FOODS WE EAT
Put this puzzle together and you will find milk, cheese and eggs, meat, fish, beans and cereals, greens, fruits and root vegetables — foods that contain our essential daily needs.
Exactly how they interlock and in what quantities for the most advantageous results for every one of us is another puzzle we must try to solve for ourselves, keeping in mind our age, body type, activities, the climate in which we live, and the food sources available to us. How we wish someone could present us with hard and fast rules as to how and in what exact quantities to assemble the proteins, fats and carbohydrates as well as the small but no less important enzyme and hormone systems, the vitamins, and the trace minerals these basic foods contain so as best to build body structure, maintain it, and give us an energetic zest for living!
Where to turn? Not to the sensational press releases that follow the discovery of fascinating bits and pieces about human nutrition; nor to the oversimplified and frequently ill-founded dicta of food faddists that can lure us into downright harm. First we must search for the widest variety of the best grown unsprayed foods we can find in their freshest condition, and then look for foods with minimal but safe processing and preservatives and without synthetic additives. While great strides have been made in the storage of foods commercially and in the home, if fresh foods in good condition are available to you, choose them every time. To compare the nutritive values in frozen, canned and fresh vegetables, see 798.
Next we can find in the U.S. Handbook on the Composition of Foods some of theknown calorie, protein and other values based on the edible portions of common foods. Recent mandatory labeling information, 7, is of some help, although the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances are based on information from a nongovernmental agency, the National Research Council, a source not acceptable to some authorities. But no one chart of group of charts is the definitive answer for most of us, who are simply not equipped to evaluate the complex relationships of these elements, or to adapt them to the practicalities of daily living. Such studies are built up as averages, and thus have greater value in presenting an overall picture than in solving our individual nutrition problems.
Nevertheless, by applying plain common sense to available mass data, we as well as the experts are inclined to agree that many Americans are privileged to enjoy superabundance and that our nutritional difficulties have to do generally not with under- but with overeating. Statistics on consumption also bear out other trends: first, that we frequently make poor choices and eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods; second, that many of us overconsume drugs as well as foods. Medication, often a lifesaver, may, when used habitually, induce ah adverse effect on the body's ability to profit fully from even the best dietary intake.
Individually computerized diagnoses of our lacks may prove a help in adjusting our deficiencies to our needs. But what we all have in our bodies is one of the greatest of marvels: an already computerized but infinitely more complex built-in system that balances and allocates with infallible and almost instant decision what we ingest, sending each substance on its proper course to make the most of what we give it. And since nutrition is concerned not only with food as such but with the substances that food contains, once these essential nutrients ate chosen, their presentation in the very best state for the body's absorption is the cook's first and foremost job. Often taste, flavor and color at their best reflect this job well done. Read The Foods We Heat, 145, and follow our pointers to success for effective ways to preserve essential nutrients during cooking. And note at the point of use recommendations for optimum storage and handling conditions, for one must always bear in mind the fragility of foods and the many ways contaminants can affect them, and consequently us, when they are carelessly handled or even when such a simple precaution as washing the hands before preparing foods is neglected.
But now let's turn to a more detailed view of nutritional terms: calories, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, accessory factors like vitamins, minerals, enzymatic and hormonal fractions — all of which are needed — and see how they interact to maintain the dietary intake best suited to our individual needs.
A too naïve theory used to prevail for explaining regeneration through food. The human system was thought of as an engine, and you kept it stoked with foods to produce energy. Food can be and still is measured in units of heat, or calories. A Calorie, sometimes called a kilocalorie or K Calorie, is the amount of heat needed to raise one kilogram of water one degree Centigrade. Thus translated into food values, each gram of protein in egg, milk, meat or fish is worth four calories; each gram of carbohydrate in starches and sugars or in vegetables, four calories; and each gram of fat in butters, in vegetable oils and drippings, and in hidden fats, 5, about nine calories. The mere stoking of the body's engine with energy-producing foods may keep life going in emergencies. But to maintain health, food must also have, besides its energy values, the proper proportions of biologic values. Proteins, vitamins, enzymes, hormones, minerals and their regulatory functions are still too complicated to be fully understood. But fortunately for us the body is able to respond to them intuitively.
What we really possess, then, we repeat, is not justa simple stoking mechanism, but a computer system far more elaborate and knowledgeable than anything that man has been able to devise. Our job is to help it along as much as possible, neither stinting ir nor overloading it. Depending on age, weight and activity the following is a rough guide to the favorable division of daily caloric intake: a minimum of 15% for proteins, under 25% for fats, and about 60% for carbohydrates. These percentages are relative: some people with highly efficient absorption and superior metabolism require both lower intake and the lesser amount of protein. No advice for reducing is given here, nor are the vaunted advantages of unusually high protein intake considered — as again such decisions must be highly individual, see About Proteins, at right. In general, and depending also on age, sex, body type and amount of physical activity, adults can use 1700 to 3000 calories a day. Adolescent boys and very active men under fifty-five can utilize close to 3000 calories a day. At the other extreme, women over fifty-five need only about 1700 calories. Women from eighteen to thirty-five need about 2000 calories daily. During pregnancy they can add 200 calories and, during lactation, an extra 1000 calories. Children one to six need from 1100 to 1600. Before a baby's first birthday, his diet should be closely watched, and parents should ask their pediatricians about both the kinds and the amounts of food to give their baby.
Given your present weight, perhaps a more accurate way to calculate your individual calorie requirement is to consider your activity rate. If you use a car to go to work and have a fairly sedentary job, or even if you are a housewife with small children, your rate is probably only 20%; 30% if you are a delivery man of patrolman working out of doors, and 50% if you are a dirt farmer, construction worker or athlete in training. If you multiply your weight by 14 calories, you will get your basal need, that is, the calories you would require if you were completely inactive. When you multiply this amount by your own activity factor and add it to your basal needs, you should get ah approximation of your required daily caloric intake. If you reduce your caloric intake much below this approximate norm, you may be lacking in your mineral, vitamin and protein requirements. Whatever your caloric intake, distribute your choices properly among protein, fat and carbohydrate values.
On our protein intake depends the constant virtual replacement of self. And nowhere in the diet is the relation of quantity to quality greater. The chief components of proteins are 22 amino acids. They form an all-or-nothing team, for food is utilized by the body only in proportion to the presence of the scarcest of them. Fourteen of the 22 aminos are both abundant and versatile. If they are not present when food is ingested, the body is able to synthesize the missing ones from those present. The remaining 8 aminos, however, cannot be synthesized and must be present in the food when ingested. These eight are known as the essential aminos. Four of them — leucine, valine, phenylalanine and threonine — are relatively abundant in foods, but the other four — isoleucine, lysine, methionine and tryptophan — are more scarce. And because utilization of protein by the body depends in each instance on the least abundant member of the essential aminos, these latter four are known as the key aminos.
Generally speaking, proteins from animal sources like egg? meat, fish, and dairy products are valued because their total protein content is high, and they are referred to as complete because they are rich in the essential aminos, and therefore more of the total protein present is utilizable. Those from vegetable sources such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes — with the exception of soybeans — are less valuable because their total protein content is low. They are referred to as incomplete because they are also Iow in one or more of the eight essential amino acids, meaning that less of their total protein can be utilized by the body. The terms "complete" and "incomplete" ate somewhat misleading, however, because of their absolute connotations. It is still possible to fulfill your daily requirements for protein from incomplete vegetable sources, provided you are willing and able to consume large enough quantities of the incomplete protein item in question. But the utilizable protein content of most cereals is so poor that consuming enough to satisfy protein requirements would be a practical impossibility.
Take corn, for example. It has little protein and many starch calories. A diet based exclusively on corn would require consumption of enormous quantities of com to establish the needed essential aminos. A complete protein source like eggs would therefore be more realistic and desirable in satisfying the same protein requirement with far less caloric intake. In fact, for 10 grams of egg protein at 125 calories, you would have to eat 16.5 grams of corn protein at 500 calories to get ah equivalent amount of usable protein. But since no one wants to live on corn or eggs alone, a more reasonable way to approach the problem is to note how complete and incomplete proteins complement each other.
There are various ways of expressing protein values — net protein utilization, of NPU; protein efficiency ratio, of PFR; and biologic value, or BV. Another unit of measure used on product labels is protein value in relation to casein, 7. Although these terms are all derived by different methods, they correlate well with each other. Whatever the method of expressing this utilization efficiency, one fact remains: that is, the body requires certain kinds and amounts of essential amino acids which must be supplied each day.
Any excess intake of amino acids not compensated for is metabolized away and thus not used for growth or maintenance of the body. Eggs, with a BV of 94, may be considered the most ideal protein from the point of view of utilization to replace body protein. But we can't survive on one food alone.
If we combine durum wheat, with a BV of 60, and lima beans, with a BV of 50, we get through their complementarity of utilizable protein a score of 60. But a BV of 60 is marginal for body replacement, and so a more complete protein such as that contained in milk of eggs should be added to such a meal. Combine, for instance, I tablespoon of peanut butter, with a BV of 43, and one slice of white bread, with a BV of 52. If you add 4 ounces of milk, with a BV of 86, the combination stabilizes at a BV of approximately 80.
In countries dependent mainly on beans and rice of other cereal combinations, the beneficial effects of adding to the diet even small amounts of meat, fish, eggs or dairy products is well recognized. And when various pastas are the staple foods, the inclusion of at least one-third in the form of a complete protein is considered the minimal amount to bring the meal up to acceptable levels. Furthermore, it should be stressed that any meal of snack which fails to include sufficient complete protein, although it may temporarily stay one's hunger, will not replenish all of the metabolic Iosses of the body.
In regions where only vegetable protein is available, grains combined with pulses such as beans and peas ate classic. It has been found that increments of about one-third complete protein reinforce incomplete protein to form a total that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Even more significant differences ate found between processed and unprocessed foods. Brown rice has a BV of 75, as opposed to white rice with a BV of 65. Whole wheat bread has a BV of 67; white bread, 52.
To meet the needs of underdeveloped areas and the threat of worldwide protein shortages, in recent years experiments involving grain, seed and legume combinations, 198, have been undertaken which may one day prove valuable to all of us. Gross nutritional deficiencies ate more conspicuous in areas where protein imbalances are drastic and prolonged, and the effects of improved diet are easier to evaluate than in areas like ours, where such deficiencies are less severe and thus harder to detect. Until recently, we have relied on animal experimentation, and although dietary results thus achieved are valuable, they are not always applicable to man, and, for the most reliable results, data must be based on human reactions.
Since vegetable proteins are incomplete except as noted above, ir is wise to draw two-thirds of the daily protein intake of 10% of your caloric intake from animal sources. Preferably, meats should be fresh — not pickled, salted or highly processed. Protein foods when cooked should not be subjected to too high heat, for then they lose some of their nutrients. Familiar clanger signals are curdling in milk, "stringiness" in cheese and dryness in meat and fish.
Protein requirements generally are slightly higher in colder climates but no matter what the climate, growing children, pregnant women and nursing mothers need a larger proportion of protein than the average adult. The elderly, whose total caloric intake often declines with age, should consume a relatively larger percentage of protein to reinforce their body's less efficient protein metabolism. Again, absolute amounts cannot be given, because needs will depend on the efficiency of utilization by your own body. If your protein supply is largely from meats, fish, fowl and dairy products, a useful formula for calculating average daily protein intake is to allow 4 gram of protein per pound of body weight for adults, and for children from one to three years, 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. In vegetarian diets structured on vegetable sources alone, with no animal by-products such as eggs and milk, careful balancing is needed to ensure enough complete protein. It is also suggested that the protein content of such a diet be upped from 4 to 5 gram per pound of body weight.
Experiments have shown variations in protein utilization between individuals to be as high as two to one. They have also demonstrated that an individual's protein needs may rise by one-third when he is under great physical of emotional stress. A natural luster in hair, firmness of nails, brightness of eyes and speed of healing are superficial indications of a well-being that comes from adequate protein intake. For a listing of approximate protein content — complete, incomplete and mixed — in average servings of individual foods, see 8.
Today, we cannot mention protein and protein sources without looking beyond our own frontiers. With overpopulation a world problem, can we continue our upward trend in meat consumption? Amounts of land required to produce protein increase by a ratio of one to ten as we proceed from the beginning to the end of the food chain: that is, from the growing plant to meat-eating man. To put it another way, the herbivorous animal must consume about 10 pounds of vegetable or cereal matter to turn it into 1 pound of meat. Or, as another example, the same amount of land is required to produce 10 pounds of soybeans as 1 pound of beef. You can readily see that there is protein waste in this type of food production.
As long as chickens scratched more or less on their own; as long as pigs scavenged family wastes; as long as cattle, ingested grasses from lands often too rough or too dry for efficient grain harvesting, a something-for-nothing process existed. Today's animal husbandry competes in the main for crops that could also be utilized by humans. Chickens fed in batteries, pigs and cattle concentrated in feed lots need preprocessed foods and drugs to prevent the diseases these abnormal living conditions encourage. And their droppings, once recycled on the land, are too often uselessly burned or channeled into our streams, thus initiating gross pollution of air and water.
But should conditions be changed to allot greater quantities of grains, seeds and pulses to human consumption, we would still be faced with the problem of incomplete vegetable protein. As the growing of soybeans, the only complete-protein plant, is limited to certain climates, other vegetable protein sources must be improved or compensated for by combinations of grains and pulses or by the addition of some complete animal protein.
However, amazing genetic advances have been made in the development of grain hybrids, 548, higher both in protein content and in yield than the older types: short, sturdy, storm-resistant, heavy-headed wheat and rice hybrids, rich in protein and quick-maturing; high-lysine corns; and the intergeneric rye-and-wheat hybrid, triticale, are among the recent developments that promise primary improvements in natural sources of vegetable protein. Vegetable protein mixtures, see 3, combined with dry milk or fish meals, now mainly used for animal feeding, would find greater human acceptance if they were made more palatable, which in turn would guarantee a tremendous advance in protein availability at Iow cost for all. Protein has also been developed from yeasts, algae, kelp and petroleum products, and there is even the possibility of recycling the proteins in animal wastes; but, again, unpalatability has kept most of these newer protein sources from the table.
It is of the utmost importance that we guard our ecological soundness with all the knowledge we have at hand — knowledge that in some fields is far in advance of our willingness to apply it. It is essential that we consider new methods of utilizing and conserving land, for many of our soils ate exploited to the point of depletion and are yielding crops with reduced protein and mineral content. Other soils produce only when saturated with chemical fertilizers and develop an inability to recover crop yields without revitalization through either animal of green manuring.
We must also be on the alert for various air pollutants. Spinach and romaine, for instance, will not grow where the air-sulfur content is high, and acreage yields of grains and other vegetables in such areas are adversely affected as well. Further research is needed to explain why saltwater fish die in waters made up from our formula for seawater but will thrive in natural seawater. Readings of chromatograms of synthetic as opposed to natural vitamins reveal startling differences which ate as yet unexplained. These instances would indicate there ate present in natural substances certain micronutrients — as yet not completely identified — which an organism needs in order to carry on vital internal chemical processes and which are lacking in engineered of synthetically produced foods, 535.
Further research and development of genetic seedbanks, now in their infancy, ate needed to maintain efficient seed strains as the wild areas where natural hybridization has taken place are impinged on. For many of our best strains still come from fortuitous rather than man-induced selection. There is an unfortunate tendency to utilize these new seed strains in all areas before their climatic and soil adaptability has been proved, procedures that make them vulnerable to massive failure.
Again, just as variety in the selection of the foods we eat is necessary for our health, a variety of seed sources is essential to maintain the health of our foods. The breeding of plants resistant to disease, drought and insects, and tolerant of varying climates, is as important as hybridization aimed at protein increase. We like to keep in mind the wise old Indian who, when asked why he continued to grow three strains of com when only one was his favorite for food, yield and flavor, answered that he was hedging bis bets; the other two strains would always protect him against a too dry or too cold season of against insect infestation, while his favorite would succumb unless conditions were ideal.
We cannot leave our ecological musings without stressing the importance of these fundamental interrelationships, as complex and subtle in the world of edible plants as are those of the protein combinations and their subsequent utilization by the body, as discussed at left.
Although most grains are wind-pollinated, few of us realize how large and often unexpected a role insect life plays in pollination, and how insecticides can destroy this vital link in the food chain. The current abundance of fruit and vegetables in America can be traced in large part to the importation of the honeybee. The Indians had ah excess of arable land, but for many of their crops they had to rely on much less efficient native pollinators such as noncolonizing bees, wasps and flies. Today, guarding against losing helpful insects is as important as destroying insect enemies — a fact stressed less often than is the need to solve the equally knotty problem of pesticide poisons in the food chain. We can no longer afford to ignore the interrelationships on which global food supplies depend.
While fats have acquired a bad image of late, we must not forget how essential they are. As part of our body fabric they act as fuel and insulation against cold, as cushioning for the internal organs, and as lubricants. Without fats there would be no way to utilize fat-soluble vitamins. Furthermore, the fats we eat that are of vegetable origin contain unsaturated fatty acids which harbor necessary growth factors and help with the digestion of other fats. An important consideration in fat intake is the percentage of saturated to unsaturated fats. We hear and read much about cholesterol — that essential constituent of all body cells. It is synthesized, and its production regulated, by the liver. Cholesterol performs a number of indispensable body functions. Up to a limit, the more of it we eat, the less the liver produces. Excess cholesterol intake, however, like other excesses, is to be avoided, since a surplus of cholesterol may have serious consequences. The fatty acids in the saturated fats, which ate derived from dairy products, animal fats, coconut oil and hydrogenated fats, 541, tend to raise the amount of cholesterol in the blood, while the fatty acids in polyunsaturated vegetable oils tend to lower cholesterol levels if taken in double proportion to saturated fats. To differentiate between these types of fat, see 539.
Few of us realize that much of the fat we consume — like the great mass of an iceberg — is hidden. Hamburgers and doughnuts, all-American classics, contain about one-fourth fat; chocolate, egg yolk and most cheeses about a third; bacon and peanut butter, as much as one-half. And in pecans and certain other nuts and seeds, the fat content can be almost three-fourths! These proportions ate graphically suggested below.
All fats are sensitive to high temperatures, light and air. For best nutritive values store them carefully; and when cooking with them be sure that you do not let them reach the smoking point, 541. If properly handled they have no adverse effect on normal digestion. Favorable temperatures are indicated in individual recipes. Fats are popular for the flavor they impart to other foods, and for the fact that, being slow to leave the stomach, they give a feeling of satiety.
We suggest, again, the consumption of a variety of fats from animal and vegetable sources, but remind you that fat consumption in the United States has climbed in twenty years from the recommended minimum of 20% to more than 40% today.
Carbohydrates, found largely in sugars, fruits, vegetables and cereals, are classed as starches or sugars. The sugars include monosaccharides, such as fruit sugars, 557, and honey, 558, which are sweeter than the disaccharides, such as common table sugar, and the polysaccharides, such as starch. The latter two types must be broken down into simple sugars before they are available for body use. This action is initiated by an enzyme in the saliva, which means that these complex starch carbohydrates should be carefully chewed. So dunking is not only bad manners but bad practice.
The caloric value of fruits and vegetables is frequently lower than that of cereals, while that of all concentrated sweets is higher. Children and athletes can consume larger amounts of sugars and starches with less harm than can relatively inactive people; but many of us tend to eat a greater amount of carbohydrates than we can handle. Our consumption of sweet and starchy foods, to say nothing of highly sweetened beverages, is frequently excessive. Since the 1900s U.S. sugar consumption has increased by 25% , mainly in foods commercially prepared before they come into the home, making our per capita intake of these emptu calories 103 pounds annually. The imbalance that results is acknowledged to be one of the major causes of malnutrition, for the demands excess carbohydrates make on the system may cause, among other dietary disturbances, a deficiency in its supply of the vitamin B complex. For itemized Calorie Values, see 8.
Besides those already described, there are some fifty-odd important known nutrients required by the body, including minerals, vitamins, and other accessory factors. The body can store a few of these, such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but others, such as the water-soluble vitamins B complex and C, must continually be replaced. The latter occur in those fragile food constituents that ate lost through indifferent handling, excessive processing, and poor cooking. For instance, if you fail to utilize vegetable cooking waters, you ate throwing out about one-third the minerals and water-soluble vitamins of the vegetable. To retain as much of them as possible, please follow the cooking suggestions given in subsequent chapters, and see About Stocks, 520.
If you maintain an adequate intake in such a way as to achieve the complete-protein and fat and carbohydrate balance described above, and ir you choose from the following food groups, you will probably include all the necessary accessory factors. So fill your market basket first so as to assure two 3-ounce servings of complete-protein foods daily — meat, fish, fowl of eggs. Or, if you use combinations of incomplete proteins such as cereals and legumes, seeds, peanuts or gelatin, make sure you plan for the inclusion of some complete-protein food at the same meals, see 8.
Drink daily of use in cooking 2 cups of fresh milk of reconstituted dry milk, 531, or allow enough of the following milk equivalents: for each 1/2 cup of milk allow 1 cup ice cream, 1/3 cup cottage cheese of one 1-inch cube cheddar-type cheese. Ir you are one of those persons lacking the ability to digest the lactose in milk, get your major milk requirements from cheeses, which are low in lactose.
Plan four of more daily servings of starchy foods such as baked goods, cereals of pastas, accenting whole grains. Potatoes ate sometimes included in this group.
Also include daily four or more 1/2- to 3/4-cup servings of fruits and vegetables distributed among citrus fruits or tomatoes and three or more dark green or deep yellow fruits and vegetables, including preferably one raw leafy green vegetable. Also check the constituents of each meal for the bulk found in vegetables and fruits to make sure there are more high- than low-residue foods.
Foods abundant in accessory values include: eggs, cheese, butter, whole milk, egg yolks, fish-especially herring, salmon, tuna and shellfish; beans, peas, nuts, seeds and whole grains; red meats and pork, variety meats, 499; fresh vegetables — especially the yellow and leafy green types — including white and sweet potatoes, brown rice and yellow com; fresh fruits and berries and their juices; tomatoes and tomato juice; cabbage, spinach and cauliflower, as well as watercress, lettuces and other salad greens, and vegetable oils, 541. Bake with whole grains and flavor with brown sugars, molasses, wheat germ and butter. Don't forget to ingest one of the important accessory values, vitamin D, which you can get through exposure to sunlight, and remember that although outdoor exercise will tone your muscles and increase your oxygen intake — and perhaps your calorie needs — it will not necessarily make greater demands on your store of protein, vitamins or minerals.
If you have chosen wisely from the above substances, you may not need additional vitamin supplements. We all know from practical experience and statistical evidence that a well-nourished body has greater resistance to disease than a poorly nourished one. Recent research tends to support the thesis that adequate intake of accessory factors can contribute not only to disease resistance but also to disease prevention.
Other incidentals to bear in mind are: drink 5 to 7 glasses of fluid a day, including water, and, ir you live in a region that calls for ir, use iodized salt, see About Salt, 569.
The schedule outlined above is not necessarily a costly one. It is nearly always possible to substitute cheaper but equally nutritious items from the same food groups. Vegetables of similar accessory value, for example, may be differently priced. Seasonal foods, which automatically give us menu variations, ate usually higher in food value and lower in cost. You can also profitably grow your own. Whole-grain cereals ate no more costly than highly processed ones. Fresh fruits are frequently less expensive than canned fruits, which are often loaded with sugar.
If you are willing to cut down on sugar-laden processed cereals and other sugar items, especial[y fancy baked goods, bottled drinks, and candies, a higher percentage of the diet dollar will be released for dairy products, vegetables and fruits. Do not buy more perishable foods than you can properly store. Use leftovers cold, preferably. To reheat them with minimal loss, see 281.
To sum up, our fundamental effort always must be to provide this highly versatile body of ours with those elements it needs for efficient functioning, and to provide them in such proportions as to subject the body to the least possible strain.
However, not realizing the importance of variety in the selection of foods, some people are guided by calorie values alone. For instance, with bread and potatoes, almost equal in carbohydrates, you will find that bread scores higher in protein and fat factors but potatoes are greatly superior in iron, provitamin A, vitamin C and thiamin, all valuable accessory factors. Some help in making choices is available through product labeling. If any prepared and packaged food shipped in interstate commerce makes nutritional claims as to protein, fat, carbohydrate, calor(es, vitamins, minerals or enrichment, ir must have labels declaring certain nutrient contents and giving both serving size and servings per container. The food processor has the option of declaring fatty acid and/or cholesterol content. He may also indicate the sodium content in the food. Because of differences in protein quality, two levels of protein intake are shown according to the protein efficiency ratio, 8, of case(n: foods with levels equal to or greater than casein, and foods with less than casein values. If a food has less than 20% of the PER of casein, its label cannot declare that it is a source of protein. Sometimes labels indicate the percentages of available nitrogen instead of protein. Given the nitrogen percentage, you may approximate the protein content by multiplying the nitrogen figure by six.
Well-grown minimally processed foods are usually our best sources for complete nourishment; and a well-considered choice of them should in most cases meet our dietary needs.
You will find in this book, along with the classic recipes, a number which remain interesting and palatable even though they lack some everyday ingredient such as eggs or flour. These may be used by those people who have allergies. But we do not prescribe corrective diets; we feel that such situations demand special procedures in consultation with one's physician. As to the all-too-prevalent condition of overweight, it is now generally recognized that on-and-off crash diets are dangerous, and that a reeducation in moderate and varied eating habits is the only safe and permanent solution to this problem.
We stress again that the cook who has the responsibility for supplying the family with food will do well to keep alert to advances in the field of nutrition.
Take an active part in working toward consumer protection, for more and more food processors are gaining control over the condition and content of foods as we buy them. Take an interest, too, in legislative changes affecting labeling. The FDA's original intent for foods included under "standards of identity" ensured that terms like "mayonnaise" or "ice cream" would guarantee the same basic ingredients required in the government-established recipe no matter who manufactured ir. But since the manufacturer is free to disclose or reveal as he pleases a wide variety of added ingredients, the consumer is at a loss to know just what he is buying. And there is a further, more recent loophole. While formerly the word "imitation" was required on labels for any deviations from the original substance, such as variations in taste, smell, color, texture, melting quality, of method of manufacture, today the term "imitation" may be omitted if the government considers the substitute to be nutritionally equal to the original. This so-called equality of the substitute food may be chemically induced of may be achieved by additives of enrichments. "Buyer, beware!"
But in planning menus and cooking, there are considerations other than mete percentages of intake in relation to fats, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Peoples have learned over the centuries how to cope with poisonous elements that exist in some of the most basic foods. They know sprouting potatoes are heavy in glycoalkaloids; that cassava must be washed in a complicated fashion to rid it of its hydrocyanic content; that soy products must be either heated or fermented to destroy their trypsin- and urease-inhibiting factors; that cabbage, ir it plays a large part in the diet, should be cooked in quantities of water to release its goiterogenic factors even at the expense of vitamin losses, just as wild greens frequently need several blanchings and discardings of the cooking water to rid them of their toxic content, 305. But peoples have also discovered a twentyfold increase in calcium content in limewater-soaked corn for tortillas; that oatmeal, if left wet and warm overnight, will with subsequent cooking release the phytin which otherwise inhibits the body's calcium absorption from other ingested food. Recently ir has been noted that the phytins in soy depress the absorption of zinc. To ensure a control factor against these and various other food pollutants, it would be wise to vary your choice of foods.
So we come back to our puzzle. Unless and Until greater and more practical advice about food properties becomes common knowledge, each of us must choose a wide variety from the basic food groups to make us feel well and to furnish our bodies with the components they need for growth and for maintaining stamina.
APPROXIMATE CALORIE AND PROTEIN VALUES IN AVERAGE SERVINGS
"Personal size and mental sorrow have certainly no necessary proportions. A large, bulky figure has as good a right to be in deep affliction as the most graceful set of limbs in the world. But, fair or not fair, these are unbecoming conjunctions, which reason will patronize in vain — which taste cannot tolerate — which ridicule will seize." — Jane Austen
We have tried, from data currently furnished by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other authoritative sources, to give you in the first column below as accurate a calorie count as possible for the total edible portion of each serving of food as ir comes to you at the table. Our soup figures ate for canned soups diluted with the same amount of water — or whole milk, in the case of cream soups — unless we specify them as homemade. A cup is the standard 8-ounce measure, and a tablespoon or teaspoon is always a level one. Since we do not expect you to weigh your food at table, this chart should give you a fairly accurate guide to normal servings fora healthy adult. Remember, however, that two martinis before dinner count as much as a generous slice of pie for dessert, and, if you are watching your weight, second thoughts may be better than second helpings.
To use the protein values in the second column on the charts which follow, determine how many grams of protein you require each day, 3. Remember that adequate protein is vital for body maintenance and repairs. Note that with some foods you get too many calories per grato to make that food desirable as a protein source, 3. What is the price in calories you have to pay for a given grato of protein? To find out, divide the number of calories given in a portion of food by the grams of protein in that same portion of food. Foods with less than 35 calories per grato of protein ate considered acceptable. Those with 35 to 70 calories ate considered marginal, and those with 70 or more calories per grato are usually considered unacceptable. But it must be pointed out that the above figures apply only to protein values. While the apple, for instance, is clearly unacceptable for its protein value, it is treasured for its vitamins and minerals and its carbohydrates, mainly in the form of natural sugars. Again there must be a balancing of interrelationships in your intake of basic requirements.
In calculating protein content for the foods below, we have followed those values as suggested by government laws on labeling expressed as to whether the Protein Efficiency Ratio is greater of less than that of casein, the chief protein of milk. You will need 45 grams if the PER is equal to of greater than casein, in which case the figure is in bold-face type, and 65 grams of protein if the PER is less than the value of casein, in which case the figure is in light-face type. Ir the protein has a value of less than 20% of casein, it cannot be considered a significant source of protein and should not be included in your protein calculations. If the figure appears in italics, there is a mixture of foods. A "T" indicates only a trace of protein, and where a dash appears, reliable information on the protein value is not presently available.
Copyright © 1931, 1936, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1975, by the Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.
When you are entertaining, try not to feel that something unusual is expected of you as a hostess. It isn't. just be yourself. Even eminent and distinguished persons are only human. Like the rest of us, they shrink from ostentation; and nothing is more disconcerting to a guest than the impression that his coming is causing a household commotion. Confine all noticeable efforts for his comfort and refreshment to the period that precedes his arrival. Satisfy yourself that you have anticipated every possible emergency — the howling child, the lastminute search for cuff links, your husband's exuberance, your helper's ineptness, your own qualms. Then relax and enjoy your guests.
If, at the last minute, something does happen to upset your well-laid plans, rise to the occasion. The mishap may be the making of your party. Capitalize on it, but not too heavily. Remember that 'way back in Roman times the poet Horace observed, "A host is like a general: it takes a mishap to reveal his genius."
We are frequently asked what is the ideal number for a dinner party. Estimates vary. On the absurd side, we are reminded of the response made to this question by a less-than-gregarious nineteenthcentury gourmet: "Myself and the headwaiter"; and of Aubrey Menen's Ceylonese grandmother, who regarded the act of eating as so vulgar that she practiced it only when alone, in complete seclusion. Seriously speaking, there is no ideal answer to the question. Some of the reasons will become apparent in the discussion that follows. Yet there is probably a workable minimum; and unless the guests are very close friends, that minimum much exceeds two. Back in the living room afterward, first-time acquaintances must be able to exercise options and establish small centers of mutual interest; and we suggest that this can only be engineered with any degree of success among groups of at least eight. Twelve is an even happier number.
The procedures below represent simple, dignified current practice in table service. If you plan to serve cocktails or nonalcoholic beverages before a meal, have glasses ready on a tray. With the apéritif, you may pass some form of cracker, canapé or hors d'oeuvre. If you and your guests are discriminating diners, you will keep this pickup light. Too generous quantities of food and drink beforehand will bring jaded palates to the dinner on which you have expended such effort. Should you have the kind of guests who enjoy a long cocktail period and varied hors d'oeuvre, be sure to season your dinner food more highly than usual. You may politely shorten the cocktail preliminaries, which have a bad habit these days of going on indefinitely, by serving a delicious hot or cold consommé or soup, either near the bar area or from a tureen on a cart.
Never forget that your family is really the most important assembly you ever entertain. Whether for them or for friends always check the freshness of the air, the temperature of the dining area, and the proper heat or chill for plates, food and drinks -especially hot ones. if warming oven space is limited, use the heat cycle of your dishwasher; or, if you entertain often, you may wish to install an infrared heating unit which can be raised or lowered above a heatproof counter. Be sure that each diner has plenty of elbow room, about 30 inches from the center of one plate service to the center of the next.
Formal meals, given in beautifully appointed homes, served by competent, well-trained servants — who can be artists in their own right — are a great treat. We cannot expect to have ideal conditions at all times in the average home. However, no matter what the degree of informality, always be sure that the table is attractive and immaculately clean — and always maintain, as nearly as possible, an even rhythm of service.
As to the table itself, a top that is heat- and stainresistant lends itself to the greatest ease of service and upkeep. You can expose as much or as little of its surface as you like. If you have a tabletop of natural hardwood, you must protect it against heat at all times with pads or trivets.
For versatility and effective contrast, keep your basic flatware and dishes simple in form and not too pronounced in pattern or color. Then you can combine them, without fear of clashing, with varied linens, fruits and flowers and — most importantly -varied foods. You will find that changes in décor and accessories stimulate the appetite as much as changes in seasoning.
It is pleasant to vary table presentations by serving soup not only in cups and bowls, but from a tureen; or by making use of a crescent-shaped salad plate designed to fit at the side of a round dinner plate and so give the table a less crowded feeling. Individual serving dishes for vegetables may be replaced by an outsized platter holding several kinds of vegetables attractively garnished.
Also, small raw vegetables and fruits may be substituted for garnishes of parsley and cress to give a meat platter a festive air. Instead of using pairs of matching dessert dishes, try contrasting bowls of glass or bright pottery. For a rustic effect, serve a hearty menu on your everyday dishes and use bright linens and wooden salad bowls with a centerpiece of wooden scoops filled with pears and hazelnuts in the husk.
For a more elegant effect, serve a dainty meal on porcelain and crystal dishes, against a polished board decorated with fragile glasses and flowers. See sketch below.
Whatever your decorative scheme, flower arrangements should be low or lacy. Tall arrangements that obstruct the view discourage acrossthe-table conversation. There is nothing more distracting than dodging a floral centerpiece while trying to establish an intimate relationship among your guests. For the same reason, candies should be placed strategically. On a formal buffet or tea table, which is viewed from above, the decorations may be as tall as you wish. In fact, food or flower accents that are elevated on epergnes or stemmed dishes add a note of drama.
Lacking an antique epergne, you can still expand the impact of flowers and fruit on a framework structured from tumblers, tinware or silverware, as shown in the chapter heading. Leaves and bloom clusters, vines and fruits bind these disparate elements and disguise or expose their origins. There, as suggested by my friend and one of my coauthors of Wild Wealth, Frances Jones Poetker, is an opulent arrangement made on a bare structure she suggested of a reversed wide bowl surmounted by a flat plate on which a stemmed compote is centered -and centered on that, in turn, a stemmed glass.
Several harmonious small containers of flowers or fruit — similar or varied — can be effectively grouped around a central element or scattered along the length of a table to replace a single focal point such as the one described above. One of these small units could be long-needled pine tufts bracing snowdrops; or clematis, as illustrated in the semiformal luncheon service, below.
A piece of sculpture scaled to your table makes a charming base for a centerpiece. Surround it with an ivy ring and vary the décor from time to time with other greenery or any elements that suggest borders or garlands. if the sculpture is sIightly raised on a base, it can be enjoyed to great advantage. Whatever you use, don't overcrowd the table. One of the most important things to remember is that no matter what the decoration, it should be suited in color and scale to the foods served to enhance it. Don't make your effects so stagey that your guests' reactions will be, "She went to a lot of trouble." Make them say, rather, "She had a lot of fun doing it!"
Consider, too, the colors of the flowers, food and linens available to you, and plan your menu accordingly. Beets or beet soup may be just the strengthening note you want on a cold day; grapefruit and avocado may bring that chill delicacy of palette you need for a torrid summer lunch. The sources at your command are really legion.
Cramped dining quarters can be eased by unconventional service distribution — a bar in the study, soup on the patio or on a traveling tea cart, a long, narrow buffet to facilitate traffic flow. But whether the party is large or intimate, you can stretch your normal equipment with unconventional use of trays, baskets, pumpkin soup tureens, watermelon fruit bowls, or ice punch bowls.
There are certain time-honored positions for tableware and equipment that result from the way food is eaten and served. So keep in mind these basic placements. Forks to the left except the very small fish fork, which goes to the right. Spoons, including iced-tea spoons, and knives to the right, with the sharp edge of the knife toward the plate. There is, of course, a practical reason for placing the knife at the diner's right, since right-handed persons, who predominate, commonly wield the knife with their favored hand, and do so early in the meal. Generally, having cut his food, the diner lays down his knife and transfers his fork to the right hand. Formal dining makes an exception to this rule; and with left-handed or ambidextrous persons the transfer seems superfluous to us, on any occasion. Place flatware that is to be used first farthest from the plate. It is also better form never to have more than three pieces of flatware at either side. Bring in any other needed table utensils on a small tray as the course is served. The server is always careful to handle tableware by the handles only, including carving and serving spoons and forks, which are placed to the right of the serving dish.
If you look at some of the place settings illustrated, you can, with a few exceptions, practically predict the menu. Let's consider the semiformal luncheon setting. Line up the bases of the handles about one inch from the edge of the table. Some people still consider it important to supply a knife at luncheon, even if that knife is not needed for the actual cutting of meat. Others omit the knife if a typical luncheon casserole is passed or is served in individual containers. For a formal luncheon, a butter plate is placed to the left on a level with the waterglass. The butter knife is usually located as shown, and a butter ball or curl is already in place before the guests are seated. Later, the butter plate is removed simultaneously with the salad plate. Both are taken from the left side. The butter plate is picked up with the left hand, the salad plate with the right.
At semiformal luncheons, you may have the dessert spoon and fork in place above the plate, as sketched opposite. This indicates that no finger bowl will be supplied. Or you may, as in the dinner service, bring the dessert silver to the table with the finger bowl.
Water and wine glasses are already in place as sketched left. The water is poured in the former to about two-thirds capacity; the wineglasses are left empty. Glasses are filled from the right and are never lifted by the server when pouring. Goblet types are always handled by the stem in presentation, replacement or removal, by the diner or server; tumbler types are always held well below the rim.
When it is time to serve coffee, empty cups and saucers are placed to the right. There is a spoon on the saucer, behind the cup and parallel to the cup handle, which is turned to the diner's Tight. After all the cups are placed, they are filled by the server, and afterward sugar and cream are offered from a small tray from the left. But the entire coffee service may be offered, even for luncheon, in the living room, after the dessert.
Individual ashtrays and cigarettes may be placed on the table. Fortunately, a host or hostess is not required to press his conviction that smoking is injurious to either health or gastronomy. But if you are a strong-willed hostess, you may prefer to have the ashtrays and cigarettes placed on the table just after the dessert is served.
At informal dinner parties, place cards may be omitted and the hostess may indicate where guests are to sit. When the diners number six, ten or fourteen, the host is at one end of the table, the hostess at the other. If the guests number eight or twelve and you want to alternate men and women guests, place the host at one end and the hostess to the left of the other end.
The honor guest, if a woman, is seated to the right of the host; if a man, to the left of the hostess. At a formal meal, a dish is presented, but not served, to the hostess first. Food is actually offered first to the woman guest of honor. The other women are then all served. Finally, the men are served, beginning with the guest of honor. If there is no special guest of honor, you may want to reverse the direction of service every other course, so that the same people are not always served last.
While it is not the best form, some people prefer to have the hostess served first. She knows the menu, and by the way she serves herself she sets the pattern for the other guests. This is a special help if the guest of honor is from another country. In America it is customary for guests to wait until everyone is served and the hostess begins to eat. In Europe, however, where each course is usually served complete on one plate, it is permissible to start eating as soon as one is served.
Plates are usually removed from the right and placed or passed from the left. Service and dinner plates are frequently of different patterns. For the purpose of clarity in the illustrations following, service plates are sketched with a solid banding, plates on which cold food is being served are shown with a thin double-banded edge, and plates for hot food are unadorned.
Most of us moderns look with amazement, not to say dismay, at the menus of traditionally formal dinners. Such meals are a vanishing breed, like the whale — but, like the whale, some manage to survive. They begin with both clear and thick soups. Then comes an alternation of entrées and relevés, each with its accompanying vegetables. The relevés are lighter in quality and fewer in number than the hefty joints and whole fish which make up the entrées; but by current standards many of them amply qualify as main dishes in their own right.
However, in the parlance of the haute cuisine, the term "entrée" had a quite different significance. Classic entrées commonly occurred immediately after the main entrée as we now define it, and consisted of timbales, seafoods and variety meats, served in rich pastes and with delicate sauces — tidbits distinguished for their elegance.
A salad takes next place in this stately procession and is usually made of a seasoned cooked vegetable such as asparagus, with greens doing garnish duty only. After this, the diner may choose from a variety of cheeses.
Entremets — hot or cold sweets -succeed the cheese course; and these are topped off, in turn, by both hot and cold fruits. Thus, in outline — if "outline" can be regarded as le mot juste — a dinner in the grand manner; except, of course, to add that each course is accompanied by a choice and sympathetic wine.
We marvel at the degree of sophistication required to appreciate so studied and complex a service — to say nothing of the culinary skills needed to present the menu in proper style. But, more critically, we ask, "Where do the guests stow away all that food?" Granted that a truly formal dinner lasts for hours and that each portion may be a dainty one, the total intake is still bound to be formidable. Such an array is seldom encountered in this casual and girthconscious era, But a semiformal dinner with traces of classic service still graces the privileged household.
When the guests come into the dining room, the table is all in readiness. Again the setting forecasts the menu through the first three courses. If more silver is required, it is always brought in separately later. The water glasses are about twothirds full; the wineglasses, though empty, stand in place, see illustrations at right.
At formal and semiformal dinners, butter plates are seldom used. Melba toast or crackers are served with the appetizer or soup, and hard rolls without butter later, with the roast. The setting indicates a seafood cocktail, a soup, a meat course a salad course, water and two wines. Water and wine are poured from the right. The glasses may stay in place throughout the meal, but it is preferable to remove each wineglass after use. A third wineglass may be strung out on a line with the others or placed to form a triangle slightly forward toward the guest and just above the soup spoon. However, if more than three wines are to be served, fresh glasses replace the used glasses as the latter are removed.
Once the guests are seated, the server's steady but unobtrusive labor begins. There is a plate, filled or unfilled, before each guest throughout the meal. The server usually removes a plate from the right and replaces it immediately with another from the left, so that the courses follow one another in unbroken succession. At such a dinner, second helpings are seldom offered.
When a platter is presented, it is offered from the left to the guest by the server, who holds it on a folded napkin on the palm of his left hand and may steady it with the right. The server should always make sure that the handles of the serving tools are directed toward the diner.
The passing of crackers, breads and relishes, the refilling of water glasses, and the pouring of wines take place during, not between, the appropriate courses. When the party is less formal, the host may prefer to pour the wines himself from a decanter or from a bottle. If the wine is chilled, he will wrap it in a napkin, and hold a napkin in the left hand to catch any drip from the bottle. The hostess on such occasions may pass relishes to the guest at her right, and the guests may continue to pass them on to one another. Also, relishes may be arranged at strategic places on the table, but must be removed with the soup. However, even with these slight assists, the work of the server is one that calls for nicely calculated timing. It is easy to see why one server should not be called on to take care of more than six or eight guest — sat the most — if smooth going is expected.
Let us go back to our dinner, which begins — as forecast by the setting sketched below — with a seafood cocktail, and goes on to the soup. The seafood, served in a specially iced glass, is in place when the guests enter the dining room.
After the seafood has been eaten, the empty seafood cocktail glasses are removed — leaving the service plate intact. The soup plate is placed on it -served from the left. Crackers and relishes are presented.
The service plate is now removed, along with the empty soup plate, from the right. If a platter of hot food is to be passed, an empty hot plate is placed before the guest — from the left.
However, if the meat course is to be carved and served in the dining room, the soup plate only is removed, leaving the service plate before the guest. The meat platter is put before the host, who carves enough meat for all the guests before any further serving takes place. The server, who has replaced the host's service plate with a hot one, stands to the left of the host, holding an extra hot plate on a napkin. When the host has filled the individual plate before him, the server removes it and replaces it with the empty hot plate he has been holding. Then, after taking the service place in front of the guest of honor from the right, the server gives him the filled hot plate from the left, returns to the host via the buffet for the next hot plate, and waits to replace the plate being filled by the host for another guest.
When all guests have been attended to, the server passes the gravy and then the vegetables — with a serving spoon and fork face down on the platter and the handles directed toward the guest. The hot breads come next. During this course, the server replenishes water and wine.
The menu we have been serving has consisted of three courses: seafood cocktail, soup, meatandvegetable. A salad and dessert course will follow; but first let us consider a different menu — one that omits the cocktail and introduces a fish course.
Obviously, a different setting of flatware is in order for this alternate menu. The illustration will show you that it consists of soup, first. After that, there is a fish course, followed by meat, salad and so on. You will notice that there are one water and two wine glasses. Because no seafood cocktail is included, the napkin is placed on the service plate, with a place card on top. For this setting, individual salts are placed to the left of the glasses, and a small dish of mixed nuts is centered above the service plate. No other food is on the table when the guests are seated.
For this second menu, plates of soup are passed from the left and placed directly on the service plates — after guests have removed napkins and place cards.
After the soup has been relished, the soup plate and service plate are removed together from the right and the fish course, arranged in the pantry on individual plates, is presented next from the left. If sherry accompanied the soup, the sherry glass is removed at this time.
After the server has removed the empty fish plate from the right, a hot plate is put before the guest from the left, as shown next.
The meat course follows — either carved by the host or previously arranged in the pantry. A vegetable placed on a narrow so-called bone plate shown to the left of the meat plate may follow. With such vegetables as asparagus and artichokes, or salads with vinegar dressings, no wines are served.
A handsomely arranged fruit compote, passed during the meat course, can be used as an alternate to a salad. If a compote is substituted for a salad, a spoon is put on the right of the setting , instead of a salad fork on the left, as illustrated.
The next illustration shows a separate salad set-up after the meat course is removed. After the salad course is removed, the table is denuded for a short time. Any unused flatware, salts and peppers and relishes are taken away. The table is crumbed. The server uses a folded napkin and brushes the crumbs lightly onto a plate or a crumb tray.
Now, the dessert setting with the finger bowl and doily is placed in front of each guest.
The finger bowl, partially filled with water, may have a scented geranium leaf, a fragrant herb or flower, or a thin slice of lemon floating in it. Each guest places the fork and spoon to either side of the plate and then puts the doily, with finger bowl on it, to the upper left side of his place setting — opposite the water glass.
An exception to this finger bowl procedure is made when fruit is to be served after dessert. In this case, the dessert plate complete with flatware is placed in front of each guest. After the dessert has been passed and eaten, the dessert plate is removed. Next comes a fruit plate with doily, finger bowl, fruit knife and fork.
Should coffee be served at the table, empty demitasse cups and saucers are, at this time, placed to the right of the diners. Demitasse spoons are on the saucers, behind the cup and parallel to the handle. Coffee is poured from the right and cream and sugar passed on a small tray from the left. Liqueur may be served with the coffee or passed on a tray later, in the living room.
Women's liberation works both ways. A host or hostess may still welcome a lull of 15 minutes or more after dinner, during which the sexes are segregated and free to develop conversational topics of special and specific interest. The traditional — and entirely suitable — time for such a break is between dessert and coffee. The men may remain in the dining room to converse over glasses of port or brandy; or the entire company, after the English custom, may first share a savory. The hostess may then retire to the drawing room with the ladies and later pour coffee for her reassembled guests there. By this time, good food, wine and conviviality have usually broken down the minor social inhibitions, and the coffee service may be completely informal.
Your chances for a successful informal dinner party are much greater if you key your efforts to your own belongings and service rather than struggling to meet the exacting demands of the kind of dinner just described. Plan a menu that will make advance preparation and last-minute serving feasible. Offer fewer courses and put several kinds of food on one platter. But please do not let your guests sit, trying to make conversation, with a rapidly congealing slice of meat before them, waiting with embarrassment for a seemingly shipwrecked gravy boat to follow.
There are actually two kinds of informal company meals — and by informal we mean those which can be successfully carried off by a hostess acting more or less alone. The first is a small sitdown affair; and when we say small we mean one limited to eight guests — six is a more confidenceinspiring number. Such a dinner flourishes not on spur-of-the-moment activity but on careful forethought and now and then some nimble footwork. Main dishes should be limited to two or three: a casserole, for instance, an aspic and a pôt-de-creme. Many such dishes that can be prepared in advance will be found in the chapters on Lunch, Brunch and Supper Dishes; Salads; and Frozen Desserts. Five minutes before your guests are expected, everything should be organized and in readiness: hors d'oeuvre and cocktails — which may be simple — on a conveniently available side table, plates warming in the oven, and dining table completely set, needing only that last-minute ceremonial touch — the fighting of the candles.
One of the hostess's more important roles is a deliberately unobtrusive one. After she sees to it that serving dishes and implements are in place on the table, she sets the first main dish and a stack of heated plates in front of the host, whose responsibility it becomes to fill them and pass them along to the guests. She then promptly takes her own seat at table, determined not only to remain graciously installed there until the time comes for main-dish replenishment or for bringing on a an other course, but to be generally at ease throughout the rest of the meal.
When the guests have finished the first course, serving initiatives are largely hers. She gathers the plates left over from the first course, removes them from the dining area, and reappears with whatever serving dishes and implements are needed for the next course. These she sets at her own place at table; she seats herself again and serves each guest in turn, repeating the host's previous procedure. The main objective here is to ensure that guests and hosts remain at table: nothing disrupts a little sitdown dinner so much as the inclination of anyone present to execute a series of disappearing acts and U-turns.
The hostess's continuing presence may be further assured by arranging to serve the wine in a decanter, which can be passed from hand to hand during the meal, like the relishes and the bread. The bread, incidentally, may be of the crusty-loaf variety cut into thick slices and buttered, then warmed in the same oven used to heat the dinner plates.
For removing relishes and odd items, a small tray is handy. "Crumbing" may be dispensed with. But do resist the messy and quite intolerable practice of stacking plates as you remove them from the table.
While we deplore the kind of pinch-hitting that often turns the maidless dinner into a volunteer free-forall, we do not in the least reject an unobtrusive dependable assist from the host, or from a close friend of the hostess who knows her way around the house and is cooperatively disposed. The host may help by carrying out such far-flung responsibilities as mixing salads and drinks, greeting the guests and taking care of their wraps, inquiring about and distributing "seconds," and in general seeing to it that the company is kept promptly and well supplied. The help that a close friend can proffer is less thoroughgoing and less well defined: it may vary from filling water glasses to clearing the table. Whatever its extent, it should stop short of officiousness. A hostess who wants to keep her sanity should resolutely resist the invasion of her kitchen by a guest who is inspired to "keep her company" while she makes her final preparations for the meal.
In order for food to reach the table at the right temperature, it is wise to use such aids as covered dishes — in which case, remember to allow a place to put hot lids; double dishes with provision underneath for ice or hot water; and a samovar arrangement for hot drinks.
For both service and removal, a cart may facilitate matters, unless there are children trained to lend unobtrusive help. Impromptu deputization of your guests may invite chaos and should be avoided except in extreme emergencies or in deliberate plans such as those described in participatory menus.
Obviously, from the hostess's standpoint, buffet service is the most satisfactory way to take care of large groups informally. However, under no circumstances should you expect your guests to eat without enough chairs or table space for all.
Plan a menu from foods that hold well, keeping hot foods above 140° and cold foods below 40°. The best way to keep an attractive buffet looking that way is to concentrate on individual portions. These can be replenished easily, thus preserving the looks of the table. For instance, rather than a large aspic, use individual fancy molds — even if released from paper cups. Use sea shells or vegetable cups as individual containers for seafood or other mixtures. You may cut turkey, ham and salmon into individual portions. Also see About Stuffed Vegetables and Cases for Food.
Types of food especially suitable for buffet service are a risotto or jambalaya, a goulash, a seafood Newburg, moussaka, empanadas, a cheese tray. Meats served en croûte, and as chaudfroid, make dramatic features of buffet service. Both types of preparation keep buffet food from drying out. Avoid soups and other sloshy food that may prove hazardous for diners in motion.
If the servings are not individual, cater generously, as guests are apt to take larger portions at buffets. Layouts below and on 22 show typical buffet settings. The first one represents a dinner at which the host or hostess serves the guests, who then proceed to tables which are already set. The menu includes duck with orange cups, wild rice, podded peas and a green salad. The serving platters are later removed and replaced by the dessert; or individual desserts may be served at table.
Note again that height in candles or flowers is often a distinct asset in buffet service, as is the use of tiered dishes.
The drawing on 22 shows a buffet at which the guests serve themselves and proceed to sit at small tables. If there are no tables, individual trays may be used. For tray service, plan food that does not call for the use of a knife.
Shown are a meat or fish casserole dish; artichokes vinaigrette filled with masked hard-cooked eggs with herbs; relishes and rolls. A dessert may be on the table at the beginning of the service. If the serving table seems too crowded, place the water and hot drinks on another serving surface.
The institution of afternoon tea is going out of fashion — menaced on the one hand by the cocktail party and on the other by the "coffee break," which in America is beginning to assume the proportions of a compound fracture. We still find tea or coffee in the afternoon-whether of the formal or the informal type — a revivifying event, even if an occasional one. When it is informal, the hostess does the honors alone. However, when the tea is formal, friends of the hostess sit at each end of the table and consider it a privilege to pour.
The drawing opposite shows a handsome, formal tea set-up with a coffee service at one end. Tea may be served at the other. It is wise to instruct a supplier to keep in frequent touch with the pourers to anticipate their need for additional hot water, coffee or cups. It is also canny to have additional platters ready to replace those at the table that have become rather ragged-looking. Medium-sized rather than large platters are easier to keep in trim.
CASUAL ENTERTAINING FOR ONE OR FOR MANY
Tray meals can be a delightful stimulant if they include a surprise element in the form of a lovely pitcher, a small flower arrangement or some seasonal delicacy. Make sure, especially if the recipient is an invalid, that all needed utensils are present, that the food is hot or cold as required, sufficient in amount and fresh and dainty looking.
A cookout, whether a mere wienie roast or a luau, can be — although it seldom is anymore — one of the least complicated ways to entertain. Unless your equipment is equal to that of a wellappointed kitchen and you can assure your guests of comparably controlled cooking, we suggest that you choose menus that are really enhanced by outdoor cooking procedures.
Have enough covered dishes on hand to protect food from flies. Give your guests a tray or a traylike plate if there are no regular places set or normal seating arrangements. And prepare an alternate plan of accommodation in case of bad weather.
We recall an informal party that was really too big for our quarters and whose pattern might provide a substitute for a weather-beleaguered barbecue. The guests arrived to find no evidence of entertaining, only a most gorgeous arrangement of colchicum, those vibrant fall blooms that resemble vast, reticulated crocuses. After drinks were served and hors d'oeuvre passed, the host circulated a cart with soup tureen and cups. In its wake followed tray baskets containing white paper bags, each fitted out with individual chicken salad, olives, endive filled with avocado, cocktail tomatoes, cress and cheese sandwiches, bunches of luscious grapes and foilwrapped brownies. Coffee was served, again from the circulating cart.
In order to get an informal after-supper party rolling, young hostesses are often so eager to present the fruits of their labors that refreshments are served too early for the comfort of the guests, most of whom have rather recently dined. Instead of hustling in solid food and alcoholic or carbonated drinks, it might be pleasant to open the proceedings with a tisane.
Here are a few parting reminders as we wind up this chapter on entertaining. In cooking for more people than you are normally accustomed to, allow yourself enough extra time both for preparing the food and for heating or cooling it Please read the comments on the enlarging if recipes. Be sure that your mixing and cooking equipment is scaled to take care of your group, and most important of all, that you have the refrigerator space to protect chilled dishes and the heated surfaces to maintain the temperatu le Of the hot ones. Don't hesitate to improvise steam tables or iced trays. Utilize insulated picnic boxes or buckets either way, and wheelbarrows or tubs for the cracked ice on which to keep platters chilled.
If you often entertain casually, it may be worthwhile to make — as one of our friends did — a large rectangular galvanized deep tray on which the dishes of a whole cold buffet can be kept chilled. Or try confecting an epergne-like form such as that shown on 60 for chilling seafoods, hors d'oeuvre or fruit.
For camping trips or boating parties, consider the safety factor when choosing the menu. No matter what the outing don't transport perishable foods in hot weather in the even hotter trunk of a car.
Not all types of entertaining — formal or casual or inbetween — can be detailed here. But, whatever the occasion, assemble your tried skills in menu planning so as to reflect the distinctive character of your home. Flavor the occasion with your own personality. And keep handy somewhere, for emergency use, that cool dictum attributed to Colonel Chiswell Langhorne of Virginia: "Etiquette is for people who have no breeding; fashion for those who have no taste."
COOKING FOR LARGE PARTIES
Most of the recipes in this book make 4 to 6 servings and will double satisfactorily for 8 to 12. But at times all of us are called on to produce meals for larger groups, and it is then that we must be on our guard. For unexpected surprises are apt to POP UP just when we want everything to go particularly well. No matter how rich or how simple the menu, remember, first, that for special occasions it is preferable to cook from recipes with which you are familiar. Secondly, cook in several moderate-sized batches, rather than in one big chunk, because, mysterious as it sounds — but true, even for the experts — quantity cooking is not just a matter of indefinite multiplication. If you overexpand, too, you may run into a number of other problems.
Take into account the longer time needed in preparation — not only for paring and washing of vegetables or drying salad greens, but for heating UP large quantities. Even more important, you may be confronted with a sudden pinch of refrigerator space — discovering that the shelves are needed for properly chilling large aspics or puddings just when they should be doubling to keep other sizable quantities of food at safe temperatures. This warning is of great importance if you are serving stuffed fowl, creamed foods, ground meat, mayonnaise, cream puffs, custards or custard pies: these foods spoil readily without showing any evidence of hazard. Before completing the menu for larger groups, assess equipment for mixing, cooking, refrigerating and serving.
If the meal is a hot one, plan to use recipes involving both the oven and top burners. Increase your limited heating surfaces by supplementing them with electric skillets, steam tables or hot trays to hold food in good serving condition above 140°. But do check the electric capacity of your system.
If serving individual casseroles, see that you have enough oven space; or, if the casserole s are large, that they will fit. In fact, stage a dress rehearsal -from the cooking equipment requirements right through to the way the service dishes and table gear will be placed. Then, satisfied that the mechanical requirements are met, schedule the actual work on the menu so that enough can be done in advance to relieve the sink and the work surfaces of last-minute crowding and mess.
Stick not only to those dishes you are confident you can handle without worry, but to those that make sense for the time you can spare for them. If one dish is going to require much last-minute hand work and fiddling, balance it against others that can be preassembled or are easy to serve: casseroles, baked or scalloped dishes, gelatins or frozen foods. See Menus for further suggestions.
One of the hardest things in mass cooking is to give the food that personalized and cherished look that is achieved in intimate dinners. Do not hesitate to serve simple foods for company. Choose seasonal ingredients and cook them skillfully. Then wind up with a home-baked cake or pastry — nothing is more delicious or more appreciated. Guests are really captives, so build a menu, in any case, that is not too restrictive. If you decide on octopus pasta, be sure you know the guests are adventurous enough or have sophisticated enough palates to enjoy it -or that they know you well enough to be able to ask for an egg instead.
Copyright © First Scribner Edition 1995