Friday, September 16, 2005

On maple sugar

From an Immigration Handbook of 1820

"It is very hard, and requires to be scraped with a knife when used for tea, otherwise the lumps would be a considerable time dissolving. Its flavour strongly resembles the candied borehound sold by the druggists in England, and the Canadians say that it possesses medicinal qualities, for which they eat it in large lumps. It very possibly acts as a corrective to the vast quantity of fat pork which they consume, as it possesses a greater degree of acidity than the West-India sugar. Before salt was in use, sugar was eat with meat, in order to correct its putrescency. Hence probably the custom of eating sweet apple sauce with pork and goose; and currant jelly with hare and venison."

I'm not sure how putrescency is corrected! Disguised, perhaps. Acidity with fat is an old belief, however, and is behind the use of vinegar or lemon with fried foods. It's supposed to break down the fat before the body has to deal with it.

But then, people have had many funny ideas about food. There was a strong movement in the early 19th century in support of toast being much more digestible than bread. Who knows, they could be correct.

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