The Society for Acclimatization, France - Page 2

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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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


The Acclimatization Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Early Articles on Soy (before 1880). The first article on soy in the Bulletin of the Society for Acclimatization was written by Montgaudry in 1855. It was one of the earliest French publications on soyfoods. The Bulletin published five reports or articles about soy in 1855, fifteen total during the 1850s, ten during the 1860s, and four during the 1870s, culminating in the major article, "Le Soya," of 1880, written on the Society's 25th anniversary at a time of rapidly increasing interest in soy stimulated by the work of Haberlandt from 1875-1878 in Austria and Germany (see Chapter 56).

In the following discussion, we will try to stick as closely as possible to the original French terminology for soybeans and soyfoods, to give a bit of the flavor of the language at that time. Except when quoting, we will summarize the content of the more important articles and reports, relating to soyfoods.

1855 (2:16) Report by the Baron of Montgaudry (Buffon's nephew), who has been given responsibility by the Society to distribute five varieties of seeds, brought back from China by M. (monsignor) de Montigny, the French consul in Shanghai. We will quote the entire report, which contains the first mention in the West of soy oil, and fermented tofu.

"Two varieties of pois oleagineux ("oil peas," i.e., soybeans) are completely dissimilar. One has small green seeds; the other has rather large yellow seeds.

The peas grow in all terrains, giving a good crop both in the valleys and on the hillsides.

The oil peas brought back by M. de Montigny are cultivated on a large scale in the fields of northern China.

It is principally in the provinces of Honan, Shantung, and Shansi, that one finds vast expanses covered with these peas. The climate of these provinces is quite similar to that of our own so-called "cold provinces." In China there is a large trade based on products obtained from these peas. The oil is used in many ways; it is preferred to rapeseed oil and colza oil. Although it has an aftertaste of beans or peas, this is not as disagreeable as the bitterness or sharpness from rapeseed or colza oil. With the addition of a little lard, it becomes similar in flavor to second grade olive oil. The residue from oil extraction becomes presscakes, which the Chinese use to fatten livestock or to enrich the soil. These presscakes are a powerful soil amendment in the countryside.

In China, oil peas are transformed into a food for the poor and a seasoning highly regarded by the rich. For the poor, the flour of these peas is used to prepare a paste resembling that of fromage blanc (a nonfermented dairy cheese resembling cream cheese), known in France as fromage a la pie; it is sold in public places for a few cents a portion and cut into cakes by means of a brass wire according to the customer's wishes. Ordinarily the Chinese fry their paste or cheese in soybean oil. It is highly esteemed.

For the rich, a seasoning is prepared which requires more care and culinary talent. The pea paste is fermented after having been seasoned with pepper, salt, powdered bay leaves and thyme, and other aromatics. During the fermentation, the producer bastes the paste with soy oil. After a few days of fermentation, the preparation is ready. This paste or cheese (fermented tofu) becomes a very powerful digestive (aid to digestion) and an aperitif, which wakens the appetite and is extremely tasty. At Kaifeng in Honan, at Tsinan in Shantung, and at T'aiyuan in Shanshi, the oil and cheese of oil peas are made in huge amounts, and are consumed locally. But the city of Ning-po, capital of Chekiang, is the center of production and of shipping of various products?? made from oil peas. The port of Ning-po is hard to reach in large vessels, but one can stop at the island of Choushan, where there is a very good port. Thousands of Chinese junks leave Ning-po and travel along the coast of China with no cargo but the products of oil peas, which they carry to all parts of the Celestial Empire, to Japan, and to all countries that they know.

Oil peas have been made to bear seeds in France since 1854. Their acclimatization is assured. Unfortunately we still have only a small quantity of seed, but M. de Montigny, who must return to China, will send the Society a large enough amount so that this precious seed will soon be distributed to all parts of France. This will be an eminent service rendered to the nation."

1855 (2:225) Letter to the President of the Society from M. Stanislas Julien, in China, on the subject of oil peas (yeou-teou). "One reads in the Imperial Encyclopedia of Agriculture . . . that these large peas (ta-teou) are distinguished by various colors: blacks, whites, yellows, grays, and dappled blues. The black ones can be used in medicine or eaten, and are an ingredient in a condiment called chi (soy nuggets), which is composed of oil peas, ginger, and salt.

The yellow ones can be used to make teou-fou (a sort of fermented pea paste, which the common people use regularly to nourish themselves). Oil is also extracted from the beans by putting them in a press. They can also be used to make tsiang (a sort of seasoning sauce) (jiang). The other varieties of large peas (soybeans) are not good for making teou-fou (fermented pea paste) or to be eaten after having been roasted." There follows information on agriculture and planting.

1855 (2:239) The president informs the Society that M. de Montigny is going to be sending from China a bottle of oil from oil peas and a pot of teou-fou, a Chinese cheese made from oil peas, that is a principal element in the Chinese diet.

1855 (2:388) Letter to the president of the Society from E. Fremy concerning soy oil, its uses in China, and its potential in the West. "It appears from my analyses that the oil peas brought back from China by M. de Montigny contain 18 percent oil . . . In conclusion, oil peas, whose importance we already appreciate for the quantity and quality of the oil they contain, will offer a new food for our consumption and a new useful product for the industrial arts."

1857 (4:59) The Society receives from M. C. de Montigny in Shanghai, a large quantity of oil pea seeds, which it distributes to members of the Society and others interested in planting them.

1858 (5:131) Lachaume writes: "Independent of its oleaginous qualities, the pea of China can be used in cooking as a legume that is delicious. Cooking is very easy. The fresh green seeds are dropped into boiling water. The skins float to the surface and are skimmed off. In 30 minutes the cooking is done, furnishing a delicate dish, recalling peas but containing less sugar."

1859 (6:106) M. Vilmorin gives some details on his tests using oil peas to make Chinese cheese, named teou-fou. Baron Seguier furnishes some additional information on its production.

1862 (6:690) Eugene Simon writes a long article from Japan entitled "On the Production of Soja," describing in great detail to date how shoyu (le soja) is manufactured in Japan. He begins by saying, "Le soja is a condiment which is consumed in large quantities in Japan. Some years ago, in America, England, and Holland, as in India, where it was first introduced, it enjoyed a marked success. Today, the popularity remains only in America." He notes that the quality of the product is lowered in shipping it through the tropics (around the tip of South Africa) to Europe, and encourages its production in Europe, following the method he describes. He concludes by describing a shipment of soyfoods he is sending from Japan.

Japanese kitchen late 1800s

1866 (II [redo all these Roman numerals??] 3:562) M. Paul Champion, in China, gives an extremely detailed (3-page) description of the production of pea cheese (tofu) in China and Japan. This description later appeared in expanded form in his book Industrie Ancienne et Moderne de l'Empire Chinois (1869), originally written in Chinese and translated into French by Stanislaus Julien. He describes the lifting off a film from the surface of the soymilk before coagulation with a mixture of calcium sulfate and nigari. This is the first mention of yuba in a Western text. The film "is eaten either fresh or dried and the flavor is not disagreeable." After describing the production of pea cheese, he goes to say that to preserve it, it is generally mixed with salt or sauces of various types so that it can be then kept for several years. He also describes the widespread use of soymilk (which he calls "liquid pea cheese") as the basis of the breakfast of many Chinese. This is the earliest known description, worldwide, of the use of soymilk as a beverage. He concludes, "Pea cheese has a rather agreeable flavor. It could render a great service to the feeding and nourishment of Europeans if they were able to cultivate the oil peas from which it is made. Pea cheese, deep-fried like french-fried potatoes, makes a very delicious dish."

1876 (III 3:457) Letter from the secretary of the Society of Horticulture, Etampes (author??) concerning Soja Hispida. "This seed leaves nothing to be desired. As for quality, it is perfect. In order to evaluate it carefully, we have cooked it in the dry state and seasoned it with only a little salt. It tastes something like a haricot, lentil, or pea. It is very tender, and doubles exactly in volume when cooked in excess water. It is easily digested. To make it tender, it must be boiled for a long time."

1878 (III 5:90) In a report by M.P. Dabry de Thiersant on wines and distilled spirits made in China, he describes in detail the preparation of a starter or ferment called Kiu-tsee, which is made in Canton. It is basically a type of koji made from 75 pounds of rice, 24 pounds of Dolichos Soja (soybeans), 4 ounces of old Kiu-tsee, and 14 pounds of pulverized leaves of the Chan-Kiue (Glycosmis citrifolia; Chinese Glycosmis).

1880 (III 7:248) M. Paillieux shows the members of the Society a small scale model of a Chinese stone mill used to make tofu, then describes the process for making tofu, which he calls teou-fou.

Acclimatization Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4