Although I have finished my three-day series on George Washington Carver, there is one more basic food which he inspires me to write about today, although to date I have not been able to find any of his own recipes for it - the soybean.
Soybeans were grown increasingly widely in America in the second half of the nineteenth century, but they were grown as a fodder crop, and for their oil. Two men were instrumental in the beans being accepted as food. One was George Washington Carver, who began his work with them in the first decade of the twentieth century; the other was Henry Ford, the automobile entrepreneur.
Ford passionately believed that agriculture and industry should be closely aligned and should be mutually supportive. His interest in soybeans began when he was investigating crops which could provide the raw materials for industry, and one of his dreams was that automobiles could be grown from the soil. As is well known, he developed a prototype plastic car in 1941 that was made from the soybean. The car itself was never mass produced because it was not financially feasible, but it is said that every car that rolled out of the Ford factory in the 1940s contained a bushel of the beans in the enamel paint and a number of the smaller components.
Ford and Carver corresponded regularly on the subject of soybeans, and Ford soon became quite evangelical about them as food. He hosted a number of all-soy meals in the 1930s and 1940s, and his personal chef was instructed to incorporate soy products in as many dishes as possible.
In honor of both men, here is a sample of recipes for soybeans, from those early times.
Coffee and Peanuts
Dry soybeans have also been used as a substitute for salted peanuts and for coffee. When prepared as a substitute for peanuts, the dry seed is first soaked in a 10 per cent salt solution for ten or twelve hours, and then roasted to a light brown color. Yellow and green seeded varieties are preferred as they make a better appearing and more palatable dish.
Soybean Production in Illinois, 1928
Soy bean butter.
Mix hydrogenated soy oil with salt, coloring matter and diacetyl to color and taste.
Recipes for Soy Bean Foods, from the Edison Institute, 1936
When finely ground soybeans are mixed with about 10 parts of water and heated near boiling point for 15 to 30 minutes, an emulsion is obtained which is remarkably similar in appearance and properties to cow’s milk. Upon standing for a while the particles of meal will settle out and the liquid can be poured off. The liquid remaining in the residue can be separated by pouring the mass into a cloth bag and shaking until the liquid has run out. If allowed to stand quietly the filtration is extremely slow.
Cornell bulletin for homemakers, 1945
1 cup cooked soybean mash
2 cups flaked breakfast cereal
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon almond flavouring
Add salt to the egg whites and beat until slightly stiff. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff. Mix the soybean mash with the flaked cereal, which has been crushed, and gradually fold this mixture into the egg whites. Add the flavouring. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper and bake in a very moderate oven (300-325 deg. F) for about 25-30 minutes, or until delicately brown and well set.
Soybeans for health, longevity, and economy, by Philip S. Chen, 1956