WOMEN AND THEIR WORK

The Sanity of the Food Campaign

Ethel M. Chapman October 1 1917
WOMEN AND THEIR WORK

The Sanity of the Food Campaign

Ethel M. Chapman October 1 1917

The Sanity of the Food Campaign

WOMEN AND THEIR WORK

Ethel M. Chapman

THIS is the farmer’s year of the war. The crop reports carry a message of as keen national interest as the war bulletins. The allied armies are facing a shortage of 400,000,000 bushels of grain; a meat shortage equal to 120,000,000 animals. ¿Tne decisive factor in the war, we are/told, is no longer men or munitions, but food.

It is also tjne housekeeper’s year. For the first timé* the women of Canada are being asked to register as members of the army at home, and th« appeal is very direct and simple The men who are fighting need wheat, beef and bacon. It will avail nothing for. Canada to produce these uniese *n considerable quantities they are released for export to the army. It has been estimated that we must reduce our normal consumption of these foods by at least twenty-five per cent, and this is a phase of the nation’s food conservation which will depend largely upon tile women in the homes.

But in the newness of the thing the woman is distressed by many doctrines. She hears of meatless days and wheatless days until she can vision only starvation ahd disaster ahead for her family. There is no legislation to guide her,—we are a uniquely free people here in Canada; the only sacrifice the country has yet asked of us is voluntary sacrifice. Yet when the appeal comes to sign 'a pledge to “conscientiously carry out the advice and directions of the Food Controller,” that requisite foods may be sent to the men holding the line and the starving people in the war-swept territories back of them, women here and there all over the country hesitate before committing themselves and their households; and not infrequently the objection is nothing more serious than that the order is indefinite. It is scarcely conceivable that we belong to the same families as the men who unquestioning! y committed themselves to something which was definite only in its hardships and horrors. Fortunately, however, there is nothing to be afraid of in the new food regulations. These are stated specifically in the Order-in-Council issued to public eating-places where restrictions are made compulsory, and they may well be taken as the voluntary standard for the private home. The rule is that beef or bacon shall not be served at more than one meal on any day, and on Tuesdays and Fridays none shaU be served. “Bacon,”

of course, in this case means more than the breakfast strips and tender, lean eyes of meat close to the backbone; it includes all cured sides, backs, hams, and any portion of what is termed in the trade, Wiltshire sides. The regulation framed to save wheat says nothing whatever about a whole “wheatless day.” It states simply that “at every meal at which white bread is served there shall also be served some substitute or substitutes such as corn bread, oat cakes, potatoes, ete. It is not, after all, a very severe measure; the woman who really cares, and who has an intelligent understanding of foods might carry it out to the letter, and then go a second mile without interfering with the health and well-being of her family.

Just here however is where serious mistakes may occur. We are not being asked to tighten our belts uncomfortably, even though other nations are starving,—but we are asked, as far as possible to live on the perishable foods which cannot be exported. It is not a matter of starvation but of substitution, and unless the housekeeper undertakes this work of using one food in place of another, with an intelligent understanding of their particular food values, and the needs of the people she has to feed, we may have more trouble with malnutrition at home than with disease in the army. Directly we take from the diet wheat, beef and baçon,— foods rich in flesh-forming substances, and fat, the natural tendency is to fill in with starch in the shape of rice, potatoes, etc. Starch is a good fuel food to supply the energy required for doing ordinary daily work, bu^.it will not repair a molecule of worn out tissue, or take any part in building the growing body of a child, or provide any high quality of resistance to disease. It will put more stiffness into a shirt bosom than into a backbone, so it is not the right food to produce a verile young Canada. Right in line with this

we must not allow any thrift preaching to blind us to the fact that it is the most wicked kind of economy to limit the plain food of a growing child. A child of fourteen years requires as much food as an adult; a child of seven years requires half as much ; and if the quality as well as the quantity is not right, he is bound to suffer for it later.

The question of finding substitutes for the things we must save will not be as hard as many people seem to think. While it is difficult to make many breads entirely without wheat flour, this can be supplemented with flours from other grains in making cornbread, ryebread, barley bread, oatbread, Boston brown bread where a combination of corn, rye and wheat flour is used, oat cakes, potato cakes, buckwheat gems, and a variety of both raised and quick breads where the whole or outer layers of the wheat grain are included and more of the white flour saved. It is easier still to omit wheat entirely from our breakfast cereals and to use oats, corn, rice and barley. - To save beef and bacon we have a variety of meat substitutes to draw from, in the way of milk, cheese, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils, while certain kinds of meat such as pork chops, mutton, heart, liver, ahd poultry are not available as army »applies and may be consumed at home without in any way disturbing the conscience. A little bulletin “War Meals” issued by the Food Controller and ready for distribution with the pledge cards, not only sets forth the best substitutes to use, with their particular food values but suggests a series of balanced meals, for the man engaged in sedentary work, the man doing hard manual work, and for growing children. .

Another phase of food conservation rests largely with the housekeeper. It is estimated that over $50,000,000 worth of foodstuffs goes into the garbage cans of Canada every year; Women are stopping this waste when they set to work to can or dry or preserve in some way every surplus pound of perishable food produced. They are stopping it when they make their meals simpler, serving fewer things at one time so that nothing may be there to be tasted experimentally and left on the plate. The overloading of a table with a mixture of many foods, fussy made dishes where the natural delicate flavor of any one food is lost in the conglomerate

whole, the using of highly-seasoned sauces to stimulate the appetite beyond its normal desires, is a form of barbarity belonging solely to this continent; it is never found in reiined homes in Great Britain or France. Apart from the æsthetic standpoint, the best authorities tell us that the simpler the diet, that is the less complicated, provided there is sufficient variety each time to make a balanced meal, the better will each food perform its own particular function. Une other point must not be overlooked in attacking the waste problem. We are likely to be very hard on the person who uses any of what are generally called food luxuries; this is a mistake. Suppose for instance mushrooms sell for a dollar a pound. Mushrooms are a wholesome food but they cannot be exported to the army. If by buying and consuming mushrooms at a dollar a pound, a man eats less wheat, beef and bacon, let us be glad we have such a man in the community because most of us couldn’t afford it He has made use of a perishable food which might otherwise have been wasted.

On the week of September the seventeenth, or thereabouts, a unique form of house to house canvass will begin throughout the Dominion. The woman in every home will be asked to sign a card pledging herself and^her household to conscientiously carry'out the advice and directions of the Food Controller. Will she do it? That is what the women who have to distribute the cards are asking themselves. Judging from the way the women across the line have responded to this appeal, and from the readiness with which Canadian women have offered' themselves for any other patriotic work, there is little reason for doubting the general feeling in this case. Still there will be objections. sane, selfish, and political, to meet which, the dispenser of pledge-cards, being a home-keeper herself and possibly not having followed public affairs very closely, may.not have the necessary data at hand.

Someone is about sure to ask, “If the government wants us to save meat why doesn’t it see that wc can. get fish at a price low enough to make everyone want it?” -This is a most sensible question, and it will be gratifying to those interested to know that while before the time of the Food Controller the fish supply distributed through Toronto amounted to ten thousand pounds weekly, it now averages eighty thousand pounds weekly, and would be considerably more but for the difficulty of getting cars to transport the salt water fish from the Atlantic. Several more cars were arranged for last week. There are many centres where the demand for fish is great enough but where there are no facilities for taking care of them ; the government cannot take the responsibility of unloading fish in a town to spoil, but the recent cold storage act has given every municipality the right to build and run its own cold storage plant, and already, largely through theagitation of the women too, by the way, several of the smaller cities and towns have taken up the matter of storage facilities that they may bring in quantities of “government fish.” Then there arises the question as to why Canada does not prohibit the export of fish to the United States. The States is our nearest ally and engaged in the same enterprise of saving wheat, beef and bacon for their men and ours. Thé first resources of their lakes have all been tapped, and they are saying to us, 41A’ou see how this is going to upset all our established food plans, if now, when we

really need fish yoju cut off what you have been giving us. Why not use your undeveloped waters for home use and leave the export as it is?” This is what is already under way, and the fish supply from our inland lakes will soon add very materially to our food resources.

And the only difficulty with many a dutiful, passive-minded little woman will be John. He has been used to being master in his own house;—that is about the only place in the world where he has ever had a free hand, and war or no war he wants, what he wants. He has no intention of allowing his wife to commit him to any food restriction, nor of letting any "blooming placard” go up in his front window. After all, John is about the most formidable stumbling-block the food campaigner will have to meet, because, speaking to his wife, she can’t just explain him away as frankly as she can the difficulties outside the family circle. However we may be anticipating too much; the next two weeks will bring forth many discoveries of the inwardness of human nature; we can only hope that the John type may have become extinct.

But against all thia there will be the great army of women who have already given so unselfishly of their best, that a little more sacrifice would scarcely be noticed. Even if there should be a troublesome John in the house a woman of this class will have established so surely her ability to take care of the nousekeeping part of the establishment, that her decision would scarcely be questioned here. Anyway she will know that she can feed John so skilfully according to food control regulations that he will never know the difference. These women will have a

vision big enough to look from the security and peace of their own homes into the desolate homes of Europe where women live in the cellars of houses that have been bombed almost over their heads, where children dazed and shell-shocked cry from hunger, homes from which the men were taken hurriedly and relentlessly at the beginning of the war, and with them love and protection and comfort went out forever. There is no delicate hesitancy over what shall or. shall not be eaten here; the people are starving. And another vision the Canadian woman will have. She will see waves and waves of khaki uniformed men with faces hardened and drawn, and perhaps she will see her own boy among them. He didn’t stop to weigh the sacrifice against his personal interests; if he and others like them had waited to do that, we women in Canada would now be crouching in our cellars just like the women of Europe, with our homes, Qur womanhood, everything that once meant life to us, gone. And the men who have been there, who have seen the starving and the suffering, who may even have hunger added to their own hardships unless something is done.—when they come back what will they think of our indifference? The woman knows that her boy may come home physically broken, and ages older than his years, but she cannot beft to think of him coming back embittered against those whom he had trusted. And she does not w-ait to'quibble over details. Glad to be able to help in any way she treasures her little window card as a thing bf honor, and without questioning yhat others may do, she takes the attitude of another staple character of old,—“As for me ánd my house”—