At Home in Nature

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Early dietetics in Texas

Sometimes a glance back at the origins of a science are as enlightening as the most recent research.  So little has changed fundamentally since its beginning, while so much detail and understanding has been gained!  Nutritional science, pioneered by the likes of Dr. John Kellogg, MD and others, had as an original an innovative goal the improvement of the quality and duration of human life through a treatment of food as a medicine.  This brought western dietetics in line with eastern medicine, and set the foundation for today’s astounding advances.

However, the complex science of dietetics was difficult to bring to the people.  Thinking of food as something more than what filled the stomach or an enjoyable luxury required a leap of understanding that the average American was unprepared for.

The first dieticians had to explain things in very practical terms, not only producing new cookbooks, but also explaining the importance of eating well.  Jessie P Rich of the University of Texas was one of these pioneers and, on November 22, 1913, ten years before Dr. John Kellogg would write his own attempts to bring the science of nutrition to the public, wrote Simple Cooking of Wholesome Food for the Far Home.  Rich begins the work by explanation of nutrition’s importance to children, “No subject on the farm at the present time is receiving so much attention as .the proper feeding of the farm animals.  The cows are given a measured amount of meal, and succulent material, and the pigs a carefully estimated ration intended to develop a pig best suited to its intended use. How is it with the boys and girls on the farm? Is their food as carefully studied and administered as that of the farm animal?  Is it prepared in a way to give the greatest amount of nourishment for the least expenditure of bodily energy? No farm asset is as valuable as its boys and girls, and yet they are more neglected, when it comes to the question of proper food and cooking, than the less important asset—the stock.” 

And with this excellent introduction, Rich explains the way food is used in the body, introducing basic food chemistry of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.  Rich is then able to explain the importance of food safety, and provide excellent arguments for vegetarianism: cooking food makes it lose nutrition, and the foods that are safe to eat uncooked are not meat.  Rich advocates the integration of beans and eggs, cooked at a low heat, into the diet as the best sources of protein.

While filled with many quality and vintage traditional Texan favorites, the potato soup seemed like the best to me. 


Potato Soup


Three medium sized potatoes, one quart milk, two slices onion, three tablespoons butter, one and one-half teaspoons salt, two tablespoons flour. 

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water; when soft, rub through a strainer. Scald milk with onion in it, remove onion, and add milk slowly to potatoes. Melt the butter, add dry ingredients, stir until well mixed, then stir into boiling soup; cook one minute. Season and serve.

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