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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/319

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

appetite manifest a corresponding periodicity, thus saving mothers the trouble of providing baby-titbits at all possible and impossible hours of the day. Healthy children of five take readily to an exclusively vegetable diet, which is often preferable to city milk and always to flesh-food. Xenophon, in his miscellaneous "Anabasis," mentions a tribe of Bithynian coast-dwellers whose children were prodigies of chubbedness, "as thick as they were long," and remarks that said chubs were fed on—boiled chestnuts. Baked apples, pulse, macaroni, whipped eggs, bread-pudding seasoned with sugar and a drop or two of lemon flavor, and such fruits as mellow pears, raspberries, and strawberries, can be readily assimilated by all but the weakliest nursery cadets.

But toward the end of the seventh year the advent of a second and sturdier set of teeth suggests the propriety of exercising the jaws on more solid substances. A child of seven should graduate to a seat at the family table; or rather the family table should offer nothing that a child of seven can not digest. It does, though, as a rule, and parents who buy their meals ready made, or who have resigned themselves to evils from which they would save their children, should still regulate their bill of fare, both in quality and in quantity, by the rules of hygiene rather than by those of etiquette or convenience, till the age of confirmed habits puts them beyond the danger of temptation.

Before entering upon those points, I must premise a few words on the main question. What is the natural food of man? As an abstract truth, the maxim[1] of the physiologist Haller is absolutely unimpeachable: "Our proper nutriment should consist of vegetable and semi-animal substances which can be eaten with relish before their natural taste has been disguised by artificial preparation." For even the most approved modes of grinding, bolting, leavening, cooking, spicing, heating, and freezing our food are, strictly speaking, abuses of our digestive organs. It is a fallacy to suppose that hot spices aid the process of digestion: they irritate the stomach and cause it to discharge the ingesta as rapidly as possible, as it would hasten to rid itself of tartarized antimony or any other poison; but this very precipitation of the gastric functions prevents the formation of healthy chyle. There is an important difference between rapid and thorough digestion. In a similar way, a high temperature of our food facilitates deglutition, but, by dispensing with insalivation and the proper use of our teeth, we make the stomach perform the work of our jaws and salivary glands; in other words, we make our food less digestible. By bolting our flour and extracting the nutritive principle of various liquids, we fall into the opposite error: we try to assist our digestive organs by performing mechanically a part of their proper and legitimate functions. The health of the human system can not be maintained on concentrated nutriment; even the air we inhale contains azotic

  1. Endorsed (indirectly) in the writings of Drs. Alcott, Claude Bernard, Schlemmer, Hall, and Dio Lewis, and directly by Schrodt and Jules Virey.