Injurious And Uninjurious Spices And Condiments
( Originally Published 1913 )
Even though our foods may contain the most valuable nutritive substances, and may also not be entirely devoid of taste-bearing substances, the latter do not greatly come into play, and, above all, do not exert a stimulating effect upon the appetite, when other substances—spices, aromatics, condiments, etc.—have not been added for the purpose of flavoring them. And since it is so necessary that such substances be mixed with the food, they can surely not all be considered as injurious. Fortunately, our organs, and especially our kidneys, have been so perfectly designed by the Creator that they are able to withstand a temporary extra burden ; and although a little pepper or paprika passes through them occasionally, this does not necessarily mean that these organs are consequently doomed to destruction. It is important, however, that this should not occur continuously, and that only small quantities of such substances be used; it is also advisable that only such spices, etc., as are least injurious should be used. Salt is not injurious when not taken in too great quantities; it may even have a beneficial action, as has been stated when referring to the nutrient salts. Many herbs and vegetable condiments, such as parsley, cives, garlic (in small quantities), capers, marjoram, bayleaves, saffron, etc., are uninjurious. Fruit acids, such as those of the lemon, are not injurious and are often very useful; it is much more healthful to use lemon juice instead of vinegar in making salads. To be sure, a genuine wine or fruit vinegar would not be so bad, were it not so frequently falsified by the addition of sulphuric and hydrochloric acids. The addition of small quantities of wine or fruit vinegars to certain otherwise indigestible foods is not harmful for healthy persons; indeed, it even has the property of softening the hard portions of such foods, thereby making them more digestible.
The condiments which are often added to bread, and particularly the black breads, i.e., caraway, anis, and fennel seeds, probably have no deleterious action; they may, in fact, even exert a beneficial action in stimulating the bowels. The frequent use of strong seasoning, such as onions (the red onions are the best), and still less that of pepper, Spanish pepper (paprika), and ginger, is inadvisable.
It is true that most of us prefer foods which contain a little pepper or paprika, and have a greater appetite for them, and consequently more gastric juice is secreted and they are better digested. Ginger has an even greater action in this respect. Without doubt the appetizing and very palatable properties of many Hungarian dishes are chiefly due to the liberal addition of paprika and red onions, although the special excellence of many products which grow in. this so greatly blessed agricultural country may also be an essential factor in the palatability of the food prepared after the Hungarian fashion. It is also certain, however, that these highly seasoned foods which so many Hungarians eat daily have a very deleterious effect upon their health. Many spices and condiments are, on the other hand, not injurious, and are required as additions to food substances. In hot climates, and with us during the heat of summer, the appetite diminishes, and we feel very little if any hunger. The consequence would be that our nutrition would suffer, were it not for the fact that the all-wise forethought of Nature—which always acts more sensibly than man—has provided in just these hot climates a series of the most powerful herbs and spices. Wherever rice grows—which product is poor in regard to taste-bearing constituents, and where many of the foods rich in starches, but having in general very little taste, also grow—there Mother Nature likewise allows a profusion of spices to thrive. And indeed, as I have already mentioned when speaking of rice foods, the natives, as well as the Europeans living in those countries, use these condiments very freely. They do very little harm, however, in such tropical climates, for the increased activity of the skin helps to carry them off before they have had time to injuriously affect the liver and the kidneys. If these organs are in any way impaired, the consequences will be serious; it is, moreover, a well-known fact that the health of Europeans living in the tropics will become affected if they do not perspire freely. Although these spices are not particularly injurious in such countries, the same is not the case in our latitude. It follows, therefore, that we should rather use spices, etc., in the hot summertime than in the winter, when it is cold, especially in the northern winters, where the activity of the skin is suspended and all injurious spices would have to be eliminated by the kidneys, thus subjecting these organs to serious injury.
The taste of many foods, such as rice, coming from exotic countries is, in fact, very materially improved by the addition of saffron, cinnamon, etc. (rice with cinnamon and raisins is a delicious dish), while vanilla gives a fine aroma to sweets and pastry. All of these, when used in small quantities, as is usually the case, are probably not injurious. Pepper is also less injurious when it has been kept in a finely ground condition for some time, by which the greater part of the ethereal oils are volatilized, and is only then used in foods. The grinding cf the pepper should, however, be done at home, as when one buys the powdered pepper it is impossible to say, just as is the case with other spices in this form, what may have been added to them.