Condition is Brand new. Old Stock from Culinary book seller. Collectors Item Foreword At one time people used the word meat as a synonym for food. The term `meat and drink' embraced in common parlance everything ingested by man. Yet despite the dominant part meat played, and still fulfils, in human diet, or perhaps because of it, opinions about its role have been strong and varied. Dr Buchanan, the author of popular medical works of the18th century, believed that the `choleric disposition of the English is almost proverbial, and if he were to assign a cause of it, it would be their living so much on animal food'. He concluded that `there is no doubt but this induces a ferocity of temper unknown to man whose food is chiefly taken from the vegetable kingdom'. There were, however, many other more balanced and temperate appraisals of flesh foods and even in 1799 another medical man, Dr A. F. M.Willich, was endorsing the virtues of a mixed diet. He advocated that `in general, two-thirds or three-fourths of vegetables, to one half or fourth part of meat, appears to be the most proper. By this judicious mixture, we may avoid diseases arising from a too copious use of either'.
Today, most nutritionists would advocate a similar approach to a balanced and varied diet in which meat should feature. Dietetic opinion is now shaded by a more sophisticated appreciation than in the eighteenth century of the benefits and drawbacks in meat eating; for example of the effects of cholesterol in animal fat. There remains virtually universal acceptance that meat is, and will continue to be, a prime element in mankind's meals in the western world. This applies particularly to those main meals of the day to which we attach such importance.
However much medical opinion about diet may be affected by research, meat seems destined to retain its place, gained over many centuries of dining, as the principal element in most western main meals. What has changed are the economics of catering. This change affects feeding families at home, and catering by professional restaurateurs and hoteliers for those eating out.
A quarter of a century ago meat was cheaper, for example, than chicken. The fowl was so expensive as to make a roast chicken a luxury. Today, intensive farming methods make this bird a relatively cheap item. Its cheapness serves to promote further the idea of meat, especially prime cuts, as the pre-eminent feature of a fine meal. At the same time, catering economics prompt all of us to consider even more carefully how best to exploit the cheaper cuts. Not only are those less costly parts of beef, lamb, pork and veal highly acceptable when intelligently incorporated into dishes, but there is growing interest in how offal, like feet, tail and head from the outside of the animal and interior offal's such as heart, liver, kidneys may be used both at home and by restaurants. This book is timely because there is great need to make the best use of what is a dietetically important, relatively costly but much demanded element in domestic and professional dining.
When teaching basic catering economics to those entering our industry, I often refer to the significance of the letter `P', especially for protein, price and profit. Meat is first class protein. Because it is more expensive than all but the most rare vegetables, it is a price determinant in menu and dish costing. In the old days, caterers used to work for profit by food cost percentage. Today, with labour so costly and with the protein element in meals similarly dear, new approaches to catering pricing are applied. A low percentage on a high cost item can still yield a satisfactory margin of profit. Hence high quality cuts like rib roast from carveries, steaks in grill room and steak houses, and escalope's from the gueridon, may be high cost items but they are ones on which a lower percentage can still yield a satisfactory profit margin.
When dealing with cheaper cuts, caterers have always had to be mindful of the cost of human time and skill when these have to be applied in creating acceptable dishes. It is no wonder that epigrams made from a breast of lamb are less commonly seen on menus than they were pre war when labour costs remained static for many years. Dishes like these are, however, still attractive in cost-conscious feeding. Many dishes in this book require time, trouble and labour for their production. They will need careful costing for professionals, and even amateurs in domestic kitchens must judge how much time, as well as food cost, to allocate to meal creation.
However, both professional and amateur alike will, I am sure, agree upon one thing. It is that the ideas in this book that have emanated from many chefs from all over the world, offer dishes with great visual appeal and which not only will be tried themselves in our own kitchens, but will stimulate an adventurous spirit in further exploiting meat for public and private catering.
Except that this volume is a most substantial one, there is a case for launching it with Louis Stevenson's god speed:
`Go little book, and wish to all Flowers in the garden, meat in the hall A bin of wine, a spice of wit
A house with lawns enclosing it'
if only because `meat in the hall' is enhanced or otherwise by the ambience in which it is eaten. Contributors here cover other aspects relevant to meat presentation. I have never much cared for the jargon expression `meal experience' but it does remind us of elements other than commodities and cooking which are required to provide satisfaction to diners. The `bin of wine', elements of service, dish décor and service factors are all touched upon in the pages which follow and complement the treatment of meat.
Above all, this book like so many of the other fine books in this series, conveys much of its message visually. Its pictures both instruct in techniques like carving and dish assembly and will inspire cooks through their impact.