Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are Midnight Suppers Hygienic?

"In regard to the chafing-dish and its most prominent use, some one may fittingly ask: Is it hygienic to eat at midnight? Can one keep one's health and eat late suppers? As in all things pertaining to food, no set rules can be given to meet every case; much depends upon constitutional traits, individual habits and idiosyncrasies. One may practise what another cannot attempt. As a rule, however, people who eat a hearty dinner, after the work of the day is done, do not need to eat again until the following breakfast hour.

Those who are engaged, either mentally or physically, throughout the evening, cannot with impunity, eat a very hearty meal previous to that effort; but after their work is done they need nourishing food, and food that is both easily digested and assimilated. But even these should not eat and then immediately retire; for during sleep all the bodily organs, including the stomach, become dormant. Food partaken at this hour is not properly taken care of, and in too many cases[158] must be digested when the individual has awakened, out of sorts, the next morning.

It is well to remember, also, that, at any time after food is eaten, there should be a period of rest from all active effort; for then the blood flows from the other organs of the body to the stomach, and the work of digestion is begun. Oftentimes we hear men say they must smoke after meals, for unless they do so they cannot digest their food. They fail to see that it is not the tobacco that promotes digestion, but the enforced repose.

But, if we must eat at midnight, the question may well be asked, What shall we eat? That which can be digested and assimilated with the least effort on the part of the digestive organs. And among such things we may note oysters, eggs and game, when these have been properly—that is, delicately—cooked."

From Salads, Sandwiches, and Chafing Dish Dainties, by Miss Janet McKenzie Hill, of Boston Cooking School fame. This particular chapter goes on to give a dozen recipes using lobster, cream, curry powder, etc that would certainly keep me awake.

The book itself is an interesting collection of light dishes (or what passed for light dishes in those days) suitable for Sunday supper, when the main meal would have been eaten just after noon. As hot as it has been here recently, I'm thinking that Miss McKenzie's suggestions would be a boon and a blessing to an Edwardian housekeeper faced with producing dinner in August, over a coal or gas-fired stove, with no air-conditioning (and in a floor-length dress and corsets).

1 comment:

nancyc20 said...'s 11:42PM...think I need to go rustle up something hygenic (it won't be gamey for sure); hopefully I won't wake up out of sorts.