The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 4 (July 1, 1936)
Vitamins And “Vittles”
The Call of The Calorie.
Science has invaded every department of human existence including food. At one time meals were just food. To-day “vittles” are vitamins, and the call of the calorie and the chemical properties of pie are table topics. Infants prattle in their prams of protein, gurgle of glucose and sneer at starch. To-day, cooking is a chemical exploration rather than a labour of love, and never was it more truly said that “the hand that stocks the table is the hand that rules the world.”
Of course, it is nice to know that science has taken our stomachs to heart, but there are times when oldfashioned folk feel that they would prefer a little food with their meals. But, we who love food for its entertainment value alone, are rightly reminded that if “love makes the world go round,” indigestion can make it go flat.
The fact that thousands of our forefathers lived to ninety without ever making the acquaintance of a calorie or getting chummy with a vitamin is discounted by the probability that they would have lived just as long even if they had been “au fait” with these bugs.
Grape-fruit versus Grape-shot.
It is equally true that the battle of Trafalgar was won on beer and beef. Grape-shot rather than grape-fruit decided the issue, and it was as true then as it is now that “sailors don't care.”
But dieticians demur and cite examples of what might have happened to world history had the history-makers realised that nice food is always bad for us, and the most unattractive dishes are alwayes the most nourishing. They point out that if Caesar's slogan had been “diet now” instead of “do it now” he might have been in a position to say “Go to—Brute,” instead of “Et tu, Brute.” Also that, if Napoleon had turned his attention equally to calories and cannons, Waterloo Station, to-day, might be in Paris instead of in London.
The Can and the “can.”
But, if all this is correct, how is it that Mussolini was able to conquer Abyssinia on spaghetti and mustard (gas); and why Germany's claim to have attained to “kultur” on kraut. And, if Germany can on kraut, what about America's claim that she can by “canning”?
The truth seems to be that food is “all things to all men,” and the dish which, when eaten by one diner, will put “pep” into dyspepsia will give the jest to digestion when demolished by another.
Mother Knows Best.
The beef-eater says “‘nuts’ to nuts,” the vegetarian turns a cauliflower ear to the sins of the flesh, the oldest inhabitant of Waikikamookau cries, “beer kept me here,” and his contemporary at Urafake quavers, “I've always had beer and that's why I'm here.” It's all very confusing. But, in spite of all this gastronomous warring, we still maintain that mother knew best.” Memories of mother, and the things that mother made in the days when youth would be served, deter many a man from uttering those sinister syllables, “eat, drink and be merry for to-morrow we diet.” Chefs page 51 may come and dieticians may go, but Mother goes on for ever. When the digestion dies, memory remains of her poems in pie, her rondels in rissoles, her love-songs in soup, her epics of culinary competence, her preludes in “Oh!” and her symphonies in “Umm-m-m.” The French claim culinary genius, but where did they get their information? From Mother? What are all their fancy dishes but Mother's home-cooking without a home. They stole her thunder to make a big noise, and what is the result. Criminal misrepresentation! Try out their dishes bearing names that sound like the words of a revolutionary hymn, and you will agree that fifty thousand Frenchmen can be wrong. We don't care a continental what they claim; we maintain that their Consomme de Boeuf is only Mother's shin-bone soup without a shin to stand on, that their Marsaillaise Bon-bon is nothing but Mother's Yorkshire pudding with a French accent. Their Pate de Pouf is Mother's rice pudding re-Ducoed and served with face cream, and their Fricasse du Fromage is nothing but Mother's minced cheese without the cheese and without a Mother's care. We lay our heads in our hands and sob.—
“O take away those baubles
Of sugar, air and cream,
We know such things
The waiter brings
Are never what they seem.
The rose, they say, by any name
Perchance would smell as sweet,
But you and I
Expect of pie—
Just something we can eat.
It may be full of vitamins,
Lined up all clean and neat,
But you and I,
Require of pie,
Some gravy paste and meat.
A pie should be a pie,
Not pale and dietetic,
Or roofed with some
And otherwise synthetic.
When mother cooked we gave no heed
To things like vitamins,
Protein as such
We didn't care two pins—
In those Elysian days gone by,
When men were men, and pie was pie,
And we assembled, unafraid,
Before the things that mother made.”
In those fair days, even had we known that there were vitamins in pie, we should have eaten it just the same, and had we found a calorie in the soup we should have just lifted it out and carried on.
The Wooden Walls—and Iron Stomachs—of Old England.
The dieticians are right when they point out that, in these parlous days of dictators, a bout of indigestion in some high foreign quarters might quite easily embroil the world in a holocaust of bombs and bully-beef. We can believe that cheese and lobster taken late at night may raise hell-andTommy early next morning.
But even such grave danger as this, hardly justifies a diet of foods as difficult to digest as the brim of a minced straw hat, or breakfast cereals which apparently are manufactured from the thatches of the ancient cottages of rural England.