FRUIT IN THE DIET
Fruits are the fleshy, juicy products of some plant or tree which, when ripe, is suitable for use as food. Although some fruits are seedless, they generally contain the seeds of the plants or trees that produce them. Many fruits require cooking to make them palatable while others are never cooked and some others may be cooked or eaten raw. Fruits, because they are wholesome, appetizing and attractive, occupy a valuable place in the diet. In fact, it is these qualities rather than their food value that accounts for the popularity of fruits among all people. In addition to causing fruits to appeal to the esthetic sense, their attractiveness serves another important purpose. It is said that Nature made them attractive in color, odor and flavor in order that birds might be allured to attack them for food and by spreading the seeds, assist in their propagation. Many fruits are eaten raw while others are cooked either because they require cooking to make them appetizing or because it is desired not to use them in their raw state. The cooking of fruits has a variety of effects on them, being sometimes advantageous and other times detrimental. The flavor is always changed by the application of heat and in some cases the acid that fruit contains becomes stronger. On the other hand, the fibrous material or cellulose of fruits is softened by cooking and thus becomes more digestible.
COMPOSITION OF FRUITS
The composition of fruits is a matter of considerable importance, for on it the food value of the fruits depends. To a certain extent, the composition of all fruits is the same but the varieties of this food differ in their food values almost as greatly as do vegetables. small quantities of protein and fat are contained in fruits that very little attention need be given to these substances. Exceptions are found in avocados or alligator pears and in ripe olives, both of which are high in fat. Whatever food value fruits may have, whether it be high or low is due to the carbohydrate they contain.
Some green fruits and bananas contain a very small amount of starch but on the whole the carbohydrate of fruits is in the form of sugar and is in solution in the fruit juices. The chief form of this carbohydrate is known as ‘levulose’ or ‘fruit sugar’. However, ‘glucose’, another form of sugar, is also found in nearly all fruits, grapes and dried fruits such as figs, raisins, etc., containing an unusually large amount. All fruits contain a certain percentage of mineral salts.
The quantity varies in the different kinds of fruits. These salts have the opposite effect on the blood from those found in meats and cereals but they act in much the same way as the minerals of vegetables. The minerals commonly found in fruits are iron, lime, sodium, magnesium, potash and phosphorus. These are in solution in the fruit juices to a very great extent and when the juices are extracted the minerals remain in them.
Some fruits contain only a small amount of acid while others contain larger quantities. It is these acids, together with the sugar and the volatile oils of fruits, that constitute the entire flavor of this food. Most ripe fruits contain less acid than unripe ones and cooked fruits are often higher in acid than the same fruits when raw. Numerous kinds of acid are found in the different varieties of fruits. For example, lemons, oranges, grapefruit and a few other fruits belonging to the class known as citrus fruits contain ‘citric acid’; peaches, plums, apricots, and apples, ‘malic acid’; and grapes and many other fruits, ‘tartaric acid’. The water content of fresh fruits is very high reaching 94 per cent in some varieties. Dried fruits on the other hand contain much less water, their content being in some cases as low as 15 to 20 per cent. It naturally follows that the fruits low in water are high in food value, while those containing considerable water have in their composition less of the material that adds food value. The high percentage of water in fresh fruits together with the acids they contain, accounts for the fact that these fruits are so refreshing. In fruits, as in vegetables, cellulose is found in varying quantities. The larger the quantity, the lower will be the food value of the fruit, except where the water has been evaporated as in the case of dried fruits. The digestibility of this cellulose, however, is not worth considering because while it is possible that small amounts of very young and tender cellulose from fruits may be digested, on the whole this characteristic may be disregarded.
EFFECT OF COOKING ON FRUIT.
Cooking affects fruits in numerous ways depending on the condition of the fruit itself, the method used and the length of time the heat is applied. When fruits are cooked in water or in a thin sirup, the cellulose becomes softened.
On the other hand, if they are cooked in a heavy sirup, as for instance, in the making of preserves, the cellulose becomes hardened and the fruit, instead of breaking up, remains whole or nearly so and becomes tough and hard in texture. The addition of quantities of sugar, as in the latter case, besides helping to keep the fruit whole, increases its food value. Another change that usually takes place when fruit is cooked is in its flavor. This change is due either to an increase in the acid contained in the fruit or to a decrease in the amount of sugar. Like other raw foods, fruits in their fresh state contain vitamines; that is, a substance that helps to keep the body in a healthy, normal condition.
These are found to some extent in cooked fruits but not in the same quantity as in raw ones. Therefore, raw fruits should be included in the diet as much as possible.
While the serving of fruits is a simple matter, it should be done in as dainty a way as possible so as not to detract from their natural attractiveness. If the skins are to remain on the fruits while serving, a knife, preferably a fruit knife, should be served with them and nothing smaller than a salad plate should be used. The carefully washed leaves of the fruit served make an attractive garnish. For instance, large, perfect strawberries with the stems on, when heaped on a plate garnished with strawberry leaves and served with a small dish of powdered sugar, are always attractive.
Likewise, a bunch of grapes served on grape leaves never fails to attract.
A mixture of a number of fruits such as peaches, pears and plums, or, in winter, oranges, bananas, and apples, piled in a large bowl and passed after salad plates have been distributed, not only makes an excellent dessert but permits the persons served to take their choice. Fresh berries, sliced peaches, bananas, oranges, etc. may be served in sauce dishes which should be placed on a service plate. They may be passed or served from a bowl. Canned or stewed fruits may be served in the same way.
As usually served, the dessert is but a “snare and delusion” to the digestive organs. Compounded of substances “rich,” not in food elements but in fats, sweets and spices, and served after enough has already been eaten, it offers a great temptation to overeat; while the elements of which it is largely composed serve to hamper the digestive organs, to clog the liver, and to work mischief generally. At the same time it may be remarked that the preparation of even wholesome desserts requires an outlay of time and strength better by far expended in some other manner. Desserts are quite unnecessary to a good, healthful and nutritious dietary. The simplest of all desserts are the various nuts and delicious fruits with which nature has so abundantly supplied us at no greater cost than their harmful substitutes and which require no expenditure of time or strength in their preparation. If other forms of dessert are desired, a large variety may be prepared in a simple manner so as to be both pleasing and appetizing.
SERVING FRUIT DESSERTS
There are few invariable rules for either table-setting or service. When every one has finished the course, start clearing of the table by first removing all large dishes of food; after that the plates and all soiled dishes, mats and all table furniture except the glasses, napkin rings and center-pieces. Lastly remove all crumbs with a brush or napkin.
When done, place a plate in front of each person with a doily and finger bowl upon it and then bring the dessert and dessert dishes. If the dessert is pudding, a spoon or fork should be placed on the plate at one side of the finger bowl.
If the dessert is fruit, a fruit napkin may be used in place of the doily, the real purpose of which is to prevent the bowl from sliding about the plate in moving it. A fork and silver knife, or knife and spoon as the fruit may require, should be served with it.