11 AUGUST 1855, Page 12

rrIttr to 14t WHAT IS FOOD P 1 Adam Street - ,

Aderphi, 611, August 1865. 5m—There are many sides to most subjects, and amongst 'others to the subject of food, of which we have lately heard so much as to its adultera- tion. As to the morality of a vendor selling a noxious substance under the pretence of Its being nutritious, there can be but one opinion, any more than of the fact of selling fourteen ounces weight under pretext of its being a pound avoirdupois being plain cheating. But to begin at the beginning, we must first settle the question of "What is food?" and thereupon up conies the proverb, "What's one man's meat is another man's poison. Some people eat arsenic In considerable quantities, and if not exactly food tliey find at conducive to an enjoying state of existence.- Certain tribes of Indians eat a peculiar kind of earth, which if introduced into our work- houses as food would raise an outcry far and wide. In some countries sea- weed la food, in others it is manure for land. On the Western coasts of the "'Via° the eebinus or sea urchin or hedgehog, is a most delicate shell-fish : in England it is regarded with aversion. Putrid blubber agrees very well with the strong stomach of a Greenlander or Esquimaux : here we use it only for oil. The Bermudians eat whale's flesh; which certainly would be thought a very coarse kind of beef in Leadenhall Markel. Originally food conaiated only of the productions of nature unchanged by art save in cook- ing. A very large proportion of our food now consists of artificial prepam- lions, or the productions of nature chemically altered. The mandinca root on itsuntnral state is poison ; manufactured it becomes arrow-root. Raw potatoes are considered a poisonous substance; but a Frenchman once taught me in the Equator what a very pleasant salad can be made of raw potatoes, in-thin slices, and the conviction spread and increased mightily till all the olive-oil was consumed. ,

It is a probable thing that as an analysis grows into synthesis, many new varieties of food will be produced artificially. But it would be difficult to persuade people to eat them knowingly. Ffindy Andy in Lover's tale thought a stewed leather breeches very fine tripe till he lighted on a button, which suddenly convinced him it was unwholesome food, and Sir Joseph Banks— so says Peter Pinder—did not think fleas equal to lobsters, though of the same genus. The Berlin philosophers have for many years been trying to per- suade the community that horseflesh is good beef—unsatisfactorily ; and amongst civilized communities it appears to be chiefly in France that peo- ple voluntarily eat eats, both as a relish and a vengeance, if we may trust the reports of the Tribunal of Correctional Police; though scandal has long accused innkeepers both in France and Spain of thus feeding their guests as a substitute for rabbits. The three married ladies who lately figured in a trial in Paris ought assuredly to visit London to reap the abandoned spoils of our eat-skinners, who take the shell and leave the kernel. The French are chemists as well as cooks, and waste no food. They have no Mr. Goldner to take charge of their putrid meat. They know better how to deal with it, how to get rid of the putridity and retain the nutritive portion. And there seems no reason why putrid meat should be thrown away if it can be con- verted into wholeiorne food. If fetid potato oil can be converted into a de- licious scent akin to attar of roses, we may very well imagine that the par- tridge or venison bouquet may be obtained from other kinds of flesh. It is said that a pair of ladies' gloves have ere now made a ragout ; and there is an hiatus in the parchment specifications at the Patent Office caused by an un- lucky boy who changed them away for tarts, in order that they might be stewed down and converted into calves'-foot jelly. The mechanical pro- blems written and graven on them were doubtless not precipitated on the delicate palates of the ladies or gentlemen consuming them at Almack's or elsewhere. It was but carbon gathered by the sheep in the shape of grass from the earth's surface—kid gloves in an- other form. Possibly chemistry will ultimately enable us to make kid gloves and parchment without troubling goat or sheep for them, and arti- ficial gelatine will become a substitute for calves' feet. It is probable that even now we occasionally eat old wool and hair in our gravy soups, as well as make it into what is facetiously called "felt cloth." The fibres being glued instead of felled together, and in process of time we may prepare glu- tinous tubes analogous to wool and hair from carbon converted into gelatine.

It certainly ,errenas odd that a =fa coat should be conireetible into his dinner ; but "Imperial Cmair," according to Ifazialet, underitent; as strange changes. "Once," say the annals of the Parisian Oetrce,,,4, was suspected that the town revenues were defrauded by large ,antriea,gt smuggled Milk. Searches were made, and though it was clearly demoindreted that three times the quantity was consumed that paid duty, it was nevertheless not smuggled, and the inference was that it was manufactured largely, as well as diluted. And after all, may not artificial milk chemically 'well made be better than natural milk unnaturally made from diseased cows by bad artifi- cial food ? Are lemon lozenges made from sulphuric acid less pleasant or wholesome than those made from putrid fruit, possibly owing its colour to sulphur ? That the time will come when we shall cease to entomb the lower animals in our stomachs, by the substitution of better food, is highly Probable. Nor is it yet demonstrated to what extent the civilization of men may enable him to improve u,pon. his culinary vegetables. But if a &el:Oita Were to bring into the market an artificial food containing the sem chemical ingredients as our natural food, hut not directly animal or vegetable., the chances are that he would be scouted. He must therefore pretend that he has extracted it from beeves, or muttons, or goats, or some known vegetables. Ile may ring the changes on Ervalenta and-Revalenta to make the sale of lentils or bran- meal prevalent-or; but were he to burn ,a sack of meal and gather back the gases in a tangible shape as food, he would be, freauad of poisoning, though if he calls it medicine, and advertises it as essence, Area sir, be may trona" act. business at pleasure. , There is danger of people being poisoned by,gnacks, there is danger that the lucre of gain may induce men to sell plaster of Faris for flour, but there is also a danger of stopping progress. Possible there are more things in the food trade than our philosophy has yet dreamed of,—tbat scale of our adulte, rated food may be better than the pure. Coal-oil is fast taking the place of whale-oil as a lubricant for machinery, but nobody. professes to sell coal-oil direct, save the manufacturers. Corn-spirit artificially flavoured reatebei the grape-spirit, and artificial wines grow to be undirdinguisbable from the genuine. Each day adds something to our knowledge of the aromas and to our power of synthesis, and the skilful chemist will so closely imitate thevarious articles of food that analysis will fail to distinguish the artifieiol

from the natural. What are called our genuine wines are, in fact, very artifi, cial productions. The most delicate wines do not bear transport from the place of their production, and it is the peculiar province of the chemist to; produce them artificially, just. as he produces delicate perfumes. - But che, Palate and perfumers will not tell of these things. They will try.tosell their; artificial commodities under the name and at the price of the natural ones.. And the more the outcry is raised against adulteration, the more secret will they keep their proceedings. This is not desirable any more than the adul- teration.

The adulteration prevalent in wholesale and retail shops direct is but small part of the matter. The indirect adulteration is the great quantity., When we make diseased meat by unwholesome feeding and lodging, we an- gender largely amuses that are conveyed to the human beings who eat it., Consumptive cows, and jaundiced sheep, and born diseased calves, and measly pigs and manure-fed poultry, are possibly worse than the adulte-.: raters of the minor articles of food. And the diseased vegetables and fruits,- with their health also destroyed by filthy feeding, subject in succession to epidemics of various kinds—apple-rot, potato-rot, grape-rot—are not these,'. also, adulterations growing out of the desire of gain, producing crops ot quantity and not of quality. To point out to the public what is wholesome food and what is not, and; the modes of treating unwholesome food to make it wholesome, should be part of the function of the Board of Health quite as important as poiuting', out what air they should breathe. This is precisely' the work for which:, Dr. Southwood Smith was fitted ; and why he should be pensioned off with a bare maintenance while able to work for an adequate salary, is one of those things that puzzle people not behind the scenes. Ile really did the essential work of the Board of Health, and established the principles of their sanitary, code.

To dictate to people what they shall or shall not eat and drink, would be an hopeless task. All that can be done is to warn them of the evil, and pointn, out immoral vendors. If they refuse to be warned they must kill them- selves. No government can take upon itself to watch its people like so many children.