Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/49

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39
DIETETIC CURIOSITIES.

out rushed the black domino, returning like Antæus with ever-renewed strength, it seemed, from a contact with mother earth. The burghers of Prague looked on, wondered, admired, and finally broke out into enthusiastic applause—they began to comprehend; it was the consistent, most natural and appropriate acting out of the part which the domino required—the character rôle of a fat burgomaster who alternates his official duties with short calls at a lunch-table—and only the fortieth call suggested superhuman powers and an investigation of the mystery.

North America, with all its strawberry short-cakes, clam-bakes, and railroad restaurants, is perhaps, after all, the land blessed with the most natural diet. Healthy food, which is the not-often-used privilege of the rich in Europe, abounds on the table of the poor farmer here. Our five or six largest cities emulate the vice-centers of the Old World, and have not learned yet to sin with grace and long impunity; but the populations of our glorious rural districts, in the valleys of New England, on the Western table-lands, and in the paradise of the Alleghanies, live more faithful to nature than any white men since the days of Cincinnatus, in the golden age of Italy, and in consequence are healthier and healthier-looking than any contemporary race, the peasantry of the Tyrol and the Swiss highlands alone excepted. There we meet our physical superiors; but our inferiority is not hopeless, and if we would just fry a little less and cook more, and substitute milk for coffee, Virginia and Vermont would soon turn out boys to match the prettiest Gemsenjäger of the Alpenland.

Hoeing corn and wood-chopping make a hoecake with bacon or a dish of brown beans more palatable than all the piquanteries of the Palais Royal; and even the hog and hominy of the poor tar-heel squatter are preferable to the Irish potato-mess or the cabbage and quass diet of Panslavonia. Exercise in open air as an aid to eupeptic beatitude ranks above all the "old reliable correctives" from the Paracelsian quintessence to Hostetter's bitters. A Persian satrap asked the Spartan ambassador for the receipt of the famous black broth of Lycurgus, but confessed himself unable to relish it without extra spices. "The spices you lack," remarked his guest, "are Spartan gymnastics and a bath in Eurotas."

In Texas, Arkansas, and the Southwestern Territories, we may find habits primitive enough to suit even a Thoreau or an admirer of the patriarchal ages. Abraham treated his angels to a souper-dînatoire of roast veal, barley-bread, and milk—more than the Arkansas traveler could count upon at the end of his day's journey. But the air of the prairies, Rocky Mountain adventures, or the vicissitudes of a North Carolina State road can make the homely symposion of a log-cabin as sweet as an evening with Philemon and Baucis.

It has been remarked that the yearning of homesickness is never produced by the recollection of city luxuries, but of rural diet and