Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/276

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



IF, on the one hand, we have frequent cause for astonishment at the rapidity with which modern life is being transformed under the influence of scientific invention and discovery, we are, on the other, sometimes compelled to wonder at the extreme slowness with which certain useful and entirely practicable reforms, plainly indicated by acknowledged scientific principles, are adopted by the public. There is a law in these matters which has perhaps never been very clearly formulated, but which it would certainly be desirable to understand. The telephone makes its way everywhere without pause or check, and the same is true of electric lighting and traction; while scientific cookery, though its general principles may be said to be fully established, lags painfully behind. That the latter is a matter of the utmost importance, economically and hygienically considered, needs no laborious demonstration; yet how to interest the public in it seems to be a most difficult problem. People who go wild over the New Jerusalem of "Looking Backward" listen with cold indifference when it is explained to them how they can introduce here and now a most important amelioration in their own lives by economizing at once their worldly substance and the wear and tear of their physical organs. The fact that the reform in question would be particularly beneficial to the so-called "working classes" fails to commend it to those who want a revolution or nothing. It is probably the case that men in general are more interested in spending than in saving, just as they have more admiration to bestow on a great warrior than on a great philanthropist; and that, consequently, inventions that represent and call for expenditure are more attractive than those which simply promote economy. More than one modern "improvement," we doubt not, has been adopted by many, as much from the pleasure of spending and—perhaps a more potent consideration still—of appearing to be able to spend the money required to procure it, as from a sense of its utility.

However this may be, and whatever the law may be which regulates public interest in the practical applications of science, there can be no doubt that reform in culinary operations is deserving of far more attention than it has hitherto received. As we showed last month, it deals with a prime—may we not say the prime? necessity of human life. It undertakes to substitute for a wasteful and hurtful empiricism in diet a scientific, economical, and wholesome method of preparing food for consumption. It shows us how we may save our pockets, how we may save our tissues, how we may lengthen our lives, and how we may increase our enjoyments. It promises to improve our tempers by decreasing the internal friction of our physical systems; and, of course, decrease of internal friction means increase in our efficiency for all good purposes. Unlike some reforms that exist only on paper, and that attract sentimental people for the very reason that they are never likely to have more than a paper basis, this particular reform has been tried and realized. Its results are known and can be exhibited at any moment. What is now required is that people should be persuaded that the thing is worth doing, and should be roused to shake off that lazy love of established routine which alone stands in the way of their doing it. The ordinary cooking-stove has so long been a kind of domestic Joss that its worship is hard