Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1


Chapter 115—Healthful Cookery

During the last seven months we have been at home but about four weeks. In our travels we have sat at many different tables, from Iowa to Maine. Some whom we have visited live up to the best light they have. Others, who have the same opportunities of learning to live healthfully and well, have hardly taken the first steps in reform. They will tell you that they do not know how to cook in this new way. But they are without excuse in this matter of cooking; for in the work, How to Live, are many excellent recipes, and this work is within the reach of all. I do not say that the system of cookery taught in that book is perfect. I may soon furnish a small work more to my mind in some respects. But How to Live teaches cookery almost infinitely in advance of what the traveler will often meet, even among some Seventh-day Adventists. 1T 680.2

Many do not feel that this is a matter of duty, hence they do not try to prepare food properly. This can be done in a simple, healthful, and easy manner, without the use of lard, butter, or flesh meats. Skill must be united with simplicity. To do this, women must read, and then patiently reduce what they read to practice. Many are suffering because they will not take the trouble to do this. I say to such: It is time for you to rouse your dormant energies and read up. Learn how to cook with simplicity, and yet in a manner to secure the most palatable and healthful food. 1T 681.1

Because it is wrong to cook merely to please the taste, or to suit the appetite, no one should entertain the idea that an impoverished diet is right. Many are debilitated with disease, and need a nourishing, plentiful, well-cooked diet. We frequently find graham bread heavy, sour, and but partially baked. This is for want of interest to learn, and care to perform, the important duty of cook. Sometimes we find gem cakes, or soft biscuit, dried, not baked, and other things after the same order. And then cooks will tell you they can do very well in the old style of cooking, but, to tell the truth, their families do not like graham bread; that they would starve to live in this way. 1T 681.2

I have said to myself: I do not wonder at it. It is your manner of preparing food that makes it so unpalatable. To eat such food would certainly give one the dyspepsia. These poor cooks, and those who have to eat their food, will gravely tell you that the health reform does not agree with them. The stomach has not power to convert poor, heavy, sour bread into good; but this poor bread will convert a healthy stomach into a diseased one. Those who eat such food know that they are failing in strength. Is there not a cause? Some of these persons call themselves health reformers, but they are not. They do not know how to cook. They prepare cakes, potatoes, and graham bread, but there is the same round, with scarcely a variation, and the system is not strengthened. They seem to think the time wasted which is devoted to obtaining a thorough experience in the preparation of healthful, palatable food. Some act as though that which they eat were lost, and anything they could toss into the stomach to fill it would do as well as food prepared with so much painstaking. It is important that we relish the food we eat. If we cannot do this, but eat mechanically, we fail to be nourished and built up as we would be if we could enjoy the food we take into the stomach. We are composed of what we eat. In order to make a good quality of blood, we must have the right kind of food, prepared in a right manner. 1T 681.3

It is a religious duty for those who cook to learn how to prepare healthful food in different ways, so that it may be eaten with enjoyment. Mothers should teach their children how to cook. What branch of the education of a young lady can be so important as this? The eating has to do with the life. Scanty, impoverished, ill-cooked food is constantly depraving the blood by weakening the blood-making organs. It is highly essential that the art of cookery be considered one of the most important branches of education. There are but few good cooks. Young ladies consider that it is stooping to a menial office to become a cook. This is not the case. They do not view the subject from a right standpoint. Knowledge of how to prepare food healthfully, especially bread, is no mean science. 1T 682.1

In many families we find dyspeptics, and frequently the reason of this is the poor bread. The mistress of the house decides that it must not be thrown away, and they eat it. Is this the way to dispose of poor bread? Will you put it into the stomach to be converted into blood? Has the stomach power to make sour bread sweet? heavy bread light? moldy bread fresh? 1T 682.2

Mothers neglect this branch in the education of their daughters. They take the burden of care and labor, and are fast wearing out, while the daughter is excused, to visit, to crochet, or study her own pleasure. This is mistaken love, mistaken kindness. The mother is doing an injury to her child, which frequently lasts her lifetime. At the age when she should be capable of bearing some of life's burdens, she is unqualified to do so. Such will not take care and burdens. They go light-loaded, excusing themselves from responsibilities, while the mother is pressed down under her burden of care, as a cart beneath sheaves. The daughter does not mean to be unkind; but she is careless and heedless, or she would notice the tired look and mark the expression of pain upon the countenance of the mother, and would seek to do her part to bear the heavier part of the burden and relieve the mother, who must have freedom from care or be brought upon a bed of suffering and, it may be, of death. 1T 682.3

Why will mothers be so blind and negligent in the education of their daughters? I have been distressed, as I have visited different families, to see the mother bearing the heavy burden, while the daughter, who manifested buoyancy of spirit and had a good degree of health and vigor, felt no care, no burden. When there are large gatherings, and families are burdened with company, I have seen the mother bearing the burden, with the care of everything upon her, while the daughters are sitting down chatting with young friends, having a social visit. These things seem so wrong to me that I can hardly forbear speaking to the thoughtless youth and telling them to go to work. Release your tired mother. Lead her to a seat in the parlor and urge her to rest and enjoy the society of her friends. 1T 683.1

But the daughters are not the ones to be blamed wholly in this matter. The mother is at fault. She has not patiently taught her daughters how to cook. She knows that they lack knowledge in the cooking department, and therefore feels no release from the labor. She must attend to everything that requires care, thought, and attention. Young ladies should be thoroughly instructed in cooking. Whatever be their circumstances in life, here is knowledge which may be put to a practical use. It is a branch of education which has the most direct influence upon human life, especially the lives of those held most dear. Many a wife and mother who has not had the right education and lacks skill in the cooking department is daily presenting her family with ill-prepared food which is steadily and surely destroying the digestive organs, making a poor quality of blood, and frequently bringing on acute attacks of inflammatory disease and causing premature death. Many have been brought to their death by eating heavy, sour bread. An instance was related to me of a hired girl who made a batch of sour, heavy bread. In order to get rid of it and conceal the matter, she threw it to a couple of very large hogs. Next morning the man of the house found his swine dead, and, upon examining the trough, found pieces of this heavy bread. He made inquiries, and the girl acknowledged what she had done. She had not a thought of the effect of such bread upon the swine. If heavy, sour bread will kill swine, which can devour rattlesnakes and almost every detestable thing, what effect will it have upon that tender organ, the human stomach? 1T 683.2

It is a religious duty for every Christian girl and woman to learn at once to make good, sweet, light bread from unbolted wheat flour. Mothers should take their daughters into the kitchen with them when very young and teach them the art of cooking. The mother cannot expect her daughters to understand the mysteries of housekeeping without education. She should instruct them patiently, lovingly, and make the work as agreeable as she can by her cheerful countenance and encouraging words of approval. If they fail once, twice, or thrice, censure not. Already discouragement is doing its work and tempting them to say: “It is of no use; I can't do it.” This is not the time for censure. The will is becoming weakened. It needs the spur of encouraging, cheerful, hopeful words, as: “Never mind the mistakes you have made. You are but a learner and must expect to make blunders. Try again. Put your mind on what you are doing. Be very careful, and you will certainly succeed.” 1T 684.1

Many mothers do not realize the importance of this branch of knowledge, and rather than have the trouble and care of instructing their children and bearing with their failings and errors while learning, they prefer to do all themselves. And when their daughters make a failure in their efforts, they send them away with: “It is no use; you can't do this or that. You perplex and trouble me more than you help me.” 1T 685.1

Thus the first efforts of the learners are repulsed, and the first failure so cools their interest and ardor to learn that they dread another trial, and will propose to sew, knit, clean house—anything but cook. Here the mother was greatly at fault. She should have patiently instructed them that they might by practice obtain an experience which would remove the awkwardness and remedy the unskillful movements of the inexperienced worker. Here I will add extracts from Testimony, No. 10, page 392, published in 1864: 1T 685.2

“Children who have been petted and waited upon, always expect it; and if their expectations are not met, they are disappointed and discouraged. This same disposition will be seen through their whole lives; they will be helpless, leaning upon others for aid, expecting others to favor them and yield to them. And if they are opposed, even after they have grown to manhood and womanhood, they think themselves abused; and thus they worry their way through the world, hardly able to bear their own weight, often murmuring and fretting because everything does not suit them. 1T 685.3

“Mistaken parents are teaching their children lessons which will prove ruinous to them, and are also planting thorns for their own feet. They think that by gratifying the wishes of their children, and letting them follow their own inclinations, they can gain their love. What an error! Children thus indulged grow up unrestrained in their desires, unyielding in their dispositions, selfish, exacting, and overbearing, a curse to themselves and to all around them. To a great extent, parents hold in their own hands the future happiness of their children. Upon them rests the important work of forming the character of these children. The instructions given in childhood will follow them all through life. Parents sow the seed which will spring up and bear fruit either for good or evil. They can fit their sons and daughters for happiness or for misery. 1T 685.4

“Children should be taught very young to be useful, to help themselves, and to help others. Many daughters of this age can, without remorse of conscience, see their mothers toiling, cooking, washing, or ironing, while they sit in the parlor and read stories, knit edging, crochet, or embroider. Their hearts are as unfeeling as a stone. But where does this wrong originate? Who are the ones usually most to blame in this matter? The poor, deceived parents. They overlook the future good of their children, and in their mistaken fondness, let them sit in idleness, or do that which is of but little account, which requires no exercise of the mind or muscles, and then excuse their indolent daughters because they are weakly. What has made them weakly? In many cases it has been the wrong course of the parents. A proper amount of exercise about the house would improve both mind and body. But children are deprived of this through false ideas, until they are averse to work. It is disagreeable and does not accord with their ideas of gentility. It is thought to be unladylike and even coarse to wash dishes, iron, or stand over the washtub. This is the fashionable instruction which is given children in this unfortunate age. 1T 686.1

“God's people should be governed by higher principles than worldlings, who seek to gauge all their course of action according to fashion. God-fearing parents should train their children for a life of usefulness.... Prepare them to bear burdens while young. If your children have been unaccustomed to labor, they will soon become weary. They will complain of side ache, pain in the shoulders, and tired limbs; and you will be in danger, through sympathy, of doing the work yourselves, rather than have them suffer a little. Let the burden upon the children be very light at first, and then increase it a little every day, until they can do a proper amount of labor without becoming so weary. Inactivity is the greatest cause of side ache and shoulder ache among children.... 1T 686.2

“Mothers should take their daughters with them into the kitchen and patiently educate them. Their constitution will be better for such labor, their muscles will gain tone and strength, and their meditations will be more healthy and elevated at the close of the day. They may be weary, but how sweet is rest after a proper amount of labor. Sleep, nature's sweet restorer, invigorates the weary body, and prepares it for the next day's duties. Do not intimate to your children that it is no matter whether they labor or not. Teach them that their help is needed, that their time is of value, and that you depend on their labor.” 1T 687.1