Cornhill Magazine,  1 (1860), 745–54.

The Poor Man's Kitchen

[Eneas S Dallas]




Nutrition, Statistics, Utilitarianism, Error, Communism, Darwinism, Natural Law

    Compares the nutritious diets of prisoners with the meagre victuals endured by working men. Bemoaning the Utilitarian emphasis on calculating statistical averages for the requisite level of nutrition, Dallas declaims, 'granting that, scientifically, the weighing machine is a fair test of what a man ought to eat [...] practically, it is not a standard to which the common sense of mankind can submit. There is a fallacy in these measurements' (746). In order to alleviate the suffering of labourers, Dallas suggests they eat brown bread ('the most wholesome, nourishing, and palatable form of the staff of life') and oat meal (747). He also advises the establishment of communal kitchens based on the 'system of the division of labour', but has to concede that the 'wild theories of communists have unfortunately brought discredit on the principle of combination as applied to the domestic life' (751). Applying an explicitly Darwinian language to human society, Dallas remarks, 'It is a very humiliating reflection that eating and drinking occupy more of our thoughts than anything else in heaven above or in the earth beneath. [...] Man is like the lower animals in this respect that with the vast majority of our race, the struggle for existence is a struggle for dinner'. 'Who can count', he asks, 'all the wars, murders and quarrels that have arisen out of this one question of dinner—the question of questions?', and the article concludes by considering the 'natural law which makes man chiefly dependent on his food'. (754)

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