Li Yu-Ying - 1881-1973 - Part 3

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi
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Li Yu-Ying Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Introduction of Soyfoods in Paris. In 1910, when he wrote the early Chinese version of his book on soy, Li stated clearly that he was not at that time producing any soyfoods. His patents and other references seem to indicate that he started making soyfoods commercially near Paris in late 1910 or early 1911. An article by Beltzer in the 19 August 1911 Scientific American supplement stated that "A Chinese factory has been established not far from Paris for the purpose of manufacturing alimentary products from Soya and it has already put on the market Soya flour, Soya bread, Soya sauce, Soya milk, Soya cheese, preserves, fermented milk, etc." The factory, located in Valees, Colombes (near Asnieres, Seine), northwest of Paris, was named Usine de la Caseo-Sojaine, which would translate as either "Soy Casein Factory" or "Tofu Factory," since Li brand-named his tofu Caseo-Sojaine. The plant made bottled soymilk, lactic-fermented soymilk, fresh firm tofu (curded with a salt or rennet), pressed tofu sheets (salted or unsalted), fermented tofu (of the Gruyere, Roquefort, or Camembert types), smoked tofu (sold wrapped in tin foil), soy flour, soy bread, creme de soya (resembling creme de marron or chestnut butter; the soy product was sold in both fresh and powdered forms), roasted soy flour, soy chocolate (made of roasted soy flour, cocoa butter, and sugar), soy sprouts, soy sauce (made by a pure-culture fermentation), soy coffee, and probably tofu pate, tofu sausage, and soy protein isolate (soy caseine). According to his 1910 book, the soymilk, after being passed through the filter press to obtain fine globules, was run through a homogenator, which may have resembled a homogenizer. One can only imagine how Paris, prior to World War I, responded to this remarkable array of new foods. Li was clearly 70 years ahead of his time.

To further his work of introducing soyfoods to the West, and to promote his company's products, Li began to serve his foods to distinguished groups. On 15 May 1911 he served Vegetarian Ham, Soy Cheese, Creme de Soy (like creme de marron), Soy Bread, etc. to the French National Society for Acclimatization at its annual lunch, in keeping with its tradition of introducing new food products from little-known plants (Bois 1927). Li was described as "technical director of the soyfoods factory."

In 1921 the French soy pioneer Rouest noted (p. 126):

A few years ago, l'Usine de la Caseo-Sojaine offered a soyfoods meal, in which soy was the basis of all dishes, to several hundred guests from the `Big Press,' the medical press, the National Society for Acclimatization, etc. All the foods served were found to be excellent. The menu of a meal for four, with all foods made by La Caseo-Sojaine, consisted of:

Soups: Viande de soja ("soymeat") soup, soymilk soup

Entrees: Omelette with smoked soy ham, fritters stuffed with soymeat

Vegetables with salad: Soy sprouts, sautéed and in a salad

Desserts: Soy cake or pudding, soy biscuits, crème de soy (comfiture like crème de marron)

Soy coffee.

Rouest gave a recipe for each dish served and noted that the "soymeat" was made from seasoned and smoked tofu.

Li and Grandvoinnet (1912) noted that in 1910 and 1911 the presentation of numerous soy products (presumably their own) was organized at expositions in Brussels, Turin, and Dresden.

In 1911 Li noted that he had gone to the Nanking Exposition in China that year, where he had seen displayed 400 varieties of soybeans from various provinces. He may have been looking for varieties suited for adaption to France.

By 1916, there were indications that Li's soyfoods had not been as well accepted as he had hoped, and that some products had probably been discontinued. For in 1916 an article in a medical journal by Mr. L. Beille, professor of medicine at Bordeaux, apparently referring at least in part to Li's products, stated that:

The Parisian clientele promptly abandoned soy sauce, soymilk, and tofu, but they like the sprouts, which are sold daily as legumes in the markets of Paris and the suburbs. They also adapt favorably to the flour and biscuits, made from soy, that can be used in diabetic diets. The oil and caseine find bigger and bigger markets in European industry.

In 1921 Rouest, who was somewhat skeptical of the value of soyfoods, wrote: "Caseo-Sojaine did very original publicity for soyfoods. The soybeans processed in this Chinese factory were imported from China. One could already see at this time (1913) that these foods, based on a plant that was absolutely unknown to the public, would not win public favor." Ray (1951) noted that "As early as 1910 a Franco-Chinese company was founded to study the utilization of soymilk. The trials were abandoned in 1912." This latter date seems questionable?? Eventually, however, at some unknown date, Li closed his plant and went to China to continue his work with soy.

Effects of Li's Work. As mentioned above, Li's articles and book were widely read and quoted. Rouest, for example, in 1921 wrote a major book titled Le Soja et son Lait Vegetale, in which he borrowed extensively from Li and Grandvoinnet, without acknowledgment, yet arrived at very different conclusions. Rouest stated that "the soybean has been ostracized in France. Major commercial, financial, and social interests have viewed with terror a food that can be produced so inexpensively . . . Soy cheese is feared by the cheese industry." To assuage these fears, Rouest, who strongly urged the cultivation of soybeans in France for livestock feed, stated that soymilk should only be used to feed calves and baby pigs, thus allowing more cow's milk to be available for human foods. Behind these statements lurks Li's influence. Rouest also attributed the development of the Soyama-Werke in Germany in 1913 and its ambitious soymilk program to Li's influence.

Part 3
Yu-Ying Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4