Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Unpolished Rice: The Staple Food of the Orient (1905)

Several months ago I wrote a post on ‘Recipes using Rice Polish (1930)’ inspired by the contents of a publication by a 1930 publication of the  United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Home Economics which was entitled Rice Polish Makes a Valuable Addition to the Diet  (1930.) 

I recently came across another source of information on the broad topic of rice products.  I thought it provided an interesting historical perspective on the apparent modern pre-occupation with whole foods, so I wanted to share it with you.

The source is Unpolished rice, the staplefood of the Orient, which was published in Philadelphia in 1905 under the auspices of The Vegetarian society of America. The book begins with the text of a lecture given by Rev. Henry S. Clubb to the society, and includes ‘one hundred receipts for cooking unpolished rice, rice flour, rice polish’ as well as the ‘Testimonials of Eminent Food Reformers.’

Here is an edited version of Rev. Clubb’s lecture:

By Rev. Henry S. Clubb.

The endurance on long- marches; the wonderful activity, bravery and success of the soldiers of Japan, and their comparative freedom from camp diseases* and rapid recovery from wounds resulting in so many victories over their flesh-fed enemies who have been defeated and routed in every important engagement, fully confirm the views advanced in the following address delivered two years ago before the Vegetarian Society of Philadelphia. The address was published in the Rice Journal at the time, and extracts have appeared in many periodicals. It is now presented in full, as the events of the war and the growing interest in the subject of health foods seem to call for a more extensive diffusion of the information contained therein:

My friends and members of the Vegetarian Society:

My attention was called to the subject of rice, by observing the great muscular development and strength of the athletes of Japan, who are said to train chiefly, if not entirely, on a diet of rice. A correspondent in Connecticut inquired if I could procure him a sample of Japanese rice, as he had understood it was richer in protein or flesh-forming element than the South Carolina rice commonly grown in this country.

Wheat here is considered so much richer in flesh-forming elements that rice in the Middle, Western and Northern States is used only as a dessert, in the form of puddings, or blanc mange, whereas in the Southern, or rice-producing, states, it is served daily as a vegetable, largely taking the place of white potatoes in the daily meals.

Our investigations have led us to believe that the more general use of rice as an article of daily food, not merely as an occasional dessert, would result in a diminution of dyspepsia and an increase of health, vigor, and vivacity throughout the continent of America.

The fact that the Japanese are the most artistic, humane, vivacious, and happy people on the face of the earth; and that their chief food is rice, is, on its face, a strong argument in favor of the more extensive use' of that cereal.

Finding a good sample of Japanese rice in Philadelphia, I sent it to the Agricultural Department in Washington, inquiring if it had been analyzed and received a very courteous reply from Mr. Ernst A. Bessey, Assistant in Charge of the Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture, who wrote from Washington, April 19, 1902, that: ''So far as I know, no comparative analysis has been made to determine whether Japanese ricecontains more nitrogen than South Carolina rice. The fact is that the American method of milling rice so as to give it a high polish, as shown by the sample you enclose, loses about 90 per cent, of the nitrogenous matter in the grain, as this is contained in the fine polish which is taken off. In Asia, however, rice is not polished, so that the nitrogenous matter remains on the grain, and, as a result, the grain is much more nutritious."

The United States Agricultural Department kindly referred my letter to Prof. Knapp, of Lake Charles, La., who in due time sent the following valuable and interesting reply:

Lake Charles, La., April 22, 1902.
Rev. Henry S. Clubb, Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Sir :— At the request of the Department of Agriculture, I will undertake to answer your letter of April 7, 1902. I have not the analysis of the Japan rice before me, but my recollection is that it is richer in fats than other rices, but not in rotein compounds, or flesh-formers.

Being richer in fats, it has more flavor than other rices. The reason the Japanese are so muscular is that they do not polish their rice. In American mills the outside coating of the rice kernel is rubbed off. The process is as follows: 1st. The outer husk is removed. 2nd. The bran, just within the husk, is removed. 3rd. The solid kernel is then rubbed, to remove the rough protein surface and to give the kernel a gloss. This is called polishing, and the material removed is called polish, one of the most nutritious substances in all the cereals. Polishing removes more than three-fourths of the flavor and about one-fourth the fiber material. In Japan, China, and India polishing- is not done, except for foreign markets.

The Japanese army in the advance on Peking out-footed the armies of Russia, Germany, England, France and America. The Japanese soldier is fed on rice, with a ration of beans and fish. He can double-quick for fourteen hours, and repeat it for days.

The Japanese or Chinese may be shot through the body, and if no vital part is cut, they scarcely notice the wound.

If you will send to Dr. W. C. Stubbs, Audubon, New Orleans, La., I think you will get an analysis of Japan rice.

Very truly yours,

Agreeably to Prof. Knapp's suggestion, I wrote and received from Dr. Stubbs the following reply, dated "Audubon Park, New
Orleans, La., May I, 1902:

There is no perceptible difference between analysis of Japanese rice and South Carolina rice. We make them indiscriminately and have made both quite a number of times …..  [continues with a discussion of the results.]

… [a summary of the use of rice around the world]

Sir Wm. Bentley, Governor of Virginia, caused half a bushel of rice (probably brought from England whither it had been received from India,) to be sown in her colony, and it produced sixteen bushels of good rice. This was in 1647. Rice was introduced to South Carolina in 1694. An English or Dutch ship was driven by stress to seek shelter In Charleston Harbor and the captain visited Governor Smith, whom he had met in Madagascar. Smith expressed a desire to experiment with the growing of rice upon a low patch of ground in his garden; whereupon the captain presented him a small bag of rice seed which happened to be among his stores The seed was brought from Madagascar, but may not have been grown there. It was planted in the garden m Longitude Lane, Charleston - the spot is still pointed out - and thus originated the important industry of rice cultivation, still flourishing in South Carolina. ,

There is a story that the Earl of Shaftsbury sent 100 pounds of the rice seed to Charleston about the same time from the produce of which sixty tons of paddy were shipped to England m 1698.

Lowland rice was introduced to Louisiana in 1718, and upland rice into South Carolina, in 1772, from Cochin, China.

In this way the rice plant from its Asiatic home has made the circuit of the earth, and is now cultivated throughout the torrid zone and in the warmest parts of both temperate zones wherever there is abundant water supply.

…. [see the online text for the rest of the lecture]

*General Oku's Headquarters, Feb. i, 1905. — In nine months there have been but 40 deaths from disease in the immense army commanded by General Oku, a record that is believed to be unequaled in the world's warfare. * * * The percentages of the other Japanese armies are believed to be about the same. — Phila. Record, Feb. 2, 1905.

Now, for my choice of recipes from the book, I give you:

Using (presumably) unpolished rice:
Rice Meringue.
Steam a cupful of rice; first soak in one and a fourth cups of water for an hour, then add a cup of milk, turn into an earthen dish suitable for serving it from a table, and place in a steam-cooker or a covered steamer over a kettle of boiling water, and steam for an hour. It should be stirred with a fork occasionally, for the first ten or fifteen minutes. Heap loosely on a glass dish and dot with squares of cranberry or currant jelly.' Beat the whites of two eggs to a stiff froth with one-third cup of sugar and pile it roughly over the rice. Serve with cream

Using rice flour:
Rice Flour Bread.
One pint of fine rice flour in a warm bowl. Pour on it three pints of boiling water, stirring well. Cover and let it stand awhile to soften thoroughly. When cool add a little more yeast than for wheaten bread. Salt and shortening (konut), same as for wheaten bread. Work it thoroughly and set it to rise. When light, use wheaten flour enough to mould it into loaves. Put into pans; let rise and bake.

Using rice polish:

Buttermilk Rice Polish Gems.

Separate an egg and beat the yolk until light. Then add one cup of buttermilk or one cup of sour milk (if sour milk is used, add more butter). Stir into the milk a teaspoonful of soda and half a teaspoonful of salt. Beat and add one cupful of sifted rice polish. Beat until thoroughly incorporated, then fold in the beaten whites of the eggs. Bake in heated gem pans fifteen minutes.

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