The Art of Living in Australia, by Philip E. Muskett

Chapter VIII.

On School Cookery and its Influence on the Australian Daily Life.


In all probability there are but few who have ever had their attention called to certain figures duly set forth within the pages of that mine of information, namely, Mr. T. A. Coghlan’s WEALTH AND PROGRESS OF NEW SOUTH WALES. Nevertheless, the facts associated with these statistics so directly concern our Australian daily life that they deserve to be widely known. That portion of the work in which our food supply is considered, therefore, is well worth referring to. It will he found that the consumption of butcher’s meat by each inhabitant is greater than in any other country in the world. Thus the amount of meat required for each member of the community every year in New South Wales is 201 lbs.; in Victoria 275 lbs.; whilst in Queensland 370 lbs. are called for. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom only 109 lbs. are similarly needed; in the United States of America 150 lbs. while the figures for the different European countries show an average of no more than 70 lbs.

Another article of commerce which is consumed to excess in all parts is tea. As I have previously stated, it is estimated by Coghlan that the four million people in Australasia use more of this beverage than all the millions who inhabit continental Europe, that is, if Russia be excluded; but he further points out that in Australia itself the use of tea is universal. The tables show that for each inhabitant New South Wales requires annually 7.8 lbs.; Victoria, 7.7 lbs.; South Australia, 6.5 lbs.; and Queensland 8.4 lbs.; and moreover, that West Australia attains a maximum with 10.6 lbs. Now, according to Mulhall, in his DICTIONARY OF STATISTICS, the amount of tea consumed annually for each inhabitant in the United Kingdom is only 5 lbs.; and for the United States of America the proportion is but 1.5 lbs.

A survey of these figures consequently must compel us to admit that Australia is inhabited by a people largely carnivorous and addicted to tea. Surely not one person in a thousand would advocate such a diet under any circumstances. Is it not astonishing, therefore, that innutritious fare of this land is still tolerated in Australia? Facts such as these call for the most serious consideration, since they must irresistibly affect the national life; but though it may seem strange, these matters have never received the notice they stand in need of, if, indeed, they have ever received any notice at all.

There are worlds of interest, however, centred in the notable circumstance that Australia, a new and a semitropical country, is now being peopled by the descendants of those who belonged to an entirely different climate. At the present time the old racial instincts are actively powerful, and exert an influence diametrically opposed to climatic surroundings; and, as a matter of fact, we are witnessing a struggle between our Anglo–Saxon heredities and our Australian environment. But such a conflict against our destiny is one in which the odds are overwhelmingly on one side. For of all forces, that of climate is the most powerful. It is true that man is able almost to remove mountains, and that he can create rivers in an arid land; but to endeavour to resist the dominating influence of climate is to attempt the impossible.

Yet there is something more than all this which should induce us to follow the promptings of nature; this is the fact that Australia will only reach the zenith of her possibilities when her people conform to her climatic requirements. For what would the latter mean? Market gardens innumerable, and a healthy and lucrative life for all concerned; the development of her deep-sea fisheries, and employment, direct as well as indirect, to thousands; the cultivation of the vine, with all the wealth pertaining to smiling vineyards; the growth of the olive and other fruits, and all the other industries which only await their creation; and instead of this, at present, all we possess is the knowledge that we are the greatest meat-eating and tea-drinking race on earth.

Progressive Changes in the Theories of Education.

We are told that it was Jean Jacques Rousseau who first entirely severed education and learning. In his Emile, published in 1762, he advocated a more natural and less pedantic method of training and developing the physical, mental, and moral faculties of the young. The work produced an astounding effect on its appearance, and has largely influenced the educational methods throughout Europe.

Not so long afterwards, in 1801, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, permeated with the atmosphere following the French Revolution, gave to the world his views on education in his work HOW GERTRUDE TEACHES HER CHILDREN. The essence of his belief being that “sense-impression is the foundation of instruction,” he counselled the development of all the faculties in preference to the mere acquisition of words. “Words alone,” said he, “cannot give us a knowledge of things; they are only useful for giving expression to what we have in our own minds.” Consequently, he believed in imparting instruction by a direct appeal to the senses and the understanding so as to call forth all the powers, selecting the subjects of study so that each step should progressively assist the pupil’s advancement. He contended that observation was the method by which knowledge was principally gained, and that the perceptive faculties (intuition) were developed by observation. Even in his own time his ideas were awarded a recognition of their value; in fact, he had the honour of being specially visited by Prince de Talleyrand and Madame de Stael.

In the early part of the present century another reformer, Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, arose to influence all future educational methods. As with Rousseau, Froebel held that each age belonged to itself, and that the perfection of the later stage could only be attained through perfection of the earlier. So, too, while Pestalozzi upheld that the faculties were developed by exercise, Froebel went farther, and added that the function of education was to develop the faculties by arousing VOLUNTARY ACTIVITY, in this way becoming, according to Michelet, the greatest of educational reformers. Froebel was convinced that man was primarily a doer, indeed, even a creator, and that he learnt only through “self-activity.” In action, moreover, there was not alone the mere physical exercise, but also the actual unfolding and strengthening of the mental powers. To Froebel, indeed, belongs the honour of originating the kindergarten system, which is making such progress at the present time; and more than this, it may be said that while it is employed only in the earlier stages of education, yet his principles are beginning to make themselves felt throughout the entire system of education.

As a matter of fact, what is known in Sweden and in Finland as SLOYD, or manual instruction, may be regarded as a continuation of the Kindergarten system. Through the exertions of Uno Cygnaeus the whole of the national system of education in Finland was reorganized, and manual work was first made a part of the regular instruction in the common schools. In Sweden, likewise, the same principles have been introduced chiefly by Herr Otto Salomon, the director of the great sloyd seminarum at Naas. Sloyd work is used in the schools in a disciplinary way as an integral part of general education; the children, generally boys, are employed for a certain number of hours a week in making articles of common household use. It is maintained that work of this kind is specially invaluable in supplementing the ordinary school education of the three R’s. It fulfils the injunction “to put the whole boy to school;” it develops faculties which would otherwise lie dormant, while at the same time it trains the eye and does away with clumsy fingers.

The Purpose of Education.

From the foregoing it will be seen that within the last 130 years a striking change has come over the view held respecting education. Prior to that time an artificial and pedantic method prevailed, which received its first check from the pen of Rousseau. The system which he attacked, however, built up as it was upon centuries of mediaeval learning, was not to be disposed of by this one encounter. Such a result was not to be expected in the natural order of things; but as the ideas of Rousseau contained the living truth, they were bound to find advocacy in due course, and though the seed might lie quiescent for a time, yet it was sure to germinate sooner or later. After him the path of educational reform was illumined by the genius of Pestalozzi, and a few years later Froebel appeared to influence for ever the methods of education. Indeed, it was the latter who by his kindergarten system has founded the practical education of our own day.

The vast change, then, along the whole line of education has been from scholastic learning towards that of education in manual training. This is the truest recognition of the fact that the purpose of education is to prepare a child for his journey through life, and not merely to get him ready for an examination; but although the meaning of education has thus become more apparent, there is still too much a tendency in the present day to burden the developing mind with a multiplicity of subjects. We do not wish to produce a living encyclopaedia, but we desire to create a being, well trained in all his senses, and thoroughly competent to take his part in the battle of life. Far be it from imagining that I decry the advantages of learning in the slightest degree, but surely there is the broadest distinction between a scholastic prodigy and a practical well-informed mortal.

This exaggeration of the function of education expressed by the word multiplicity deserves a little consideration, for it would appear that our educationists overlook the fact that the organism with which they have to deal is going through the most critical period of its existence. At the very time that children are rapidly undergoing the process of physical development, there is superadded the acquirement of elaborate mental knowledge, and when bone and muscle and sinew are in the active processes of transformation and growth, then it is that the intellectual faculties are spurred on at a killing pace. The child leaves school in the afternoon with a load of home lessons to be prepared for the following day. The very meaning of the word school has become distorted; instead of being a medium for imparting instruction, it threatens to become merely a building in which the lessons learned at home overnight are heard, and besides this, if the school is thus to become simply a place for hearing lessons, the office of schoolmaster must correspondingly suffer. This I hope will never be, for it would at once take away all personality from the teacher, and transmute him into a mere auditory machine. His individuality would become lost in the official, and teaching as teaching resolve itself into a stereotyped function; and this latter consideration leads me to remark that one man has the gift of imparting knowledge, in which another fails entirely. One instructor has a way of putting things so that they ale retained in the memory of his pupils for ever, while another so fails to express himself that not one clear idea is carried away by his hearers.

The chief purpose of education should be the preparation of the young for their adult life. As Agesilaus the Great observed when one asked him what boys should learn: “That,” said he, “which they shall use when men.” But the future of the two sexes differs entirely after school life is over. It will follow, therefore, that there should be an essential difference between the education required for the boy and that for the girl. In our present day system of education, however, there is too much a disposition to make no such distinction. The boy in the greater number of cases is the bread-winner, and has to rely on his own exertions, whether they be manual or mental. The girl, on the other hand, looks forward to the destiny of housewife. This aspect of the educational problem certainly deserves to have more attention paid to it than it has yet received. Still a step in the light direction has been made by James Platt, the author of many valuable works on currency, finance, &c., who advocates that business habits and kindred matters should be taught to all youths. Of course it is not intended that the sole object of education should be the principles of money making, but at the same time there is a considerable amount of truth in his contention. But the chief purpose I have in view is to advocate a thorough and systematic teaching of Cookery to girls. In the remaining part of this chapter, therefore, I shall endeavour to bring forward reasons in support of my proposition.

Cookery Instruction in England, New South Wales, and Victoria.

Under this heading I propose to describe briefly what is being done in connection with Cookery Instruction in the places mentioned. Now the principal object I have in view is to further the teaching of Cookery to girls during school life. It will, however, somewhat strengthen my advocacy if I refer to the beginning of this movement in England, for it undoubtedly had its origin in causes quite outside of any educational system. There is no question but that the increased facilities for communication, resulting from the advent of steamships and railways, gave to travel an impetus it never before experienced. And as a result thousands of people in the old country acquired a practical knowledge of Continental life, which would otherwise never have been theirs. These travellers saw for themselves the perfection of Cookery in countries like France, and naturally their eyes were opened to the neglect which culinary matters received in their own land; at least, this seems to me a satisfactory explanation of what has occurred, and I put it forward, therefore, purely as a matter of personal opinion, and whether this is the right reason or not, it is quite certain that a desire for improvement in this direction is insensibly coming over our English people.

It would seem that Mr. Buckmaster gave a series of lectures in the Cookery School at the International Exhibition in 1873 and 1874. As a considerable portion of space was devoted to food, it was rightly thought that some practical remark on the subject would prove of distinct advantage. Just about this time, too, in 1874, a good start was made by the establishment of a National Training School for Cookery at South Kensington. From its inception success seemed to smile upon it. Its numbers began to increase, steadily at first, and afterwards by leaps and bounds. It clearly filled a place that had been wanting; and moreover, the objects it had in view were identified with all that was praiseworthy. It was proof positive of the long cherished opinion as to the neglect of Cookery in a girl’s education.

Its courses of instruction are for educated persons who desire to qualify themselves to become teachers of Cookery; for students and cooks; and for those who wish to be able to cook in their own homes. Its distinctive feature, however, lies in its artisan kitchen. It is by means of this that families, which spend from seven to twenty shillings weekly in the purchase of food, will be so greatly benefitted. Nothing can exceed this in importance, for any improvement in the Cookery of the whole bulk of the people becomes a matter of national welfare. A conspicuous instance of the success which has attended the establishment of the National Training School for Cookery is the almost annual appearance of a new edition of its hand-book, which is published under its auspices. Therein will be found a most detailed account of the steps necessary for the preparation of innumerable dishes, and the different instructions are given with a minuteness which leaves nothing to be desired.

At this period, also, the Masters of the Cooks’ Company, not to be outdone in anything calculated to promote the progress of the culinary art, had several young girls brought from ward schools, and taught in the artisan kitchen already referred to. Indeed, they were instructed entirely at the expense of the Company. This was liberality of the most commendable kind, and it is satisfactory to see a corporate body acting in such a practical fashion. An ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory.

This growing recognition of the importance of Cookery in the old country at last spread to the educational world, although it has not yet obtained that position which it must eventually acquire; but the ball has been set rolling in the right path, and the necessity for instruction in the culinary art is so self-evident, that there can be no doubt as to the ultimate result. It is gratifying in this connection, therefore, to know that the kindred subject of Elementary Laundry Work has now become part of a girl’s education. The Education Code of 1890 contains specific reference to the fact that special and appropriate provision has been made for the practical teaching of Laundry Work, and is also accompanied by instructions to the effect that the appliances and methods employed in teaching should be those which are possible in the homes of working people. I have referred to this in passing, as it directly concerns the point at issue.

It would have been a matter of considerable difficulty for a private individual like myself to have collected authentic information relative to the present status of Cookery in English and Australian schools. Under these circumstances, therefore, I deemed it best to apply directly to head-quarters for official statements. Mr. Edwin Johnson, the courteous Under–Secretary for Public Instruction in New South Wales, willingly undertook to place me in possession of all the facts I required as far as England and this colony are concerned. I shall, therefore, give his account of what is being done in the old country; and next condense from his remarks the substance of what has taken place in New South Wales with regard to this vital matter.

In England, the Education Department conditionally wants aid to Cookery Instruction in connection with State Aided Primary Schools under the following stipulations: what provision as to buildings, &c., has been made for Cookery Instruction in accordance with the conditions prescribed. The Department then grants aid at the rate of four shillings per head in day schools, and two shillings per head in evening, or, as they are sometimes called, “continuation” schools, on the number of pupils in the fourth and higher standards presented for examination in Cookery. The classes are taught by ordinary Primary School Teachers who have been trained in Cookery work, and have obtained certificates of qualifications. Under the London School Board, Cookery classes are established in different centres in connection with a large number of the schools; and to a less extent similar classes are organized by the School Boards of some of the larger country towns. Grants from the Education Department are annually obtained for the work by these schools.

In New South Wales, the teaching of Cookery in connection with the Public Schools has long been advocated; and about ten years ago, special lectures on the subject, and demonstrations, were given under authority; these did not, however, then lead to any practical results. Early in 1886, Mrs. Fawcett Story, who had previously taught Cookery successfully in connection with the Sydney Technical College, was appointed, on probation, lecturer and demonstrator in Cookery and Domestic Economy to the students at Hurlstone Training College, the object being to qualify such students as Instructors of Cookery for schools in which they would in the future be employed as teachers. After three months successful work at Hurlstone, Mrs. Story’s appointment was confirmed and she has continued to carry on the work. At first appointed “Instructress,” she now takes rank as “Directress of Cookery.”

In 1889 a Cookery class was established at the Fort Street Public School, and this proving successful, the instruction was extended to other schools. Three classes of work were embodied in the plan arranged to be carried out, namely:—

1. An Elementary Cookery Course,

2. A Plain, or Intermediate Cookery Course,

3. A Teachers’ Course,

and at the close of 1890 the numbers receiving instruction had reached 270.

In 1891 the work was extended to the Sydney and Suburban Schools. Classes were also established in connection with those of Bathurst and Goulburn, and arrangements for training a class of Pupil Teachers in this important work were made and carried out. In 1891 the number under Cookery Instruction in connection with the school reached 757, and during the year 1892 arrangements were also made for extending Cookery Instruction among the masses of the people on the basis already described.

It should also be remembered that classes for Cookery Instruction have for some years past been established in connection with the Technical College in Sydney, and more recently in the similar colleges of the larger towns and centres.

As far as Victoria is concerned, I am under considerable obligation to Mr. T. Brodribb, the Secretary of the Education Office, Melbourne, for the following information. It would appear that although the subject has not been systematically taught throughout the schools, instruction in Cookery has been given by experts to the elder female pupils in a number of Metropolitan State Schools for the past two years; two courses of 12 lessons being undertaken in each school between the months of April and November. The instruction has consisted of the preparation of plain wholesome dishes and sickroom Cookery; the proper care and arrangement of the various utensils employed forming an important part of each lesson. Reports obtained from Head Teachers show that, in most cases, the lessons were productive of much benefit to the children, and were thoroughly appreciated. At present, however, the teaching of the subject has been temporarily interrupted; but it is to be hoped that before long a recognition of its vital importance will enable measures to be taken for its permanent continuance.

Cookery in its Relation to Health.

We are drawing nearer and nearer to an appreciation of the power which Cookery wields in the preservation of health, but this awakening as to its value has been too tardy, indeed, it has been from a slumber of centuries. Not that good Cookery has not been practised from time immemorial, but its recognition from a scientific point of view is almost within our own day; and even at the present time, dietetics, or that department of medicine which relates to food and diet, is only gradually assuming a position which is destined ultimately to become second to none. Moreover, there is still ample room for improvement in this direction, and matters will not be rectified till a comprehensive study of food and its preparation, both for the healthy as well as the sick, is embodied in the curriculum of modern medical education.

Not so long ago THE LANCET made reference to the Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy, which had been opened by the Princess Louise. It was pointed out that good cookery had more to do with health and comfort, and therefore with domestic happiness, than any other known accomplishment. In the same article, moreover, it was remarked that it would be out of all keeping with the position of Edinburgh as a medical centre, if the importance, in sickness, of good cookery and suitable food were not fully recognised. In conclusion, the same authority expressed the hope that this commendable example would be adopted by many other towns.

All this is satisfactory in showing that the preparation of food for the table is a subject which can no longer be pooh-poohed, and there are other signs and tokens which unmistakably point to the same conclusion. As a proof of this it is only necessary to point to the fact that eminent physicians have written prefaces to works on cookery, and more than this, have contributed to the literature of the same. There is a very excellent handbook by Phillis Browne, to which the late Sir J. Risdon Bennett, a former President of the Royal College of Physicians, London, contributed the prefatory note. In it he remarks, the value of wholesome and properly-cooked food has never been sufficiently understood or appreciated in the United Kingdom. “In scarcely any other country,” says he, “does so much prejudice and ignorance prevail on the subject of food and its employment.” And in proceeding to speak of the growing tendency to make instruction in cookery a part of ordinary education, he adds that this must be a subject for sincere rejoicing with those who desire both the moral and physical welfare of the poorer classes. This is not the only evidence of interest which the same physician took in this matter, for he has also written an admirable and lengthy article on Food and its Uses in Health.

But there is another writer to whom the English speaking people are deeply indebted for a knowledge of all that pertains to food and cookery; I refer to Sir Henry Thompson, the eminent London surgeon. His work on FOOD AND Feeding has already run through six editions, and one can only hope that he will long be enabled to benefit his race by a succession of issues. He has written other volumes on the same subject, and further, by his contributions to THE NINETEENTH CENTURY and The Lancet, he has materially raised the status of the culinary art. And there are also quite a number of works on diet, and on food, written by well-known authorities in the medical world, so that the science of dietetics must eventually attain an unassailable position.

The preceding naturally leads up to the main point, namely, the controlling influence which cookery exercises over health. Now if I were asked to name the one single cause which produces more indigestion than anything else, I should unhesitatingly answer, bad Cookery. Many people Fun away with the idea that good Cookery is necessarily elaborate Cookery, and that in consequence it is quite beyond the ordinary purse. Such is not, by any means, the case, and as a matter of fact good Cookery aims at getting the best possible results at the least possible cost. Herein lies the excellence of French Cookery, and as I have occasion to remark elsewhere, the bulk of the population in that country live infinitely better than does the average Briton.

Indigestion, then, is the great primary result of bad cookery. But, on the other hand, let us hear what Dr. Lauder Brunton has to say on the score of food when properly prepared. “Savoury food,” says he, “causes the digestive juices to be freely secreted; well cooked and palatable food is therefore more digestible than unpalatable, and if the food lacks savour, a desire naturally arises to supply it by condiments, not always well selected or wholesome.”

But important as good Cookery, in itself, may be in its influence upon health, there is still another essential, which must not be overlooked. And it is that of variety. The oft-quoted phrase of TOUJOURS PERDRIX bears upon this very point. It is a way of saying that even a luscious dish when constantly repeated becomes wearisome, or, in other words, that there is too much of the same thing over and over again. And if a ceaseless repetition of the same dish — however well it may be cooked — palls upon the palate, it is at least certain that it is equally burdensome to the stomach. Dr. Horace Dobell well expresses this fact when he says that it is of the highest importance to avoid unnecessarily limiting the variety of food allowed to all persons, but especially to those of poor appetites and troublesome digestions. Monotonous, uninteresting meals depress the spirits and are subversive of appetite, digestion, and nutrition.

Cookery as a Preventive of Drunkenness.

Plutarch tells us that Themistocles laughing at his own son, who got his mother, and by his mother’s means his father also, to indulge him, said to the boy that he had the most power of anyone in Greece: “For the Athenians command the rest of Greece, I command the Athenians, your mother commands me, and you command your mother.” In the same way it is easy to make a defective system of education responsible for much of the existing drunkenness. First of all we have a scheme of education which fails to provide instruction in a girl’s domestic duties; then we have the wife who undertakes the task for which she has never been properly trained; next, instead of well-cooked and very much varied meals, we have a conspicuous and a disastrous failure; and finally, we have the bread-winner driven to the public-house — and happiness has left that home for ever. But this is an old story, yet, unfortunately, it is a true one; and it will continue to be true until a clearer perception of what a domestic training should be is more universally recognised. I am sure that I do not exaggerate when I say that millions of our English-speaking race are living this life without the slightest glimmering of what domestic content might be theirs. Surely the word “home” for the artisan should signify something more than a place where he is badly fed. Still, it is a solemn fact that no more concrete definition of the word has ever been forthcoming. Now, such a state of affairs cannot be excused on the score of expense, for the crowning triumph of good Cookery is its very cheapness.

It has already been mentioned that the late Sir J. Risdon Bennett did not think it beneath his dignity to write a prefatory note to a Cookery Book. He has also pointed out that Cookery is a subject which deserves more attention at the hands of those who have the welfare of temperance at heart. He believed that a knowledge of wholesome Cookery would do much to make home happy; to keep the men away from dissipation and intemperance; and to make the children healthy and cheerful. The same idea is expressed by Sylvester, who remarked that Cookery should be most popular, because every individual human being is directly interested in its success. As he says, the real comfort of the majority of men is sought for in their own homes, and every effort should be made to increase domestic happiness by inducing them to remain at home. And long, long ago a quaint old book, Markham’s English Housewife, published in 1637, contained the idea in a nutshell, as the following quotation will show: “To speak, then, of the knowledges which belong to our English housewife, I hold the most principal to be a perfect skill in Cookery. She that is utterly ignorant therein, may not, by the laws of strict justice, challenge the freedom of marriage — because, indeed, shee can perform but half her vow — shee may love and obey, but shee cannot cherish and keepe her husband.”

Opinions such as these are based on the soundest common sense, indeed no one could honestly oppose them. But it powerfully adds to their weight to find them thoroughly endorsed by the representative medical authority of THE BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL and THE LANCET; the former has from time to time insisted upon the self-same truths, and strenuously urged their practical adoption. These contributions are somewhat too lengthy for complete reproduction, but the views expressed may be briefly referred to. It was maintained that English people have much to learn from the French methods of Cookery; that these are not merely tasteful and appetising, but that they are extremely economical; that materials which the English housewife throws away as useless, her French sister skilfully converts into toothsome and nutritious food; and that it is only an increased knowledge of Cookery which the poor need to render life more agreeable.

THE LANCET also, in an admirable article on “Culinary Civilisation,” spoke of the need of women becoming acquainted with the modes of concocting palatable food, if they wished to maintain their domestic power. It was further pointed out that if the husband was to be prevented from neglecting his family, the wife must see that he had well-cooked food at home. And lastly, it was tellingly set forth that when women had fully mastered this lesson a step in civilisation would have been gained, which would show in increased health, increased prosperity, and happier domestic hearths.

But I cannot conclude this portion without a special reference to some remarks by Madame Emilie Lebour–Fawssett. They occur in her most admirable book FRENCH COOKERY FOR LADIES, and are so sensible that they should never be forgotten. “I like,” says Madame, “to place before my husband, who has been hard at work all day long, a nice tempting dinner, very much varied and well cooked; and I cannot, repeat it too often, it is one of the strongest ties of home life, and I am sure many a man in the day, when he is most busy, unconsciously smiles inwardly at the prospect of the nice little dinner awaiting him at home, when his hard day’s work is over. Small, dainty, well-made dishes gratify your husband’s appetite, help to keep him healthy, prepare him a good digestion for his old age, and save your purse.”

In another part of the book, a little farther on, she remarks:—-“One of my chief objects also is to teach the great mass of people to make better use of the numberless good things there are to be obtained, and thereby keep their husbands away from the public-house. It stands to reason that if a man who has worked all day comes home and finds nothing warm and appetising prepared for him, he will go away quicker than he came, and spend at the first hotel the money he would otherwise have gladly spent on his family if his wife had tried and knew how to make him comfortable; and, there is no denying it, the greatest comforts a man can have after a day’s work, be it manual labour or brain work, are a good meal and a quiet corner in which to smoke his pipe or cigar.”

Cookery in the Formation of Character.

Yet, valuable as it may be in all these foregoing respects, Cookery has something more to recommend it, which gives it precedence before everything else in education; and though this is saying a great deal, I shall endeavour to demonstrate that it is perfectly true. I have already shown that Cookery is of superlative benefit, both in ensuring health and in acting as a preventive against habits of intemperance. But it is as a medium for training that Cookery is at its very best; for it is in reality an art; indeed, it is a master art. At the same time, also, it is a science — the science of applied chemistry. There are no other elements of education which thus blend within themselves these two factors — the practical and the scientific.

To commence with, Cookery requires accuracy. The instructions given with any recipe are sufficient to show this. They tell you to take so much of each thing, to proceed in a certain way, and even what time to take in the cooking. It also calls for attention to detail. Carelessness in Cookery is just one of the rocks on which disaster occurs. An English duke, an ambassador at Paris, was desirous of giving the CORPS DIPLOMATIQUE the treat of a real English plum pudding. The fullest directions were given to his chef — all, indeed, with the exception of mentioning the pudding-cloth. When the eventful time arrived for its appearance, to his dismay several stately cooks appeared, each carrying a tureen of dark-looking fluid. The omission of the pudding-cloth was fatal. Cleanliness is another of the cardinal virtues of Cookery. The very thought of anything else would be repulsive. By the way, that fine old saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” does not come from the Scriptures, as many suppose, but from one of John Wesley’s sermons.

Cookery also exacts punctuality — for have we not Brillat–Savarin’s dictum that of all the qualities necessary for a cook the most indispensable is punctuality? If any important matter connected with the process of Cookery be not attended to at the exact moment it is required, nothing can afterwards rectify it. A little delay in attending to this thing, or a little delay in attending to that thing, and whatever is being cooked is irretrievably spoiled. And, moreover, it is not to be forgotten that cookery is of signal benefit in inculcating the advantages of a wise economy. With proper Cookery nothing should be allowed to go to waste, nothing should be thrown away, unless it be absolutely useless. There should be good housewifery; everything, even the veriest scraps, may be turned to the best account. The stock pot will absorb many nutritious and wholesome odds and ends, which would otherwise be consigned to the dirt-box. The loss that actually takes place in many kitchens is without the shadow of an excuse; sometimes the best part of a cold joint is deliberately cast aside.

A National Plea on Behalf of Australian School Cookery.

But there is still something else to be urged on behalf of Cookery, and of School Cookery in particular, which places it immeasurably before even the preceding. I have claimed for Cookery that it develops certain habits which are of the greatest importance in the formation of character; yet, as I have just remarked, there is something more than this, which renders it of priceless value, and of what this consists I shall do my best to explain.

Every one who has the welfare of Australia and of Australians at heart must feel no little concern at that growing indifference to domestic life which is so much the characteristic of our girls. Once a girl has left school, she seems to think that the household is no longer any place for her; she consequently ceases to take any interest whatever in the many matters which constitute the management of a home: her one aim is to get into “business,” as it is called. It appears to be immaterial whether she is to be a dressmaker, or milliner, or saleswoman, or employee in a large establishment, as long as she gets away from home.

Now, all this is greatly to be deplored, and has a disastrous influence over the whole of Australian family life, because it must happen that many of these girls eventually marry, and commence their new existence under the most unfavourable conditions. In the first place, they are totally ignorant of everything connected with household management, and what is far worse, they have almost a contempt for it. What the result is, in too many cases, I have already dwelt upon — either the husband and the family suffer from the effects of bad Cookery, and unhappiness and ill-health follow, or else the bread-winner flies to alcohol in order to forget his troubles.

It must not be imagined however, that this condition of affairs is altogether beyond remedy, and that our Australian girls are hopeless in this respect. No, on the contrary, those of whom I have just spoken are as attractive and fascinating — as Australian girls always are; but it is a thousand pities that they do not possess a greater appreciation of the importance of home life. Still, after all, may it not be that our educational system is defective in that it does not implant — all through a girl’s school life — a love of Cookery, and of domestic management? It is during this impressionable age that all these truths can be so well indoctrinated. Indeed, I am thoroughly convinced that one of the greatest defects in the superlatively scientific education of today, as far as the girls are concerned, is the neglect which these matters receive; for it stands to reason that if they are passed by during school life, they are never learnt at all.

And, further, it should not be forgotten that a cook is always able to command high wages. That is a fact which should not be lost sight of, although perhaps it is some what mercenary. A cook need never fear but that she will always be in constant employment. Ah, yes! Max O’Rell got in a home thrust when he declared that “the average woman who finds herself alone in the world could earn her living if she could cook — but she can’t.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58