How to Lighten the Winter Bill of Fare, Which Most of Us Make Too Heavy in the Belief That We Are Generating Heat

This is the first article in February of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Feb 5, 1905, and is a longer article on foods that can be used to cook with during the winter months especially vegetables.

School for Housewives – How to Lighten the Winter Bill of Fare, Which Most of Us Make Too Heavy in the Belief That We Are Generating Heat

Some Plebeian Vegetables Which, When Properly Prepared, Will Give a Pleasing Variety to the Cold Weather Menu

When the days begin to lengthen,
then the cold begins to strengthen.

Then, too, in humiliating emulation of the of the Laplander who gorges himself with blubber and washes it down with train oil to keep up his supply of human carbon, we eat more meat than at any other season of the year. Beef, pork, and, in a less degree, mutton, generate heat, because they make blood. The quantity of that blood is a minor consideration with the average eater.

When feverish colds, feverish bilious attacks, undisguised pleurisy and unmistakable pneumonia lay the strong man low, and weaken the forces of delicate women and children, we pile the blame upon the broad shoulders of the weather and brace the system with beef tea and blood-rare steak. In order to keep well we have buckwheat cakes and sausage for breakfast, pork tenderloins for luncheon, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner.

I once heard a pig-headed man argue with hatred irrelevancy that it is flying in the face of Providence to use artificial means – glass houses and the like – to keep vegetables growing in winter.

“If God Almighty had meant us to eat them out of season, He would have made them grow all the year round,” was a clincher from which there was no appeal. It would have been worse than useless for his silenced opponent to ask why, if beasts of meat were made to serve man for food all winter long, the ground should be frozen into barrenness for six months of the year, obliging us to preserve food for them by artificial means.


In a later “Talk” I shall show how kind Nature, as if anticipating the deductions and practice of pig-headed men and their followers, has provided, in a measure, against the consequences of their blunders. We come now to reason together concerning the gentle influences upon blood and liver of such vegetables as are within our reach during the period when the “strengthened” cold does its cruel worst upon us.

Begin with what is perhaps the best-abused vegetable in the market and collar – cabbage. It is so cheap that the poorest may have to eat it every day. It keeps green and juicy from November to April, and while chemical analysis shows a result of 89 percent of water, it also set down “fats – next to nothing.” And fats are what we are trying to avoid.

Cabbage is an unmistakable plebeian, although some of its kindred – cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts – find welcome in refined circles. It tastes good – as most of us admit. It smells villainous in cooking, and it disagrees with tender stomachs.

To abate the nuisance of the odor and lessen unwholesomeness, cook in an open pot, covered with plenty of cold water, salted, and add, before the boil begins, half a teaspoonful of baking soda for a gallon of water. Then cook fast – always in two waters! Keep up the first boil for fifteen minutes, turn off every drop of water – “waster it into the sink,” as Bridget-Thekla would describe the process – return to the fire and fill up the pot with boiling water. Put in a teaspoonful of salt and a quarter teaspoonful of soda and cook, uncovered, twenty minutes longer. Turn into a colander and press with the back of a wooden spoon until no more of the 89 percent of water will run out. Transfer to a chopping tray, mince coarsely with a perfectly clean chopping-knife, put into a heated saucepan over the fire and stir in pepper, salt and a good lump of butter until you have a smoking hot mess – not disintegrated, yet well seasoned. Dish, and send around vinegar for those who like to qualify still farther the cabbage-taste.

This is the plain boiled cabbage which serves as a base for dishes, recipes for which are given elsewhere.

Onions – particularly the Spanish variety – while they contain 91 percent of water, and are, therefore, less nutritious than are generally supposed, owe their wholesomeness at this season largely to the portion of sulphur, which makes them smell, if not to heaven, to the topmost ceiling of a nine-story flat when cooked upon the first floor. Unless, indeed, our housewife takes the trouble to leave them in cold water for two hours before cooking, puts them over the fire in salted cold water with a half teaspoonful of soda to the gallon, and boils fast in an open vessel until tender, changing the water as with cabbage, for fresh boiling, at the end of fifteen minutes after ebullition begins. Drain, dish and cover with a white sauce.


Celery may not make muscle and bone, but it is an excellent nerve bracer, either cold or cooked. Even when a fair-sized bunch costs 20 cents – and it is seldom more expensive – it is worth the price. Break off the outer and coarser stalks, scrape, cut into inch lengths, lay in cold water for an hour, drain, cook tender in boiling water, slightly salted; pour this off, cover the celery with a good white sauce and serve. The inner, crisp stalks are sent to the table raw, with bits of ice scattered over them.

Carrots are decidedly wholesome, containing sugar and mucilage and slightly medicinal mineral matter. They are cheap, and would be more popular if the average housewife knew how to cook them. (See Recipe Column.)

Beets carry a still larger percentage of sugar. The older they are the longer they should be boiled. Mrs. Whitney says: “For cooking old beets – all the time you have!” This is one of the good things that can hardly be overdone.

Parsnips are among the most nutritious of our winter vegetables, containing less water and more sugar than carrots. People who like them are very fond of them – those who “cannot abide” their peculiar, slightly aromatic sweetness never learn to like them.

Salsify, or oyster plant, is another friend who remains faithful to us from autumn until spring. It is nutritious, palatable and very slightly laxative. Of the various ways of preparing it for the table, I give one in the Recipe Column.

Marion Harland


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