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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

She cannot pamper Peter without pinching Paul


Are we talking about a man or a wild beast? Is it wife or female? Are they children or cubs? Does he wipe his mouth or lick his chops? "_Ventures_ to ask the news"! "_Presumes_ upon a jest"! The whole picture is disgusting from beginning to end. It is the portraiture of sensuality and despotism. Hunger is not a sublime sensation, nor is eating a graceful act; but both are ordained of God, and are given us with that broad blank margin which almost invariably accompanies His gifts. Religion and culture can take up the necessity, and work so deftly that it shall become an adornment; and the ordinance of eating stand for the sunniest part of life. The grossness of the act, the mere animal and mechanical function of furnishing supplies, can be so larded with wit and wisdom, with love and good-will, with pleasant talk, interchange of civilities and courtesies, and all the light, sweet, gentle amenities of life, that a bare act becomes almost a rite. The rough structure is veiled into beauty with roses and lilies and the soft play of lights and shadows. But this paragraph portrays gobbling. A woman, instead of pandering to it by service and silence, ought to lift up her voice and repress it in its earliest stages. Make a man understand that he shall eat his dinner like a gentleman or he shall have no dinner to eat. If he will be crabbed and gulp, let him go down into the coal-bin and have it out alone; but do not let him bring his Feejeeism into the dining-room to defile the presence of his wife and corrupt the manners of his children.

If you think the picture is overdrawn, I pray you to remember that I did not draw it. It is a published, and, I think, a man's sketch of manhood. I only take it as I find it. I do not myself think that materialism has attained quite that degree of repulsiveness, but it is too near it. Eating is not perpetrated, but the appetite is pampered. If a man is able to hire a cook, very well. Cooking is the cook's profession; she ought to attain skill, and her employer has a right to require it, and as great a variety and profusion of dishes as he can furnish material for. But if he is not able to hire a cook, and must depend entirely upon his wife, the case is different. Cooking is not her profession. It is only one of the duties incident to her station. It is incumbent upon her to spread a plentiful and wholesome table. It is culpable inefficiency to do less than this. It is palpable immorality to do more. No matter how fond of cooking, or how skilful or alert a woman may be, she has only twenty-four hours in her day, and two hands for her work; and one woman who has the sole care of a family cannot, if she has any rational and Christian idea of life, of personal, household, and social duties, have any more time and strength than is sufficient for their simple discharge. Overdoing in one direction must be compensated by underdoing in another. She cannot pamper Peter without pinching Paul. Much that you laud as a virtue I lament as a vice. You revel in the cakes and the pastries and the dainties, and boast the skill of the housewife; and indeed her marvels are featly wrought, sweet to the taste, and to be desired if honestly come by; but if there has been plunder and extortion, if it is a soul that flakes in the pastry, if it is a heart that is embrowned in the gravies; if leisure and freshness and breadth of sympathy and keen enjoyment have been frittered away on the fritters, and simmered away in the sweetmeats, and battered away in the puddings, give me, I pray you, a dinner of herbs. Johnny-cake was royal fare in Walden woods when a king prepared the banquet and presided at the board. Peacocks' tongues are but common meat to peacocks.


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