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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/544

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534
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

milling, easily cooked and easily digested, is not more largely consumed by the poorer families in this country.

The effect upon our food habits of the introduction of railways and the supply of comparatively cheap fuel to every household is almost incalculable. But for this the consumption of tea, perhaps even of potatoes where there is no peat, would be very small. The preference of the French for liquid, and of the English for solid, food, has been attributed to the greater relative facilities which the French once enjoyed for making a fire, though the persistence (if not the origin) of our popular habits in this respect probably lies rather in the fact that a Frenchwoman's cookery makes greater demands upon her time and attention. One result of this preference is that the essential juices of meat preserved by the French in soups and ragouts are with us to a large extent absolutely wasted. Owners of small house properties complain that, however well trapped their sinks may be, the pipes are constantly choked, and that the mysterious mischief is almost invariably cured by liberal doses of boiling water, which melt the solidified fats cast away in a state of solution. The number of persons who died of starvation in the administrative county of London in 1898, or whose death was accelerated by privation, amounted to 48; and we shall be pretty safe in estimating the total number in the United Kingdom at something less than 500. The common and inevitable reflection is that they might have been easily relieved from the superfluities of the rich; but it is true also that their sufficient sustenance was destroyed many times over through the ignorance of the poor. It would be difficult to find an English cookery book which a workman's wife would not reject as too fanciful and ambitious to be practical. A little French treatise, 'La parfaite Cuisinière, ou l'Art d'utiliser les Restes' strikes in its title, at any rate, the keynote of the popular domestic economy of which we stand much in need in England. Housekeeping, even the humblest, is a skilled business. To know what to buy, how to use it and how to utilize waste does not come by the light of nature. If more knowledge and more imagination were devoted to the teaching of cookery in our board schools, the family meal might be made more varied, more appetizing, more attractive and more economical, leaving a larger margin for the comforts, culture and recreations which help to develop the best social qualities. A happy family is a family of good citizens. It would be discourteous to another section of this Association to quote without reserve the mot of Brillat-Savarin: "He who discovers a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than he who discovers a new planet." We must stipulate that the new dish effects an improvement in the economy of the working classes.

Take, again, the consumption of coal. Mr. Sargant says, "It is impossible to say how much of the superiority of English health and