General Rules in Menu Making

Although Menu Planning has made a big comeback it was women of the 19th and 20th century who first discovered this marvel at easing the plight of the family cook.

Here are some vintage tips for Menu Planning. Woman’s Institute Library of Cookery

Perhaps the greatest problem in the planning of menus for a family is that of securing sufficient variety. A housewife who uses the same recipes and the same combinations of food repeatedly is apt to get into a rut and the members of her family will undoubtedly lose interest in their meals. This condition results even with the dishes of which those of the family are extremely fond.

However, they will not tire so quickly of the foods they care for if such foods are served to them less often. Then, too, there is more chance to practice economy when a larger variety of food is used.

The importance of planning menus systematically should not be overlooked, either, no matter how simple they may be. Even if breakfast consists of only two or more dishes, luncheon of three or four, and dinner of no more than four or five, a certain amount of planning should be done in order that the meal may be properly balanced.

If the suggestions for meal planning already given are applied to this work, very little difficulty will be experienced in providing meals that are both attractive and properly balanced. In addition to these suggestions, a few general rules for menu making ought to be observed. Most of these are simple and can be followed with very little effort

  1. Unless the menu is planned for a special occasion, the cost of the various dishes should be made to balance. For instance, if an expensive meat is to be served, the vegetables and the salad selected to accompany it should be of moderate cost. On the other hand, if an expensive salad is to be served, a dessert of moderate cost, such as a simple rice pudding, should be used to offset the price of the other dish. Planning meals in this way is urged for the sake of economy, and if it is carefully followed, all the meals may be made to average about the same cost.
  2. Another important point in successful meal planning is the avoidance of two dishes in the same meal made from the same food. For instance, tomato soup and tomato salad should not be served in the same meal, for the combination is undesirable. Corn soup contrasts much better with tomato salad than does the tomato soup, for it has the bland flavor that is needed to offset the acid salad. Some housewives, it is true, object to such planning on the ground that it does not give them opportunity to utilize all the materials they may have on hand at the same time. But in nearly every instance the materials can be used to excellent advantage in meals that are to follow and, in addition, the gain in variety is sufficient to warrant the adoption of such a method.
  3. As there should be variety in the materials used to make up the dishes of a meal, so should there be variety in the flavor of the foods selected. Rice, macaroni, and potato, for instance, make an undesirable combination. They are too similar because they are all high in starch; besides, they resemble one another too closely in consistency and they are all bland in flavor. If a meal contains one or two bland dishes, a special effort should be made to supply some highly flavored dish in order to relieve the monotony. The same thing may be said of acid foods; that is, an oversupply of these is just as distasteful as too many bland foods.
  4. To have fresh fruit for the daily breakfast would be very delightful, but such fruit cannot always be secured. When fresh fruit cannot be had every day, it is better to alternate it with canned fruit or stewed dried fruit than to have it for several days in succession and then have to serve the alternative for a number of days. The same is true of cereals. If use is to be made of both cooked and uncooked cereals, it is much better to alternate them than to serve the cooked ones for breakfast for an entire week and then uncooked ones the next week.
  5. When two vegetables are used in the same meal, they should be different. Sweet potatoes and white potatoes, although often served together, do not belong in the same meal. In fact, for most seasons of the year, two vegetables dissimilar in consistency should be supplied. For instance, if spinach is included in a meal, some contrasting vegetable, such as carrots, shell beans, etc., should be served with it. Beets and carrots would not make a good combination, nor should cabbage be combined with spinach, especially if both vegetables are prepared with a sour dressing.
  6. A bland food or one high in fat, such as roast pork, certain kinds of fish, etc., is much more palatable if a highly seasoned sauce or another highly seasoned food or, in fact, a food of an entirely different flavor is served with it. Apple sauce or baked apples are usually served with roast pork for this purpose, while sour sauces or pickles of some description are served with fish to relieve its blandness.
  7. To secure the most successful meals, the main course should be decided upon first and the additional dishes, such as soup, salad, and dessert, should be the second consideration. In this method of planning meals, they can be properly balanced, for if the main course is heavy, the others can be made light or some of them omitted altogether, while if the main course is a light one, heavier dishes may be selected to accompany it.
  8. Whenever it is possible to do so, the heavy meal of the day should be served at noon and the lighter one in the evening. This plan should always be followed for children, and it is preferable for adults. However, having dinner at noon is often very inconvenient and sometimes impossible, because frequently one or more members of the family are at business some distance from home and their coming home at noon for dinner is impractical. In such an event, the evening meal should be the heavy one, but it should not be made too hearty and overeating should be avoided.
  9. At all meals, tea and coffee should be used sparingly. Especially should this rule be followed by persons who are nervous, or high strung, or are troubled with indigestion and insomnia. At any rate, it is advisable not to drink either of these beverages at night.
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