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It will be readily seen that, under such varying circumstances, it must be difficult if not absolutely impossible to give anything like a general rule; we can only indicate an approximation to the subject.
If our interpretation of this eternal and immutable law of nature be not false, the proportion of the plastic constituents required by the working man in his daily food cannot be less than that which nature herself prepares for the development and growth of the human body, and for its increase in all its parts-such is the proportion found in human milk-the diet of the working classes should therefore contain for four parts of non-nitrogenous constituents one part of plastic nutritive matter.*
Dr. Carpenter says:-
Thus, good wheaten bread contains more nearly than any other substance in ordinary use, the proportion of azotised and non-azotized matter which is adapted to repair the waste of the system, and to supply the necessary amount of combustible material, under the ordinary condition of civilised life in our temperate climates, and we find that the health and the strength can be more perfectly sustained upon that substance than upon any other taken alone.†
The above are the opinions of two of the most celebrated writers of the present day; and, although entitled to great weight, yet they must not by any means be accepted as conclusive upon the question. Till a short time ago, this was a subject entirely uninvestigated. Of late, however, the attention of chemists and medical men has been directed to the question, and, in some cases, the quantity and relative proportions of the food used by bodies of people has been measured and analysed. A table, embodying these results, was drawn up by Dr. Lyon Playfair, and accompanied a lecture delivered by him at the Royal Institution, on the "Food of Man." The following are some of the extracts which are most to our purpose:
The above table will shew that the dietaries of many classes of people are considerably below the standard recommended by the authorities just quoted. Prisoners kept at hard labour have only one of plastic food to seven of respiratory, and it is proverbial how they improve in health when put upon the prison allowance. The Manual of Physiology, page 258.
* Familiar Letters on Chemistry, p. 368. Probably some people will attribute the bravery of the English to this excessive allowance of meat. Let such remember that the sepoys of India, under British discipline, are quite as brave; and that the negroes in the Southern States of America, living upon Indian corn, are every whit as brave as the whites. I might give twenty other instances.
English soldier and sailor on the contrary get an excess on the other side, and with what results we have often found to our cost. Witness the sickness and loss of life in the Crimean campaign, when our troops, though far better cared for, sickened and died at three or four times the rate of our Turkish allies.
I have not been able to procure statistics with reference to the operative classes of society, but if we make some allowance from the above table we shall, perhaps, not be far wide of the mark, and if we do this we shall see that the proportions given by Liebig and Carpenter are quite rich enough to support nature's wants, Do matter how toilsome the occupation.
If then we assume that these proportions are about as they should be, the enquiry presents itself: Is vegetable food sufficiently nutritious to supply these elements in such proportions?
I cannot better furnish an answer to this, than by presenting a tabulated statement of the relative amounts of the nutritive and respiratory elements of food, as given in my former paper.
The above table varies a little from others that I have seen-the nutriment in the rice and potatoes is smaller, and in some of the other articles a trifle larger than is given by some writers. I have, however, consulted four or five tables similar to the above, as given in the works of some of our leading standard writers upon these subjects, and taking the average of all the articles, the different tables very nearly agree with the above.
If an average be taken of the whole of the articles, it will be found that there is about one part nutriment to five of respiratory material; and if for persons engaged in manual toil, one to four is a proper proportion-one in five will be a nice average for people generally. Let rice and potatoes be left out of the list, and it will be seen that the proportions are about one to three, a diet quite rich enough for man under any degree of toil he can possibly be called upon to endure.
In the cereals (wheat, barley, oatmeal, &c.), which are the staple elements of our food, the proportions between the plastic and respiratory elements of the food, are about such as is required for a comparatively active life. If, along with these are used rice, potatoes, sago, &c., the diet will be less rich, and more adapted to a less
active life; on the contrary, should our occupations demand an excessive amount of toil, let the leguminous vegetables, as peas, beans, lentils, &c., be added, instead of the rice, &c., and if eggs and cheese be superadded the diet may be regulated to any degree of richness desirable.
How beautifully adapted are the provisions of infinite wisdom; the cereal kind of food, which is most universally found, and which also is most easily cooked and preserved, contains about the proportion of ingredients which our bodies need; these we make our staple diet, and when circumstances place us in positions where extra toil is needed, we go to nature and find richer elements provided; if, on the contrary, we are placed where there is little call for exertion, we also find there is provision made to suit these circumstances.
Perhaps some individuals may object and say,—but then, although vegetables contain sufficient nutrition, yet the quantity of the nutrition is not equal to that which is in flesh.
(To be continued.)
HOW I SEARCHED FOR GOOD APPLES AND FOUND
POETS tell us of a golden age when our forefathers fed upon the delicious fruits of the earth, and, till Prometheus stole fire from heaven, were content to accept their food from the teeming lap of nature without any artificial preparation, much as gorillas do now a days in the forests of tropical Africa. Perpetual summer yielded them an unfailing supply of all that could contribute to health and strength of body and of mind; and their lives, lengthened out to centuries, were spent in peaceful valleys where neither war nor disease had ever entered to hurt or to destroy. But the fine gold became dim, a silver age succeeded, followed by an age of brass, and pre-historic times at an end, the tale winds up with a long lament over the evils of the iron age we live in. I dont think these dreams of the poets altogether a myth, and heartily believe in a golden age as yet to be realised in the future of the carth's history.
Like other dyspeptic Vegetarians I am constitutionally progressive as to diet. Some stomachs are happily rebelliously inclined and exceedingly apt to grumble when they have more work to do than they are able to perform. Mine is so at all events; and though one after another I have surrendered many a Vegetarian delicacy at its call, it still rings its changes on grand old Sylvester Graham, feelingly declaring at times "that the simpler, the plainer, the more truly natural," is the diet administered to it for digestion, the more comfortably disposed is it and the better able to do its duty. Inclined by several touching appeals of this sort in the summer of 1853, I was led to a few practical experiments in diet, more particularly in the direction of uncooked food. I suppose that from raw potatoes up to British Queen strawberries there were not many of our commoner roots, fruits, and grains, I did not subject to mastication and digestion without the previous application of heat. The practical conclusion reached was this, that, did necessity compel, there was perhaps no single article of vegetable growth in its natural state, which, when well masticated, the most unreasonable of stomachs would make any complaint against. Dyspepsia, in fact, was quite out of the question, and over-eating an impossibility.
The stomach, however, was not the only member concerned. Grains of wheat are exceedingly awkward things to handle, and, admirably fitted though they be to be pecked at by chickens, are not very come-at-able by our unassisted organs of prehension. To these, and to the large class of roots and tubers, there were also æsthetic objections which no lengthened habit seemed likely to overcome. The organs of taste, however, were loudest in their protests, and, as, like other members of the body, they were no doubt made to be gratified in the exercise of their functions, their voice had necessarily some weight in the decision. A field of turnips were a garden of Eden to a famished man, but, appealing to the experience of many who, like myself, have travelled through the brown bread phase of Vegetarianism, to the exclusion of every other variety of food, I fearlessly challenge their dissent from my assertion, that our organs of taste are fitted for a much more refined appreciation of what is pleasant to the taste, and good for food, than the best of English wheat can call into action. Witness the memories of past early days of September and their luscious jargonelles, and are we not forced, by the harmonious consent of all the numberless organs that make up the tabernacle we dwell in, to accept as a fact, that of uncooked food, fruits-and fruits only-supply what human nature craves for and is entitled to.
I have one hundred good sound reasons in my note-book why uncooked fruit is in every sense the best, and should be the only food of man, but these would take up too many pages, and are not to the present purpose. Suffice it, that I entered practically upon the question of a fruit diet. The difficulties I encountered, the mistakes I fell into, the pounds I spent uselessly, the practical conclusions I arrived at, may be of some service, perhaps, to other Vegetarians, who, escaped from the trammels of flesh-eating, are living as yet under the law, "Thou shalt not," but long for a better guide, "Do this and live."
I was living in those days in bachelor lodgings, buying my own wheat and grinding my own flour, but to all other intents at the mercy of two elderly maiden landladies, who had only the least possible sympathy in the world with my notions of what to eat and how to eat it. It was the time of strawberries, and if any of my readers be frugivorously inclined at such a season, I pray them to postpone their experiments till the summer months be over. Like myself, no doubt, assuming at once, very properly perhaps, that all strawberries are fruit, they would hasten to the nearest market, and, paying their eightpence a-quart, carry home their precious basketful for dinner,-almost the price, weight for weight, of the best recent muscle in the shambles. "All is not gold that glitters." Strawberries are grown for market, where they are knocked about sometimes very unfeelingly, and to stand such usage must be plucked ere they are fully ripe. They are grown to supply the wants of purchasers in whose minds cream and pounded sugar seem always very unnecessarily jumbled up amongst the fruit. Flavour and ripeness are therefore a second thought to other considerations with the fruitseller. Three days' experience in marketing sent me direct to the strawberry beds, where, purchased from the grower, the fruit may be had in perfection, but half-a-crown a-day, multiplied by the number of mouths in a working man's family, is a tax which, in Lancashire in the best of times, I question whether one in a hundred couid put up with for a summer month. Since that time I have learned a lesson or two in fruit culture, and knowing that the strawberry of all other fruits can be grown with the least labour and expense, I don't altogether despair of living to see it welcomed at every meal for six weeks in summer at many a labouring man's table. But grown it must be
by the eaters thereof, and the like remark applies to the gooseberry and the raspberry, which fill up the season till pear-time in August. Both these latter are subject to the same fruit-market-drawbacks as the strawberry, and to be had in perfection must be plucked from the bush. Cherries and currants I do not speak of. Of the former I have had little experience as a diet, and the acidity of the latter is as hopeless a case as promologists have had to deal with, being seemingly almost incapable of improvement.
Enough for the purpose of the present paper as to summer fruits. Nine years' experience in the neighbourhood of one of our largest towns has taught me that a market supply of such, in either quality or cheapness, fitted for the entire food of a family of fruit-eaters is not to be expected for many long years to come, nor indeed till a very considerable improvement of taste and of acquaintance with the right use of fruits on the part of the public has been attained. But in fact, a regular supply of summer fruit in a perfect condition is quite out of reach even in Covent Garden market itself. I have not yet seen a strawberry that will retain that cool refreshing character, so grateful in the hot days of June and July, beyond a few hours, and both that fruit and the raspberry when in full ripeness pass into incipient decomposition long before the interval between Saturday's market and Monday morning has expired. It is an interesting fact that all our summer fruits, so long as the connection by the stalk with the parent plant continues, seldom exceed a temperature of 65 degrees, and in the hottest of sunny days are invariably from ten to fifteen degrees lower in temperature than the surrounding atmosphere. The moment, however, this connection is dissolved, a gradual elevation of temperature commences, and in a very few hours that delicious coolness which enhances the flavour of the fruit is all but lost. The fruit-eater then, must of necessity, in summer at least, be a fruit grower or be otherwise independent of the public market, but cultivating the soil either as owner or tenant he may, with the command of a few hundred square yards of mother-earth, provide ample, economic, and delicious food for the entire support of himself and family in the months of June and July, and have besides somewhat to give away or sell to his less fortunate neighbours. And all this too, with far less labour, if his ordinary employment be a sedentary one, than is actually a necessity to keep his joints from getting rusty.
Summer provided for, there remains the long gap from August to June, during which to secure an abundant and seasonable supply of good wholesome fruit, and bearing in mind the fleeting character of the period of perfection of most of our choicest apples and pears, there is much more implied in this than is at first apparent. Plums, nectarines, and peaches I do not include in the inquiry, as even the first of these is as yet so little acclimatized to our northern latitude as not to be depended upon in the average of seasons. With the early days of August our market stalls are loaded with the firstlings of the pear crop, and, fresh from my strawberry disappointment, I greeted with joy the appearance of what was less likely to suffer from rough handling, and which if not quite ripe when purchased, I could store at home till fit for table. A pear is a pear, and an apple is an apple. This was the full extent of my pomological knowledge at that time; how one pear differs from another pear in all that makes a pear worth having I had yet to learn, so investing my sixpence in a large sample, I started boldly as a practical fruiteater. Those eight days of martyrdom I feel assured only the enthusiasm of a new convert to a new principle enabled me to struggle through. I wonder now at the constancy with which I ate my way through that mass of tasteless unwholesome rubbish.