Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thoughts on Rice, in 1838.

Yesterday's story on quinoa came from an article written in the 1830's, and in it the "new" grain was compared with rice. Today I give you some further words on the latter from the same era. The recipe which follows is from the same source.

From: The Young House-keeper, Or, Thoughts on Food and Cookery, by William Andrus Alcott (Boston, 1838):-

substance which enters into the human stomach, and which is at the same time perfectly inoffensive, has been more slandered than rice. On the one hand, it has been said to be an innutritious, feeble substance; on the other, it has been said to be an active poison. It has been charged with producing costiveness, blindness, and even in some instances the cholera.
The truth is, that rice is one of the most nutritious substances in the world; as may be seen from the tables in a former chapter. I know, as I have already said, that it will be hard for many people to believe this. Because meat stimulates more, and gives more momentary warmth and strength, it is therefore insisted that it contains more nutriment. On the same principle, it might be proved that alcohol is highly nutritious; whereas all the alcohol in the world does not contain a particle of that which can nourish us or make blood.
Nor does rice tend directly to produce costiveness. The most that can be said against it is, that it is not very active on the stomach and bowels— and in our climate, and especially when trained as our stomachs and intestines are, to the action of substances much more stimulating and irritating, seems to have the effect of producing costiveness. But to the eastern nations who are trained to it— even without the curry sauce so largely used in many places—it has no constipating qualities. Let our children and youth be trained, from the first, to a pretty full proportion of rice with their food, and let them use other simple, wholesome, unstimulating things, and we shall hear little more of its tendency to costiveness.
As to its producing blindness, I have sought, these ten years, for evidence on this subject; but have never found a particle. The nearest approach to evidence I have met with, is the statement of a very worthy old man, that he knew a case of the kind in Maine. But every one knows how many other causes might have contributed to produce such a result as was stated. If this substance could cause blindness, we ought to hear of such facts from China, Japan, and other parts of Asia; especially since the establishment of eye infirmaries by the missionaries in those regions; but no such developments have, to my knowledge, ever been made. In short, I regard the whole as a base slander; and the charge that it produces cholera, no less so. Neither of the charges ever was, or—I venture to affirm it—ever can be substantiated.

Rice Pudding, With Apples.—Boil six ounces of rice in a pint of milk till it is soft, then fill a dish about half full of apples pared and cored; sweeten; put the rice over them as a crust, and bake it.


korenni said...

I suppose the reason he doesn't mention beri-beri is that it was only associated with a diet of polished rice around the turn of the 19th century. I have to wonder, too, if he's talking about polished rice or brown rice?

Unknown said...

What is 'spinnage', I can't find a definition?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi korenni. I dont think this was a very comprehensive medical commentary from an experienced nutritionist or tropical medicine doctor. I am pretty sure that "rice" to Europeans and Americans of the time meant polished white rice. Interesting though - I will see what I can find in proper medical texts of the time on rice.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Tod - 'spinnage' is an old spelling of 'spinach'