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MAN is, with but slight exaggeration, said to be omnivorous; and if he does not eat of all things, he eats so multifariously, that our limits would be insufficient to include even a superficial account of all the substances employed by him as Food. We must therefore be content to let attention fall on the principal groups.
Meats. It is superfluous to dwell on the fact that the flesh of most herbivora, both wild and domestic, is both agreeable and nutritious; even the advocates of a purely vegetable diet do not dispute the flavour or the potency of flesh, whatever consequences they may attribute to the eating of it. It contains some of the chief alimentary principles: namely, albumen, fibrine, fat, gelatine, water, salts, and osmazome. The last named, is a substance of reddish-brown colour, having the smell and flavour of soup (whence the name-boun, smell, and Swuos, soup); it varies in various animals, increasing with their age. It is this osmazome, developed during the culinary process, which gives the characteristic taste to beef, mutton, goatflesh, and birds. The flesh of young animals is tenderer than that of adults; and tenderness is one quality which favours digestibility. Never
VOL. LXXXIII.-NO. DX1.
theless we shall err if, fixing our attention on this one quality, we assume that the flesh of young animals is always more digestible than that of adults; we shall find veal to be less so than beef, and chicken less so than beef. The reason given for the first of these exceptions is, that veal has less of the peculiar aroma developed in cooking; the reason given for the second is, that the texture of chicken is closer than that of beef, and, being closer, is less readily acted on by the gastric juice. Every one knows that veal is not very digestible, and is always shunned by the dyspeptic. On the other hand, in spite of chicken being less digestible than beef, it is more suitable for a delicate stomach, and will be assimilated when beef, or other meat, would not remain in the stomach,- -an example which shows us that even the rule of nutritive value being determined in a great measure by digestibility is not absolute; and which further shows how cautious we should be in relying upon general rules in cases so complex.
The age of animals is very important. Thus the flesh of the kid is very agreeable; but as the kid approaches the adult period, there is so pronounced an odour developed from the hircic acid in its fat, that the
flesh becomes uneatable.
Dr Beaumont has drawn up tables of the comparative digestibility of various substances, to which succeeding writers have referred, without always perceiving that Dr Beaumont's observations, being confined to what takes place in the stomach, which is only one part of the digestive process, do not throw any light upon what takes place in the intestines-by far the more important part of the process-and can only have a limited value, because they can only apply to those substances which are in any degree influenced by the gastric juice. Bearing this in mind and accepting the following figures as indications only, they will be found useful
Beef, with mustard, &c., boiled,,,
As may be expected, the flesh of different parts has different qualities: the breast of birds, with its pectoral muscles, which move the wings, is tenderer than that of the legs; but the flesh of the legs, when the birds are young, is more juicy and savoury than that of the wings; and in the woodcock, old or young, the legs are always preferred, while in the partridge it is the wings. The flesh of game is richer in osmazome than that of domestic birds; and when the bird has been kept till it is "high," it has, especially in the back, an aromatic bitter flavour very acceptable to epicures, but very nauseous to unsophisticated palates. The flesh of all water-fowl, especially the goose, is penetrated with fat, which often becomes rancid and "fishy :" this renders the goose so notorious an offender, that he has to be "qualified" by a little brandy, euphu"Latin for goose." istically styled Dr Beaumont found no difference between the digestibility (in the stomach) of roast goose and roast turkey, both requiring two hours and a
half; but we must remember that the fats are not digested at all in the stomach, and it is on the fats that the real difference between goose and turkey depends. Turkey, roasted, requires two hours and a half for digestion; fowl, roasted, four hours, and ducks the same.
Besides the meat (muscle) there are the brains, livers, kidneys, and sweetbread of various animals. On account of the fat and oil contained in brain and liver, they are unsuitable for delicate stomachs, especially when fried. Kidneys are very tough, and difficult of digestion. Sweetbread forms a favourite food with convalescents, when plainly dressed; its composition in 100 parts is as follows
Beef, with salt only, boiled,
* Margaric acid is one of the fatty acids, and is produced by the saponification of margarin, a pearly fat found in olive oil, goose grease, and human fat.
An excellent food, too much neglected, is Tripe, which is simply the stomachs of ruminant animals. As it contains a large proportion of albumen and fibrine, and requires not more than one hour for its digestion in the stomach, we see the justification of the practice popular in many families, of having Tripe for supper. There is no nightmare in it.
Horse-flesh.-A Frenchman was one day blandly remonstrating against the supercilious scorn expressed by Englishmen for the beef of France, which he, for his part, did not find so inferior to that of England. "I have been two times in England," he remarked, "but I nevère find the bif so supérieur to ours. I find it vary conveenient that they bring it you on leetle pieces of stick, for one penny, but I do not find the bif supérieur." On hearing this, the Englishman, red with astonishment, exclaimed, "Good God, sir! you have been eating cat's meat." It is very true, he had been eating cat's meat; but had he not at the same time been eating meat as succulent, savoury, and wholesome as the marbled beef of which the Briton is so proud? Let the resonant shouts of laughter subside a little, and while you are wiping the tears from your eyes, listen to the very serious exposition we shall make of the agreeable and nutritive qualities of horse-flesh. We are not going to press into the service of our argument the immense mass of evidence collected by M. Isidore Geoffroy St Hilaire,† respecting the tribes and nations which habitually dine off horses; nor will we lay much stress on the fact, that in the Jardin des Plantes the carnivora are habitually fed on horse-flesh, which keeps them healthy in spite of many unfavourable conditions. The sceptic might not unreasonably ask whether our digestive power be quite as good as that of the lion; and he would remark that the condor is known to devour, with relish, food which Mr
Saturday Review, 27th April 1856.
Brown would sturdily refuse. Unhappily no dietetic rules for men can be deduced from condors and lions! We must rely on the experience of human stomachs. Nor is this experience wanting. Without alluding to the rumours which attribute to the Paris restaurateurs a liberal employment of horse-flesh among their filets de boeuf, M. St Hilaire collects an imposing mass of evidence to show that horses have been eaten in abundance, and without suspicion, as without evil consequences. Huzard, the celebrated veterinary surgeon, records, that during the Revolution the population of Paris was fed for six months on horse-flesh. It is true that when the beef was known to be that of horses, some complaints were made; but in spite of the strong prejudices, and the terrors such a discovery raised, no single case of illness was attributable to this food. Larrey, the great army surgeon, declares that on very many occasions during the campaigns, he administered horse-flesh to the soldiers, and what is more, he administered it to the sick in the hospitals. Instead of finding it injurious, he found it powerfully contributed to their convalescence, and drove away a scorbutic epidemic. Other testimony is cited, and M. St Hilaire feels himself abundantly authorised to declare that horse-flesh is as wholesome and nutritious as ox-flesh.
Is horse-flesh as palatable as it is wholesome? Little will it avail to recount how there are tribes of hippophagists, or how soldiers during a campaign, and citizens during a siege, have freely eaten of the filet de cheval under such extremities an old shoe has not been despised, which is nevertheless not generally considered a toothsome morsel. Feeling the necessity of having this point definitively settled, the advocates of horseflesh have given banquets, both in Germany and France, at which the comparative merits of horses, cows, and oxen were appreciated. 1825 the Prefect of Police chose a commission of eminent men to inquire into the quality of the flesh
+ Lettres sur les Substances Alimentaires, et particulièrement sur la Viande de Cheval. 1856.
taken from horses which had died, or had been recently killed, in Paris and its environs. These commissioners all shared the general prejudice; yet in their report they avowed that 66 we cannot but admit this meat to be very good and very savoury; several members of the commission have eaten it, and could not detect any sensible difference between it and beef." In 1841, horse-flesh was openly adopted at Ochsenhausen (what irony in this name!) and Wurtemberg, at both of which places it continues to be publicly sold, under the surveillance of the police; and five or six horses are weekly brought to market. A large quantity is also sold at the Lake of Constance. In 1842, a banquet, at which a hundred and fifty persons assisted, inaugu. rated its public use at Königsbaden, near Stuttgard. In 1846 the police of Baden authorised its public sale; and Schaffhausen followed the example. In 1847, Weimar and Detmold witnessed public banquets of the hippophagists, which went off with éclat; in Karlsbad and its environs the new beef came into general use; and at Zittau two hundred horses are eaten annually. The innovation gained ground rapidly, and the public sale of horse-flesh is now general in Austria, Bohemia, Saxony, Hanover, Switzerland, and Belgium. In 1853, Berlin counted no less than five slaughter-houses, where three hundred and fifty horses were sold. In Vienna, during the same year, there was a riot to prevent one of these banquets; yet, in 1854, such progress had been made in public opinion that thirty-two thousand pounds' weight were sold in a fortnight, and now at least ten thousand of the inhabitants are hippophagists. These facts are very striking. When we consider, on the one hand, how strong is prejudice, and, on the other, how unreasoning the stomach, we must admit that horse-flesh could only gain acceptance in virtue of its positive excellence. Nor will it suffice to meet these facts with a sarcasm on German beef, in comparison with which horse-flesh may be supposed to hold no dishonourable rank: we have the testimony of men accustomed to the Café de Paris and Phillippe's, invited expressly to pronounce
judgment, and proved, on trial, incapable of distinguishing horse-beef from ox-beef. M. Renault, the director of the great veterinary school at Alfort, had a horse brought to the establishment with an incurable paralysis. It was killed; and three days afterwards, on the 1st December 1855, eleven guests were invited to dine off it: they were physicians, journalists, veterinary surgeons, and employés of the Government. Side by side were dishes prepared by the same cook, in precisely similar manner, consisting of similar parts of the meat from this horse, and from an ox of good quality. The horse-soup was flanked by an ox-soup, the bouilli of horse by a bouilli of beef, the fillet of roast-beef by a fillet of roast-horse. The guests unanimously pronounced in favour of the horse-soup; the bouilli, on the contrary, they thought inferior to that of the ox, though superior to ordinary beef, decidedly so to cow-beef. The roast fillet, again, seemed to them very decidedly in favour of the horse. Similar experiments have been subsequently repeated in Paris and the provinces, under varying conditions: the guests have sometimes been informed what they were going to eat; sometimes they have been totally unsuspecting; and sometimes they have been simply told that they were going to eat something quite novel. Yet in every case the result has been the same.
It is on this evidence that M. St Hilaire calls upon the French people to turn their serious attention to the immense mass of excellent animal food which lies within their reach, and which they annually suffer to waste, merely because of an absurd prejudice. Difficult as it may be to overcome a prejudice, no array of ignorance can prevent the establishment of a truth which is at once easily demonstrable and immediately beneficial. Prejudice may reject horse-flesh, as it long rejected tea and potatoes, the latter of which, Montaigne tells us, excited l'estonnement et le dégoût, but has nevertheless become European food. If horses are eaten, why not donkeys? The Greeks ate donkeys, and we must suppose they had their reasons for it. Has any modern stomach been courageous enough to try?
Fish is largely eaten by all classes, and is certainly nutritious. Great differences are noticeable in the different kinds. Many have large quantities of oil-as the eel, salmon, herring, pilchard, and sprat; and these are therefore the least digestible. The oil is most abundant in the "thin " parts of salmon, which are consequently preferred by epicures. After spawning, the quality is greatly diminished. In the cod, whiting, haddock, plaice, flounder, and turbot, there is no oil except in their livers, so that these are easily digested, especially if they are not eaten with quantities of lobster or shrimp sauce, agreeable adjuncts very apt to exact large compensation from the delicate in the shape of acidity and flatulence. Frying, of course, renders fish less digestible than boiling or broiling; and those who are delicate should avoid the skin of fried fish. They should also avoid dried, smoked, salted, and pickled fish; crabs, lobsters, prawns and shrimps. The oyster is most digestible when raw, least so when stewed. Dr Beaumont found the raw oyster took 2 hours 55 minutes to digest, the roasted oyster, 3.15, and the stewed, 3.30. What is called scalloping gives oysters a delicious flavour, but the heat coagulates the albumen and corrugates the fibrine; besides, the effect of heat on the butter in which they are cooked renders it very unfit for the delicate stomach.
Respecting the nutritive quality of fish, opinions are divided. Let us hear old Leeuwenhoek. "It is the opinion of many medical persons," he says, "that various disorders in the human frame are caused by acid in the stomach, which coagulates the juices (!); and some condemn the use of acids, and also of fish, as articles of food. But to these opinions I cannot subscribe, for at a town in my neighbourhood, where the people get their living by fishing, and feed principally on fish, especially when they are on the sea, the men are very robust and healthy, even to a great age and with respect to myself, have experienced that when my habit of body has been indisposed, I have been greatly refreshed by eating
fish with sauce composed of a mixture of butter and vinegar, and I never found acid sauces disagree with me. It is also my opinion that a fish diet is more wholesome than flesh, particularly to those persons who do not use much exercise, because fish is more easily comminuted and digested in the stomach and bowels than flesh."* But while fishermen are robust on a fish diet, it is notorious that those accustomed to meat find a certain debility follow the adoption of an exclusively fish-diet
during Lent, for instance; and jockeys, when "wasting" themselves at Newmarket, take fish in lieu of meat. Lehmann cites the analyses of Schlossberger, which show "that the amount of nitrogen in muscular fibre is throughout the animal kingdom essentially similar. The flesh of fish contains the same amount as that of the higher animals; oysters, on the contrary, instead of containing more, as common experience would lead us to conjecture, actually contain less."+ There is, however, as we have seen, a remarkable difference between being rich in nitrogen and being good food. One reason why fish is less nutritious than flesh, in spite of the similarity in their composition, is said to be the absence of the osmazome which gives flavour to flesh.
One of the popular notions entertained even by some medical men is, that eating fish increases fertility, and that the fish-eating tribes are unusually prolific. We need not pause to refute the physiological arguments on which this opinion is founded, as the fact asserted, of fish-eating tribes being very prolific, is itself a fiction. Dr Pereira remarks:
"There is, I think, sufficient evidence to prove that the ichthyophagous people are not more prolific than others. In Greenland and among the Esquimaux, says Foster, where the natives live chiefly upon fish, seals, and oily animal
substances, the women seldom bear children oftener than three or four times: five or six births are reckoned a very extra
ordinary instance. The Pesserais whom
we saw had not above two or three children belonging to each family, though their common food consisted of
+ LEHMANN: Physiol. Chemie, iii. 351.