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Health Food Dates Back

June 24, 1998|LEILAH BERNSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Our preoccupation with health food is nothing new. Consider, for example, the May 2, 1926, issue of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, in which recipes for fresh fruit and vegetable dishes lined the "Care of the Body" page.

One recipe for a date and coconut dessert appeared at the bottom. It was provided by Mrs. Bert Merrill, described as "an expert in the preparation of foodstuffs."

Indeed, this was a time when women took a leading role in advocating nutrition research. According to Rima D. Apple's essay, "Science Gendered: Nutrition in the United States, 1840-1940," "the primary responsibility for the nutritional status of the family rested on female shoulders." It was up to women to ensure the health of the family through "proper diet."

On The Times' Care of the Body page in 1926, women and men could find helpful recipes along with advertisements for a Chinese herbalist on South Olive Street and where to go to cure rheumatism, asthma, nervous indigestion and "sagging, flabby chins."

For the date and coconut dessert, use unsweetened coconut (available in most health food stores) since the dates and cream will adequately satisfy any sweet tooth. Without the cream, you'll notice similarities to date ball cookies rolled in coconut.

The gooey mixture is extremely easy to make. Just the way healthy sweets should be.

DATE AND COCONUT DESSERT

1 pound dates, stoned and finely chopped

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1 egg

2 cups milk

Whipping cream

Sprinkle alternate layers of chopped dates and shredded coconut in buttered, 1-quart baking dish. Then beat egg with milk and pour over top.

Bake at 325 degrees until top browns, about 45 minutes.

Serve warm with cream.

8 servings. Each serving, without cream:

312 calories; 101 mg sodium; 31 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 56 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.75 grams fiber.

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