This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
Fat is an important food constituent for it is the greatest source of latent or reserve energy, yet there is probably no other item of the diet so generally disliked.
From the time a child is old enough to be given meat he generally refuses even to taste the fat, and the mother, instead of coaxing him to eat, often cuts off the "offending" morsel, little realizing that she is depriving her child of a great essential of his food.
In the fat, or reserve force, group we find the following foods: fat ham, pork, bacon, fat fish, sausages, cream, butter, oleomargarine, cream soups, rich cream cheese, olive-, corn- and peanut-oils, mayonnaise, and all salad dressings, almonds, peanuts and other nuts, rich gravies, ripe olives, hard or cream sauce, all kinds of rich pastry, suet puddings, fritters and all grease-cooked foods, chocolate, ice cream, mousses, Bavarian creams and parfaits.
Fats must always be broken up or emulsified before they can be digested. The normal body is so. constituted that it does not crave large quantities at a time. So fats are generally served in combination - olive oil being cut by lemon juice or vinegar in a French dressing, butter spread on bread, eggs served with bacon, cream with shortcake and apple sauce with fat pork, Nature always calling for a balance.
As fat is the last food constituent to be acted upon by the digestive organs, it may be readily seen why this becomes the reserve force element of the body. Any food cooked in it cannot be digested until Nature has broken up the fat cells. An omelet, fried eggs, fried steak, doughnuts, croquettes and the like are not easily available for the body's use until the fat has been acted upon. Pastry, cake and suet puddings rich in fat are equally slow of digestion, for the fat is so blended about the grains of flour and other ingredients that it must first be dissolved before they can be utilized. Foods cooked in fat remain in the digestive tract from one to two hours longer than is ordinarily necessary. This overtaxes the whole system, and, if such foods are eaten persistently, results in pallor, eruptions on the face, and a general air of lassitude. This does not mean that fried foods should be excluded from the diet, but that they should be served in moderation.
In frying, fats are usually heated to the smoking point, when they break up and some of the products evolved are irritating to the intestinal canal. This is why burned butter is unwholesome, and why doughnuts and other foods fried in lard heated to the smoking-point are indigestible. Animal fats smoke at a much lower temperature than do vegetable oils. For this reason the vegetable product is a much better medium for frying. Olive oil is the best, prepared vegetable cooking oils come second, while lard and beef fat are the least desirable.
In various experiments carried on to ascertain whether deep-fat frying or sauteing (frying in a small amount of fat) is preferable, the former method has proved to be the more economical, and the products more digestible, because approximately one-fourth less fat is absorbed into the foods. To be fried in deep fat, foods must contain enough egg instantly to coagulate them (as fritters), o*r else be coated with a thin layer of egg or dissolved gelatine (as croquettes). The surface is then instantly sealed, and the fat will not be absorbed to any great extent.