Food and Flavor: A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living: Chapter VI - THE FUTURE OF COOKING by@henryfinck

Food and Flavor: A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living: Chapter VI - THE FUTURE OF COOKING

RESPECT for the noble art of cooking is being greatly enhanced by its introduction into our public and private schools as an important branch of education.
Henry T. Finck HackerNoon profile picture

Henry T. Finck

Food and Flavor: A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living

Food and Flavor: A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living, by Henry Theophilus Finck is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Chapter VI : THE FUTURE OF COOKING




RESPECT for the noble art of cooking is being greatly enhanced by its introduction into our public and private schools as an important branch of education.

When this innovation was first suggested, the funny men of the newspapers seized on it as a welcome new subject for their jokes and cartoons, and even now not a few persons who have given the question insufficient thought speak of cookery as one of the fads and frills of our schools. But at a budget hearing in October, 1910, Dr. W. H. Maxwell, Superintendent of the New York City Public Schools, made the memorable statement that he considered the retention of cooking-lessons more important than the study of languages.

He might have gone further; he might have said that because health is more important than learning, therefore cookery is more important than anything else now taught in our schools.

It is useless to say that cooking should be taught at home. Most mothers, especially among the working classes, have neither the time nor the knowledge to teach their daughters how to prepare food rationally.

Recognizing this fact, the Young Women's Christian Association also began some years ago to provide culinary lessons.

One of the reasons for this action may be found in a statement made in the Twenty-seventh Report of the New York Cooking School, that "good coffee and a palatable meal often remove the need of strong drink, and many a working-woman has had her cares lightened by the child who has learned to cook."

An English girl, who had thus been taught, said: "Mother tells me she'd make a drop of nice broth for the children out of an old bone as she'd have thrown away."

A glimpse of future possibilities is given by an experiment made in six Chicago schools, with 1,200 pupils. The boys in the manual-training classes made fireless cookers, and the girls did the rest. One result was a rich, palatable soup costing one cent a bowl.

The most encouraging aspect of the situation is that both in England and in America the experience has been that the children like the cooking best of all their lessons and are glad to practise them at home. As one principal wrote, "The cooking has been enthusiastically received by the pupils, and the parents are heartily in favor of it."




Schoolboys also should, and will, be taught. They can help their mothers at home—why not?—especially in daughterless families; and there are many occasions in life—when the wife is ill, or when men are serving in the army or camping—when such knowledge will prove useful.

Apart from practical considerations, it has an educational value, too, training, as it does, the memory, the power of observation, the senses of taste and smell, and the inventive faculty, besides inculcating neatness and cleanliness.

There are times when men who can cook receive better pay than most others, though their work be both easier and pleasanter. For instance, in an article entitled "In Canada's Wilderness," which appeared in the New York "Evening Post" of September 1, 1910, the writer described the trip of a prospecting party through a section of the Northwest which was tapped by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad. Speaking of the cooks, he said that they were "good cooks, and a good cook in that country is almost worth his weight in fine rubies. They are paid from $75 to $80 a month, and receive housing and bedding. This is more money than any of the other men about an engineering camp receive, except the engineer himself."

One of these cooks had been manager and part owner of a great tea plantation in Ceylon; another had been an officer in a British regiment and had served in the South African War. He had just sold $12,000 worth of property in Edmonton.

The London "Daily Mail" of June 20, 1912, gives an account of an Oxford cooking school which has a special class for men who wish to learn to cook. It is well attended and the men, so the teacher says, "are very keen about the work, and much keener than the women would be as to details. Nothing escapes their attention."

The men work in pairs with the simplest of utensils, and each lesson extends over an hour. Special stress is laid upon frying and stewing, and upon the different meals that can be prepared in a pot or pan over a camp fire. They are taught the various ways of cooking vegetables, of making meat pies, and how to produce such delicacies as pancakes and scrambled or poached eggs. Each lesson affords time for cooking three dishes, and at the conclusion a number of recipes are given, and these are duly recorded for future reference.

The London County Council began to encourage boys in the autumn of 1910 when a school for teaching them how to cook was started. There were fifteen pupils. Two years later there were forty. It is only a small beginning, but from such an avalanche may grow. The aim of the school was stated to be to equip boys between fourteen and sixteen with a knowledge of practical cookery to enable them to fill positions as cooks in first-class hotels, clubs, and restaurants. The course lasts three years and positions are guaranteed at the end.

According to official statistics, 106 boys in England attended cookery classes during 1910-11.

Soldiers in all countries have to do a good deal of camp cooking, and they seem to enjoy it. Circular 11 of the United States Bureau of Animal Industry is concerned with army cooking. The 1912 report of Brig.-Gen. Henry G. Shaw, Commissary General, shows that great advantage has resulted from the schools for bakers and cooks that have been established at Fort Riley, Kansas City, as well as at the Barracks in Washington and at the Presidio in San Francisco. During the year 253 cooks, 131 bakers and 52 mess sergeants have been turned out by the schools as experts.

An English translation has been published (London: Forster Ground Co.) of the French Manual of Field Cookery entitled Livre de Cuisine Militaire aux Manœuvres et en Campagne. It is a pamphlet of 35 pages, including specifications and pictures of necessary utensils, with simple recipes, and a preface by the French War Minister, who remarks, among other things, that it is no longer enough to appoint certain men to the duties of cooks, but it is "necessary that every man ... should be able to prepare his own food and that of any of his comrades, who may not be in a position to do so, by means of the simple apparatus available."

In continental countries there are many cooking schools for men. In Copenhagen, for instance, as we read in the "Lancet," "there is an old frigate moored in a canal close to the most fashionable center of the town. Here there is a school for ship's cooks. On board a ship with the limited space such as prevails at sea young cooks try their 'prentice hands at making dishes such as are served to passengers on sea voyages. There is an awning on the deck, tables are laid out, and numerous inhabitants of Copenhagen take their meals there, for they are both varied and inexpensive. Thus fully qualified cooks are being prepared for the sea, and it is not necessary to point out that, whether at sea or on shore, efficient cooking not only adds to the joys of life but is a very necessary aid to digestion."


In some parts of Germany traveling cooking schools have been organized by the Government. In Prussia it is intended to provide one of them for every county. These schools move from place to place, remaining long enough in each to give instruction in housekeeping to the daughters of laborers, craftsmen, and farmers. In the case of the farm girls the instruction includes the caretaking of animals, poultry culture, and the raising of fruits and vegetables. All the girls are taught to cook, to sew, to repair and clean clothing, and to keep the house clean, with other things relating to health and nutrition.

One of the principal objects of these itinerant schools is to encourage the cultivation of a greater variety of vegetables in the home gardens. In most of the Thuringian villages, for instance, it is said that the only kind of vegetable known is cabbage. The teachers have had considerable difficulty in introducing variety, for the German peasant, like the lower classes everywhere, wants to eat only what he has had since his childhood. But once tasted the new vegetables are usually welcomed and acclimated in the villages visited by the itinerant culinary missionaries.


While the English are not gastronomically eminent among the nations of Europe, they are attaching more and more importance to kitchen work, especially in schools, in which lies the chief hope for the cooking of the future.

This growing interest was illustrated by the Conference on Diet in Public, Secondary, and Private Schools held in London in the last week of May, 1912. Prominent experts made addresses, discussing the question of school diet from various points of view. The "Daily Telegraph" of May 30, in concluding its account of the Conference, made some remarks which are quoted herewith, as they give a vivid glimpse of the admirable culinary work that is evidently being now done in English schools:

"Of recent years more and more attention has been paid to the dietary in schools, and the general teaching of cookery will help on an improvement in a department of social life in which we are behind our Continental neighbors. Happily, there are a considerable number of schools in which the menus are drawn up on well-ascertained principles, including the element of variety. Here is an example of dinners served at a large school at 8d. each to over 100 children. It is chosen from those used from May 13 to May 17:


Boiled Beef and Carrots. Roast Mutton.

Greens and Potatoes.

Cake Pudding. Milk Pudding.


Veal and Ham. Beefsteak Pie.

Greens and Potatoes.

Jam Roly-Poly. Milk Pudding.


Roast Beef. Haricot Mutton. Rissoles.

Greens and Potatoes.

Fruit Salad and Sponge Cake. Milk Pudding.


Roast Mutton. Stewed Steak. Potato Pie.

Greens and Potatoes.

Ginger Pudding. Milk Pudding.


Fish. Roast Beef. Liver and Bacon.

Greens and Potatoes.

Rhubarb Tart. Cabinet Pudding.

"If these menus reappear in the same order or connection it will be at a very distant date. The aim is to supply all the kinds of food necessary, and in a form the girls like. Pies, stews, and rissoles are great favorites, stews being the chief. This is fortunate, because a dish of stew of any kind is rich in fat and protein, and if vegetables are added it becomes rich in salts too. The girls state each day at dinner which meat they wish for, and they help themselves to greens and potatoes. If they want a second helping of meat they can have it, but it is an unwritten law that they must finish all they take. It is also understood that if a girl does not eat her dinner she is not fit for afternoon school. This rule prevents elder girls getting the foolish notion that it is not 'nice' to have a good appetite.

"Cookery is part of the curriculum, so that sooner or later every girl learns the importance of food, and that it is useless to try to 'make bricks without straw'—in fact, the dinners are a practical illustration of the teaching in the cookery room."

The notion that it is not "nice" for a girl to have a good appetite is not so common as it used to be. Now that we know the importance of appetite to proper digestion this notion seems criminal as well as silly, and should be denounced as such in all schools where it may seem necessary.

Like some of the Continental countries, England now also has traveling cooking schools. According to educational Blue Books issued in August, 1912, the record for the teaching of domestic science in 1910-11 included under the head of cookery 327,526 scholars. Concerning the traveling schools we read with reference to the North:

"The county authority have provided a traveling van as a center for cookery teaching throughout the country districts. The van is practically a movable room, carefully planned, with satisfactory arrangements, and has so far answered admirably.

"The van remains for four weeks at each school visited, and where two classes of girls can be provided, lessons are given both morning and afternoon on each day. It is used as a center for classes formed from other schools (if any) within walking distance. When the van was at Sutton some girls walked two to three miles, but made no difficulty about the distance. The teacher is usually besieged by applications to admit older girls—and even women—to the classes. Housewifery is now taught as well as cookery. The van makes a pleasant little room, and the girls enjoy their work and do it very well. The North Riding authority have now built a second van, which is already in use."

Norfolk has a teacher who remains in a village for a fortnight, the children attending classes in a convenient kitchen of a farmhouse, adapted club-room, barn, &c., all day and every day during the fortnight.

The inspectors show that already the influence of these classes has had a reflex in the homes.


As far back as 1835 household economics was taught in young women's seminaries of the United States, as we are informed by Benjamin R. Andrews of the School of Industrial and Household Arts at Columbia University. In 1912 there were over 130 schools which gave collegiate degrees for proficiency in the courses in home-making, and it was clear from the way things were going that ere long every woman's college and high school in the country would have a domestic science department, if only to meet the competition of the Domestic Science schools which are springing up everywhere.

These special schools for home-making turn out the really up-to-date girls—the girls whom young men want to marry.

In recognition of the growing importance of this branch of education Representative Wilson of Illinois introduced, in 1911, a bill providing that a Bureau of Domestic Science be established in the Department of Agriculture, with the object of investigating methods and appliances for the preparation of food and of gathering information to be used in training the boys as well as the girls of the schools and colleges in household and institutional management.

In 1910 there were in the elementary schools of Chicago only 75 kitchens available for use in giving the girls practical instruction in the art of cooking. In view of the fact that at least eight out of every ten girls in these schools are fated to spend a part of their lives in the kitchen, the superintendent of schools, Mrs. Ella Flagg Young started an agitation to have this number increased to 250.

In commenting on this subject the Chicago "Tribune" remarked: "A girl who has to hold in after life solemn communion with stewpans and gridirons had better learn in advance how to use them. It will save her mortification, bitter tears, and scoldings."

Not every husband takes the matter as calmly as the brute who, when his young wife met him with tears in her eyes and the information that the cat had eaten the first pie she had made for him, replied: "Don't cry, dear; we can easily get another cat!"

Bad cooking drives a man to drink sooner than anything else. Many honeymoons are shortened by home-made dyspeptic pangs. "Poor food ruins dispositions as well as digestions."

"Fashionable private schools are adding cookery to their subjects," I am informed; and the girls "have lots of fun with it." A wise thing; for even if these girls marry men who are wealthy enough to hire a cook they ought to know something about culinary art—the more the better—so they can tell the cook how they want things. Cooks in general are not so bad as they are painted. Many of them are simply inexperienced and glad to learn the better way. I know this from abundant experience in my own household, and I bless the stars that I have a wife who can tell what's wrong and how to mend it.

Most of the public schools in New York and many other cities now have courses in household science, including cooking. In the high schools attention is given, among other things, to the adulteration of foods and its detection; to the effects of certain bacteria, useful or harmful, on foods; to nutritive values; to the physiology of digestion; to money and labor-saving appliances; nursing and diet for the sick; cost of living; home sanitation; home-made fireless cookers; food adulteration; cooking as a moral agent; etc. The courses vary somewhat in different schools, but that all of them tend to domestic happiness and lowering of the death rate is certain.

There are indications that working girls are beginning to realize the gross injustice of marrying without having learned how to cook a palatable and digestible meal. The New York "Sun" of January 15, 1911, had an interesting article telling how Miss Mary E. Brockman started evening classes in cooking, largely for girls about to be married. Some of them have worked in factories and shops for years, yet "hardly know an eggbeater from a potato-ricer." "They are eager to learn and make good pupils." "It might seem hard to work all day in a factory and spend two or three hours in the evening mixing flour or braising meat, but evidently several hundred young women find it almost a relaxation. Once started, the subject becomes increasingly fascinating."

"Increasingly fascinating." Bear that in mind. In cooking, as in piano-playing, and everything else, the drudgery comes first, but increasing skill brings satisfaction and joy to the artist cook—not to speak of the husband, the children, and the guests. And this joy lasts as long as life itself.

There is in New York an Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor which, in 1911, was teaching 50,000 "little mothers" how to cook while their parents are away working. One of its main objects is to show the families how to economize intelligently. The fact that so many children as well as adults in our cities are so undernourished and so liable to disease is largely due to the spending of money on foolish, unnutritious, or harmful things. By simply substituting cereals and soups for their poisonous tea and soggy cake, thousands of suffering families can be rescued. The Little Mothers even get some simple notions as to the chemistry of food and the advisability of not having too much of one kind, as the following, from the New York "Evening Post," shows:

"Girls," said Mrs. Burns to a group of small cooks one day, "I am going to give a luncheon, and this is what I am going to have: bean soup, pot roast, canned corn, white potatoes, and rice pudding. Do you think that will make a nice luncheon?" Up came a small hand. "Well, what is it?" asked Mrs. Burns. "Too much starch," said the solemn cook.

A book will doubtless be written some day showing by vivid illustrations how many of the problems of charity,—crime, poverty, and the prevention of disease and intemperance—can be solved by attention to rational cooking.

Ignorant feeding kills thousands of infants every month the country over. It is therefore a crime not to include food and feeding in the subjects of study in schools—all the more as most girls get no instruction whatever after they leave school at fourteen.

There will be fewer complaints about high prices when all girls are taught not only how to prepare a meal but how to buy food knowingly. As the New York "World" has forcibly remarked: "If women would pay half as much attention to the fluctuating prices of food as they pay to the prices of dress goods,—or as the men pay to the stock-ticker—and shop half as assiduously for the one as they do for the other, one of the worst phases of the high-cost-of-living problem would be met at the start."

It is almost startling to find that the schooling of boys and girls in domestic science works the miracle of solving the important problem of how to keep boys and girls on the farm.

Professor Benson of the Department of Agriculture relates how, in 1907, he asked the teachers of thirty-four schools in Iowa how many of the boys and girls expected to remain on the farm when grown up. The answers were most discouraging. Provision was then made for giving up-to-date instruction in scientific farming to the boys and in rational household management to the girls. Three years later account was again taken, and it was found that whereas in 1907 all but 11 out of 174 girls wanted to leave the farm, in 1910, after being educated, only 17 out of 178 girls persisted in going to the city.

Progress in America is being greatly accelerated by the various women's clubs which are working in the interest of the food question. Also, by "Good Housekeeping," "The Ladies' Home Journal," "The Woman's Home Companion," "The Housekeeper," and a host of other magazines, which monthly publish not only columns of recipes but helpful articles of all sorts bearing on household science and management.

All things considered the outlook seems bright.

Characteristically American are the free lectures on cooking, with demonstrations, given in some of our large department stores. Good is also done by the booklets enclosed in many packages of food telling the purchaser of various ways of cooking it, alone or in diverse combinations. Surely, we are on the way to becoming a gastronomic nation!


It is not enough that girls and boys at school should be taught to cook; they should also learn how to eat.

Few learn this at home. They are usually taught table etiquette: that they must eat silently, and not take soup off the end of a spoon (though that is the only rational way of doing it) or put the knife into the mouth; but the infinitely more important art of mastication is entirely ignored.

The art of eating is a branch of physiology and should be taught in all schools by experts, the earlier the better. If it were thus taught the next generation of mothers and fathers would know that it is a crime to let their children swallow food, particularly milk and cereals and vegetables, before it has been kept for a while in the mouth to be mixed with saliva and thus made digestible.

Children (and most adults, too,) are like animals: give them something good to eat and they gulp it down eagerly and then look around for more to stuff into their unfortunate stomachs.

When I was a boy, a story in one of the readers, entitled "The Stomach's Complaint," made an indelible impression on my mind, and saved me many hours of the distress caused by overeating, eating too fast, or eating or drinking things too hot or too cold.

It should be indelibly impressed on all school children that gluttony is a vice which defeats its own end, and that by eating very slowly much more pleasure can be got from one mouthful than by bolting a whole plateful.

One stick of candy can be made to yield more "linked sweetness long-drawn-out" than a dozen sticks as usually devoured. Moreover, one stick will not cause hours of discomfort as the dozen sticks surely will; and, in addition, it will cost much less, thus leaving plenty of money to spend on other things. Surely this argument must appeal to all children who have brains enough to be worth schooling.

Every child should also be told over and over again, till the habit is formed, that the pleasure derived from candy and cake and all food can be vastly increased and intensified by consciously breathing out through the nose while eating (as explained on pages 62-3) and that this will be a further protection from indigestion.

If these truths were firmly impressed on all child minds, two-thirds of the minor ills of mankind would disappear in two generations, and most of the major maladies also; for let me say it once more, the stomach is the source of most preventable diseases.


The future of cooking and eating lies in the hands of millions of boys and girls now in our schools.

It should be made clear to them how important it is to their welfare to be real epicures,—that is, persons who never eat too much, who select their food with a fastidious taste, and refuse to eat any that has no Flavor, or a wrong Flavor.

Were all of us, or most of us, epicures, what a change our markets would undergo! How the chemically denatured foods, the tainted cold-storage fowls, the drugged, soggy bread, the tasteless, frozen butchers' meats, would be swept away, together with frozen, unpalatable fish, wilted vegetables, unclean milk, unripe and decayed fruits, all of them the daily source of discomforts and disease (often including ptomaine poisoning) to thousands.

We must become a nation of epicures. To be sure, were we all as fastidious as gourmets are, only the best foods would be tolerated in the markets, and these cost more than the inferior grades. But that will not worry any one who bears in mind the three cardinal principles of gastronomy which I am trying to emphasize in this book:

I. The food from which we chiefly derive our nourishment is for the most part cheap.

II. We need more or less expensive flavor in food to make it appetizing and digestible; but, fortunately,

III. We need very little of the savory material to flavor a bountiful meal.

Were we a nation of epicures, making daily practical application of these three cardinal principles of culinary knowledge, we could easily, though getting always the best material, live much more cheaply than we do now.

Count Rumford, in a report on dietary experiments made by him in behalf of the Bavarian Government with its army, dwelt particularly on the fact, demonstrated by these trials, that much more depends on the art and skill of the cook than on the sums laid out in the market.

The brain is mightier than the purse. With brains in the kitchen you can live better on two or three thousand a year than on ten times that sum without brains.

To solve the high-cost-of-food problem we should therefore above all things labor to get educated cooks into our kitchens.

Educated cooks can save us money. The more they save us, the more we can afford to pay them; and the more we pay, the easier will it become to persuade young women and men to become trained cooks.

Let us, therefore, with all our might and main endeavor to make the culinary art and science an honored profession, to which any one may feel proud to belong.

Fortunately, apart from all the things just considered which make for the popularity of cooking as a profession, there are others of the utmost importance which must now be dwelt on.

In most hesitating minds one of the chief objections to cooking as at present practised is the drudgery it involves. This drudgery is now being eliminated and will in a decade or two be reduced to a minimum.


While President Tylor of the British Anthropological Institute was doubtless right in holding the opinion (already referred to) that cookery has done more than any other art to help mankind in its progress from savagery to civilization, it is odd that the latest and socially, as well as gastronomically, most important phase of this art takes us back to practices similar to those of primitive man. When Darwin, in his voyage round the world, tarried in Tahiti, his native guides on a trip to the interior prepared for him a meal which he greatly enjoyed. It consisted of pieces of beef, fish, and bananas, wrapped in large leaves and placed between hot stones, which were then covered with earth to keep in the heat. In about a quarter of an hour the viands were "most deliciously cooked."

One who has never had the good luck to taste, at a New England picnic, beans baked in the ground really does not know beans, though his home be in Boston. Nor does any one know the epicurean possibilities inherent in seafood unless he has attended a shore clam-bake, at which lobsters, clams, and fish, just out of the water and wrapped in layers of seaweed, were cooked over heated stones, the whole being covered with more seaweed to prevent the escape of the heat and the flavors.

In these customs we have a survival of the primitive method of cooking praised by Darwin and numerous explorers and missionaries. Many of the benighted dwellers in our cities have never even heard of them; but within the last few years thousands of our kitchens have been provided with an apparatus which combines the advantages of Tahitian cooking and Rhode Island clam-bakes with modern conveniences—the cooking-boxes, or fireless cookers, which many rival manufacturers are now turning out by wholesale, and which are destined, in combination with gas and electricity, to bring about within the next ten years a domestic revolution so complete and far-reaching that future historians, in summing up the great achievements of the first quarter of the twentieth century, will probably name as the three most important ones wireless telegraphy, aviation, and fireless cookery.


Fireless cookery in Hawaii

Even in this rich country, only one family in ten can afford to hire a cook, and in the far West such a person is seldom obtainable at any price. Now, by the fireless cooker all women who have to prepare their own meals are fast being emancipated from the hot-stove slavery, which is particularly cruel in our sultry summers. It makes it possible for them to cook breakfast, luncheon, and dinner at the same time, in perhaps an hour, leaving the rest of the day free for other work. All they have to do is to heat the meat, vegetables, cereals, or other viands on the stove for some minutes (varying with different foods), and then put them into the air-tight box, which, being lined with non-conducting substances, cooks them thoroughly, retaining all their flavors, keeping them hot for six hours, and warm for five or six longer.

There is a tradition among mistresses that cooks resent innovations in the kitchen; but no domestic helper will ever balk at a box which eliminates so much of the kitchen drudgery.

The fireless cooker will therefore go far toward solving the most difficult of all domestic problems—that of getting some one to help us in our kitchens.

It is strange that this important service for simplifying cooking should have had to wait till the twentieth century for its general adoption. Its principle was known to the ancient Hebrews. Charles XII got on the trail when he cooked a fat hen while on the march by inserting within it a piece of hot steel, the whole being placed in a tin box which was wrapped in a woolen cloth and strapped on a soldier's back.

It was in the far North that the possibilities of this procedure were first appreciated in modern times. The general attention of Europe was directed at the Paris Exposition of 1867 to what was called the "Norwegian automatic kitchen"—a box in which food that had been heated to boiling point for a few minutes continued to cook slowly till done.

One would have supposed that such a wonderful saver of fuel, time, and trouble must have been adopted universally within a few years, all the more as any one could construct his own cooker out of an ordinary box lined with felt, hay, paper, sawdust, or some other poor conductor of heat. But years passed and little was done until some enthusiasts, prominent among whom was the Grand Duchess of Baden, took up the propaganda.

Then came the era of auto pianos and automobiles and auto everything. The automatic cooker was no longer a solitary voice crying in the wilderness. The manufacturers took it up, and now, especially in the United States, thousands are sold every day.

Already there are nearly as many "makes" of them as there are of pianos or automobiles, each claiming special advantages over all others. With the best of them, boiling, steaming, broiling, baking, frying, roasting—everything, except crisping and toasting—can be done with satisfactory results. Soups and stews, in particular, which require hours of slow cooking at moderate heat, come out of these cookers with a delicious flavor.

From the gastronomic and dietetic points of view the most important of all the claims made for the fireless cooker is that the food flavors previously dissipated through the whole house as "kitchen odors" are retained in the meats and vegetables, making them exceptionally savory and appetizing.

It is needless to say that these cookers are of no use for broiling or frying steaks, chops, bacon, ham, sausages, or griddle cakes, which require only a few minutes to cook and must be crisp to be enjoyable.

Nor will the presence of a cooker make it any the less necessary for the mistress or the professional cook to thoroughly understand the culinary art. They must know about meats, and cereals, and vegetables, and flavors, and their combinations and extension, to which attention has been called. It is simply, in all households, valuable because it preserves flavors, eliminates the danger of burning or overcooking, reduces the cost of fuel by three-fourths or more, makes it easier to wash the pots and in other ways saves no end of drudgery; while for those who have to do their own cooking its advantages in giving leisure for other work, or diversions while the cooking goes on, are incalculable. The best of all wedding presents is a fireless cooker.

Automobilists and excursionists in general are finding these boxes a great convenience. They have also been used in the army.

Many women whose work is away from home hardly have even as much time to spare as is needed for starting a meal in the cooker. It is likely that restaurant-keepers and other caterers will be more and more called upon to prepare specially ordered meals for such cases and send them in the heat-retaining boxes in which they were made. Expert cooks, in all probability, will go from house to house to start the cookers.


There is a future here for various new kinds of culinary work. But for one kind, it is to be hoped, there is no future, and that is the community kitchen—a single kitchen for a number of families. This plan has been tried in various countries, always without success. Berlin had its "Einküchenhaus"—for a time. The New York "Independent" of March 6, 1912, contains an account of a similar experiment in America. A dozen women presided in succession with invariably disastrous results.

It is impossible in such a case to suit the taste and purse of every family. In a large restaurant it is possible to cater to every patron's wishes, but where there are half-a-dozen or a dozen families clubbed together, some are willing to pay for fresh eggs and poultry and unsalted butter, for example, while others would prefer to save the money and live on storage eggs and poultry, salted butter, wilted or canned vegetables, and so on. There is sure to be constant squabbling; troubles arise from feeing, bribing, and a hundred other sources. No; most of us want to be able to order our own meats, vegetables and fruits, and have them cooked and served as we like them.

"It was the fashion of forty years ago," wrote E. P. Powell in 1904, "for progressive economists to discuss a reform village, built in squares, one house on each corner, and a community boarding-hall and kitchen in the center of each square. Some experiments were made along such lines, but they fell to pieces over the table question. It is not easy for four families to agree on a menu three times a day, and on the qualities of the cooking. As a rule every woman must be mistress of her own kitchen."

The German delicatessen store (now acclimated in all our cities) with its cooked cold meats, pickles, cheeses, and diverse fancy groceries, is likely to be the nearest approach to a community kitchen (nearly every block has one) that the future will know; and the delicatessen store is only an appendix to the private kitchen.

Nothing could be more ridiculous than the wails of certain writers over the "waste of time" in having the cooking done separately for each family. There are plenty of persons in search of profitable employment to supply the demand; and surely, it is infinitely more human, more intellectual, more enjoyable to practise the noble and useful art of cooking than to be merely one cog in a huge machine for making shoes or garments, or cigarettes, as are hundreds of thousands of factory workers, most of whom could lead much happier and more elevated lives if they were cooks.

"The gourmet distrusts dishes provided by pastry cooks and caterers," wrote the late Theodore Child; and this is another of the many reasons why every family that can afford it should have its own cook. I have never yet eaten ice cream, even in the most expensive places, as rich and luscious as the cream we make at home. Excellent jams and jellies are now for sale in the markets; but in your own kitchen you and your helpers can make jams and jellies, and preserves that are better still—made of material you have seen, and sweetened, or otherwise seasoned, to your individual taste.

The word home-made is still the synonym of gastronomic excellence. When a dealer wants to specially commend his offerings, he labels or advertises them as "home-made."

Owing partly to the present difficulty of getting good cooks, and partly to the selfish disinclination of too many American women to do as much at home for their husband or father as the husband or father does for them in the office, thousands of homes have been abandoned in favor of apartment hotels. How these families can endure the insipid, monotonous, unappetizing meals served in these (for the most part expensive) places, is to me incomprehensible.

A reaction will come in favor of private kitchens, and it will be greatly accelerated by the latest improvements, now to be considered.


In the average household the use of a cooking box does not do away entirely with the smoke, soot, heat, ashes, and kitchen odors, because of the need of heating the food on a stove for five minutes to half an hour before it is put into the air-tight box. The use of gas-stoves does away with most of these nuisances, while electricity abolishes them altogether, besides removing the danger of fire, keeping the air clean and cool, and enabling one to cook in any part of the house at any desired minute.

Electric cooking is still in its infancy, but the child is growing rapidly. At the Chicago Exposition of 1893 utensils were shown in considerable variety—chafing-dishes, stew-pans, coffee-pots, teapots, broilers, griddles, etc. Since that time hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in devising improvements, and at the electric exhibition in New York in 1911 the cooking-utensils were so prominent and boasted so many improvements that it seemed as though the time had come for their general introduction into homes and hotels.

The United States Government has taken the lead by recommending electric ranges for future use on battleships, after experiments had been made showing that the change would result in greater economy of time, space, and money, not to speak of cleanliness, or of the better quality of the cooked food, because of the uniform distribution of the heat.

For home use, electricity is still in most localities comparatively expensive, but it will be less so when it comes into more general use. If the electric companies would more frequently follow the example of the gas companies in renting cooking-ranges, it would be a great stride forward. In England some of the companies charge a special low rate for electric cooking, because it is done mostly in the day time, when there is little demand for the current for lighting purposes.

But the most radical way to reduce the cost is to combine the electric range with the fireless cooker. Thousands of families that can not pay for an electric current five or six hours a day could easily afford one for the fifteen minutes necessary for heating the food before it is put into the box, besides the few minutes needed for crisping roasts, brewing coffee, or toasting bread.

In 1911, fancying myself a prophet of great things to happen, I wrote: "It is quite likely that the electric range can be so constructed in part that no separate cooking-box will be needed; and then the culinary millennium."

The "Edison Monthly" reprinted my remarks and in an editorial promptly informed me that what I had voiced as a mere possibility for the future was already a fact: that electric fireless cookers had been put out by several manufacturers more than a year before my article appeared. It was a pleasant surprise to find that this was literally true; that my imagined "millennium cookers" were actually in the market.

In Chicago, on September 15, 1910, the following menu was served to nineteen persons in an electric shop:

Consomme Julienne

Radishes      Olives      Celery

Prime Roast Beef

Mashed Potatoes      Lima Beans

Combination Salad

Fresh Peach Short Cake


This meal was cooked in two hours; and by using high heat only so long as necessary (on the "cooker" principle) and then turning down the electric current the cost was made as low as only a trifle over a cent and a quarter per person.

For dishes requiring only a short time to prepare, the following details have been given:

"A toaster can be used for fifteen minutes at a cost of 1-1/4 cents; fried oysters with bacon, prepared in the blazer of an electric stove consumes 2 cents' worth of current; to prepare creamed oysters costs 1-3/4 cents; finnan haddie, 2 cents; lobster à la Newburg, 2 cents; chicken and mushrooms, 2-1/2 cents; spring chicken, 2-1/2 cents; lamb chops with vegetables, 2-1/2 cents; sweetbreads, 2-1/2 cents; plain omelet, 1-3/4 cents; cheese omelet, 2 cents; Spanish omelet, 2-1/4 cents. To boil eggs the water-cup may be used on the dining-room table and one cup of water can be boiled for 1-1/2 cents; Welsh rarebit may be made for 1-1/2 cents; griddle cakes baked on the electric stove for 2-1/2 cents for 1-1/2 hours' operation."

West London in the autumn of 1912 had two private restaurants in which all the cooking was done by electricity, 1,200 meals being provided daily for the staff of a large establishment.

In the London "Daily Mail" of November 2, 1912, the following appeared:

An interesting test made in a small middle-class home gives the entire cost of the day's cooking at 6d. Beginning first thing in the morning, the time and amount of electricity used were carefully noted. For early morning tea the boiler or kettle of the electric range boiled rather more than two pints of water in four minutes, the electricity used equaling less than one-fifth of a penny. The whole cooking of the breakfast took ten minutes, the electricity used being less than 7-10th of a unit, equaling an expenditure of just under 3/4d. The menu was five rashers of bacon and toast cooked on the grill in less than seven minutes, five eggs boiled on a ring, and coffee made from the rapid boiler.

The midday meat meal consisted of an 8 lb. joint, potatoes, and other vegetables for five people, milk pudding, and coffee. The electric oven retains the heat so well that the pudding was placed in the oven after the joint was removed and the electricity switched off, the retained heat being sufficient to cook it; 2-3/4 units, or 2-3/4d., cooked this meal.

Tea time cost 1/2d. for tea, hot grill cakes, and toast, and supper with a hot dish 1d. During the day water was boiled, cakes baked, and some soup simmered, at the cost of another unit.

The advance of the electric cooker can be gauged by the statement of the electric supply companies, who affirm that where they had but six private houses using cookers last Christmas they have 200 this year; or by the statements of the users, who say that they have no desire to return to old methods. Many big business houses have complete electric installations in their kitchens.

Electricity in the kitchen will make cooking an exact science. No longer will diners be obliged to rely on the cook's "instinct" or "knack," which too often fail. With the electric appliances the temperature can be controlled to a degree, and special switches permit fast, medium, or slow rates of cooking.

From the economic point of view the most satisfactory electric ranges are of course those in which the current shuts off automatically, while the dinner continues to cook with no further expense, the stove taking on the fireless cooker principle.

Further advantages claimed for electric cooking are that the loss of weight in meat while cooking is greatly reduced, and that the results obtained by it have the advantages of the paper-bag cooking, which has come so much into use within a few years because of its cleanliness and its value in preserving the food flavors which in ordinary cooking are so lamentably dissipated.

Electric chafing dishes, toasters of various kinds, coffee percolators and tea kettles, waffle irons, boilers, stew and frying pans, are now at the service of all who have electricity in the house. Nor is this all. There are, besides, bread and cake mixers, coffee grinders, food choppers, ice cream freezers, egg beaters, vegetable slicers, food graters, apple peelers, knife sharpeners and polishers—all of them run by the electric current.

Thus we see that the housewife and the cook of the future, instead of feeling like a drudge in a smoky, smelly, overheated kitchen, will have the dignity of workers in a cool, clean laboratory for the scientific preparation of savory food and the abolition of dyspepsia.

The editor of the electric magazine referred to indicates another important result of this agreeable transformation of the kitchen. Caste feeling is largely a matter of dress. "The poorest stenographer is a lady, because, in so far as her stipend permits, she dresses like a lady. Accordingly, she looks down upon the cook drawing the same wages and 'keep,' because the cook works with red face and streaming hair over a hot stove." But in the electric kitchen of the future the cook will be able to be as neatly dressed as if she were presiding over a glove counter; and this will act as a great social leveler.

The cook's work will also be lightened by the growing practice of preparing food and drink on the dining-room table, to have it hot, and with the flavor at its best. The choicest coffee, for instance, is usually spoiled by being prepared carelessly in the kitchen. Epicures make their own coffee and tea; they are also able now to have better toast than ever comes from the kitchen by making it on the table in an electric toaster. Eggs and bacon, taken sizzling from the electric frying stove and eaten out of the pan, have a richness of flavor that will astonish those who have never tried them this way; and the same is true of many other breakfast and lunch dishes.


It is likely that in the development of electric cooking inventive America will lead Europe. But in other respects the American cooking of the future will have to borrow many useful hints from the older and more experienced nations of Europe.

We need, especially, greater variety in our dietary. The following chapters will endeavor to indicate the best ways of multiplying our pleasures of the table.

Before beginning with France, which has the largest number of lessons to teach, let us briefly consider the need of variety.

King Philip V of Spain engaged Farinelli, the most famous vocalist of his time, to sing four songs for him, without change of any kind, every evening for ten years. He was not in his right mind, "as a matter of course," one feels tempted to add, and yet are there not at this day, and in this country, many thousands of persons whose musical pabulum consists entirely of half a dozen tunes, which they sing, hum, and whistle decade after decade? For them the countless inspirations of genius given to the world in the last three centuries do not exist at all. And how much enjoyment they thus miss!

Vastly more surprising, since everybody eats, is the fact that the majority of persons are equally ignorant of the countless delicacies invented by ingenious cooks of the past and present. What Sir Henry Thompson wrote, more than a quarter of a century ago, regarding the average Englishman is quite as true to this day of the average American: "He cares more for quantity than quality, desires little variety, and regards as impertinent an innovation in the shape of a new aliment, expecting the same food at the same hour daily."

Breeders of fine animals have long since discovered that nothing is so conducive to health and other desirable qualities as variety in the food given.

A monotonous diet soon palls on the appetite, fails to stimulate the digestive organs, and the result is dyspepsia, loss of pleasure, energy, and earning power, and the shortening of life. Think of the pallid victims of the everlasting hog and hominy in the South! "Hasty pudding and milk," as Artemus Ward sagely observed, "are a harmless diet if eaten moderately, but if you eat it incessantly for six consecutive weeks, it will produce instant death."

At a conference on diet in schools held in London, all the speakers agreed that "monotony is the most fatal thing to digestion in both young and old, and that the knowledge that such and such a dish must inevitably come on Monday and such and such another on Tuesday, is destructive beforehand to appetite which is essential to good digestion and nutrition."

When the average American or Englishman travels, he is glad to see new cities, new scenery, new costumes and new faces; but he is comically indignant if he cannot get the same food he has always had at home. It would be much better for him if he could be made to understand that Cowper's maxim, "Variety's the very spice of life," applies to diet as much as to anything. Every country has something to give and teach us regarding the pleasures of the table. No other land yields such a lavish and varied supply of raw material as the United States, and all we need in order to become the leading gastronomic nation is to wake up to the importance of good and varied cooking and rational eating, and to learn all we can from nations famed for their culinary art.

The methods of obtaining the diverse national food flavors can often be studied without traveling abroad, since in our cities we have cooks and restaurants of nearly every land under the sun. In New York one can make a gastronomic trip of the world.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain.

Finck, Henry Theophilus. 2021. Food and Flavor: A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living). Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at, located at

react to story with heart
react to story with light
react to story with boat
react to story with money

Related Stories

. . . comments & more!