Thursday, August 02, 2012

Setting a Good Example.

There is much in the food columns of magazines and newspapers these days about the concept of sugar as a toxin to the human body. There are several sides to this highly controversial discussion: refined sugar as an addicting substance; refined sugar as the major cause of obesity and heart disease; refined sugar as an intrinsic poison, independent of its contribution to obesity; fructose as a particularly dangerous and death-dealing substance – and so on.

It is difficult to separate the hype from the science, it is true, and I have no wish to take sides and no intention to change my diet at present – although a general feeling that we eat (and drink) too much sweet stuff seems to fit comfortably with intuition and common sense. I await further hard scientific evidence with interest.

I came across an article (in a Canadian newspaper) about the US Food Administration’s efforts to reduce sugar consumption in World War I recently, which seemed to speak to the practicalities of reducing sugar in the diet. The Ottowa Citizen of October 26, 1918, began:

Six thousand meals using only fifty pounds of sugar for all purposes is the record established by the cafeteria in the Food Administration Building at Washington. This is the rate of one pound to one hundred and twenty meals, and is in some contrast with what the Food Administration is asking the American housewife to do to save sugar – to use two pounds per month per person, or one pound for forty-five meals.

I thought this sounded like an amazing effort, and a superb example of setting a good example and leading from the top. The next paragraph dampened my admiration somewhat:

The Food Administration announces that it feeds an average of six hundred persons per day for the noon meal, and the sugar ration mentioned covers its use for all purposes – including tea, coffee, desserts, and in cooking. Most of the desserts contain such substitutes as honey, maple syrup, white sugar, or corn syrup, and the use of sugar is confined almost exclusively to tea and coffee, for which ther is a large demand. Every patron is asked if he desires sugar in his tea and coffee, and if so it is served in uniform quantities at the time the cup is filled.

So, it comes down to what you call ‘sugar’. Is it a consumer definition – table sugar which you buy at the grocers (which, chemically, is sucrose)? Or is it a nutritionist’s much broader definition – sweet-flavoured carbohydrates of the monosaccharide and disaccharide type (sucrose being but one of the latter.) Whatever the culprit, the clients of the Food Administration cafeteria still got their sweet fix, their habits (or addictions) remained unmodulated, and dentists around the country presumably remained in business. The next couple of paragraphs show that there were, however, considerable inroads on the other dietary changes mandated by the requirements of war.

No wheat in any form has been served, not even in cooking. Bread is made of corn-meal, potato, rice, barley and corn flours. This has been found to work well from a palatable as well as a nutritional standpoint.
Beef is served only once a week, and then in some form which presents the opportunity of stretching the quantity used, such as in stews, croquettes, casseroles, and soufflés. Fish is served twice a week as a main dish, but is frequently used in salads.
The cafeteria is self-supporting and its use of substitutes (quite contrary to the widespread belief than substitutes are more expensive) has enabled its management to serve its menus at low process, as may be seen by such items as these:
Baked mackerel, parsley sauce                                            .10
Cold tongue                                                                          .10
Potatoes au gratin                                                                 .05
Corn on cob                                                                          .05
Rice or corn muffins and butter                                            .05
Cheese                                                                                   .05
Tomato and egg salad                                                           .10
Maple nut pudding with whipped cream                              .05
Watermelon                                                                          .05
Fresh peaches, each                                                              .03
Fresh plums, 3 for                                                                .05

Recipe for the Day.
The US Food Administration was very pro-active in providing recipes to assist housewives to comply with the restrictions. This just could be the rice muffin served in the cafeteria.

Rice Muffins (US Food Administration.)

1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon fat, 2 tablespoons sirup, 1 or 2 eggs, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, cup rice flour (4 ounces), 1 cup ground rolled oats (4 ounces)
Add to the cup of milk the melted fat, sirup, and slightly beaten egg; sift the salt, baking powder, and flour together. Use a coarse sieve so that none of the flour is wasted. Combine the two mixtures, stirring lightly without beating. Bake in a hot oven (437 deg F or 225 deg C) for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the muffins. Yield 24 small muffins or 8 very large muffins.
Daily Menus for War Service, by Thetta Quay Franks (New York, 1918)

Quotation for the Day.

To the Women of Newberry County:
Three distinct “S.O.S” calls have come to the women of America from the great commander-in-chief of our country. These calls being interpreted, mean:
Sow or starve.
Subscribe or slacker be;
Save or suffer defeat.
We are told that food and money are needed to win this war. Would you not feel pround if Newberry should be the one to furnish the last crust that is needed to give liberty to the world?
The Observer, Newberry County, Oct. 23, 1917


Les said...

Thanks for the 'vintage' gluten free recipe. I'll have to try it. I don't think I go through a pound of sugar in 6 months although I go through a lot of honey.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Les - with two members of the family who are gluten-sensitive, I am always on the lookout for GF recipes myself! it is good that historical cookery books come to the rescue sometimes - even if the writers didnt know they were GF!