Friday, May 08, 2015

Food for the Million: The Soya Bean (1922)

One of the best-known pioneers of the use of the soybean in the West was the automobile entrepreneur, Henry Ford. Ford promoted and funded a great deal of research and marketing of the bean in the 1930’s and 1940’s, as we have discussed in a previous post (here, also here.) There were others around the world who were interested in the nutritional value of the soybean too, several decades earlier. An article in an Australian newspaper, The Land (Sydney, NSW,) of 24 February 1922 described the work of two such men – one a Hungarian scientist, the other a Harley Street (London) medical man.

Food for the Million.
            A Hungarian scientist, Dr. Laslo Berezeller, recently gave an account of experiments he has made with the soya bean. The nutritive value of this bean has been known for centuries. It comes into prominence to-day because from it can be made the cheapest and most sustaining food in the world. Great interest has been aroused in this Hungarian scientist's discovery. Greater interest will probably be aroused when it is known that Dr. K. R. Shaw, of Harley Street, London, has been working out the problems of the food value of the soya bean from the point of view of European consumption for many years.
            In an interview with a "Morning Post" representative, Dr. Shaw told how he first came to be interested in the soya bean and of the experiments he had made to produce foodstuffs from it.- "I came across the soya bean in Mexico some 20 years ago," said Dr. Shaw. "I was interested in it because I found that when the natives went on long treks all they took with them were soya beans. These were sufficient for all their wants. I watched how they prepared the beans; and found that all they, did was to roast them before eating them. I began to eat the beans myself, and found them both palatable and nourishing. On returning to England I began to collect all the information I could about the soya bean. As my information grew I found that the natives of the various countries, China, Japan, Mexico, were all content to eat the bean as it was after roasting it. It was clear that for Western palates this method would not do. I was also curious to know why they roasted the bean raw. I discovered that it contained a large quantity of volatile oil which made it quite unfit for consumption in the raw state. Animals, as well as human beings, could not thrive on the bean until the oil had been taken away. After a number of experiments I discovered a new method for getting rid of the oil. It is simpler than roasting, and merely consists in treating the bean with a certain amount of alcohol. All the wonderful nutritive values of the bean are retained, and for some time now I have been able to produce foods from the bean in a variety of forms.
            "These foods are perfectly palatable to Europeans (which has never been the case hitherto with any soya bean product either for animals or human beings). They can be produced in the form of bread, biscuits, or vegetables at prices much below any of those prevailing to-day for the staple articles ot diet. A person can live on the soya bean food and be adequately sustained for far longer than on any European food. Children thrive on it, and it is particularly efficacious in the case of those in any way affected by tuberculosis.
"The possibilities of this new bean food are boundless, particularly at a time when foodstuffs are so dear and some of the peoples of Central Europe are starving. I am convinced that the food now to be made from the soya bean will do something, at any rate, to solve the Russian famine problem.”

Our recipe for the day comes from another Australian newspaper, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW) of 11 February 1936, which gave a recipe for using soybeans (in a feature on ‘Chinese cookery’) – a quite unusual find in cookery pages of the time supposedly on Chinese cookery.

Soya Bean Savoury.

Soak ½ lb. soya beans overnight. Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and rub through a sieve. Place in a saucepan, add ½ oz. butter, a dash of cayenne pepper, a tablespoonful of mushroom ketchup, a chopped red pepper, and a tablespoonful of lemon juice. Mix thoroughly, and make very hot. Have ready some triangles of thin buttered toast; spread some of the mixture on each and decorate with small pieces of red and green pepper.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like Dr. Shaw is referring to green (non-dried) beans, while the recipe is for dried ones. I must admit Mexico doesn't come immediately to mind when I think of soybeans!

Shay said...

Call it edamame, and you can charge more for it.

(sorry -- I'm feeling cynical this evening).