I had another story planned for today, but I find myself unable to leave the good Dr. Spriggs’ interesting wartime book, Food and How to Save It (1918) without one more extract. Yesterday we saw him quoted on the topic of “Feeding Schoolboys,” and gave a recipe from his book. Today I give you some of his thoughts on the preparation of children’s meals in the context of wartime food shortages and rationing. It is surprising – or perhaps not – how current many of his ideas are: breast is best, sugar need not be part of every meal, don’t stint on fat in the diet for growing children, plenty of fruit and veges are good, but snacking between meals is not, provide variety and encourage the eating of good wholesome food.
Children's Meals.-The feeding of babies does not offer any special difficulty in wartime, so long as milk can be had. Perhaps the danger of unwise feeding is as great as that of lack of food. The only right food for an infant is its natural food. Any mother who can feed her baby and does not is using the food of others, and is not doing the best for her child. It is remarkable how seldom babies which are fed by their mothers are brought to doctors or hospitals. The reason is that, compared with other children, they seldom get ill. Cow's milk, even when diluted and modified according to the age of the baby, is inferior to human milk; but it is the only other suitable food. Hence the importance of keeping up the milk supply for the sake of infants and young children.
Children under 18 months should receive a pint and a half of milk a day, except, of course, while they are being fed by their mothers. From 18 months onward they should get a pint a day. The main foods of children over five years old are milk, bread, porridge (of oatmeal, barley flour, or ground maize and oatmeal mixed), oatcake, puddings, eggs, butter or margarine, dripping, meat, bacon fat, fish, fresh vegetables and fruit.
The most likely foodstuff to be short is the fat, supplied in milk, butter, margarine, dripping, suet puddings and bacon; children should get a fair amount of some of these daily. Margarine should be given with bread in preference to syrup or jam. Bacon should be fried with bread or potatoes to take up the fat, or a good deal of it will be left in the frying pan or the dish.
A little fruit, fruit juice or well-cooked fresh vegetables must be provided.
Three meals a day are enough for healthy children, with a slice of bread and butter and some milk at bedtime. Meat or fish should be given at the mid-day dinner only. Older children, living the more strenuous school life, may have fish, egg or bacon at breakfast also, but can do quite well without it if porridge, or oatcake, and milk is taken. Childrenought always to have a good breakfast. Breakfast and dinner should be their chief meals. The third meal, tea, should not be eaten until four hours after dinnertime, and should not include any meat or protein foods; sleep is better if this meal, however plentiful, is quite plain. A convenient division of the bread is to give some at breakfast, but only after porridge or oatcake has been eaten, little at dinner, or none if there is a nourishing pudding and no soup, and most at tea. Sugar need not form part of every meal. Except for infants, it is not an absolutely necessary food, because we can and do make sugar in our bodies from the starch we eat.
Care must be taken to see that children eat slowly, chewing all food, whether soft or hard. Any decayed, loose or tender teeth must be put right. Every meal should end with a piece of crust, oatcake or a biscuit to cleanse the teeth and prevent decay. Children should drink at the end of their meal, after all the solid food is eaten, and, if they are thirsty, between meals. Before the age of five or six years no tea or coffee should be given. After that milk and water may be just flavoured at breakfast and tea. At dinner water only should be drunk, or water flavoured with fruit juices.
Children should be taught to eat all ordinary plain foods such as porridge, bread and butter, plain puddings, and peculiar tastes should be discouraged, though with reasonable tact and sympathy. If a child is to grow up healthy such simple foods must form the chief part of its diet, and it will learn to take them without difficulty if no others are offered at the same time. A child may be seriously handicapped when it is ill if it has not been brought up to eat, for example, milk pudding.
Nothing whatever should be eaten between meals.
Both at home and at school, the fare must be varied both as regards the food and the way it is cooked, so that the child cannot tell what is likely to be given on any one day. This uncertainty helps appetite, and good digestion waits on appetite. It is easy to forget in what a great number of ways plain foods may be served. Variety needs care, but does not necessarily mean expense.
The following are some of the plain dishes from which choice may be made to get variety at the three meals of the day -
Breakfast: Porridge, milk, oatcake, bread, margarine, butter or dripping. One of the following dishes may be added: Eggs, boiled, poached, scrambled, fried, French, curried or scalloped; fish, grilled, fried, baked or boiled; fish cakes, scallops, potted herrings, sardines, bloater paste; occasionally sausage or bacon; nuts, fresh or dried fruits.
Dinner: Two courses, one of them being the chief protein dish of the day of meat or fish, or sometimes eggs, cheese or nut dishes, with potatoes and fresh vegetables, either cooked or as various salads; and the other course a pudding. Soup may be added or on certain days replace the meat course: in the latter case the soup should contain plenty of vegetables and be eaten with bread or dumplings.
Meats: Roast, baked, braised, stewed or boiled, stuffed, salted, minced, curried, potted, jellied; as pies or puddings, shepherd's pie, Irish stew,hot pot, rissoles; liver, minced, fried, stewed or curried; stuffed heart, oxtail.
Fish as mentioned under breakfast, also: boiled cod and egg or parsley sauce, fish pie with curried beans, fish cream with curried shrimps; stuffed haddock; tomatoes stuffed with shredded fish.
Dishes for dinners without meat or fish: Curried eggs, cheese on toast, macaroni cheese, cheese pie, curried nuts, chestnut stew, haricot beans and lentil dishes, pease pudding, savoury pies, vegetable pies, savoury omelettes.
Puddings: Rice, ground rice, flaked rice, semolina, tapioca, maize, cornflour, sago, farola, bread crust or bread and butter, suet, raisin, currant, ginger, spice, cabinet, college, castle, date, fig, roly with jam, treacle or syrup; fruit puddings, carrot and fruit puddings, pancakes, junket, blanc-mange, stewed fruits, roast apples, fritters.
Puddings and fritters usually, made with flour are excellent made with part or all barley flour or cornflour.
Soups: Meat, fish, gravy, Scotch broth, oatmeal, pea, lentil, haricot bean, rice, potato, mixed vegetable, leek, spinach, tomato, celery, carrot, turnip, parsnip.
Tea: Bread, oatcake, margarine, dripping toast, currant bread, potato scones, barley scones, rice cakes, gingerbread made with oatmeal, syrup, jam, sandwiches of cress, tomato, lettuce, radish; green and fruit salads; stewed fruit.
The amount of food eaten by children must be controlled but not unduly restricted. The rations are liberal for most children, but they are not intended to deprive any child of the food needed for proper growth. If bread can be made at home and barley meal or oatmeal are obtainable, the mixtures of these with national flour, described on pages 17 to 19 will give wholesome and nourishing bread. Cereals will be used for puddings so far as they can be had and means allow.
In some schools the diet contained too much starchy food, such as bread, and in these an increase of the protein foods, such as fish and beans, will be an advantage. The amounts of food needed each week in schools of children mostly over thirteen years old will be similar to those given on pages 47 to 49.
The housekeeping for children both at school and at home calls in these days for much skill and a study of food values. Improvement in cooking and the rigid avoidance of waste can alone save a good deal.
The food should not be changed suddenly without making sure that the new diet is sufficient as compared with the old. There is a simple way of finding out whether children are getting enough, and that is by weighing them once a month. The average weight should increase slowly.
Everyone will agree that the greatest care must be taken to give our children the food they need, whoever else goes short. Upon them will lie the duty of holding what has been won by the blood of the brave. They must be fit, in body and mind, to make peace more glorious than war by the right use of our dear bought freedom.
The recipe for the day is, of course, from Dr Spriggs’ book. I give you another useful and potato recipe, for potatoes are ever and always an essential part of any hearty British meal!
Mash 1 lb. of boiled potatoes while hot, adding 2 tablespoonfuls of milk, 3 oz. of grated cheese, pepper and salt, and ½ oz. of cooking fat. Grease a pie dish with 4 oz. of cooking fat, and strew it thickly with breadcruinbs; fill with the potato and cheese, and bake for half an hour in a good oven. Turn out and serve very hot.
An excellent dish. Food value about 1,050 calories, with over an ounce of protein.