The current trend is that vegetables must be cooked only briefly. They must remain crunchy. A nutritional justification is given for this, but explanations can always be formulated to fit the prevailing belief or fashion. I know that some vitamins and other nutrients are destroyed by boiling, (but how much boiling?) but I understand that others are more easily assimilated when the vegetables are cooked to a greater degree. I must look up the actual, real, scientific evidence for this belief that undercooked is nutritionally better than more cooked. And how much cooking is over-cooking anyway? I routinely overcook vegetables in soup, I think. Does this mean that my vegetable soup is a nutritional wasteland?
Interestingly, even the most fanatical crisp vegetable-lover does not generally want his or her potatoes undercooked. One group in history did choose to have them this way however.
A report in 1809, from King’s County, Ireland, on the potato appeared in An Account of Ireland, Statistical and Political, (1812) by Edward Wakefield.
“Parboiled potatoes are preferable; the laboring poor say they go farthest when the bone is left in them. A man with his wife and four children, from four to fourteen years of age, will eat two stone [28 pounds] of them per day.”
The Irish peasant’s best potatoes went to market, the poor quality ‘lumpers’ were eaten by the family, and they were undercooked because “they stick to our ribs and we can fast longer that way.”
Now I have a burning need to find out about the digestion of cooked versus undercooked potatoes, and the reality of slow digestion versus the perception of slow digestion of the undercooked variety – such is the curse of curiosity.
As always, I value your insights and opinions, so please do comment, and I will endeavor to respond as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, I give you a most intriguing recipe. Please, someone, explain the name of these delicious-sounding sweet treats.
Beat three or four ounces of almonds, and three or four bitter, when blanched, putting a little orange-flower water to prevent oiling; add eight ounces of butter, four eggs well beaten and strained, half a glass of raisin wine, and sugar to your taste. Beat all well till quite smooth, and grate in three Savoy biscuits. Make balls of the above with a little flour, the size of a chestnut: throw them into a stew-pan of boiling lard, and boile them of a beautiful yellow brown. Drain them in a sieve.
Serve sweet sauce in a boat, to eat with them.
A New System of Domestic Cookery (1808) by Mrs Rundell.