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 XII: COMMERCIAL VALUE OF FLAVOR
PALATABILITY DECIDES PERMANENCE.
Luther Burbank is, as already noted, an epicure. No one enjoys his new products more than he does, and in his bulletins he never omits to call attention to the "added aromatic fragrance" or the delicious flavor of his improved fruits.
What I wish particularly to call attention to now, however, is that he fully realizes the commercial value of Flavor. He holds, as Mr. Harwood wrote in 1905, that "it is highly important in the production of a new fruit or vegetable to make it preëminently palatable, for, in the last analysis, it is palatability that decides the permanence of any new food. If palatability be eliminated as a factor, then mankind is prone to consider the food,—no matter what its form or character,—a medicine, to be taken because it produces certain necessary results."
When I informed him that I was writing a book on Food and Flavor he sent me a long letter, dated December 18, 1912, from which I take the liberty of citing the following illuminating paragraphs:
"I am very glad that you have taken up the subject of flavor in food. It is a far more important matter than most people believe. Color and flavor both aid digestion very materially, most especially flavor, and my work from the first has been among food and drug plants to obtain pure, pleasing flavors (and in flowers, fragrance) and I have been as successful in that line as in any other line of work.
"Vegetables—like celery, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, turnips, beets, lettuce, peas, beans, sweet corn and especially artichokes, have not only had ill flavors, but have been lacking in sweetness. These can be just as readily added as form, size or color. Even the pot herbs need attention fully as much as anything else, and they will take a lot of time.
"Take savory, sage, or any other herb seedlings, four out of five of them will have a poor flavor, while the fifth will have the most delicious odor, flavor and fragrance. Sometimes only one in a hundred or so has this delightful combination. It is simply a matter of selection to produce these herbs so that all will have the delightful flavor of the single individual.
"It is astounding that more attention has not been placed on this line of plant improvement, though until my work commenced in this line some twenty-five years ago, no one seems to have thought that these changes could be made.
"I have only outlined briefly the almost infinite number of improvements that could be named, not only in the plants named, but in all other plants as well as fruits; in which people recognize flavors most quickly.
"It is almost necessary to knock a man down before you can convince him that there are differences in flavors of herbs and vegetables, or that such things as coffee, cinnamon and other plants can be improved in this respect."
EATING WITH THE EYES.
The object of this whole book is to furnish a "knockdown" argument as to the overwhelming importance of securing the best flavors in food and to demonstrate at the same time that commercially the richest Flavor pays best.
A few years ago Professor J. L. Henderson of the Harvard Medical School astonished newspaper readers by saying that the needed food for one person costs only ten cents a day and that the rest we spend goes largely for flavor.
Had he made this remark some years hence he might have said "goes chiefly for flavor." At the present time, unfortunately, not a few purchasers of foods are guided to a considerable extent by appearance. Dr. Wiley has written trenchantly on the widely prevalent habit of "eating with the eyes"—of selecting articles of food for their size and color instead of their flavor. Inferior or imitation butter, for example, is artificially colored and the ignorant consumer meekly buys it. The epicure buys butter for its Flavor and the dealer cannot deceive his eyes. To him, in the words of Dr. Wiley, "the natural tint of butter is as much more attractive than the artificial as any natural color is superior to the artificial. There is the same difference between the natural tint of butter and the artificial as there is between the natural rose of the cheek and its painted substitute. The dairymen of our country are honest and honorable and evidently do not clearly see the false position in which the practice of coloring butter puts them. When the dairymen of the country understand that the naturally colored products will bring the highest price on the market and appeal more strongly to the confidence of the consumer it is believed the artificial coloring in butter will be relegated to the scrap pile of useless processes." Natural butter is yellow in May and June; but whoever buys yellow butter at other times in the belief that it is fresh is a greenhorn. Even harmless coloring matter, like carrot juice, is objectionable, because it makes the butter spoil sooner.
George K. Holmes, Chief of the Division of Foreign Markets, contributed to the Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture for 1904 an article entitled "Consumers' Fancies" which gives some curious illustrations of the stupid underrating of the all-important Flavor. To cite one of them: "Although it may seem that it is positively not worth while, to say nothing of money, to buy a nut except to enjoy its flavor, yet to taste is assigned only 25 per cent., while 50 per cent. is given to the eye, the remaining 25 per cent. going to the convenience of cracking the shells."
Judges at county fairs have been known to allow 20 points on looks and only 15 on the flavor of foods. They knew that city folk are easily fooled by appearances. On this point Mr. Holmes remarks: "In the city, a large city especially, the appearance of an apple is everything and taste nothing, unless the purchaser was once a country boy and enjoyed the freedom of an orchard." And again: "City-bred people, who have little knowledge of the origin and real character of food and food products, such as the country man has, and who have no childhood's acquaintance with the good things of the farm, are especially liable to suggestion; they are governed largely by appearances in their selection of farm products and are easily deceived by the trick of a false name or a false ingredient in a prepared food."
One of the standing jokes in our comic papers concerns the "hayseed" who comes to town and buys a "gold brick." If the farmers edited comic papers, they would have a standing joke about the city folk who buy their showy products, leaving them the best flavored, which may not appeal to the eye.
It is not true, however, that all the showy fruits are insipid and all the small plain fruits full-flavored. The delicious Winter Nellis pear is not nearly as pretty to look at as the Bartlett, yet it is quite as popular, while the Bartlett is as luscious as it is beautiful and often imposing in size, especially on the Pacific Coast. Among the apples in our markets, also, some of the biggest and most beautiful are the best to eat.
It cannot be denied that there is something to be said in favor of "eating with the eyes." Women naturally want the apples and oranges, the berries and vegetables, and the viands on their tables, to look pretty and inviting. Nor is there any reason why they should not have their way. The eye and the palate can be reconciled by breeding fruits and vegetables that combine good looks with agreeable flavor.
Luther Burbank has done the world a tremendous service by originating the luscious fruits and vegetables briefly referred to in the preceding chapter, but perhaps his greatest achievement is the demonstration that there is virtually no limit to obtaining fruits of any size, form, or flavor desired, and that the good looks and flavor can be amalgamated at pleasure with shipping and keeping qualities. He himself is preparing many pleasant surprises of this kind beside those I have referred to, and hundreds of others are profiting by his example and following his methods.
SCHOOL GIRLS AS PURE FOOD EXPERTS.
Three girls in a Massachusetts Normal School in 1904 accidentally launched a new kind of pure food movement which is of historic importance, as it puts to shame the dilatory methods of Federal and State Governments.
They missed their lessons one day, after feasting at a surreptitious midnight spread on "strawberry" jam. Their chemistry professor, Lewis B. Allyn, advised them to analyze a can of the same preserves to find out what there was in it that could have made them ill. They did so, and found that the jam contained no strawberries at all but was made of apple sauce, ether, grass seeds, red ink, and salicylic acid.
It looked all right; but what is food for the eye is often poison for the stomach. That was the important lesson this incident was destined to teach the inhabitants of Westfield, Massachusetts.
Peter Clarke Macfarlane, who tells the whole story graphically in "Collier's Weekly" for January 11, 1913, writes:
From that day forward the girls in the chemistry class began to qualify as pure-food experts. They examined the canned goods, the preserves, the medicines, and foods of every kind that came from the stores of Westfield into the homes in which they lived. The housekeepers were appalled to find the sort of thing they had been putting upon their tables. And the grocers were somewhat appalled, but much more annoyed. It is very disturbing, no doubt, to have the canned goods you make the most profit on, the ones that bear the very handsomest lithographs, returned almost in wheelbarrow loads because of some fussy girls stewing chemicals in a laboratory. I leave it to any one if it would not be annoying when a grocer is working energetically to build up trade in a new line of chocolate which he can sell in larger packages for less money than chocolate was ever sold before to have a miss still wearing her hair in braids say right out loud in the store for every one to hear:
"Pooh! I analyzed that in class. It is thirty per cent. cornstarch. That is why you can sell it cheaper than real chocolate. And it has potash in it, too, which turns to suds when you add water, and that's what makes it look so deliciously creamy and frothy when you pour it into the cups. No suds in my chocolate, thank you!"
Professor Allyn, under whose guidance this epoch-making crusade was undertaken—a crusade which should and could be carried on in every town throughout the country—was elected a member of the Board of Health. Opportunity was given housekeepers and all others who suspected foods of being adulterated, to have them examined by the two hundred schoolgirls and their professor. The results were placed on exhibition in the Board of Health Museum. In this way Professor Allyn taught tradesmen that it does not pay to handle impure goods when once the public is enlightened as to the difference between what looks good and what is good.
The Westfield Board of Health now publishes a list of foods which it considers pure. With that list in hand it is safe to go a-marketing. Offending manufacturers and dealers have been converted to the old doctrine that honesty is the best policy, and the plan, altogether, has worked so well that hundreds of letters have come to the secretary of the Board of Health, asking "How can we give our town a pure-food standard like Westfield?"
One of the methods Professor Allyn adopted to teach the inhabitants of Westfield the folly of "eating with the eyes" was to buy a can of peas, open it in presence of an audience, and pour in some hydrochloric acid, a test for copper. Then he inserted a gleaming butcher knife and when he drew it out a few moments later it was coated with copper.
Not all dye stuffs used for coloring canned or other foods are as objectionable as copper, but most of them are undesirable because, as Dr. Wiley has pointed out, they make it possible to conceal inferiority of material or lack of freshness. In "Good Housekeeping" for February, 1913, Dr. Wiley had an article headed "Danger in Vivid Green Vegetables" in which he pointed out that after a delay of six years the Remsen Food Board ratified his conclusions that the sulphate of copper used to give the unnatural bright color to canned peas, beans, and spinach is injurious to health and should not be allowed in foodstuffs. "It must have been a bitter pill to swallow," he adds, "for were they not appointed in the hope that Wiley would be reversed on all points?"
Another pure-food expert has given an amusing recipe for making a bottle of maraschino cherries:
"Take a cherry and remove the stone. Get the color out by holding it over the bleaching fumes of sulphur. Remove a portion of the fleshy part of the fruit to leave mostly fiber. Then inject some artificial sweet substance to give it a 'body' and a sugarlike quality. Dye it with a brilliant red coal tar dye. Put it in a bottle, and sell it to a greenhorn."
A greenhorn is defined in the dictionary as "a person who is easily imposed upon." You prove yourself a greenhorn if you go into a grocery store and buy glasses of preserved fruits and vegetables dyed in brilliant rainbow hues such as no honest fruit ever exhibits. You show yourself a greenhorn if you buy canned peaches for their shape. Peaches picked and halved before they are ripe retain their shape beautifully. If you want to eat with your eyes buy this kind by all means. Peaches picked and halved when the sun has ripened them on the tree have Flavor; this kind is for those who eat with their mouth.
Many of us are not greenhorns. We would buy more California peaches in winter if the cans had a label with these words on it: "These peaches were picked ripe; they may look a little mushy, but they are much pleasanter to eat than those which are picked unripe to make them keep their shape. Try them and note the difference."
Fortunes are in store for canners wise enough thus to recognize the commercial value of Flavor and to educate the public in this simple way, as well as by advertising in the newspapers and magazines. A consumer who has eaten some of the flavorsome ripe peaches will come back for another can—or a dozen cans—much sooner than one who has eaten the hard insipid halves of unripe peaches.
PENNYWISE DEALERS AND PINEAPPLES.
Herbert J. Webber relates in the "Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture" for 1905 that when the department's pineapple-breeding experiments were started, the question of what varieties to cultivate gave considerable trouble. Many growers insisted that the red Spanish was by far the best variety, because of its adaptability to open field culture, freedom from disease, and good shipping qualities. Others contended that "as varieties existed that were of far better quality and flavor, the market should be educated to demand these better so-called fancy fruits."
The words I have italicized indicate a difficulty which confronts us—a problem of vast and national importance, the chief impediment to our getting the best varieties of fruits, imported as well as domestic, and of vegetables, too, into our markets. While some dealers are sufficiently astute to realize that sales are multiplied tenfold if the best fruits and vegetables are offered, the ruling majority are so pennywise as to think only of the shipping and keeping qualities. It is not too much to say that these short-sighted dealers have entered into a conspiracy to suppress the best varieties because their greater delicacy and juiciness make them more perishable.
The story of the pineapple illustrates this point. In the Far South, where this luscious fruit grows, its fragrance at the time of ripening pervades the whole neighborhood. In our markets the pineapple's perfume is so faint that you have to flatten your nose against it before you get any at all. The reason is that these "pines" not only are usually of an inferior sort, but that they are picked and shipped before they are ripe.
Bananas picked green ripen gradually and become sweet. Not so pineapples. What happens when they are picked unripe is told in a Bulletin of the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment station (1910) kindly forwarded to me by one of the officials after I wrote an article on the subject for the New York "Nation":
A study of the ripening of pineapples has disclosed the fact that the sugar content of the fruit is derived exclusively from the leaves of the plant and does not increase after the fruit has been removed from the plant. If pineapples are picked green and allowed to ripen the sugar content at complete ripeness is the same as it was when the fruit was removed from the plants. An analysis of the fruit shows that they contain no substance which can be changed into sugar during the ripening process. Fruits picked too green and allowed to ripen, therefore, lack greatly in sugar content and in flavor. The sugar content of green fruits, or fruits ripened after being picked too green, is about 2 or 3 per cent., while that of fruits ripened on the plant ranges from 9 to 15 per cent.
The words in italics give the gist of the matter. "Pines" picked and shipped unripe never get their full Flavor, and its unique Flavor is the one thing that makes a pineapple desirable, for its nutritive value is slight, and sweets and acids can be more conveniently and cheaply obtained in other ways.
Here is a description of the pineapple at home: "The most delicious fruit to be found in Brazil is the pineapple. Northerners who eat this fruit weeks after it has been picked in its green state have only a faint idea of its sweetness, lusciousness and delicious flavor. Here the pineapple is picked when the tropical sun has perfected its chemical work, and the fruit is ready to melt in the mouth. It would be an affront to nature to sprinkle sugar upon it when sliced. It is mellow, over-running with juice, and of incomparable flavor."
Luther Burbank has tried to cultivate a "pineapple Flavor" in other fruits, and when John Burroughs found it in his new "Patagonia" strawberry, he was much pleased. It is, indeed, such an exquisite fragrance that one would imagine the importers and dealers would think of it, above all things, as a bait to allure purchasers. But no; most of these gentlemen attach, as we have seen, chief importance to keeping and shipping qualities.
The consequence of this pennywise policy is that about one-tenth as many pineapples are sold in our markets as would be if the Commercial Value of Flavor were fully recognized.
The canners, it is instructive to note, have benefited by the mistake of their competitors. They wait till the fruit is ripe and flavorsome before they tin it, and that is the reason why the luscious Hawaiian canned pineapple suddenly sprang into such great favor. In connection with this fact it is interesting to read Dr. Wiley's testimony that "canned fruits properly preserved retain their natural aroma and flavor better than any other form of canned food."
The rapidity with which the public discovered the excellence of this Hawaiian product indicates that fresh pineapples also will gain enormously in favor if the dealers will only supply the "fancy" kinds in abundance and at reasonable prices.
What the enlightened public wants is not only Flavor, but variety in Flavor. Pomologist William A. Taylor of the United States Bureau of Plant Industry has penned a maxim which dealers cannot ponder too much. "Attractive diversity in appearance and quality stimulates a demand for fruit among consumers." Yet, as another Government expert attests, "there has for many years been a strong tendency in the American fruit trade to urge fruit-growers to reduce the number of varieties in their commercial plantations." The results we see in our markets. Of the dozens of choice sorts that are described in the catalogues of nursery and seedsmen only a fraction are offered to consumers.
The condition into which those pennywise dealers who are indifferent to Flavor and oppose variety have brought our peach market is a national disgrace and a gastronomic calamity. Most of the Southern peaches sent North seem now to be of two or three kinds and those not of the best. To be sure, it makes little difference what kinds are sent, for all are equally spoiled by being picked, like the pineapples, before they are ripe. California peaches melt in the mouth like ice cream—if eaten in California. In the East they used to contrast with Atlantic Coast peaches by their leathery consistency and lack of Flavor, due to the fact that they had to be picked unripe to stand transportation. To-day they contrast less, because Eastern peaches also are so usually picked unripe.
In the peach-growing business, under present conditions, "the proportion of failures to successes is at least as ten to one," according to Erwin F. Smith. The proportion might be reversed if this expert's advice, as given in "Peach-Growing for Market" (Farmers' Bulletin No. 33), were generally followed by farmers. The most important point he makes is that the peaches to be marketed successfully must not only have size, color, and firmness enough to stand shipment, but also superior flavor.
It was by leaving his peaches on the tree till the sun gave them that superior flavor that one man I know of became rich. He had an orchard about twenty miles from New York and when the first crop had thoroughly ripened he picked a wagonload to take to the city. He never reached it. Every basket was sold before he had gone a mile, and all the other loads were thus disposed of to his neighbors, although he charged the full New York retail prices. The middleman's usual share of the plunder remained in his own pocket.
What would you think, Mr. Farmer, or Mr. Business-Man-Who-Wants-to-Live-in-the-Country, of buying a twenty-two-acre tract of worthless pasture land, putting it into peaches, and getting therefrom in twelve years a profit of $44,000?
It can be done, and it has been done. The very interesting and instructive story was told in detail in the Philadelphia "Saturday Evening Post" of September 10, 1910, by Forrest Crissey. It is the story of J. H. Hale, of Glastonbury, Connecticut. One day he came across an old native seedling peach tree, loaded with sweet wild fruit that had a delicious flavor and melted in his mouth. While he was eating one of these peaches, the thought came into his mind: "If this stony old hillside will grow such peaches as these, wild and without cultivation, what is to hinder its producing a splendid crop of choice, cultivated peaches?"
There was nothing to hinder; the trees were planted, and when they bore fruit he put up a sign reading: "Headquarters for Hale's Peaches. Peaches Ripened on the Trees." When he began to market them in the cities he sorted them into three grades, charging fancy prices for the best. These and other details of his method helped; but the great secret of his success was painted on his sign: "Peaches Ripened, on the Trees"—a sign which proved that he understood the Commercial Value of Flavor, which made him a millionaire.
Apples, fortunately, do not need to ripen entirely on the tree. They can be picked before they are ripe and get their full flavor in the cellar. Cold storage makes them keep longer still—unfortunately, I feel tempted to say, for this tempts the middleman to hold them for higher prices till they have become mealy and lost much of their aroma. Many of the apples sold in our markets in winter are over a year old. They will not be after the consumer rises to assert his right to Flavor. The English are more alert. I most earnestly call the attention of American apple-growers and eaters to the following sentences from an article in the Consular and Trade Reports (April 5, 1911), explaining why Australian apples have an advantage in English and other European markets over American fruit:
"Cold storage extending over a period of six months is not the best means of preserving the flavor of a fruit. On the other hand the Australian and Tasmanian crops being six months later than the American, the fruit comes direct from the orchard with its original flavor almost unimpaired."
At the Illinois Experiment Station the important fact was demonstrated that mature apples keep much better in cold storage than immature apples (Farmers' Bulletin No. 193).
The new method of pre-cooling fruit, especially peaches and oranges, gives much hope for the future. Two illustrations in the "Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture" for 1909 illustrate this point. One pictures peaches as handled and delivered in New York by the old method—the small, pallid, leathery, flavorless things we all know and groan over. The other shows red, ripe peaches, luscious to the eyes and the palate alike. Pre-cooling does it; for if this method is used, "the fruit may be left on the trees to attain a greater degree of maturity, thus assuming a much better quality."
FORTUNES FROM BANANAS AND ORANGES.
When other fruits have vanished, the banana is always for sale, even in the smallest village fruit stores. But it was not always so. A few decades ago the banana was a rarity in the United States and a luxury. How did it happen to get its present vogue? Was it because the public discovered that there is a great deal of nourishment in this fruit—that millions in the tropics live on it? Not in the least; I doubt if one banana-eater in a hundred knows or cares whether or not it contains even as much nourishment as a cucumber or a watermelon. What has given the banana its great vogue is simply and solely its delicious Flavor. In its Flavor lies its commercial value; its Flavor has put money—often a fortune—into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of planters, shippers, and wholesale and retail dealers. There are whole fleets of steamers for carrying bananas to American ports, and other fleets carry them to Germany, to England, to France, and other European countries. In Germany, 320 tons supplied the demand in 1899; in 1911 the imports exceeded 30,000 tons, and the demand grows like an avalanche.
Banana flour, made from the dried fruit, also has a great future as a breakfast cereal. A few years ago a new source of profit was opened. Have you ever eaten any "banana figs"? If not, try them at once; they are deliciously sweet, and they can be freely eaten by those who have to avoid figs because of their innumerable small seeds. Within a few years seven factories sprang up in Jamaica, all of them coining money by making and exporting "banana figs" as well as "fig bananas," which differ from the others in being dried whole.
In 1912 the people of the United States consumed over six billion bananas, or more than five dozen for every man, woman, and child, the value of them exceeding fourteen million dollars. Yet this enormous demand is a trifle to what it will be when the public has learned how to eat them. Few know how delicious they are fried, or cooked in other ways. As for raw bananas, most Americans still eat them with the eyes, selecting those which are bright yellow (or red) and unspotted, ignorant of the fact that the most luscious by far are those that are spotted or almost black; the pushcartmen sell them at a cent apiece, or two for a cent. These are not rotten, but simply ripe, as long as they are white inside. They are much more digestible, too, than the unspotted ones. To make them still more so, follow the advice of "Tip" of the New York "Press," who writes:
I have had men and women tell me they couldn't eat bananas at all without suffering from indigestion, and to them I always pass on the recipe told me by a great lover of the fruit who said that invariably he scraped off the little fuzz remaining on the banana after the skin is peeled off. Before he began to do this the fruit disagreed with him; afterward he ate as much of it as he pleased.
Unlike bananas, the citrus fruits—oranges, lemons, and pomelos (grapefruit) have no nutritive value worth talking about. You might eat a hundred of them a day and—well, if they didn't kill you they wouldn't keep you alive either. Consequently the fortunes made by growing annually twenty million boxes of these much-coveted fruits and distributing them throughout the country, once more attest the Commercial Value of Flavor. And in the long run the best flavored are sure to survive, even though for a time greenhorns may be fooled into buying inferior kinds because of size or color.
MELONS, HONEY AND FLAVORING EXTRACTS.
It would be interesting to know how many million dollars American farmers earn every year by raising melons. The Rocky Ford district in Colorado alone ships about 1,500 carloads of cantaloupes, and these are but a drop in the bucket. Nobody would dream of buying melons for food; their commercial value is entirely a matter of Flavor. And in proportion as the Flavor was improved has the raising of melons become more profitable. Time was when the old-fashioned "mushmelon" was tolerated; but compared with the choice varieties of cantaloupes now in the market it was but one remove from the pumpkin. Many insipid melons still find their way into our markets, but gradually they will be eliminated; and the sooner this is done, the better it will be for the dealer's purse as well as the consumer's palate.
The manufacturer who advertises that "there is only one way to make a cigarette permanently popular and that is to make it permanently good," knew what he was talking about. In that respect there is no difference between cigarettes and foodstuffs. Read what is said on this point in Farmers' Bulletin 193: "An explanation of the popularity of the Rocky Ford melons is that they are well graded and usually uniform in quality. As Mr. Blinn explains, the Rocky Ford cantaloupe is a product of years of systematic selection, and it requires the same methods to maintain its excellence as were employed in its development. Without care in selection of seed, the natural tendency to vary will soon cause a good strain of Rocky Ford melons to revert to an undesirable type."
Sweet as honey are the best cantaloupes; yet how different! The sweetness in them is the same, for there is only one kind of sweet in the world. What makes them differ is the Flavor. Were it not for its Flavor, there would be no honey in the market, for sugar is a much cheaper sweet. Thanks to its Flavor, honey is worth to the beekeepers of the United States $20,000,000 a year. New York State alone has 30,000 beekeepers, and it is said that "even when eggs sell at 50 cents a dozen the hen stands below the bee as a payer of dividends." And bees need no expensive feed; one man says he has not fed his in twenty years.
Twenty millions a year is a goodly sum, yet it is a mere fraction of what honey will yield when its merits for diverse uses are more generally understood. There are many varieties of it, their Flavor depending on the fragrance of the flowers from which the bees collect them—clover, linden, sage, horsemint, buckwheat, magnolia, etc., but all are agreeable to most persons. American children would hail with delight the Swiss custom of eating honey with their bread and butter, and it would do them good, for honey is one of the most wholesome sweets—much more than most of the candies the boys and girls buy. It is nutritious, too, a tablespoonful having the same food value as an egg. But beware of adulterations!
Some of the best cakes and confections are made of or with honey. Girls often make their own fudge—why not all their candies? The manufacturers would still prosper even if one-half the girls should take to making their own sweets; some of these men are millionaires; and what made them so is the fact that they realized the Commercial Value of Flavors. The sale of plain, unflavored sugar is also profitable, but the percentage of gain is not nearly so great as in the case of candy.
Flavoring extracts have been called an American specialty; for while they are used considerably by foreign cooks and bakers, ours are much more addicted to their use. The most popular of all the flavoring extracts is vanilla; its home is Mexico, and we take nearly all the vanilla beans harvested there; but that does not cover the demand. Many firms get rich by making imitation vanilla and other flavors. Some of these are strong medicines. The safest place to eat vanilla ice cream is at home where you know it is made of the deliciously fragrant bean and not of coal tar products.
Most appetizing, also, is caramel, or burnt sugar, for flavoring desserts. Liqueurs are used, and nuts, but most desirable and wholesome of all are the flavors made of fruit. Think of the commercial value of these fruit flavors—natural or artificial—to thousands of druggists whenever the weather creates a demand for soda water!
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN.
Many women make a comfortable living by utilizing their inherited or acquired knowledge of the kind of flavoring that will make certain cakes and candies sell briskly. Along these lines there are unlimited opportunities for commercial gain.
Many novelists have coined large sums by exploiting local color in their tales. There is such a thing as local flavor, too, which awaits the attention of the women or men bright enough to utilize it. Wild fruits and berries, for instance, abound all over the country, many of them being peculiar to one region. These can be used for imparting their flavor to various fruit syrups, jams, and jellies. In the future, thousands of women will doubtless earn a competence by sending to the city markets preserves with such novel and appetizing local flavors. Some are already doing it, and they have found a demand at the women's exchanges usually far in excess of the supply.
The delicious loganberry, now so plentiful on the Pacific Coast, is hardly known in the East. Here is a grand opportunity; and why has no one thought of the commercial possibilities inherent in the luscious mulberry—an incomprehensibly neglected delicacy? There is the salmonberry, too, and other good things of the West, notably in Alaska, which has been called "preeminently a land of small fruits and berries." The flavor of most of the Alaskan berries was found to be excellent, by Walter W. Evans.
Alaska's gold mines will ultimately be exhausted, but the commercial value of the rich and unique flavors of these fruits and berries will endure. Excellent preserves can be made of the wild "Oregon grape," as well as the service berries, unknown in the East. The dry salal berry of Oregon and Washington might be educated and turned to use; and there are many others.
FEEDING FLAVOR INTO FOOD.
The present chapter might be made as long as this whole book is, for the Flavor is what determines the commercial value of nearly all foodstuffs. I know a young woman who makes deliciously flavored butter and has no trouble in disposing of it for a dollar a pound. Thousands of persons who do not like the butter they can buy are now eating peanut butter, which has the full flavor of the nut. The commercial value of this is shown by the fact that in 1911 a million bushels of peanuts were converted into "butter." Fortunes await those who will manufacture almond "butter," because almonds not only have a more delicate flavor but are more digestible than peanuts.
Storage eggs are quite as nutritious as fresh eggs; the sole difference is in the Flavor; and those of us who can afford to do so, gladly pay twice as much to get the better flavor.
In the preceding chapters I have frequently called attention to the greater commercial value of the best-flavored foods—as in the case of the Bresse chickens, Wiltshire bacon, Southdown mutton, Westphalian ham, Hungarian flour, full-cream cheeses, etc. For a full list see the index under "Commercial Value of Flavor." In this chapter I will call attention to only one more way of increasing the value of things we buy to eat. It is perhaps the most important of all methods—one which points the way to many large fortunes.
Once when I crossed the Atlantic westward on a German steamer the supply of eggs, calculated for nine or ten days, gave out on the fourth because nearly everybody on board was ordering them constantly. They were the best eggs I had ever eaten. The head steward, on being questioned, explained that they came from a farm where a special kind of feed was given to the hens. The farmer had fed that Flavor into the eggs.
At once it flashed on me that great and profitable industries might be built up along that line and I wrote an article about it for The Epoch. That was more than two decades ago. At that time there was not the same interest there is now in dietary questions. More recently, the Department of Agriculture has taken up the matter and in several of its bulletins reference is made to experiments in feeding both unpleasant and pleasant flavors into food.
At the North Carolina Experiment Station, in 1909, hens were fed for two weeks on onions, the result being so strong an onion flavor in the eggs that they could not be used. A week after discontinuing the onions, the hens again laid eggs of normal flavor.
Milk and butter are similarly spoiled when the cows eat wild garlic or quantities of turnips. Everybody knows, too, that some kinds of ducks are not fit to eat because of the fish they live on. In Egypt a locust diet makes poultry unfit to eat, and sometimes there are in our markets chickens that are unobjectionable except for an insect tang which mars their flavor. Pork from pigs fed on garbage is spoiled by a worse tang.
On the other hand, most animal foods can be improved by feeding desirable flavors into them. Grouse are best in blueberry season, and the flavor of all game varies with its feed. Kongo chickens fed on pineapples are said to be a morsel fit for the gods. Belgian partridges owe their excellence to the beetroot they feed on.
Mexican pigs are often fattened on bananas. They must make prime pork. In the chapter on England I noted that it is chiefly the excellence of the feed (skim milk and barley) that determines the superior flavor and commercial value of Wiltshire bacon.
In the good old times, before our forests were destroyed, the beechnut was the principal food for swine.
"The hogs which are fattened by eating the beechnut and acorn produced a species of pork of a peculiar and very highly prized flavor," writes Dr. Wiley. "The celebrated hams and bacons of the southern Appalachian ranges were produced from the variety of hogs known as the razor-backs fattened on mast, namely, the chestnut, beechnut, and acorn." Yams (belonging to the sweet-potato class) also help to flavor these southern pork products.
The ham and bacon which made Virginia beloved of epicures helped also to make the neighboring Baltimore one of the country's gastronomic centers. In the days when canvasback ducks and diamondback terrapin were abundant Baltimore was the gourmet's headquarters. There were terrapin palaces in those days, in Baltimore and Philadelphia, as now there are lobster palaces in all our large cities.
It has been stated frequently that the canvasback and redhead ducks and the diamondback terrapin owe their superior flavor to the food they have in common, the so-called wild celery, which grows in abundance in Chesapeake Bay. Now, this "wild celery" is no celery at all; it botanical name is valisneria. A correspondent of the Philadelphia "Ledger" has, moreover, cast doubt on the claim that it is the valisneria grass that so agreeably flavors these birds and turtles. He found the ducks feeding greedily on the seeds of a species of pondweed, potamogeton pectinatus. Tasting these seeds he found a distinct flavor of celery and became convinced that it was this and not the valisneria that gave the bird its peculiar flavor. The point ought to be settled by scientific experts, for if this sportsman is correct in his surmise, the efforts that are being made to breed and multiply these ducks need not be confined to Chesapeake Bay, as that pondweed is also abundant along the big lakes which separate us from Canada.
Why should not farmers cultivate this weed in ponds and improve the flavor of the ordinary domestic duck? The flavor imparted by the potamogeton—or the valisneria—is so rich that when a canvasback is cooked it needs no dressing, not even salt.
An American consul in Mexico calls attention to the fact that the rivers and lagoons of that country "literally swarm with turtles." "The wastes of water hyacinth are simply alive with them." These turtles, he says, are fat and fine of flesh and under careful handling would give a good return to the man who undertakes to ship them to the United States. "There is a small swamp turtle called the 'pochitoque,' which is of extremely fine flesh and flavor. It is found in great numbers in the swamps and lands that are annually overflowed in the State of Tobasco and is very similar and quite equal to the famous diamondback turtle. This also could be readily shipped to northern markets. It is not quite so abundant as the river turtle, but would find ready sale at fancy prices in view of the diminishing supply of the diamondback."
In these days, when there is so much complaint about all trades and occupations being overcrowded, it is strange that no one should have the sagacity to see the commercial value of catering to the demand for fine turtles. Sea and pond farming of all kinds holds in it a greater promise of wealth than all the world's mines. Terrapin-growing will be one of the great industries of the future.
It is worth noting that the old Roman epicures already had their ponds for rearing fishes of superior flavor as well as aviaries for feeding flavor into birds. Nero's fish pond was discovered in 1913. Lucullus and Apicius had aviaries in which thrushes and blackbirds were fattened for their tables on a paste made with figs, wheaten meal and aromatic grain. But such things were only for the very rich. What we want, and will get if we insist on it, are delicacies for the million.
Most if not all animal foods can be improved by feeding desirable flavors into them. In Farmers' Bulletin No. 200 the well-known poultry expert, T. F. McGrew, says that those who grow turkeys for a fancy market give them chestnuts and celeryseed during the last few weeks of fattening. Such feeding, he adds, imparts a flavor which makes the meat worth from nine to twelve cents a pound more than that of ordinary turkeys. Yet "to grow the best is quite as easy and but little more expensive than to grow the poorer grades, and the profit gained is almost double."
Could the commercial value of Flavor be more triumphantly demonstrated? If the best costs but little more to produce than the poorest, why not cater to the million and make millions? Why pay so much attention to breed when, as another expert, S. M. Tracey, attests (Farmers' Bulletin No. 100), "management and feed are more important than breed"?
We have over a hundred varieties of chickens, but the best of them, improperly fed, are not so good to eat as inferior varieties that have had the right kind of feed during the last two or three weeks. That hogs, too, and other animals, need to have fancy feed only a few weeks to give them a flavor that commands a high price, is a matter of extreme importance from an economic point of view.
Producers of meat—and other foods—would make much more money if, instead of offering the poorest that people will buy at the highest price, they supplied the best at the lowest price. Other merchants discovered this truth long ago.
FARMERS, MIDDLEMEN, AND PARCEL POST.
Thousands of families in Germany and France have been able for years to indulge in the luxury of getting daily pats of fresh butter, as well as new-laid eggs, freshly-killed chickens, and succulent vegetables straight from the farmer's garden, thanks to the parcel postman. We, too, now have a parcel post and many look on it as a means of lowering the cost of living. It is that, no doubt; but it is more important from another point of view: it enables those who are fastidious as to what they eat to dodge the greengrocer who tries to foist on them farm produce which is not fresh and flavorsome; as well as poultrymen who refuse to heed the demand for fresh-killed fowls.
New plans for bringing the consumer into direct contact with the producer are discussed in the press every other day, and there is a great deal of talk about "eliminating the middlemen." Some of these undoubtedly ought to be ousted. There is no need of having four kinds of them—transportation agents, wholesalers, jobbers, and retailers. Some of these could be dispensed with, especially those who speculate in food products. To make war on retailers is an excusable proceeding, because of their frequent extortionate charges; yet we could not get along entirely without them. Not all of us can deal directly with the farmer, and those of us who do so are sure to find some day that he has sold his last turkey or his last head of lettuce—and then we have to fall back on the grocer or the butcher. Without the latter, where would we get some of our meats? If he is honest and knows his business, as he usually is and does, he is a specialist in the judging, handling, and cutting of meats. For this knowledge, and for the opportunity he gives us to buy any kind of meat we want at any time, he deserves to be paid, and well paid.
The chief trouble about the retail middlemen is that there are too many of them. They declare that there are more failures in their trade than in any other, and no wonder. In the fierce struggle for existence they resort to all sorts of tricks to deceive customers—an evil of which enough has been said in these pages.
If one-half of these retailers could be transferred to the country, to become growers of food instead of distributors, there would be few failures and the cost of living would be reduced. There is no doubt whatever that the ever-rising price of foodstuffs is due chiefly to the alarming increase in the number of consumers, with a corresponding decrease in the number of producers.
Particularly unfortunate is the disinclination of farmers to raise vegetables and small fruits for the market, or even for their own tables in many cases. "Western Canada," we read, "presents the peculiar anomaly of a wonderfully productive agricultural country importing most of its food products." Special efforts were made during 1911 "to awaken the farmers to the value of mixed farming," but without much success.
The same trouble exists in the United States, even in regions where the soil is less adapted for the growing of wheat by the mile than in Western Canada. Yet it has been proved again and again that much more money can be made by intensive methods on small farms than by growing grain on a large scale. It was this discovery that led to the decrease in the acreage of wheat grown in California and Oregon.
"I have made a careful study of the conditions of agriculture in the Santa Clara, San Jose and Sacramento valleys, and I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that the great ranches must be broken up into small holdings before permanent prosperity can come to the farmers of the Pacific Coast," remarks Professor Isaac Roberts, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Cornell University, in an admirable little book published by the Orang Judd Company. It is entitled "Ten Acres Enough," and is just the book for those who feel inclined to leave the overcrowded cities and lead a busy but prosperous life in the country.
To realize what could be done to increase this country's natural resources, read Professor F. H. King's article in the "National Geographic Magazine" for October, 1912, describing China's wonderful system of canals for transportation, drainage, irrigation, and fertilization, with the aid of which a population of 400,000,000, tilling a region not a third as large as the United States, has subsisted for thousands of years.
We need not go as far as China, however, for a good example. The market gardens of Paris, to which reference was made in Chapter VII, convincingly prove the commercial wisdom of intensive farming and of providing city folk with the tenderest and most flavorsome vegetables, berries, and fruits. We have too much "long-distance food" (canned or frozen); what we want is short-distance produce.
Paris is the model for us; it enjoys what Professor Ferrero, in Le Figaro, has rightly called the ideal condition, being a city fed by fresh supplies from the adjacent country. Our aim should be to make each of our large cities a "hub" connected by thousands of spokes with suburban market gardens.
In these gardens women as well as men can find employment; it has been claimed that their careful truck farming in garden and field shows better results than the work of men.
Short-distance farming increases profits by decreasing transportation charges. A vivid illustration of future possibilities is given by an expert in these words: "Long Island is about the size of Holland. Its population is about the same. The produce taken out of the soil in Holland is twenty-one times that which is taken from the soil of Long Island. If Long Island were brought under proper cultivation it alone would produce the larger part of the vegetable products required by the six millions of people in New York City and vicinity." The retail middleman and the parcel post would in that case suffice.
At present the big profits in the food business go chiefly to the gambling middlemen—the jobbers. This must be changed. Possibly the prices will not become lower; but if the method just suggested is carried out, the quality (flavor) of the food we eat will be vastly improved and the profits will go to those who deserve them—the market gardeners. Let us do all we can to make their work as alluring and profitable as possible in order to greatly increase their numbers. To the lowering of the cost of food we ourselves can largely attend by stopping our sinful waste and taking to heart the methods taught in the preceding pages of economizing in our food without lowering its nutritive value or diminishing its pleasurableness.
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Finck, Henry Theophilus. 2021. Food and Flavor: A Gastronomic Guide to Health and Good Living). Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/61719/61719-h/61719-h.htm#XII
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