Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/November 1889/The Art of Cooking
|THE ART OF COOKING.|||
By EDWARD ATKINSON, LL.D.
THE cost of materials which are used for food comes to one half or more of the average income of at least ninety per cent of the people of this country; yet our product of food material is more abundant in ratio to population than that of any other country which holds a prominent position in the civilized world. This food consists in greatest measure of grain, meat, dairy products, and roots or tubers; in small part of fish, green vegetables, and fruit. The greater part of this food must be converted into a digestible and appetizing form by the application of heat to it at the right temperature, the degree varying with different kinds of food; this heat must be applied for a suitable time, also varying with the kind of material which is to be converted into a nutritious form by its action. Yet there are no popular treatises or definite instructions on the scientific application of heat to food.
Good health depends in greater measure upon adequate nutrition and upon the conversion of food material into a digestible form than upon any other factor in life. A well-nourished man can bear adverse conditions of life in the dwelling-house, the factory, the mine, and the furnace, to which the ill-nourished man will succumb in a very short time. On the other hand, the capacity of the man to perform his work is as fully dependent upon the quality and adequacy of his food as the capacity of the horse, ox, or mule. The force of the man depends on his food as much as the force of the engine upon the fuel used under the boiler; this is almost as true as to mental as it is to physical power.
There are innumerable treatises upon the feeding of animals; upon the generation of steam; upon the construction and ventilation of buildings; upon the arts which relate to clothing the human body, and upon keeping the dwelling and workshop warm; and, lastly, yet more numerous treatises or cookery-books upon the art of mixing and preparing the food which is to be cooked; there are also many treatises, chemical and physiological, upon the subject of nutrition, and there are one or two treatises on the science of cooking, notably Dr. Mattieu Williams's "Chemistry of Cookery"; yet, so far as the writer has been able to ascertain the facts, there is no receipt-book or cookery-book in common use which deals with the actual art of cooking by directing the right application of heat for a suitable time and at a suitable degree, to the specific food which is to be converted into a nutritious form by the conversion of its elements into new forms or conditions by the action of heat upon it.
It is possible that greater attention has been given to this matter in England than in this country. After trying in vain to find an oven thermometer in the United States, I lately imported one from England, made by Joseph Davis & Co., Fitzroy Works, London, S. E., and purchased at an agricultural show at retail for seven shillings sixpence, gauged at 200° to 600° Fahrenheit. On this thermometer are marked the respective degrees to which various kinds of food should be subjected, as follows:
These figures agree substantially with my own experiments as to the maximum of heat, but I do not concur with the inference that less than 200 Fahr. may not be permitted, if time be given for the lower degree of heat to do its work. On the contrary, any kinds of very tough meat may be reduced to a very tender condition by the long application of heat at 180 to 200, without loss of flavor or nutritious property, provided the food be put into substantially air-tight vessels. The testimony of Dr. Mattieu Williams is conclusive on this point, as well as the special knowledge of the few good cooks of the method of simmering as distinguished from boiling. Meats and grains may be most nutritiously cooked at less than a boiling heat, and eggs should always be; while most kinds of roots, tubers, and vegetables require a higher degree.
I venture now to give some of the general conclusions which I have reached by the application of somewhat crude methods and inventions on which I have experimented personally in such scraps of time as I could spare from my regular occupation, and on nearly two years' use of my apparatus in my own family.
I will challenge attention and discussion by first submitting some very positive and dogmatic statements, subsequently sustaining them by such proofs as I have to offer:
1. Special apparatus for boiling and frying has been adequately and suitably developed for the use of those who can afford these somewhat wasteful methods of preparing food, yet excellent when skillfully practiced.
2. The ordinary methods of frying are utterly bad and wasteful.
3. Bread may be baked suitably in a brick oven, and also economically, when the work is done upon a large scale.
4. It is very difficult to bake bread in a suitable way in the common iron stove or range; for this, among other reasons, most of the bread consumed in this country is very bad, although we have the greatest abundance of the best material.
5. Meats may be well roasted in a costly manner before an open fire.
6. Aside from the exceptional apparatus or methods named, substantially all the modern cooking stoves and ranges are wasteful and more or less unsuitable for use. All the ordinary methods of quick baking, roasting, and boiling are bad; and, finally, almost the whole of the coal or oil used in cooking is wasted.
7. The smell of cooking in the ordinary way gives evidence of waste of flavor as well as a waste of nutritious properties; and in most cases the unpleasant smell also gives evidence that the food is being converted into an unwholesome condition, conducive to indigestion and dyspepsia.
8. Nine tenths of the time devoted to watching the process of cooking is wasted; and the heat and discomfort of the room in which the cooking is done are evidence of worse than waste.
9. The warming of the room or house with the apparatus used for cooking is inconsistent with the best method of cooking, and might be compassed at much less cost if the process of cooking were separated from the process of warming the room or dwelling.
10. No fuel which can not be wholly consumed is fit to use in the process of cooking, and any chimney which creates a draught upon the fuel when in the process of combustion, like the ordinary chimney of a house, is worse than useless, since it wastes the greater part of the heat generated from the fuel.
The true science of cooking consists in the regulated and controlled application of heat by which flavors are developed and the work of conversion is accomplished. For this purpose a quantity of fuel is required which is almost absurdly small compared to the quantity commonly used.
Compare the ordinary method of using fuel for cooking with the scientific use of fuel for the development of power in the steam-engine.
The sheet of lightly sized linen paper abstracted from the unused part of an old ledger, on which I am now writing the first draught of this essay, measures 13" X 9" = 117 square inches, and weighs half an ounce. In solid form it measures half a cubic inch. If consumed under the boiler of the modern marine steam-engine such as is used in the freight-steamers that carry our wheat to England, two sheets of this paper in a solid form would be equal to seventy-one per cent of the calorific value of a cube of bituminous coal of the same size, and would drive a ton of wheat and its proportion of the steamship 110 miles on the way from the producer to the consumer at the present standard of power developed from coal. Yet not over twelve per cent of the actual power of the heat which this scrap of paper will yield would even then be actually converted into work. A cube of pure wood-pulp of the same size will do the same work. On the other hand, wood-pulp until ignited is the best available non-conductor of heat; I therefore build my ovens in greater part of wood-pulp prepared so as not to ignite at any degree of heat which is necessary for cooking; but even in my oven it requires one quart of oil, measuring a fraction under fifty-eight cubic inches, to cook fifty to sixty pounds of bread, meat, and vegetables in four successive charges occupying two hours each. Compared with the application of heat to the development of power, even my oven must be utterly condemned as wasteful of fuel; but compare my quart of oil with the hodfuls of coal that would be required to cook sixty pounds of food in the common range or stove, and then what is the verdict?
I now venture to submit the data of a dinner prepared by myself, but little out of the usual course, as an example of the common practice in my own family, and of what may be done substantially with one lamp. The dinner was provided for my own family of seven persons, with five guests, and it also sufficed for four servants—sixteen in all—with something left over. My summer kitchen is fitted with a cooking-stove, as it is more convenient to use the top of the stove, heated with hard-wood chips, for boiling water, heating the soup, and boiling potatoes, than it is to use a kerosene-oil stove of the common kind; on this stove the soup made the day before in the Aladdin cooker was reheated, the potatoes were boiled, and the hot water was provided.
The dinner cooked in the Aladdin oven consisted of three to four pounds of fresh blue-fish, just caught, cooked in imitation of broiling, one hour; six to seven pounds leg and loin of lamb, roasted one and three fourths hours; three tame ducks, weighing about seven pounds, roasted one hour; squash cooked in its own juice, with but very little water, one and three fourths hours; stuffed tomatoes cooked three quarters of an hour; a large apple soufflé pudding baked one hour.
The oven having been previously heated one hour, the lamb and the squash were first put in; later the fish was added; while these were being served, the ducks and the pudding were being cooked; the use of the lamp for the whole service was four hours; the oil consumed, one pint, cost less than two cents; the cook's estimate of the coal which would have been required for the dinner had it been cooked in the large stove which has been used in other years, at one and a half to two ordinary hodfuls.
This was an every-day dinner, to which my guests had been invited in order that they might test our common practice.
I assume that the effect of heat upon food material is what may be called chemical conversion, accompanied, when the heat is applied at a low degree only, by partial evaporation of water, but when applied at a high degree, by partial distillation of the juices, by the cracking or dissociation of the fats, and by the diffusion of the volatile parts of the food in bad smells with loss of flavor and waste of some of the nutritious properties of the material. If the cracking or dissociation of the fats is carried to a point which is very common in iron stoves and ranges, the residuum of the fat becomes very indigestible and positively unwholesome. When rightly cooked and not cracked or dissociated, a certain portion of fat is absolutely necessary to adequate nutrition. Is it not true that we take into our stomachs a great deal too much fat, and that it is eaten in the most injurious form?
The preparation of the coffee-berry is the most familiar example of the development of its properties by the right application of heat. If the berry is dried, ground, and made into an infusion without being roasted, no true or drinkable coffee can be made from it. If overheated and burned, the infusion is acrid and unwholesome. But when the berry is carefully roasted and ground, the infusion makes true coffee. The flavor and other properties are the actual product of the heat, when scientifically applied. The flavor of the pea-nut is developed in the same way. In the treatment of grain, none yields so great a difference in flavor, according to the method of cooking, as the meal of maize or Indian corn; but I find the wheaten bread, whether made of whole or of bolted flour, yields a much finer flavor when baked two or three hours in my pulp oven at 250º to 300º Fahr., than when quickly baked in a common stove or range in one hour at an unknown but admittedly much higher degree of heat. The flavors of the white kinds of fish, such as cod, haddock, flounder, scup, and the like, which are much impaired by the ordinary methods of cooking, are very finely developed when slowly cooked in my oven; and, lastly, all kinds of meat and poultry develop their respective flavors in the most appetizing manner when roasted in my pulp oven at such low degrees of heat as not to give off any smell or to dissociate any of the volatile elements of the juices or fats, while for game nothing can equal it. Quail and partridge come out rich, juicy, and of almost too full a flavor.
I have frequently served dinners or lunches of four or five courses—soup made the day before, reheated; fish, meat, game, potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, tomatoes, and custard pudding—all cooked in the same oven at the same time in the dining-room, and served from the oven to the table in the china or earthen dishes in which each had been cooked; the only difference between one dish and another being in respect to the time in which it had been subjected to the heat of the lamp or lamps, yet without the least flavor or taint being carried from one kind of food to the other.
It will be apparent that, if cooking can be done in this way, the whole art will consist in preparing the food according to written or printed receipts, and in determining the degree of heat and the time to which these dishes should be subjected. No watching is needed, and indeed none is possible without danger of cooling off the oven by opening it too often. Of course, it is better to use two ovens than one, devoting one to meat and fish, served by a lamp of moderate power for the right period of time, and the other served by a lamp of higher power for cooking vegetables, puddings, and pastry.
My Aladdin ovens, so called, are adapted to methods of cooking corresponding to broiling, roasting, baking, and braising; but they can also be used for boiling and simmering.
My Aladdin cooker, so called, in which the heat is conveyed through water, is devoted wholly to boiling, stewing, and simmering, especially the latter. I neither attempt nor desire to fry anything in either kind of apparatus. About nine tenths of all the cooking of my somewhat large family has been done with this apparatus for nearly two years, and I also have an office lunchroom for the use of about twenty employeés, in which no other apparatus is or can be used. My summer kitchen at my sea-side house is fitted with a grill which is very seldom used; it proves to be most convenient to use the cooking-stove, heated with hardwood chips, for boiling the water for tea and for occasional frying.
My winter kitchen is a large one, and it depends upon the range for warming it. The range, therefore, continues to be used to some extent for cooking, mainly for preparing breakfast, but I contemplate substituting a special stove without any oven, which will heat the room with much less coal, the top of the stove being fitted for cooking in the ordinary way. Neither the oven of the stove in summer nor of the range in winter are now used for cooking; therefore, the kitchen is never overheated and the food is never spoiled. We have occasionally failed to cook a large joint of meat for a sufficient time, but we have never spoiled a dish in the process of cooking since the pulp or jacketed oven was adopted.
What, then, are the simple principles of the science of cooking? I think they may be stated in a few very plain terms:
1. The heat should be derived from fuel which can be wholly consumed or wholly converted into the products of complete combustion without any chimney except that of the lamp or burner. The fault with coal, especially anthracite, is, that it is not evenly or fully consumed; hence the need of a chimney to take away the gases developed and not wholly consumed; but the chimney also carries off the greater part of the heat. It is very evident that the crude combustion of coal and the direct application of the heat generated will ere long give way to more scientific methods of consuming the gaseous products and of deriving the heat from the final combustion of the gaseous products in all arts. In the matter of cooking, kerosene-oil burned in any one of the types of lamp which have a central duct to convey oxygen from below to the inner side of a circular wick, when properly trimmed and served with well-distilled oil, gives substantially perfect combustion.
The same may be said of illuminating gas when used in one of the burners of the Bunsen type which supply an excess of oxygen and yield the blue flame.
The combustion of oil and of gas can be brought under absolute control by gauging the size of wick or burner to the work to be done.
2. The oven in which the food is to be subjected to this measurable and controllable source of heat must be so constructed that the heat imparted to it may be entrapped and accumulated up to a certain measure or degree and then maintained at that temperature without substantial variation until the work is done. This can be done by jacketing the oven in a suitable way with material which is incombustible and also a non-conductor of heat.
3. There should be no direct communication between the true oven or receptacle in which the food is placed and the source of heat, lest the products of incomplete combustion should sometimes taint the food, and lest the food should be exposed to being in places burned or scorched.
These three conditions are all accomplished in the two somewhat crude and probably incomplete inventions which I have named the "Aladdin Cooker" and the "Aladdin Oven," in both of which the heat derived from common lamps, such as are used for lighting, may be stored or accumulated so as to do the work of cooking in a very perfect manner. In the cooker the heat is imparted to water in an attachment to a metal-lined wooden box corresponding to the water-back of the common range or stove, and the work is done by the contact of the hot water with the outside of the porcelain vessels in which the food is placed, or by the steam generated when the water is heated to the boiling-point.
In the oven a column of heated air is carried from the chimney of the lamp to the inside of an outer oven made chiefly of prepared wood-pulp, but outside of the inner sheet-iron or metallic oven in which the food is placed, which inner oven is separately ventilated.
I do not claim any originality in these simple principles or in the idea of jacketing an oven with non-conductors of heat. All these matters are well understood by every intelligent stove-manufacturer, but it is practically impossible for any one to apply them in making stoves such as will meet the demand of the market, for two reasons:
1. The greatest demand for stoves is that of people of very moderate means, who are too much controlled by the price in making a choice, making the common error in confounding cheapness with low price, an error which leads to great waste not only in the matter of stoves but in many other ways.
2. The absolute and imperative preference of the public for a stove in or upon which the work can be done very quickly.
The custom of cooking quickly is in part a matter of choice, and in part due to the necessity to which a great many working people are subject to cook their meals quickly or else to go without hot breakfasts and dinners.
Another great obstruction to improvement in the art of cooking is the almost universal misconception that the finer cuts of meat are more nutritious than the coarser portions, coupled with an almost universal prejudice among working people against stewed food. This prejudice is doubtless due to the tasteless quality of boiled meat; boiling toughens each of the fine fibers, and deprives the meat almost wholly of its distinctive flavor.
All these blunders and misconceptions must evidently be removed before any true art of cooking can become common practice.
The more necessary, however, does it become to invent apparatus in which meat can only be simmered and can not boil, as in the Aladdin cooker, and also to invent a stove or oven in which neither meat nor bread can be overcooked, dried up, or rendered indigestible by too much heat, as in the Aladdin oven.
Next, people must be persuaded that a better and more nutritious breakfast can be made ready to eat, as soon as the family are out of bed, by putting meat stews, oatmeal, brown bread, and many kinds of puddings, into the cooker, and simmering all night by the use of a single safe lamp, than in any other way.
People must be taught that the dinner can be put into the oven when both husband and wife go to the mill to work, and so treated that it may be found perfectly cooked at noon, without requiring any attention in the interval.
People must be taught that the best of bread, raised with good yeast, can be mixed and kneaded between 12.30 and 1 p.m., placed in a bread-raiser, which will raise it ready for the oven at 6 or 7 p.m., and that this bread may be perfectly baked in two hours by the heat of the evening lamp, which at the same time serves to give light for reading or sewing.
All this can be accomplished with my crude apparatus, but, until some skillful stove-makers take up these inventions and make the ovens in large numbers at low cost, my own efforts must be directed mainly toward ameliorating the condition of the rich, saving the houses of the well-to-do from the heat and smell of the present bad methods, and in this way creating a demand for my ovens which, while made in small numbers by hand-work, are too costly for general use, although in an ordinary family they will pay for themselves in six months.
I have ventured to call the attention of the Public Health Association to these matters, because I have been led, by the study of the statistics of the cost of subsistence, to certain conclusions which are wholly in the line of your work.
I venture to ask you if it is not a fact that bad and wasteful methods of consuming food are not a most potent cost of inability to work to the best advantage? Are they not more promotive of disease, and, in fact, a more subtle cause of want in the midst of abundance, than even the waste on fermented and spirituous liquors?
From my own observations, I am of the opinion that dyspepsia is a cause of more disability than intemperance, although this proposition is not capable of statistical demonstration.
Material life consists in the conversion of forces, or in the application of material products, to the supply of the necessities of life. In the line of absolute necessity food comes first, clothing next, and shelter third. The supply of the materials for meeting these needs of the body is superabundant; comfort and welfare depend upon the relative proportion of the materials used, or upon the direction which may be given to the conversion of these forces. The result of each year's work is a given product; whether that product shall be adequate or otherwise depends almost wholly upon individual intelligence. In respect to the great majority of all who perform the actual manual or mechanical work of production, if the expenditure for food and drink is unduly large, then either clothing or shelter must be restricted; a small part of the waste of food, on which half the income is spent, might, if saved, enable the family to double the expenditure for a dwelling-place. It follows that the most difficult question with which practical reformers are called upon to deal, viz., that of providing more ample and comfortable dwellings, may be solved by altering the conversion of the present product, even if that may not be increased, so that what is now in part wasted on food and drink may be spent for better shelter, and yet the family may be more fully nourished than at present. I do not claim absolute accuracy for the following proportion of expenses in workingmen's families, but I am quite sure they are near enough to the mark to serve as an example.
In a family of five adults, or of four adults and two children ten or under, making an average family of five persons, in which one half the income is spent for food and fuel, twenty-five cents a day per adult being spent for food, the corresponding average expenditure per adult:
|For clothing will be||7||to||9||cents.|
|For liquor it may be||2||to||4||"|
|For sundries it will be about||5||"|
|And the remainder for rent or shelter, if no liquor is used||9||to||11||"|
|If liquor is used||1||to||9||"|
Now, I think it is very safe to put the waste of food material at twenty per cent, or five cents a day; if this misspent force and one half the average cost of liquor, or two cents a day, could be converted into shelter that is to say, to providing a more ample dwelling by either buying or leasing it would suffice to enlarge the present quarters by one half to three fourths. Five cents a day per adult comes to $1,000,000,000 or more a year, counting two children of ten or under as equal to one adult. But the greater benefit which would come from a true art of preparing food would consist in the increase of the productive force of the community, so that the provision for dwelling might be increased both absolutely and relatively. I might add another treatise to this, on the waste of force in bad building and from the common practice of what I have named the art of combustible architecture; but time will not serve. Suffice it that the product of this nation is more than ample for the abundant subsistence, the adequate shelter, and the complete clothing of every family in it; yet we witness want in the midst of plenty, because we waste enough to support another nation at the standard of French economy and thrift, especially in the matter of food.
I may now venture to call your attention to some of the very subtile points which are brought out by the statistical production of the food question. I suppose that there is no kind of meat which is consumed so generally or in such large quantity as pork; yet, according to the chemical and physiological data, the conversion of Indian corn into pork, at the rate of one thousand pounds of corn to two hundred pounds of pork, results in a waste of practically all the protein and nearly all the starch, and gives a residuum of fat of which most people get too much in the other kinds of food which they consume. Yet it would be useless to try to abolish pork from the common dietary. I sometimes wonder if the Hebrew lawgivers were not good economists when they condemned the use of pork, or whether they were guided wholly by sanitary considerations.
Again, the present crop of wheat calls for fifty thousand tons of twine for binding it upon the self-binding harvester; the cost of binding wheat by hand was five to six cents per bushel, and it required a small army of agricultural tramps who charged almost any price when needed to do this work. The self-binder reduced this charge to not exceeding one cent and a half per bushel. This reduction, which finally took effect two or three years before the resumption of specie payments in this country in 1879, was one of the principal factors in enabling us to export wheat profitably and vastly in excess of anything previously known; and it was upon the margin of exports over imports, consisting wholly of wheat, that we were enabled to import gold in sufficient measure to resume specie payment. Yet this all turned on tying a knot by the machine instead of by hand.
Again, I will present to you my diagram of the loaf of bread, which I have frequently used in other ways. You will observe that, with wheat at about the present price, bread can be made and can be sold in a very large way at three to three and one half cents per pound; but if the bread is distributed in the customary manner by way of small shops or by delivery on the part of the bakers themselves, you will find that the price of bread ranges from five to eight cents a pound, according to the quality.
Now, in this oven made of paper, any person of ordinary intelligence who is willing to devote twenty minutes to kneading bread—which requires more muscle than it does mind—then placing it in the bread-raiser, following a certain rule, taking it out at a given time and putting it in this oven over this lamp, can make better bread at three to three and one half cents per pound than any baker's bread which can be purchased. Here are samples of the bread; you can taste it for yourselves. I devoted two evenings to learning how to make bread; and I baked these loaves, some of which I made myself, by the heat of the evening lamp which lighted my library table while I was reading my evening paper.I have said that a saving of five cents per day per capita might
The foregoing table was made in 1883, when wheat was worth ninety cents a bushel on the far Western farms. The price of wheat, and the charges for transportation and milling, are now lower. The cost of distributing bread is now greater in proportion than it was in 1883. readily be made in the food-supply of an average family. The customary ration is from three fourths of a pound to a pound; in the families of poor people, who depend very much upon bread, I suppose it is one pound. Now, wherever such a family is paying six cents a pound for wheat bread, not an uncommon price among the poor in Boston, a saving of two and one half cents a day can be made on bread only by making it in the family and baking it in this oven.
But, again, this possibility leads to another consideration. It is conceivable that all the bread may by and by be made in this way. Then what would become of all the bakers? They would for a time suffer for want of work; but you will observe that in this as in most of the actual improvements in the conditions of society, the art which would be displaced is one of the most onerous kinds of labor, requiring long hours of night-work; a greater abundance of bread would be furnished at less cost; and presently the bakers would be absorbed in other branches of work. How that happens, and how such adjustments are made, I suppose no one knows. There was formerly one branch of cotton-spinning, viz., the sizing of the warps, which was conducted under very uncomfortable if not unwholesome conditions. The old-fashioned dressing-machine, as it was called, on which all the warps of cotton goods were prepared with starch for weaving, was worked in a room at from 110º to 120º Fahr., the atmosphere being impregnated with the smell of sour starch; and in a given factory the work of eight men was required. In the year 1866 I was myself instrumental in importing two machines of a new kind from Great Britain; these machines were operated in a light, cool, and well-ventilated room; a man and a boy did the work of the eight men. What became of the other seven men? I never could trace them; they were merged in the great body of workmen. The new machine has wholly displaced the old one; and there is now no branch of work in the cotton-mill which is considered injurious, or subject to any great discomfort. In fact, when the final application of invention is made to the cotton-factory by using ice or other methods of cooling the air in summer, as we use fuel to heat the rooms in winter, the atmosphere of the cotton-mill will become about the most salubrious that can be obtained, for the reason that the exact degree of heat and humidity which is called for in the best work in spinning and weaving is consistent with the exact degree required for the health of the human body; and since electric lighting has displaced the noxious vapors of illuminating gas, it may soon become possible to secure workers in a cotton-mill on the ground that a cotton-mill is the best sanitarium.I have given you these last few data, which are not immediately connected with the art of cooking, to show you how "far afield"
the figures of food may follow one who tries to find out their full meaning. I will now present to you the diagrams and description of the cooker and of the oven, and will presently invite you to test the quality of the food which has been prepared while I have been speaking. These two diagrams were first prepared in a rough way for a newspaper; the form of the heater to the Aladdin cooker has been changed, and some cross-sections have been introduced in order to increase the heating surface. The Aladdin oven is made at the present time of a different shape and in a different way; but the two diagrams will show to you the two conceptions on which the whole matter is based.
I have a strong suspicion, or I may even say a growing confidence, that I have really accomplished what Count Rumford undertook to do, but which he failed to establish permanently for want of a fuel like kerosene-oil or gas, which can be controlled, regulated, and thoroughly consumed.
I may have spent a thousand dollars more or less in developing this subject. The present very simple forms of apparatus have been adopted after considerable money had been wasted in more complex methods of reaching the same results. I believe this is the course in almost all inventions. I do not intend to become a manufacturer of ovens. I have made an arrangement with Messrs. Kenrick Brothers, of Brookline, who now make them on orders by hand-work, crediting me with a moderate commission from which I may ultimately recover what I have spent, although I have no great expectation of doing so. The ovens cost too much while they are made by hand; it is my hope that some regular stove-manufacturer may take up the subject at the point to which I have brought it, and make a business of introducing my apparatus on strictly commercial methods.
The price of the standard Aladdin oven like these which are before you, at the present time, is twenty-five dollars without the lamp, boxed and ready for delivery to express or railway. I hope they may ultimately be furnished, when made in a large way, for a considerably lower price; but even at the present price they will pay for themselves in economy of fuel, in economy of food, and in the comfort of those who do the work, in a very short term of weeks rather than of months.
I began the study of cooking apparatus many years ago, when endeavoring to aid factory operatives, during the period of very high-priced cotton, in supporting themselves on the wages which they could earn while the mills were running short time; and I had substantially conceived the "Aladdin Cooker," but I did not then follow up the subject so as to enable me to boil water in this apparatus by means of a lamp, kerosene-oil not then having been introduced for such purpose. Moreover, I was under the old superstition that it was necessary to have a heat at or above the boiling-point in order to cook at all. Even Count Rumford found out by accident that meats could be cooked at a lower degree; and it was not until I happened to read Dr. Mattieu Williams's "Chemistry of Cookery" that I was led to develop the Norwegian cooking-box into the cooker with the heating attachment.
Perhaps I unwisely gave way this idea or conception which I might have patented: I had the impression that it would be adopted more rapidly; but the public have become so accustomed to the patent system in this country as to make it almost impossible to give away even an idea. I doubt if this is altogether a wholesome condition, when manufacturers wait so long for the protection of a patent before undertaking to make a good thing on a commercial scale. Nevertheless, one must accept the fact, and the cooker has not been taken up by any manufacturer. Warned by this lesson, I applied for a patent on my first "Aladdin Ovens," which were made wholly of metal, the outer oven being packed with non-heat-conducting material; but on this application I failed; this identical apparatus had been invented fifty years ago, the heat being derived from a pan of charcoal, and the patent had expired; of course, the charcoal did not meet the necessary conditions. I found, however, that the oven made wholly of metal packed with carbonate of magnesia or fossil meal would be very expensive; moreover, the outer metal skin wastes a great deal of heat. I then experimented with various compounds, and finally adopted the material of which these ovens are made, known as "indurated fiber," or paper pulp, prepared in a certain way under a patent and baked at a high heat. I applied for a patent on an oven made in this way, but the mere substitution of the pulp for the metal did not suffice to give me the patent asked for. There is therefore no patent on the construction of either of these devices. The names "Aladdin Cooker" and "Aladdin Oven" are my trade-marks, on which I may hope to hold a certain control, so that the ovens shall be made of safe material, incombustible at any degree of heat required for the work, and from which control I may possibly recover the money which I have spent on my experiments; if I do not, it will be my contribution to the public service; and if by this contribution I can do away with even a small part of the waste of good food material and with a small part of the indigestion caused by bad cooking, I shall consider myself fully compensated.
Under such conditions I may perhaps venture upon the ordinary method of citing the testimony of some of the few persons who have bought these ovens and who have made use of them. I will first give a copy of a letter from an elderly lady who visited my office with, her daughter; the latter was very skeptical as to success in working my apparatus; the oven was, however, bought, and has been in use during the past summer; her testimony in regard to it is as follows:
I am glad to tell you that I like the Aladdin oven very much indeed. My dinners for the last three months have been cooked in it with success and economy, and the kitchen never overheated. It saves material, fuel, and labor, as well as heat. It is an immense comfort as well as economy. It bakes bread and cake nicely, and we have only used coal for laundry purposes. I wish it could be produced at a cheaper rate, though I would not lose mine for twice its price.
Another certificate I may venture to give from another lady who has tried the apparatus, as follows:
1. In respect to economy in the use of material for food: All remnants of food can be served again without drying or losing any of the fresh flavor. With any skill, therefore, "made dishes" can be produced until the first material is used up.
2. In respect to comfort of the kitchen: It goes without saying that a room in which only a lamp is burning is cooler than one with a fire in an iron stove.
3. The cook says it is much less work; but I find they sometimes from force of habit throw the fuel into the stove and cook there rather than take the trouble to use the oven.
Lastly, general conclusions: It is of inestimable value in warm weather, and saves two hods of coal a day when it is used half the day. For an apartment-house or in small kitchens it will be a great boon. With an intelligent, care-loving woman it will go much further and do better work, of course, than with the ordinary cook, though it is so simple that any one can use it.
In a third letter, the testimony is as follows:
My general conclusions in regard to health and appetizing conditions are: Bread from the oven is much more wholesome than from the range, because of the slow, even, and thorough baking. Meats are more wholesome, because the juices are entirely preserved and the fats not overdone. The greatest advantage, perhaps, is the possibility of so regulating the temperature as to preserve fine and delicate flavors at the same time that the most wholesome results are secured.
Finally, I am permitted to give the following extract from a note from Mrs. Ellen H. Richards, whose excellent work in industrial and household chemistry is doubtless well known to you.
I submitted the early types of my oven to an investigation which was conducted under her direction by Miss Marion Talbot, whose thoroughly scientific report upon the diffusion of heat and other matters encouraged me to go on, and was wholly consistent with my own experiments and with all the evidence which I have since obtained. This latter report is too long for inclusion in the present address. Mrs. Richards's present statement is as follows:
It seems to me that the mission of the Oven and Cooker is in the ideal life of the twentieth century, as shown by Bellamy. That is, when the people of themiddle classes, as we know them now, shall pay attention to the question of food,
Unskilled hands can get much better work out of it than out of an ordinary range, chiefly because it can not be overheated, and things can not be burned to a crisp.
Our people need to learn what is to them a new art, the delicate flavoring which is brought out only by time — that is, by slow cooking.
When a stew deliciously flavored is to people better than crisp beef, then the oven will go; but the majority of our people are still barbarians in taste, and it will not do to claim too much.
I am sure that the conditions of slow cooking are very favorable to ease of digestion, and that the digestibility of many things is very much increased.
I am sure that economy lies in the use of material which is much less expensive, but here again we must learn to like the result.
In summer the saving of fuel is very great; in winter most people need the fire often the kitchen is the only fire.
Educated housekeepers with their own hands must work it up. Servants will not learn anything new unless working with the mistress.I believe the idea is destined to give a much-needed relief to multitudes of over-worked women, just as soon as they can be convinced of the possibility of relief.
I may venture to subscribe myself, especially in this presence, by the use of the same words which I once adopted as a motto in my treatise on the "Missing Science of Cooking." I am —
Coctor non Doctor.
- This essay has been prepared for the American Public Health Association: delivered at their meeting in Brooklyn, October 23, 1889. With their consent it is published in this number of "The Popular Science Monthly."