History of Food

History of Food

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Today is National Peking Duck Day - January 18

National Peking Duck Day is celebrated annually on January 18 in the United States.  The history of how this day became to such designation is unclear.  Instead of trying to find the history of the day, why not savor the food and it's history?

Peking Duck is one of those foods that holds as much history per ounce that any poultry could ever hold while even busting out at it's seams.  It is one of the foods that China proudly boasts of it's history.  There is even a  Peking Duck Museum in Beijing, China (formerly Peking, China).  Tracing the history of Peking Duck can fill volumes - much more than this blog.

 Peking Duck carries prestige in both its preparation and consumption. It is perhaps the most famous Chinese dish in the United States today, at least since we stopped claiming that Chop Suey was Chinese.  Simply put, Peking Duck is a cultural classic.

The name comes from the ancient city Peking, now known as Beijing and still the capital of China; this is why the duck dish is referred to as either Peking or Beijing duck. The dish has always been associated with nobility due to its highly specific preparation.

The history of the roast duck can be traced back to as early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) when it was listed among the imperial dishes in the Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages.

Investigating the preparations of this dish, there is always meticulous preparation of the Peking Duck.  In a rather interesting step, air is pumped into the duck so as to separate the skin from the fat. It is then hung up to dry in the open air before being roasted in an oven until it is crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside.  The duck is traditionally roasted in a brick oven with open fire to get the crisp skin.

Crispy aromatic duck is a variation of the Peking Duck where the duck is deep fried instead of being roasted. There are a number of recipe variations for Peking Duck that use less complicated methods to achieve the crisp skin that characterizes the dish.

Peking Duck is always served in thin, well-cut slices. The whole duck has to be sliced into 120 pieces and diners consume it with light pancakes, sliced cucumbers and a variety of sauces, which are perfect complements to the dish.

There is a proper way to eat Peking Duck.   It usually can be divided into 3 steps. First, pick up a slice of duck with the help of a pair of chopsticks and dip it into the soy paste. Next, lay it on the top of a thin cake and add some bars of cucumber and shallot. Finally, wrap the stuff into a  bundle with the sheet cake (a thin pancake). The real secret of Peking duck's flavor lies in carefully nibbling away at the mixture.

Read more about Peking Duck History here   Peking Duck History.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

National Hot Buttered Rum Day - January 17

Just what is Hot Buttered Rum?

Brief history lesson:
After molasses was brought to Colonial America from the Jamaican island, the entrepreneurial colonists and Jamaican businessmen opened distilleries - making rum from molasses (by-product of sugar refining).  Rum was a New World spirit. With this increased the supply of rum, the creative colonists added it to their liquid libations – necessity was the mother of invention for warmth in the cold New England months.
Colonial experimentation and creativity to effectively use this surplus distilled rum they added rum to hot beverages called hot toddies.

Originating in Northern Europe, where beer, cider, wine and spirits were mulled with sugar and spices to add some cheer to cold winter days.  As in Northern Europe, during colonial era it was customary to serve many beverages hot beverages, thus the evolution of hot buttered rum.  Hot buttered rum was a favorite in Colonial America.

Spiced rum drinks are especially popular during the winter months. Charles Coulombe, author of Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink that Conquered the World, writes that rum has always been an "important component of American holiday celebrations", and given the Puritanical ban on outright celebration of religious holidays, hot toddies and spiced rum drinks share an association with American civic holidays, such with New Years and Thanksgiving.

Just The Facts:
Hot buttered rum is traditionally made with dark rum, which has been aged in oak barrels to develop a deeper, molasses flavor.  This cocktail was made with boiling water, sugar and spices is traditionally referred to as a "toddy," and made with whiskey or sherry. Warm alcoholic beverages such as glogg, mulled wine and toddies.   Hot buttered rum is a toddy (specifically, a rum toddy). Toddies can be made of any spirit—bourbon, brandy, tequila, Scotch and other whiskeys are popular.  Hot buttered rum is a mixed drink containing rum, butter, hot water or cider, a sweetener, and various spices (usually cinnamon,nutmeg, and cloves).  It is especially popular in the fall and winter and is traditionally associated with the holiday season

Hot Buttered Rum is a historical hold over from American Colonial Era and America's forefathers.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 15 - A Potpourri Fun, Facts, History, etc; Something for Everyone!

January 15

Today is one of those days where there is more than ample amount of food history and significance to go around. Let's see if there are ample enough points to encompass everyone's preference.

Today is National Strawberry Ice Cream Day.
You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!” 
Who doesn't like ice cream. Ice cream is one of those desserts that are eaten year round. Strawberry ice cream dates back at least to 1813 in America, when it was served in the White House at the second inauguration of President James Madison. 

In the United Kingdom it is National Soup Day.
Soup is one of those foods that is probably as old as cooking history. Succinctly put soup is: The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and travelling cultures, rich and poor, healthy people and invalids. Soup (and stews, pottages, porridges, gruels, etc.) evolved according to local ingredients and tastes.

If you like to read more about the history of soup – this is one of my favorite websites about soup history:
Soup is so popular everywhere and for so long there is even a wonderful folktale about it. 
                                 A Recipe for Stone Soup from 1808
Give me a piece of paper’ (said the traveler) ‘and I’ll write it down for you,’ which he did as follows:—A receipt to-make Stone Soup. ‘ Take a large stone, put it into a sufficient quantity of boiling water; properly season it with pepper and salt; add three or four pounds of good beef, a handful of pot-herbs, some onions, a cabbage, and three or four carrots. When the soup is made the stone may be thrown away.’ Published in The American magazine of wit, 1808

To read more about Stone Soup Folktale, I would like to direct you to:

For Registered Dietitians and Health Care Field
Today in 1785 William Prout was born. An English chemist, he was the first to classify food components into 3 main divisions - carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The scientific field remembers him today for what is called Prout's Hypothesis, which was an early 19th-century attempt to explain the existence of the various chemical elements through a hypothesis regarding the internal structure of the atom. Those of us in the nutrition field, laud him as a groundbreaker.

For Chefs and Foodservice Area
1915 Fannie Merritt Farmer died (born March 23, 1857). American culinary authority, and author of the 1896 edition of 'The Boston Cooking School Cook Book' later known as the 'Fannie Farmer Cook Book.' Director of the Boston Cooking School, and founder of Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. Often cited as the first cookbook author to introduce standard measurements. Fannie Farmer Cookbook was originally published in 1896 as The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. It is one of the oldest cookbooks published.

For the Historians
1919 The Great Molasses Flood. On January 15, 1919, a large 50 foot high storage tank in Boston burst and sent a tidal wave of over 2 million gallons of molasses traveling at over 30 miles per hour. Houses, buildings and parts of the elevated rail system were crushed in its path. Twenty-one people died, and over 150 were injured. It took over 6 months to clean up the mess. The damage was in the millions of dollars. One can only imagine the sticky mess that insued and remained through the clean-up period.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day

Pastrami was introduced from a wave of Jewish immigration during the second half of the 19th century.  It was subjected as a Romanian specialty.  The spelling started, according to Early English references as "pastrama."  Eventually the spelling was modified to “pastrami”.

Pastrami (Turkish: pastırma, Romanian: pastramă, Yiddish: פּאַסטראָמע pastróme) is a popular Jewish delicatessen meat usually made from beef, and sometimes from pork, mutton or turkey. The raw meat is brined, partially dried, seasoned with various herbs and spices, then smoked and steamed. Like most good life inventions, pastrami was created out of necessity.

In the United States, although beef plate is the traditional cut of meat for making pastrami, it is now common to see it made from beef brisket, beef round, and turkey. Like corned beef, pastrami was originally created as a way to preserve meat before modern refrigeration.

New York kosher butcher, Sussman Volk is generally credited with producing the first pastrami sandwich in 1887, claiming to have gotten the recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for storage of his luggage.  Due to the popularity of his sandwich, Volk converted his butcher shop into a restaurant to sell pastrami sandwiches.
Pastrami is typically sliced and served hot on rye bread, a classic New York deli sandwich (pastrami on rye), sometimes served with coleslaw and Russian dressing.

In Los Angeles – The classic pastrami sandwich is served with hot pastrami right out of the steamer, sliced very thin and wet from the brine then layered on double-baked Jewish-style rye bread.  It is traditionally accompanied by yellow mustard and pickles.

From a dietitian perspective, it isn't the pastrami is extremely high in fat, because it isn't.  It is considered moderately high in fat content.  In a 2 oz serving it is approximately 45% fat content.  This translated to moderately high in fat.  What we add to the sandwich what tilts the fat content, primarily the cheese on the sandwich.  Some people enjoy mayonnaise on the sandwich, typically it is served with mustard, versus mayonnaise.  With this knowledge, this isn't a food to completely avoid.  With the nutritional content of the Hot Pastrami Sandwich, adhere to the principle of "everything in moderation" is essential.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

National Peach Melba Day January 13

Today is National Peach Melba Day

Peach Melba is the exquisite combination of peaches and raspberry sauce with vanilla ice cream.  Even as I write this I find myself salivating.

As with many well earned French desserts, this luscious dessert was invented during the Victorian Era in 1892 or 1893 by the French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel, London, to honor the Australian soprano, Nellie Melba.

It was not unusual to name well crafted dishes after particular public people.  Such is the case of Nellie Melba.  In 1892, Nellie Melba was performing in Wagner's opera Lohengrin at Covent Garden. The Duke of Orléans gave a dinner party to celebrate her triumph.

As with Victorian French chefs, Escoffier wanted to make a particular impressionable debut of his newly created dessert.   To display it, he used an ice sculpture of a swan, which is featured in the opera. The swan carried peaches which rested on a bed of vanilla ice cream and which were topped with spun sugar.

Not uncharacteristic a perfectionist, Escoffier was continually tweaking his creations.  In 1900 Escoffier created a new version of the dessert. For the occasion of the opening of the Carlton Hotel, where he was head chef, 

Escoffier omitted the ice swan and topped the peaches with raspberry purée. Other versions of this dessert use pears, apricots, or strawberries instead of peaches and/or use raspberry sauce or melted red currant jelly instead of raspberry pureé.

 use raspberry sauce or melted red currant jelly instead of raspberry purée.[2]

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29, General Eisenhower, and Coca-Cola

This day in Food History….

- National Almond Butter Crunch Day
- Feast day of St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen, bakers, harvesters.

1943 General Eisenhower requested that Coca-Cola provide 10 portable bottling plants for U.S. troops overseas.

2005 The USDA confirmed today the first domestic case of mad cow disease.  The 12 year old cow was born in Texas and spent its whole life on the same ranch.

So I took a few days off from writing…no excuse…no reason…just needed a break…now – now break is over. Thank you for your indulgence…

What shall I write about today?  Not much tickles my fancy with the significances of food history.  I am a historian of sorts because I am a veteran, I guess it would be a good topic to discuss Eisenhower sending Coca-Cola to the troops overseas during World War II.

First, a short history (if that is possible) about Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola recipe was developed at the Eagle Drug a Chemical Company which was a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia.  The recipe was developed by Dr. John Pemberton (a pharmacist) in 1886. It was originally formulated with extracts of coca leaves (cocaine) and kola nuts.  That's where the name comes from. The first Coca-Cola was sold on May 8, 1886 at a soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, either by Pemberton himself, or by clerk Willis Venable. Pemberton sold a 2/3 interest in his company in 1887 for $283.29. Asa G. Candler another Atlanta pharmacist later bought the formula for $2,300, and when he in turn sold the company in 1919, it was worth $25 million.

Coca-Cola was first bottled in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1894 by August Biedenharn, but was this bottling was only local in scope.  Several years later in 1899, Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead, two Chattanooga lawyers, obtained rights to bottle Coca Cola in most of the U.S., except for Mississippi, New England and certain areas in Texas. The site where Coca Cola was first bottled in Mississippi is now the Biedenharn Candy Company Museum. The first 12 oz aluminum can was introduced by Royal Crown Cola in 1964. It wasn't until 3 years later that Coke started using the aluminum can. One 12 ounce can of Coca Cola contains approximately 45 mg. of caffeine.

Coca-Cola was originally marketed for its medicinal qualities.  This was a period of time when many patent medicines contained coca leaves or cocaine (an alkaloid extracted from the leaves), the most popular was 'Vin Mariani', invented by an Italian physician working in France, Angelo Mariani. Vin Mariani was widely imitated, and Pemberton at first produced an imitation of Vin Mariani before formulating his own concoction, Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola never contained much cocaine - and the amount was quickly reduced to almost undetectable amounts after a few years, when cocaine's negative properties started to become evident. (Estimates are the syrup contained 1 part in 50 million - that would be about 1/2 ounce in 25 million gallons of Coca Cola).  Since 1929 there has been no cocaine in Coca Cola. The leaves were still used for flavor, but the alkaloids were completely removed.

General Eisenhower and Coca-Cola plants

A key part of Coca-Cola’s history is that during World War II, the Company’s long-time leader, Robert W. Woodruff, said that every U.S. serviceperson should get a Coke for 5 cents, wherever he was.

And they did pay only a nickel – wherever they were – even though that meant sending portable Coca-Cola bottling plants around the world. Over 5 billion servings of Coca-Cola were distributed to U.S. troops during the War.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola was bottled in 44 countries, including those on both sides of the conflict. But far from devastating the business, the war simply presented a new set of challenges and opportunities for the entire Coca-Cola system.

The entry of the United States into the war brought an order from Robert Woodruff in 1941 "to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the Company." 

Did you know that General Dwight D. Eisenhower actually requisitioned 10 Coca-Cola bottling plants for U.S. troops overseas?

This effort to supply the armed forces with Coke was being launched when an urgent cablegram arrived from General Dwight Eisenhower's Allied Headquarters in North Africa. Dated June 29, 1943, it requested shipment of materials and equipment for 10 bottling plants. It asked for the following:
  • 3 million (filled) bottles of Coca-Cola
  • Complete equipment for bottling, washing and capping 3 million bottles twice a month
  • Sufficient syrup and caps for 6 million refills
Prefaced by the directive that the shipments were not to replace other military cargo, the cablegram also requested shipment of 3 million filled bottles of Coca-Cola, along with supplies for producing the same quantity twice monthly.

Within six months, a Company engineer had flown to Algiers and opened the first plant, the forerunner of 64 bottling plants shipped abroad during World War II. The plants were set up as close as possible to combat areas in Europe and the Pacific. More than 5 billion bottles of Coke were consumed by military service personnel during the war, in addition to countless servings through dispensers and mobile, self-contained units in battle areas.

But the presence of Coca-Cola did more than just lift the morale of the troops. In many areas, it gave local people their first taste of Coca-Cola - a taste they obviously enjoyed. And when peace returned, the Coca-Cola system was poised for unprecedented worldwide growth. From the mid-1940s until 1960, the number of countries with bottling operations nearly doubled. As the world emerged from a time of conflict, Coca-Cola emerged as a worldwide symbol of friendship and refreshment.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21 - June is National Soul Food Month

JUNE 21 - Today in Food History
- National Peaches & Cream Day
Today is one of those days in food history that seems boring – nothing of significance in relation to food occurred on this day.  We all have been so looking for the beginning of summer, perhaps that is significant enough.  It doesn’t help me in regards of what to post about for June 21. 
You might recall that I addressed the topics that are designated for each month – in addition to separate daily designations.  I have discovered that June is National Soul Food Month
Soul food cuisine consists of a selection of foods traditional in the cuisine of African Americans. It is closely related to the cuisine of the Southern United States. The descriptive terminology may have originated in the mid-1960s, when soul was a common definer used to describe African-American culture (for example, soul music).
Soul food derived from prized southern dishes during the American slavery era. Soul Food was mostly known as Southern or comfort food, and is now the foundation for bringing back memories of family dinners and special celebrations. This method of cooking also introduced the foundation from which many popular dishes are made from today. Between 300 -1619, the first group of Africans landed in America in Jamestown, Virginia. African American slaves were farmers, cattle raisers, and fishermen and introduced several plants and seeds to plant such as black-eyed peas, okra, sweet sorghum, and watermelons as part of American’s crops and foods.
The slaves created their own meals from the leftovers that their masters did not eat. They often exchanged recipes verbally with each other which led to the development of African American cuisine. This was how many of their foods were gathered for their meals.
The term soul food became popular in the 1960s. The origins of soul food, however, are much older and can be traced back to Africa—and to a lesser extent, to Europe, as well. Foods such as rice, sorghum (known by Europeans as "guinea corn"), and okra — all common elements of West African cuisine — were introduced to the Americas as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They became dietary staples among enslaved Africans. They also comprise an important part of the cuisine of the American south, in general.
Many culinary historians believe that in the beginning of the 14th century, around the time of early Euro-African exploration, European explorers brought their own food supplies and introduced them into local African diets. Foods such as corn and cassava from the Americas, turnips from Morocco, and cabbage from Portugal would play an important part in the history of African-American cooking.
When the Europeans began their African slave trade in the early 15th century, the diet of newly-enslaved Africans changed on the long journeys away from their homelands. It was during this time that some of the indigenous crops of Africa began showing up in the Americas.
European enslavers fed their captive workers as cheaply as possible, often with leftover/waste foods from the plantation, forcing slaves to make do with the ingredients at hand. In slave households, 'vegetables' consisted of the tops of turnips, beets, and dandelions. Soon, African-American slaves were cooking with new types of "greens": collards, kale, cress, mustard, and pokeweed. They also developed recipes which used lard, cornmeal, and offal; discarded cuts of meat such as pigs' feet, oxtail, ham hocks, pig ears, hog jowls, tripe, and skin. Cooks added onions, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf as flavor enhancers. Slave owners provided their slaves with the poor parts of the pig such as the small intestines: chitterlings/"Chitlins" were a dish of poor people in medieval England and the name was adopted by the African-Americans through their European slave owners. Some African-American slaves supplemented their meager diets by gardening small plots given to them for growing their own vegetables; many engaged in subsistence fishing and hunting, which yielded wild game for the table. Foods such as raccoon, squirrel, opossum, turtle, and rabbit were, until the 1950s, very common fare among the (then-still) predominantly rural and southern African-American population.
Although their love for cooking included pork, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spoon bread, breakfast was considered the most important meal of the day. A typical breakfast consisted of hoecakes and molasses.
During that time in history, young girls learned to prepare traditional foods such as fufu, which is made with vegetables and pounded yams. Fufu was often served with soup, stew, or roasted meat. The native foods were yams, vegetables, rice, and groundnuts. Africans were also very skilled in frying, roasting, grilling, boiling, and steaming their foods. They also had special talents preparing wild game, and planting small gardens including wild greens and fruit. Women often worked 16 to 18 hours in the fields then prepared one-pot meals for their family.
Cooking was mostly done on open pits or fireplaces with large swing black pots and big irons cast skillets and were prepared by black cooks. Cooking on open pits is now used as grills.
The slaves did not use measuring cups or cooking devices. They had no cookbooks or formal training in cooking. They had no one to learn from except each other.
It was a great challenge for them to create good food with primitive tools and very limited ingredients. They also cooked such foods as biscuits, baked beans, a variety of breads, and barbecue.
They used large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt to season their foods because it was readily available. Salt was also used as a preservative since there was no refrigeration or other methods to keep food cool.
When testing their food for doneness, they used their own senses, and when they felt the need, they added a pinch of seasoning to enhance the flavor of their dish. They knew by their instinct when their food was done as many cooks know today. That’s also why you see many recipes that read "a pinch of salt and pepper" or “bake until golden brown.”
Cajun and Creole were also a familiar style of cooking and included such popular dishes as jambalaya, bread pudding, desserts, dirty rice, gumbo, and red beans and rice.
During that time in history, black cooks verbally exchanged recipes as they remembered them and today many Southerners still cook without a recipe, just by simply remembering main ingredients and adding seasonings and spices to their taste. This way of cooking has produced many great cooks.
By the end of the Civil War, Black Americans cooked on cattle farms and were pioneers as farmers and survived off the land. During these hard and difficult times, they adapted their own cooking habits and techniques and formed many new ones along the way.
In the 1960‘s, Southern-style cooking by Black Americans was renamed “Soul Food” in honor of black cooks who prepared food during the slavery era. It was also a reminder that these cooks paved the way in the development of African American cuisine - now soul food.
Today, people from all walks of life, young and old, enjoy soul food cuisine. Soul food is also prepared in many households in America for family gatherings and special celebrations. The foundation for soul food was laid many years ago, and today and it continues to be a living tradition through the revival of virtually many restaurants across the country that serves and celebrates soul food.
Being a Midwest girl, I can’t help think about how the lines between soul food and the food I grew up with are oh so similar.  Whatever the case may be, I looked forward to Sunday dinners at my home in Missouri, it was a epitome of soul food cuisine.