Read more from the Being Truly Human November 2007 Newsletter
Phiroz Mehta wrote four chapters of The Health Cookery Book, probably in the early years after the Second World War. He seemed to have intended it for publication, but it does not appear ever to have been printed
Continued from part 1, part 2 and part 3
Prepare all your dishes as simply as possible and in the shortest time necessary for cooking, for the more complicated your cookery, and the longer the time you heat the food, the less valuable is the dish for your health. It takes a little longer to cook a larger amount of the same dish, but you can reduce the time by applying a stronger heat.
Most people believe that simple wholesome dishes are unappetizing. The contrary is true, through generations of mistaken feeding, our sense of taste has become vitiated, because our stomachs and digestive systems have become unclean. A simple proof of this is the fact that most people have foul breath. They may disguise it by drugs, which however do not clean the internal organs. The real test of internal cleanliness is having sweet-smelling breath when we wake up in the morning, clear eyes (instead of what they usually are), and a tongue that is not heavily furred. We reach nearer this condition by proper feeding. It is almost needless to add that husbands and wives will find themselves much more attractive to each other, and children, instead of being repelled by the foul breath and somewhat disreputable looks of the parents when they kiss them good-morning, will experience nothing to disturb their confidence in their parents’ perfections. Especially strong is the influence of the mother’s state on the infant.
When we achieve internal cleanliness our palette becomes clean and our sense of taste true. Then we discover that a raw carrot, a simple salad with pure olive oil and lemon, ripe fruits, good wholemeal bread and butter, etc., taste delicious, whilst all elaborately prepared dishes, heavily spiced, or with spoonfuls of salt or pepper or mustard, or flooded with manufactured sauces, as distinct from, say, apple sauce made at home, are distasteful.
So, the sense of taste of the inwardly clean person alone — i.e. the healthy person — is reliable. This certainly does not mean that you should never take spices and herbs. They are in fact valuable, in very small amounts — e.g. two or three cloves added to apples, and a thin slice or two of lemon (with the skin) when stewing prunes, or a stick or two of cinnamon when cooking rice. The first care should be given to the selection of food. Only the best available should be bought. It is false economy to stint where the quality of the food is concerned, for the money you spend on medicines in consequence of eating food of poor or bad quality is many times greater than the money you save on the foodstuffs. In addition, you lose time through illness. Please note that you cannot ‘cook away’ food that is ‘going off’. The pernicious habit of ‘cooking up’ tomatoes, apples, pears, etc., which are just going bad, or using up very stale food, is responsible for much illness. Food which is ‘going off’ is decomposing, and cooking does nothing but disguise the toxins which you are swallowing .
Wherever possible, grow your own food or buy it and prepare it yourself for the family. What is made by loving hands is of superior value. Professional cooks and chefs are very rarely your friends where health is concerned. In fact, the “cleverer” the chef, the more is your digestion, health, and family happiness ruined. No one is a better cook than mother for most of the millions of families in the world.
Food should always be kept in a clean sanitary place, safe from flies, dust, and insects.
Fruits, lettuce, endive, etc., should be carefully washed and where necessary, dried thoroughly and kept in a cool place. Similarly with butter and cheese, which ought to be discarded when they turn rancid — because toxins are now forming in them.
The kitchen should always be kept perfectly clean. It should, preferably, be spacious, and have as much light, sun, and air as possible. All shelves, pots, pans, stoves, and cookers should be spotlessly clean and dry. Wash all pans carefully with hot water before cooking anything in them; this gets rid of dust and any tiny creatures which may have settled in the pans. The sink should be carefully cleaned every day. Observe every sanitary rule and hygienic principle in the management of the kitchen.
Eat all fruits and vegetables, with necessary exceptions, with their skins. Only when the digestive system is really weak must the skins be removed, until it is restored to normal strength through careful dieting.
Fruit-bearing and green vegetables need to be well washed in two or three waters. Spinach should first be put into hot water, left for just about 3 minutes, drained off, then washed in the ordinary way. This is supposed to get rid of most, it not all, of the superficial oxalic acid present in the leaf. It does not get rid of the slightly acrid taste of spinach not treated in this manner before being conservatively cooked. Tubers and underground vegetables should be scrubbed with a good stiff brush in warm water, and rinsed out in a second and a third water. It is simplest to wash under an open tap, placing the foods in a colander when clean. If turnips and parsnips have tough thick skins, remove them skilfully if the vegetables are to be cooked, but not when they are to be grated raw for a salad.
This means that the food has not been subjected to heat but is taken in its natural state. It is possible to eat most foods in their raw state, provided that the person is robust and enjoying true health. Raw foods, as compared with cooked foods:
It is essential for each individual to strike a fair balance between raw foods and cooked foods in his daily diet, without going to either of the extremes of a diet consisting wholly of raw food or wholly of cooked food.
Raw foods are very valuable in cases of obesity, rheumatism, etc. Raw food comprises:
Cooking should be done consonant with:
Then only is it possible to devise the fullest benefit for the body. Fireless cooking is considered the best and most wholesome way of cooking. An electric fireless cooker is used. Little or no water is required in the process. As soon as the food reaches the boiling point, the heat is automatically shut off, the cooking being completed in an airtight compartment. Thus, practically none of the nutrient qualities of the food is lost.
Of the usual methods of cooking, the best is baking. This is most to be recommended for weak stomachs since baked food is the easiest to digest, has lost the least amount of vitamins and mineral salts, and is of fine flavour.
Roasting is the quickest way of cooking and one in which the most intense heat is applied. It brings out the special flavour of any food, and there is little loss of vitamins, etc.
In conservative cooking the food is placed in the least possible quantity of water, quickly brought to the boil, the flame then turned down as low as possible so that it is just sufficient to keep up the boiling process, and the lid is kept on tight. With leafy green vegetables, water can be altogether dispensed with. The food stews in its own juices; and cooked in this manner it has a delicious and distinctive flavour.
Another method is to steam in a double boiler. Here the food is placed in a vessel, tightly covered, and the whole inserted in the larger vessel containing constantly boiling water.
In conservative cooking, the foods may be stewed in a small quality of cooking fat or oil.
Boiling in the ordinary way is a poor method of cooking. The vitamins are destroyed, especially if the food is brought to the boil slowly. The damage done is minimised by bringing to the boil as quickly as possible, and then continuing on the low flame, keeping the lid tightly shut if possible. The dissolved oxygen in water attacks the vitamins. Boiling expels this dissolved oxygen — the quicker the better — and then, the low flame brings out the flavours much better than a quick flame. The usual result of boiling is overcooked ‘dead’ food — witness the potatoes and cabbage, and especially spinach of most restaurants! Such food loads the body with more waste-matter than it can easily eliminate and thus wears the body out.
Fried foods are the most indigestible and the least to be recommended. Should they form part of the menu, they should be thoroughly masticated and well mixed with the saliva before swallowing.
Use simple herbs for flavouring all savouries, bearing in mind that is an error to make ‘tasty’ dishes by introducing extraneous appetizers, because the true flavour of the food itself is thereby disguised.
As far as cooked meals are concerned, prefer to bake or conservatively cook your dishes. Avoid long menus consisting of many courses, for then it is almost impossible to avoid making unscientific mixtures.
If you have a sufficiency of (a), you need not have a sweet to follow. In fact, it is preferable to have (a) alone as it is a complete meal.
Remember the proportions in (a):
Do not use fats or oils in the cooking except in minimum amounts. Avoid combining acid fruits with cooked meals, for then there is a tendency to fermentation and indigestion. Again, here are some compatibles:
The above suggestions are intended to give you broad principles for turning out wholesome meals.
You must of course, according to your discretion, circumstances, and artistic sense, make reasonable variations, and sometimes do go ‘on the bust’ and forget all our health admonitions — very healthy to do so!
Continued in part 5 and part 6
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