fire in the combination of those ingredients, than upon the quantity of solid nutritious matter employed; much more upon the art and skill of the cook than upon the sum laid out in the market."

This remark is as true to-day as it was a century ago. The average cook imagines that the goodness of a soup depends upon the weight of meat she puts into it, and upon the size of the fire over which it is boiled. It will therefore be advisable to preface this chapter with a simple scientific account of a few of the most interesting and important facts which relate to the food we have to prepare, and the theory and chemistry of the various culinary operations. This is, therefore, the proper place to treat of the quality of the flesh of animals, and to describe some of the conditions which affect its qualities. We will commence with the consideration of age, and examine how far this affects the quality of the meat.