Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/645

This page has been validated.

difficulties, of hundreds of learners of all capacities, doing the work over and over again under the critical direction of intelligent, practical teachers, who were bent upon finding out the best method of doing each thing, and the best method of teaching others how to do it. Not a single item necessary to perfect the required process is omitted. The steps are separated, and given in numerical order, so as to enforce attention to one thing at a time, and the right thing at the right time, while the precautions against mistakes are so careful that even the dullest can hardly go wrong. Each receipt in the volume is not only the formula for a dish, but it is also a lesson in a practical process, so that in the preparation of every article of food something is gained toward greater proficiency in the art of cooking well.

"A few words in regard to the origin of the school in which it was produced will still further illustrate the character of this work. A vigorous movement has been made in England to elevate this branch of domestic economy by establishing schools for training pupils in the art of cookery. These schools have grown immediately out of the need of greater general economy among the working-classes, as it was seen that the high prices of provisions were seriously aggravated by not knowing how to make the most of them in their kitchen preparation. The attention of the managers of the South Kensington Museum of Arts in West London was several years ago drawn to the subject; and, feeling that something required to be done, they established public lectures on the preparation of food, with platform demonstrations of various culinary operations. But it was quickly found that mere exposition and illustration, though not without use, were wholly inadequate to the object in view; because a cooking school, to be thorough, must provide for practice. Lecturing, and explaining to pupils, and barely showing them how things are done, are sure to fail, because cookery, like music, can only be learned by actually doing it. As well undertake to teach the piano by talking and exhibiting its capabilities as to teach a person how to make a dish properly by only listening and looking on. Provision had therefore to be made for forming classes to do themselves what they at first only saw others do.

"But this task-was by no means an easy one. There were no preexisting plans to follow; qualified teachers and suitable textbooks were wanting; it was an expensive form of education; the public thought it a doubtful innovation; and educational authorities discouraged it. But the parties interested decided that the time had come for a systematic and persistent effort. They felt their way cautiously, and in 1874 organized classes for graded courses of practice. The object was to give women the best possible instruction in practical cookery and for this purpose the school was open to all. But, to make its work most largely useful, it was constituted as a normal school for training teachers to go out and establish other cooking-schools in different parts of the country. This has been since done with the most encouraging success, so that there are already a large number of cooking-schools in England connected with the national or common school system.

"As no cook-book to be found was worth anything to aid the practical instruction proposed, the teachers had to take this matter in hand at the outset. They began by drawing up a careful set of directions to be followed by the learners in doing their work. For each lesson in all the grades each pupil was furnished with a printed sheet of these directions, stating the ingredients of each dish to be prepared, the quantities and separate cost of these ingredients, what was to be done first, what next, and so on through the whole series of operations, nothing being assumed as known, and all the minute steps being indicated in the order that was found best. These guides were necessarily imperfect at first, and were subject to constant revision and extension as experience suggested corrections; in fact, they embodied the progress of the school in the successful attainment of its object. At each new printing the improvements that had been made were incorporated, and only after years of trial were these guides to practice at length combined and issued in a book-form. The lessons or receipts of this volume were all slowly elaborated in this painstaking manner, and the mode of working proved perfectly success-