Nuts and their Values

This is the third article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 16, 1910, and touches on the benefits of eating raw nuts but also keeping in mind that nuts are not for everyone.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Nuts and their Values

I READ a charming book last summer, written by two bright Scotch women—the Findlater sisters—in which an eccentric dietitian is called “a fruitarian.” Following their example, I coin a word to classify writers and lecturers who have come to the front within the last decade with learned expositions of the value of nuts as man’s daily food. Certain of our nutarian schools maintain that the vaunted vegetable product might be adopted as a substitute for meat with a great advantage to our race. It occupies a conspicuous place upon the menu of the vegetarian restaurant. Knowing this, I repaired to a fashionable resort of this character in anticipation of my talk upon nuts and their values. The restaurant upon a popular thoroughfare, is handsome and well appointed in every particular. We, two women of robust appetites, ordered and partook of a four-course luncheon.

  1. Bean soup maigre. 2. Protose cutlets and fried French potatoes for one and imitation hamburger steak and stewed celery for the other. 3. Chestnut pudding with whipped cream. 4. Nuts, figs and grapes. Tea and coffee were not to be had, and neither of us liked milk as a beverage.

The waitress was a comely, well-mannered American girl, and in paying the bill my companion put a direct question:

To the Point.

“Frankly, now don’t you long occasionally for a steak or chop, a leg of chicken or a slice of rare roast beef?”

The answer was direct and respectful. The girl saw nothing humorous in the customer’s query.

“Oh, yes! but we eat all the meat we want on Sunday. The restaurant is not open then.”

“I am glad she gets meat one day in the week,” observed my friend, gravely, when we were in the street. “For myself, I confess to an unsatisfied sensation. I suppose my taste has been depraved by indulgence in the fleshpots from youth up.”

The best thing on the menu, according to our fancy, was the bean soup. Milk and butter made it tolerably savory. If we flattered ourselves that we could have made a more palatable soup maigre by the addition of crème, onion juice and minced parsley, that was a matter of opinion. We were in no doubt as to the composition of protose cutlets and imitation hamburger steaks. Both were minced or ground nuts moulded into different shapes, and we could detect no difference in the taste. “Protose” figured largely upon the printed menu, always as a substitute for meat.

I talked the other day with an enthusiastic nutarian, who won a national reputation in says past as a “demonstration lecturer” upon dietetics and cookery. She sees, with the eye of confident faith in the justice of her cause, the approach of the day when nuts will crowd beef to the wall and bring down the price of poultry to a figure that will prohibit the raising of fowls for the table.

When Eaten Raw.

I have but one common-sensible argument in opposition to their sweeping theories. It is an indubitable fact that raw nuts are, with many human creatures, unwholesome to such a degree that parents forbid children to indulge freely in them, and doctors cut them out from dietaries. Just as some of us are poisoned by fish when others eating of the selfsame dish are unharmed; and apples, which are to one the staff of life and assurance of longevity, are absolutely indigestible to other members of the family. I contend, moreover, that nuts, composed as they are largely of oils, are more likely to disagree with delicate stomachs than meat, fish or eggs, for which they are offered as a substitute.

Mothers will bear me witness that, as one wrote to us a while ago, peanuts, hickory nuts and the coarser oleaginous Brazil nut are provocative of intestinal worms (ascarides). Likewise, that some people cannot eat raw nuts for a few successive days without paying the penalty of the rich diet in the appearance of “fever blisters” upon the lips or canker sores in the mouth. A yet more common consequence of munching nuts in season and out is constipation. So well established is the fact that nuts are preferable that physicians usually forbid them to patients suffering with colds and coughs.

Do not misunderstand the drift of this discussion of the food values and detrimental qualities of the proposed substitute for flesh-foods to mean condemnation of a delicious and useful article of diet. As will be seen presently, nuts, properly treated and eaten in moderation (always by those with whose gastronomic idiosyncrasies they are not at war), should have the respectful consideration of our housemother and take rank among choice desserts and vegetables. I have spoken of the heavy oils that enter into their composition. These may be measurably corrected and their evils neutralized by eating them with salt, with sugar and with fruit. The acid of the latter and that found in sugar effect a chemical change in the oil that renders it digestible. The alkali of the salt acts upon oil in different sort, but to the same effect.

General recognition of this gastronomic rule is evident in the custom of serving nut and raisins, walnuts and wine, and candied nuts with the dessert, and offering salt with the grosser black walnuts and Brazil nuts. A majolica nut dish which was given to me almost 40 years ago has dainty salt cellars on each side of the leaf-shaped salvers.

In brief, eat your nuts as a part of regular meals, and do not make them as did the unquiet old woman of “Mrs. Goose’s Melodies” with her “vic and drink.”

The chief of your diet.

And do not insist that they are a perfect food for any of your fellow mortals. That they are not!

Spanish Chestnuts.

The smaller native chestnut of our American woods may equal in flavor and in nutritive qualities the imported from France and Italy than from Spain. When boiled and shelled, it may be used for stuffing fowls and other purposes with satisfactory results. That is, after the said results are reached. Few cooks have time and patience to shell and skin the nuts after boiling them and then run them through the vegetable press. They are toothsome enough when all is done. If Spanish chestnuts are not to be had, and native nuts are fine and abundant, and winter days and evening are not filled with work, the housemother may introduce pleasing variety into her bills of fare by preparing her nuts according to directions given for imported varieties.

In any case the home-grown article is good when boiled in salted water, drained, and while hot, buttered lightly, preparatory to removing outer shells and the bitter brown membrane enwrapping the sweet kernels. Boiled chestnuts are far more wholesome than raw.

Stewed Spanish Chestnuts.

Boil and strip off shells and skins. They should be well done and cooked in water, slightly salted. Arrange in a hot dish and butter lightly. Cover and keep hot over boiling water, until five minutes before serving, then cover with a good brown gravy, and set over the fire for the gravy to soak into the nuts.

This is a delicious accompaniment to roast turkey. In this case use a cupful of the gravy made with the fowl to make the nuts savory.

Chestnut Stuffing for Poultry.

Boil, shell and skin the nuts and run through a sieve or a vegetable press. Season with salt and pepper. Mash into a paste and beat light while hot with a great spoonful of butter. Some persons like the addition of a handful of very fine crumbs. It makes the stuffing less heavy than when the chestnuts are used alone.

Chestnut Croquettes.

Prepare as directed in the last recipe, beat in a large spoonful of butter, a tablespoonful of very fine, dry crumbs; salt and pepper; a dozen drops of lemon juice and just a pinch of ground cinnamon. Let the past get cold, form into small egg-shaped balls, roll in egg, then in cracker crumbs. Set on the ice for two hours before frying in deep fat.

Chestnut Pudding. (To be eaten with meat.)

Prepare as already directed by boiling, peeling and mashing or running through the press. To a cupful of the mashed chestnuts allow four eggs, two tablespoonfuls of fine crumbs, a tablespoonful of melted butter, two cupfuls of milk, a tablespoonful of sugar and salt and paprika to taste. Beat the yolks light, stir into the mashed nuts, then beat in the other ingredients; the stiffened whites of the eggs last of all. Bake, covered, in a quick oven. It should puff high and lightly. Uncover, brown and serve at once before it falls.

Chestnut Trifle.

Boil, shell and peel. Run through the vegetable press into a glass bowl or dish, forming a light heap in the middle of the dish. As you do this sprinkle the layers with powdered sugar. When you have a pyramid and all the nuts are used up, heap sweetened whipped cream around the base and serve with each portion of the trifle.

Chestnut Salad.

Boil in salted water, shell and skin, break into halves and when cold let them be heaped upon leaves of crisp lettuce in a chilled dish. Pour over all a good French dressing. This is a simple and excellent salad.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week The Housemothers’ Exchange
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