Soybean of Happiness

By Imhoff, Dan; Warshall, Peter | Whole Earth, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Soybean of Happiness


Imhoff, Dan, Warshall, Peter, Whole Earth


A 3,000-YEAR HISTORY OF OUR MOST MODERN OILSEED

Rich in tradition and yet only now being understood, the soybean is a plant of complexity and contradiction. It possesses the characteristics of both animal protein and fuel oil. It can be rendered into both a meat-like fiber and a cow-like milk. It can provide low-cost vegetable protein, yet it has become a mainstay of the livestock feed industry. It is a relatively self-sufficient crop, producing its own nitrogen nutrients and resistant to most diseases, yet is at the center of controversy about genetically modified foods. Its cultivation has the potential to reduce environmental impacts from agriculture, energy, and other sectors, yet as part of the corn/soy rotation, its cropping pattern creates more US nutrient-pollution and sediment than any of the global monocultures.

The wild relative of Glycine max was a rambling plant, growing close to the ground. Sometime around the eleventh century B.C.E., farmers in the winter wheat--growing regions of Manchurian China encouraged the recumbent wild legume to grow upright. The enthusiasm of Chinese farmers for the soybean was manifested in the names they bestowed on the crop's many varieties: Great Treasure, Brings Happiness, Yellow Jewel, Heaven's Bird. After three millennia of breeding and plant selection, today's soybean plants typically stand three feet high and three feet wide, bearing sixty to eighty pods of three beans each. Soybeans grow well even in marginal soils, and possess the soil-enriching property of leguminous plants, namely the ability to draw nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the ground through their roots.

For Asians who did not drink animal milk, the soybean quickly became indispensable. The beans, which were soaked in water to yield a white liquid, were known affectionately as "the Cow of China." But, in contrast to other staples like corn or rice, the hard oilseed needs to be intensively processed. In 206 B.C.E., in Han Dynasty China, soybeans were first fermented to make douchi, the predecessor of soy sauce and miso. (What is called douchi by the Chinese and hamanatto by the Japanese, we call "salted black beans," because the soybeans turn black during fermentation.) Soy's flour, powder, or curds were fermented to make miso (soy paste), shoyu (soy sauce), doufu (soy curd), natto (soy cheese), and tempeh (a soybean cake invented in Indonesia), as well as yuba, kinako, hamanatto, and kochu chang. Steamed green beans, roasted soy nuts, and soybean sprouts were also favored and highly nutritious.

In the last half of the first millennium C.E., the Japanese upper classes adopted many pillars of Chinese culture, from writing characters and legal norms to the Buddhist religion and doufu (known in Japan as tofu). A sixth-century monk poetically praised tofu's "dazzling white robes," accentuating the refinement with which Japanese culinary artistry endowed the soybean. Around the seventh century C.E., Japan's miso tradition emerged. Miso seems to have evolved from both chiang, a soybean paste that Buddhist monks brought from China, and jang, a similar soybean product that Korean farmers introduced to Japan's countryside. Miso remained a delicacy of the privileged classes, made almost exclusively by monks until the tenth century. Eventually, soybeans became more widely available, and the methods of fermenting soybean paste to produce miso became as diverse as the households that prepared it. By the eighteenth century, samurai families established the miso-making industry. Today, while miso is served throughout the country in households nearly every day as a broth for soup, or a dressing or sauce for grilling fish and other meats, its production has been largely relegated to giant factories. Most of Japan's soybeans are imported.

Soybeans' four "first-generation" or ancient foodstuffs--miso, soy sauce, tempeh, and tofu--are fairly refined and bear little resemblance to the just-harvested legume pods. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Soybean of Happiness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.