Food Taboos Real and Imaginary
( Originally Published 1930's )
Nearly every person troubled with indigestion, sooner than later, picks one or more food items which he, or she, will not eat because it is believed the cause of the pain of so-called stomach trouble. More often, than not, the very food the bellyacher lays off eating proves exactly what should be eaten to restore the alkaline balance of the system.
The writer can now hear you bellyachers saying: "of all the tommy-rot that fellow can write. Does he think I am so dumb as not to know what hurts me when I eat it. Every time I eat tomatoes, I have a terrible time with my stomach. No one can tell me that tomatoes do not hurt me."
Tomatoes never hurt anyone. Want to argue? You lose. It is not the tomato which hurts you, but it is the food with which you have eaten the tomato. You may have eaten it with bread, or with some other carbohydrate food. Again, you may have eaten the tomato between meals when you still have a certain amount of undigested food in the intestines. In either of the above conditions you may have plenty of digestive trouble, but it will not be the fault of the tomato.
To prove that a tomato will not hurt you, eat a meal from the protein side of the eating chart; anything and any amount you want. Do not eat a tomato with this meal. At your next meal eat as many tomatoes as you like with meat, egg, lettuce, a tart fruit salad, and buttered crackers; no other carbohydrate. Then wait.
Hello ! You have eaten the tomato and it never hurt you one little bit? That's good, you were told so. It is not tomato, but what you ate the tomato with. Your tomato caused your other digestive trouble and yet it did not cause it. That is another one of those paradoxes which can happen. Actually, the potato and bread caused it because they were mad at the tomato. Folks are like the tomato ; they are blamed for things someone else did. The tomato is an imaginary taboo.
However, you bellyachers can have a real taboo. If you say fried potatoes hurt you, you are right. Most of you have lost the power in your alkali to cut through the grease of the fried potato so that its starch can be transformed to invert sugar in the mouth. Therefore, the raw starch of the fried potato is swallowed in its original form, and the liver and pancreas do what little they can to finish a badly started job. What the liver and pancreas can not handle travels on into your garbage pail, the colon, to lay there and form alcohol and putrifactive gas. Then you yell: "I have the stomach ache."
Let's chase the potato around. How about mashed potatoes? Bad for the bellyacher, and not good for anyone else. Ninety-nine out of one hundred mashed potato eaters give a mouthful one jaw movement and one tongue wallow and the whole mess hits the bottom of the stomach; not one bit is changed from raw starch to invert sugar in the mouth. Mash potatoes should be chewed longer than a piece of beef, if you bellyachers wish to handle this Irish delicacy.
The greatest monstrocity in the potatoe cuisine is potato salad.
By this time, you have learned that it takes the alkaline action of the ferment, ptyalin, in the saliva to change the starch of the potato to invert sugar. Yet, you cooks insist upon putting acid vinegar into potato salad. See the joke? And it is not a joke; it is a tragedy. Vinegar absolutely prevents the action of alkaline saliva. No part of potato salad is digested except the egg and onion. But it certainly is good, isn't it? However, it is certainly no food for the bellyacher.
What! No potatoes? Certainly you can have potatoes, but there is a way and a reason for a way of cooking them. You bellyachers had better adopt that way, too. Baked potato can be eaten by most of you without trouble, providing you eat nothing sour with it, nor any grease except butter.
One reason for a baked potato being more easily digested than any other is its dryness. One must chew the baked potato longer than any other type. This longer chewing period mixes a greater amount of alkaline saliva with the potato before it is swallowed. Again, ninety-nine percent of baked potato is eaten with salt, pepper and butter. The condiments cause a quicker and more generous supply of saliva to flow. This greater amount of saliva flow converts more potato starch to invert sugar before it is swallowed. A bellyacher needs three times the amount of saliva required by the ordinary eater in order to cause potato starch digestion.
Boiled potato is the next possibility in your menu, providing you do not use gravy. Butter is the only grease which bellyachers can use with a carbohydrate. Butter can be partially digested in the stomach; no other fat can be.
Another taboo that is real is the dry cereal floated in milk. Rarely does the eater chew any cereal thus prepared. One or two jaw movements and the cereal is washed down the throat without sufficient preparation. Dry cereal should be just slightly moistened and sweetened. Or, dry cereal may be flavored with honey or jelly.
Cooked cereal should not be flooded with milk, but eaten with butter and sugar. All cereals should be well chewed before swallowing. The act of chewing mixes sufficient alkaline saliva to start digestion and makes it much easier for the rest of the digestive process.
Meats, eggs, beans, cheese, and other protein foods require an extra amount of hydrochloric acid for their chemical change. Starches, therefore, should not be eaten with these foods, especially by a person who has had any digestive trouble. This means, of course, that sandwiches are out of the question for the bellyacher. Crackers may be eaten with meat for two reasons; because they are not a heavy greasy starch, and because of their hard consistency which forces thorough chewing; sufficient to change their starch into invert sugar. Note that the chemical eating chart exempts crackers from its regular position among the starches. The greatest of all real taboos for the bellyacher is bread. It is not only the food which is hardest to digest, but the one which is difficult to keep out of the bellyacher's menu. It not only has been declared the staff of life, but it has become the habit of a lifetime for all eaters.
It may be a surprise to you readers that bread is placed on the taboo list. But, for the information of those who do not know, bread is composed of a lot of raw starch, a bunch of grease and some yeast. Here, the writer feels constrained to apologize for naming the ingredients of bread. But, having asked twenty-two modern women how bread was made, and finding only one who knew, it is deemed necessary. There is enough grease in the bread to inhibit its starch digestion, but the greatest difficulty in bread digestion is the fact that people swallow it quickly and with insufficient chewing. If it does not lend itself to easy swallowing on account of its dry form, it is usually washed down with a drink. The dough-like character of bread does not lend itself to the admixture of digestive fluids. Only the person who shovels coal or follows the plow can really burn up the product of bread digestion. And even the hard worker cannot handle bread if he has had any digestive disturbances.
Bread as a taboo for bellyachers means all kind; white bread, brown bread, buns, fried cakes, toast, and whether it is a rye or whole wheat, or what have you. The only difference between whole wheat and white bread is the mineral content. But the mineral content is not the thing which makes bread taboo, it is the starch and grease mixture.
Does going without bread stun you? Perhaps it will, but you will find that it is more of a habit than a necessity. If that hand which holds the bread just MUST have something in it, place a bottle of ink in it and tightly clasp your fingers and thumb around it and hold it during the meal. Food tastes just as good and you can eat just as much without bread. Try it, and see how well your food digests.
A sufficient number of taboos have been notated to illustrate what the chemical eating chart means. However, we list below a few short don'ts.
Do not make a relish with pickles and corn. Do not make a starch gravy.
Do not put spaghetti with cheese.
Do not eat spaghetti with meat.
Do not put bananas in tart fruit salad. Do not eat rice with chop suey.