This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Growing naturally in Japan, and the East Indian Islands, whilst also cultivated in English hot-houses, is the Sagus Palm, which yields by its gummy pith our very serviceable Sago.
Both it, and the Tapioca, as culinary esculents confer animal warmth by their abundant starch, over 86 per cent being comprised in the former grain; likewise Arrowroot consists chiefly of starch (about 82 per cent). These several foods supply in an agreeable form starch (not eatable by itself) which becomes completely absorbed within the intestines, so that on this account they are specially valuable. If required as a complete nutriment in health, they must be accompanied by such proteids as exist in light animal food, together with some fat.
"There was an old man of Iago, Whose food was restricted to Sago: Oh! how he did jump When the Doctor said plump, ' To a roast leg of mutton you may go.' "
"Tamdudum senior quidam de rure Tobagus Invito madid as carpserat ore dapes: Sed medicus tandem - non injucunda locutus -
' Assae, dixit, oves sunt tibi csena, senex."'
Sago is of particular service as helping to nourish infirm old persons, and children. The Indians reserve their finest Sago for such cases, and for invalids. Its fecula, washed from the plentiful pith, is very demulcent, and more digestible than the starch of rice. Such fecula never ferments in the stomach, and is very suitable for patients liable to waste because of a feverish state of body. Portland Sago, an English variety, is a farina extracted from the corm, or tuber, of our hedgerow Arum maculatum ("lords, and ladies"), or Wake-robin, a familiar wayside plant. This fecula was formerly prepared largely therefrom in the Island of Portland. To make a light restorative soup which never disagrees, or ferments in the stomach: "Boil half an ounce of small Sago in a pint of home-made beef-tea, (or of water in which a dessertspoonful of Liebig's meat extract is dissolved), until it is clear, then add half a pint of milk, with a little seasoning; boil up, and pour it over the beaten-up yolk of an egg in a bowl; stir, and serve." The late Queen Victoria was particularly fond of Sago pudding, with which she took powdered cinnamon as a condiment.
Similarly the late Lord Tennyson had a penchant for rice pudding.
For a Sago souffle: "Take one pint of new milk, two and a half ounces of butter, an ounce and a half of sugar, two ounces of pearl Sago, an ounce and a half of blanched almonds (chopped very fine); mix all these together, and put over the fire, cooking the mixture for fifteen minutes, whilst constantly stirring; then remove from the fire, and let it cool. Beat three eggs, and pour in a little thereof at a time until all is used thus; and perhaps some almond flavouring may be discreetly added. Put the mixture into a pudding dish, and bake for half an hour. Sift a little powdered sugar over it, and serve immediately in the dish in which it has been baked." Tapioca is another food of like character, being pure starch, as prepared from the root of the Cassava, or Manioc plant, which grows in tropical America, Asia, and Africa. It is more easy of digestion than any other kind of farinaceous nourishment, and less liable to produce acidity. When the root is freshly cut a milky juice exudes which is highly poisonous; but after this is withdrawn the remainder of the root yields Tapioca starch, which is in no way whatever deleterious.
Its agglomerate masses distinguish it from the regular shaped grains of Sago. Our chief supplies of Tapioca are imported from Brazil. Whether boiled in water, or milk, or steeped in boiling water, and then baked, it makes, when sweetened, and flavoured to taste, a very palatable, and light food, which is to be highly commended for invalids, and children: (see also page .564).