Under this head we will consider macaroni, tapioca, etc. Italy has long been famous for the excellent quality of macaroni produced there. It grows a wheat which is harder and more glutenous than that grown in most countries, though Russia produces a wheat of similar quality. Until recently very simple machinery was used, and the output for each factory was small. At the present time, a single press can manufacture into macaroni ten to twenty barrels of flour a day. The three most common forms of the paste are macaroni, spaghetti, and vermicelli, but there are, besides these, many fanciful forms, and special small pastes used in soups. America has good machinery and skilled labor, but this soil and climate have not yet grown a wheat which is equal to that of Italy and Russia for this purpose.
Pastes Used in Soups
Macaroni is considered an excellent form of food, being both very wholesome and digestible. When made of good flour it contains a large amount of nutriment in the form of starch, protein and mineral matter. It is so dry that there is practically no loss in weight, and it is an economical article of diet. It can be prepared in a great variety of ways, and should often find a place on our tables.
Sago is a starchy substance, made from a species of palm growing in the low lands of the East Indies. The tree does not grow high, but has a thick trunk, and at a certain time in its growth there is only a thin shell of wood on the outside, the entire central portion being filled with a starch-bearing substance. The starch is extracted by a series of manipulations and made into the sago of commerce. There are several varieties of sago. That which has been simply dried is like other starch, insoluble in cold water, but swells and becomes clear when boiled in water. There is another variety which has been so treated in the manufacturing process that it is partially soluble in cold water. Sago is sometimes adulterated by the addition of potato starch. Such can be easily detected by the use of the microscope, as the granules of potato starch are larger and more regular in outline.
Tapioca is manufactured from the large, succulent roots of the tropical plant known as "manihot." It is extensively cultivated in tropical America, and on the coast of Africa. The roots are grated, and the starch left to-settle from the extracted juice.
The pulp which remains may be made into a bread-like cake called "cassava." or dried and used for porridge, etc. There is one variety, the juice of which contains a poisonous acid, but it is driven off by heat, so that the prepared products are wholesome. When the starch has settled, it is dried on heated plates, and constantly stirred. This gives us the tapioca of commerce. Brazil arrowroot has the same source as tapioca, but it is dried without heating, and is known as "tapioca meal," or "Brazilian arrowroot."
Arrowroot is the name of the starch derived from the root of some species of maranta. Arrowroot gives the most transparent and delicate liquid, when cooked, of any of the starches commonly used, and is esteemed in cookery, and is much used for infants and invalids. The plant from which arrowroot is made is largely cultivated in Bermuda and Jamaica. It is also grown to some extent in Georgia and Florida. The roots, or, more properly, rhizomes, are the starch-bearing portion of the plant. The amount of starch produced varies at different ages of the plant, but when at their best, the roots produce about twenty-five per cent, of starch. This starch is sometimes adulterated with potato starch.
Cornstarch is the only other starch used to any considerable extent for food, though there is no perceptible reason why wheat and potato starches should not be used if they are sufficiently cheap to render their use advisable.
References: Enc. Brit. "Tapioca," "Arrowroot," "Sago;" Chemistry of Cookery - Williams - pp. 186-190; Goodholme's Domestic Cyclopedia, p. 340; Johnson's Universal Cyclopedia; Century Dictionary & Cyclopedia; Chambers' Encyclopedia.