Balanced Rations

How far have we departed from the antique virtues! A ‘practical’ farmer, writing to my agricultural mentor, requires ‘an idea of what class of food farm-hands can be fed, and the approximate quantity which they require. Do they require meat three times a day? If you can give me suggestions for a weekly menu, I should appreciate it.’

Shades of Hiram! Is the farm-hand of to-day an animal, nourished on balanced rations? Is a muzzle placed on him who treadeth out the corn? Not thus was it in my consulship of Plancus, when, as a small boy, I snatched a fearful joy in contemplation of Hiram, my fellow boarder, parem inter pares, — Hiram, my guide, philosopher, and friend,—as his knife safely transported a carefully ‘balanced ration’ of peas to the rear of that portentous orifice in his face. Who but Hiram could surmount a bastion of griddle-cakes as high as that behind which his ancestors, the embattled farmers, stood?

No question as to the ‘class of food ’ perplexed Hiram. It was the class received by all of us, except mother, who, cumbered by too much serving upon us,—and Hiram, — pretermitted eating t ill the baskets full of fragments were collected. But as to quantity, — there Hiram shone, differing from us minor denizens of the Milky Way as one star differeth from another in magnitude. ‘It takes coal to run an ingine,’ was his classic remark, as he stoked in his fifth doughnut; to which fat her, only a lap behind, was wont to respond antiphonally, ‘Well, Hiram, food’s meant to be e’t, I cal’late.’ No Fletcherism or Parsimony in Nutrition could disturb the calm of such applied Calvinism.

And now Hiram is no more and Ivan Rincsievicz, his successor, sniffs about the kitchen like a hungry hound, awaiting his scientifically balanced ration to be doled out in carefully calculated amounts. For does not my mentor say, ‘I have never seen a “stuffer ” who was worth much.’ Shades of Hiram,— Ichabod! Thy glory has departed.