Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/242

This page has been validated.

and one that is highly nutritious. A chemical analysis of six-pennyworth of such a combination would prove its nutritive value to be equal to fully eighteen-pennyworth of beefsteak.

Some people may be inclined to smile at what I am about to say, viz., that such savory dishes, serving to vary the monotony of the poor hard-working man's ordinary fare, afford considerable moral as well as physical advantage.

An instructive experience of my own will illustrate this. When wandering alone through Norway in 1856, I lost the track in crossing the Kyolen fjeld, struggled on for twenty-three hours without food or rest, and arrived in sorry plight at Lorn, a very wild region. After a few hours' rest I pushed on to a still wilder region and still rougher quarters, and continued thus to the great Jostedal table-land, an unbroken glacier of five hundred square miles; then descended the Jostedal itself to its opening on the Sogne fjord—five days of extreme hardship, with no other food than flatbrod (very coarse oatcake), and bilberries gathered on the way, varied on one occasion with the luxury of two raw turnips. Then I reached a comparatively luxurious station (Ronnei), where ham and egs and claret were obtainable. The first glass of claret produced an effect that alarmed me—a craving for more and for stronger drink, that was almost irresistible. I finished a bottle of St. Julien, and nothing but a violent effort of will prevented me from then ordering brandy.

I attribute this to the exhaustion consequent upon the excessive work and insufficient unsavory food of the previous five days; have made many subsequent observations on the victims of alcohol, and have no doubt that overwork and scanty, tasteless food are the primary source of the craving for strong drink that so largely prevails with such deplorable results among the class that is the most exposed to such privation. I do not say that this is the only source of such depraved appetite. It may also be engendered by the opposite extreme of excessive luxurious pandering to general sensuality.

The practical inference suggested by this experience and these observations is, that speech-making, pledge-signing, and blue-ribbon missions can only effect temporary results, unless supplemented by satisfying the natural appetite of hungry people by supplies of food that is not only nutritious, but savory and varied. Such food need be no more expensive than that which is commonly eaten by the poorest of Englishmen, but it must be far better cooked.

Comparing the domestic economy of the poorer classes of our countrymen with that of the corresponding classes in France and Italy (with both of which I am well acquainted), I find that the raw material of the dietary of the French and Italians is inferior to that of the English, but a far better result is obtained by better cookery. The Italian peasantry are better fed than the French. In the poor osterias above referred to, not only the Friday salt fish, but all the