Though actually used during World War II as a substitute for the protein found in rationed meat products, remember when the mere mention of soy for dinner (as in tofu or tempeh) elicited strange looks from just about everyone you knew? Today, though long the bailiwick of vegetarians and vegans, soy products are on the tips of a lot of other tongues, and products are certainly front and center in nearly every aisle in the grocery store. Clearly soy and its many manifestations are an industry unto themselves.
Bursting with potassium (3,342 mg. per cup), devoid of fat, high in protein, fiber, and packed with iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins, soy (often called a “superfood” because of its nutritional punch) can be found in everything from appetizers to snacks (roasted, salted edamame is a snack habit worth cultivating) to main dishes and even desserts, not to mention soy milk, yogurt, and cheese, and an unparalleled bowl of miso soup. So just how did this native East Asian bean evolve from taboo tofu to the versatile, heralded health food star it is today?
In 1765, Samuel Bowen, a sailor with the East India Company, and Englishman James Flint, first brought soybeans from China to the U.S. Bowen is said to have gone on to cultivate the crop near Savannah, Georgia. During the Great Depression, soy was used to help regenerate drought-stricken dust bowl soil because of its nitrogen-fixing properties. Farms at that time needed to increase production to meet with all the government demands for soy and in fact Henry Ford was among those at the helm of the soybean industry. Spending approximately $1,250,000.00 on soybean research, by 1935 every Ford-manufactured car used soy: soybean oil was used in paint, as fluid for shock absorbers, and in soy-based plastics for auto body panels. In fact auto industry trendsetter Ford is credited with producing the very first commercial soy milk, ice cream, and all-vegetable nondairy whipped topping!
Soy is used in oils (soybean oil is high in alpha-linolenic acid — an Omega 3 fatty acid), in meal for livestock feed, in flours, and more. Its effect on cognitive function, cholesterol, and cancer is an ongoing debate, but those who incorporate soy foods into their diets claim largely to do it because they wish to include the protein without leaning heavily on meat — and because it tastes great! Nowadays, almost anything you can think of has a soy doppelganger, so to speak, and the list just keeps growing.
Indulge in these yummy, easy, healthy recipes to celebrate April: National Soy Foods Month!
Spicy Edamame (Soybean) Dip
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
16 ounces shelled edamame beans (about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch salt and pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Pita chips and crudités for dipping
In a medium skillet over medium heat, roast the garlic, turning frequently, until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, and then slip off the skins. Set aside. Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil and drop in the beans. Bring back to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water before draining. Drain the beans and cool. Transfer garlic into a food processor and coarsely chop. Add the beans, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, pepper and process in food processor. Add olive oil, lime juice and cilantro and pulse to combine. Add the reserved water a little at a time while processing until smooth (you may not need to add all of the water). Dip away!
Pages: 1 2