This edited article about soya originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 707 published on 2 August 1975.
Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, wiped his beard after lunch at a school in Cuba. “Best pork chops I ever ate,” he said. He had been unable to tell from the taste and texture of his meal that the food he had just eaten had never been near an animal but had been made from soya beans by a vegetarian organisation.
As a result, the use of soya beans in Cuban schools became more widespread, for such beans are a rich source of food. Vegetarians have been propounding their value for years. And more recently, their cry has been echoed by Western nutrition experts who have found ways of making soya products which look and taste like meat and contain more protein and less fat than meat.
Soya beans grow in the United States, China, Brazil and Russia. After harvesting, they are taken to mills to be crushed, roasted, treated with solvents and acids, spun, powdered and otherwise altered and refined. The final products range from soya bean oil and other foods to agents used in paints and varnishes. Refined to an extreme degree, the bean becomes a white powder that is about 90 per cent protein, the substance we need to keep healthy.
In this state, the soya powder has a dull taste and is not very appetising. To overcome this, it is flavoured and coloured and made an acceptable ingredient in such things as hamburgers.
A further stage involves putting the soya powder through a chemical process, after which it emerges with the texture of meat. Coloured and flavoured, it can be made to resemble chicken, ham or beef.
Britain uses this in a limited way in school meals and industrial canteens. America has been using it for years in schools to save money and to provide pupils with meals that are enjoyable to eat and more nutritious than meat. And in the world’s hungry countries it could become a lifesaver for the starving millions.
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