Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/156

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By Professor H. W. CONN,


CHEMISTS tell us that cheese is one of the most nutritious and, at the same time, one of the cheapest of foods. Its nutritive value is greater than meat, while its cost is much less. But this chemical aspect of the matter does not express the real value of the cheese as a food. Cheese is eaten, not because of its nutritive value as expressed by the amount of proteids, fats and carbohydrates that it contains, but always because of its flavor. Now, physiologists do not find that flavor has any food value. They teach over and over again that our foodstuffs are proteids, fats and carbohydrates, and that as food flavor plays absolutely no part. But, at the same time, they tell us that the body would be unable to live upon these foodstuffs were it not for the flavors. If one were compelled to eat pure food without flavors, like the pure white of an egg, it is doubtful whether one could, for a week at a time, consume a sufficiency of food to supply his bodily needs. Flavor is as necessary as nutriment. It gives a zest to the food, and thus enables us to consume it properly, and, secondly, it stimulates the glands to secrete, so that the foods may be satisfactorily digested and assimilated. The whole art of cooking, the great development of flavoring products, the high prices paid for special foods like lobsters and oysters—these and numerous other factors connected with food supply and production are based solely upon this demand for flavor. Flavor is a necessity, but it is not particularly important what the flavor may be. This is shown by the fact that different peoples have such different tastes in this respect. The garlic of the Italian and the red pepper of the Mexican serve the same purpose as the vanilla which we put in our ice-cream; and all play the part of giving a relish to the food and stimulating the digestive organs to proper activity.

The primary value of cheeses is, then, in the flavors they possess. One can hardly realize the added pleasure they give to the life of hundreds of thousands of poor people whose food must be of the coarsest character. A bit of well-flavored cheese adds relish to the humblest meal and gives the highest delight. We must recognize, then, that the chief value of the cheese lies exactly in these flavors which the chemist does not include in his analysis of cheese and which the physiologist refuses to call food or to regard as having any nutritive