History of Food

History of Food

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


For The Love of Chocolate
"Chocolate…."To eat it or not to eat it….That is the Question"

The love of chocolate can be traced back centuries. Ancient Romans and Greeks considered chocolate a food for the gods. Native South Americans served it to Spanish explorers in the 1500s, who then brought it back to Europe, where it grew in popularity during the 17th century. The word "chocolate" comes from the Aztec xocolatl, meaning "bitter water." The unsweetened drink the Aztecs made of pounded cocoa beans and spices was extremely bitter. Bitterness notwithstanding, the Aztec king -- Montezuma so believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac that he purportedly drank 50 golden goblets of it each day.

Chocolate comes from the tropical cocoa bean, Theobroma ("food of the gods") cacao. After the beans are removed from their pods they're fermented, dried, roasted and cracked, separating the nibs (which contain an average of 54 percent cocoa butter) from the shells. The nibs are ground (to extract some of the cocoa butter natural vegetable fat); leaving a thick, dark brown paste called chocolate liquor. Next, the chocolate liquor receives an initial refining. If additional cocoa butter is extracted from the chocolate liquor, the solid result is ground to produce unsweetened cocoa powder. If other ingredients are added (such as milk powder, sugar, etc.), the chocolate is refined again. The final step for most chocolate is conching, a process by which huge machines with rotating blades slowly blend the heated chocolate liquor, ridding it of residual moisture and volatile acids. The conching continues for 12 to 72 hours (depending on the type and quality of chocolate) while small amounts of cocoa butter and sometimes lectithin are added to give chocolate its voluptuously smooth texture. Unadulterated chocolate is marketed as unsweetened chocolate called baking or bitter chocolate. U.S. standards require that unsweetened chocolate contain between 50 and 58 percent cocoa butter. In 1847 milk chocolate was created, becoming an instant hit around the world and remaining so today.

Many people think certain foods are "good" and others are "bad. Healthful eating can include all foods, even chocolate. Grains fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products serve as the basis for a balanced eating patterning which can include foods such as chocolate, on occasion. Foods like chocolate are the extras in our diet that contribute to the pleasure of eating. Denying yourself pleasures in not necessary. What is necessary is understanding how to fit these extra treats into your total eating pattern.

Chocolate contains fat, which adds variety, flavor, and enjoyment to eating. Our bodies need some fat to function. Since the human body cannot produce its own fat, the diet must provide modest amounts. Fat furnishes energy for daily activities and supplies important vitamins for the body. Even though chocolate does contain saturated fat (notoriously known as the bad fat) moderate intake does not increase blood cholesterol alone. Remember, the key word is moderation.

Our fascination with chocolate is never ending -- researchers continue to study chocolate; learning more about the body's reaction to chocolate. Women who suffer from PMS (premenstrual syndrome) often crave sweets and chocolate. A craving for chocolate may be explained by it's high content of phenylethylamine, which triggers the release of dopamine, which in turn promotes feelings of relation and alertness. In the August 1996 issue of "Nature," Daniel Piomelli reported that his team of colleague found chocolate contains ananadamine, which is also produced naturally in the brain and activates the same target as marijuana. He also found two chocolate ingredients that inhibit the natural breakdown of anandamide, which could lead to heightened levels of anandamide in the brain. To achieve the same marijuana-like effect, a 130-pound person would have to eat 25 pounds of chocolate in one sitting. There is a lay contention that chocolate is additive; Piomelli stressed that his work does not imply that chocolate is addictive.

Over the years, chocolate has become associated with many myths. The facts debunk a few of the myths circulating about one of the world's favorite foods:

• Many people think carob is more healthful than milk chocolate. Carob is the long, leathery pods from the tropical carob tree contain a sweet, edible pulp (which can be eaten fresh) and a few hard, inedible seeds. After drying, the pulp is roasted and ground into a powder. It is then used to flavor baked goods and candies. Because carob is sweet and tastes vaguely of chocolate, it's often used as a chocolate substitute. A carob bar contains the same amount of fat and calories as the same size milk chocolate bar.

• Some people think chocolate contains excessive caffeine. On the contrary, an ounce of milk chocolate has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee (about 16 milligrams). Brewed coffee contains as least 100 milligrams per cup.

• Some people report they are allergic to chocolate. The true chocolate allergy is uncommon and difficult to prove. Other ingredients in chocolate products are more likely the cause a reaction; creating the misconception of a chocolate allergy.

• Chocolate can be good for your health, but the bad news is, you can only sniff it! Dr. Angela Clow from the University of Westminster, London, has shown that sniffing chocolate enhances the immune system, which protects us against all types of disease-causing bugs. The study asked participants to sniff chocolate and then rotting meat; the response to chocolate was good with antibody levels increasing, whereas rotting meat caused a negative response.

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day have long been synonymous. Chocolate has been a favorite for at least four hundred years, and its popularity at Valentine’s Day is evident. Valentine’s Day being for lovers and chocolate’s historical relevance as an aphrodisiac and food of the gods, women everywhere have grown to expect chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Graceful trade-offs in our diet planning can enable all to enjoy chocolate without adding those extra bonus’ in our calories and fat grams.

Managing and enjoying the amount of fat in the diet is like balancing a "fat" checkbook -- each day you spend your fat on the foods you eat -- the amount you spend depends on your food choices. Chocolate fits in the Food Guide Pyramid at the very top--the icing on the Pyramid cake, so to speak. Chocolate, especially in candy or for baking, contains a high percentage of fat, and the calories can add up, so plan wisely. To include chocolate in your routine, limit other high fat foods or cut portions. For example: use fat-free salad dressing, cheese or margarine. By making trade-offs, a piece of chocolate or a small candy bar could fit into your eating plan. Another option--try cocoa powder. It's virtually fat free and can make great brownies, cakes and cookies--and cut the fat. Finally, miniature chocolate bars or mini chocolate chips often satisfy chocolate cravings with fewer calories--if you don't eat the whole bag. If you can't live without chocolate, learn to work it into your low-fat eating plan and enjoy. But chocolate is high in fat and calories, so planning is the key to having you’re chocolate--and enjoying a healthful eating plan, too. Another option is to try a lower fat chocolate candy, but remember to check the label to be sure you're saving calories. Learning to balance high and low-fat foods allows you to have the foods that are close to your heart, while keeping it healthy. If you can't live without your Valentines chocolate, skip other high fat foods or choose lower fat versions of milk, cheese, or salad dressing. Variety in your eating plan also helps you develop a plan you will love, and can be faithful to for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1 is National Cherry Popover Day

Considering I was born and raised in the Midwest, even though my ancestors can be traced back to England and Ireland, I never had a Popover until I was in college in Quantity Foods Cooking class.  When we made them in the kitchen laboratory, I could not believe how easy they were to make.  I have not eaten Cherry Popovers.  I have only had plain Popovers.  The beauty of Popovers are they are light, hollow roll made from an egg batter similar to that used in making Yorkshire pudding. The name "popover" comes from the fact that the batter swells or "pops" over the top of the muffin tin while baking. They can also be baked in individual custard cups.

Food historians generally agree on the American origins of the recipe, albeit derived from Yorkshire pudding and similar batter puddings made in England since the 17th century.

The oldest known reference to popovers is in a letter of E. E. Stuart's (a relative of Robert Stuart) in 1850. The first cookbook to print a recipe for popovers was M. N. Henderson, Practical Cooking, 1876. The first book other than a cookbook to mention popovers was Jesuit's Ring by A. A. Hayes published in 1892.

In American Food (1974), author Evan Jones writes: "Settlers from Maine who founded Portland, Oregon Americanized the pudding from Yorkshire by cooking the batter in custard cups lubricated with drippings from the roasting beef (or sometimes pork); another modification was the use of garlic, and, frequently, herbs. The result is called Portland popover pudding: individual balloons of crusty meat-flavored pastry."

It is highly doubtful that the use of beef dripping Americanized the pudding however, given that traditional English Yorkshire Pudding recipes state that beef dripping is the essential cooking fat.

Other American popover variations include replacing some of the flour with pumpkin puree and adding spices such as allspice or nutmeg. Most American popovers today, however, are not flavored with meat or herbs. Instead, they have a buttery taste. They are generally served at breakfast, with afternoon tea, or with meats at lunch and dinner.
Here is a good recipe for Cherry Popover

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trail Mix - A Historically Ancient Snack - Who Knew?

Next time you are standing in the grocery aisle, contemplating a healthier snack option, take a moment to ponder upon the timeless trail mix. Yup you read that right - timeless.  Why?  Well, with today being National Trail Mix day I decided to do a little investigation.  Come to find out, trail mix is thousands of years old.

Ancient nomadic tribes used to mix up dried berries, fruits, nuts and meats together. It wasn't called Trail Mix then, but nevertheless it was just that.  Trail mix was (and is) high in energy, needs no specialized storage, and does not require cooking prior to consumption.

The history of trail mix and and gorp-type foods (nutritious, high-energy snacks composed variously of nuts, seeds, dried meats, dried fruits berries and candy) begins with the ancient nomads. These people were professionals at making easy to take on trips high-energy snacks that could handle any weather, that you didn't have to cook. Many different cultures would do this because it was the easiest way to keep storage of food for long periods of time.As time went on, so did the trail mix. Ancient travelers, explorers, pioneers, hunters, soldiers, hikers, scouts, even our very own cowboys, have enjoyed their own version of this easy to keep treat. Even today you will find various version of trail mix.

Trail mix makes an easy snack for on the go people. It's easily customized to your tastes, and the recipe can be modified to include whatever you have on hand. The key to a successful trail mix is to vary flavors, including both sweet and salty, as well as textures, including both crunchy and soft.

Later, explorers continued the use of trail mixes, for the very same reasons, taking the high-energy food with them on their travails over many a trail, mountain or ocean. Native Americans had a special spin on trail mix, which they shared with those explorers they had good relations with. Their mix was called pemmican, and consisted of dried buffalo, moose or caribou, mixed with animal fat and berries, and lasted for months. Pieces were often broken off and used to make a stew, called rubbaboo, by adding flour, water, and maple sugar.

Despite this long, storied history, two separate companies, Harmony Foods and Hadley Fruit Orchards of California, state that the name “trail mix” was invented in 1968 by surfers who mixed together peanuts and raisins to keep their energy levels up during more “gnarly surf” periods. They hold to this statement despite trail mix is also mentioned in Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel The Dharma Bums as the two main characters describe their planned meals in their preparation for a hiking trip.

Trail mix is considered an ideal snack food for hikes, because it is tasty, lightweight, easy to store, and nutritious, providing a quick boost from the carbohydrates in the dried fruit and/or granola, and sustained energy from the mono- and polyunsaturated fats in nuts.

Other names for Trail Mix includes:
  • In New Zealand, the United Kingdom
  • Iraq trail mix is known as scroggin.
  • Scroggin is also used in some places in Australia but usage has only been traced back to the 1980s.
  • Humorously referred to as studenterhavre ("student oats", in analogy of horse oats) in Denmark, studentenhaver in the Netherlands and Belgium.
  • Studentenfutter ("student feed") in Germany. Apart from being a food for hikes, it is served as a cheap snack to accompany drinks.
  • It is also known in America as GORP (Good Old Raisons and Peanuts, or Granola Oats, Raisins and Peanuts.)
Some claim the name stands for Sultanas, Carob, Raisins, Orange peel, Grains, Glucose, Imagination, Nuts; but this is likely a folk etymology. The word gorp, an alternative name for trail mix, may stand for "good old raisins and peanuts", "granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts", or "gobs of raw protein". These are all probably backronyms or folk etymology. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1913 reference to the verb gorp, meaning "to eat greedily.

Today’s trail mix often includes fruit, grain cereals, nuts, flavorings, chocolate or carob, coconut, pretzels, and sometimes crystallized ginger.  Want to make your own special trail mix? Here are over 80 recipes, at Cooks.com http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,trail_mix,FF.html  What is easy about Trail Mix is that it is portable.  It is easy to throw your favorite recipe into a ziplock bag and go.  Many local convienence stores also carry prepacked Trail Mix.  The drawback to these items are is that they often include candy, i.e. M & M's taking the place of carob.  Choose carefully and make it even better by making your own.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Today, August 30, is Toasted Marshmallow Day

Ever wonder where the Marshmallow comes from?  Well I did.  I decided to do a little research.

Did you know that the Marshmallow is considered a candy?  I didn't.  Surprisingly it dates back to Egypt, about 2000 BC. The ancient Egyptians are believed to have discovered a wild herb growing in marshes from which a sweet substance could be extracted and made into a very special confection reserved only for the pharaohs and gods. The Egyptians used a honey based candy and thickened it with the sap of the marsh mallow plant (althea officinalis) hence the name marshmallow.

Between 2000 BC and the 19th Century, not much happened in the Marshmallow world.

But in the mid 19th century, candy makers in France combined the sap with egg whites and sugar and whipped by hand into this yummy confection. As the popularity of marshmallows grew, candy makers in Europe needed to find a faster process than hand making the treat. The starch mogul system was developed allowing candy makers to heat a mixture of marsh root, sugar, egg whites and water and pouring into molds made of cornstarch.

Like many of our foods, it was also used as medicine.  Now I can handle this kind of medicine (with a little chocolate and graham crackers - oh I got off track here, apologies).  Doctors also extracted sap from the root of the plant, cooked it with egg whites and sugar and whipped it into a meringue that hardened into a medicinal candy to soothe sore throats, suppress coughs, and heal enhancer wounds.

In 1948, Alex Doumakes (son of the founder of Doumak, Inc., the makers of Campfire Marshmallows) patented the “extrusion process” which vastly revolutionized marshmallow production – making it fast and efficient. The process involves taking the marshmallow ingredients and running it through tubes. Afterwards the ingredients are cut into equal pieces, cooled, and packaged. Thanks to Alex’s invention, marshmallows became an everday sweet treat and favorite ingredient for many recipes.  (Alex HAS to be camp fire aficionado's personal heroes).

The marsh mallow plant, scientifically known as Althea officinalis, is an herb that grows in salt marshes and on the banks of large bodies of water. It is native to Asia and Europe and naturalized in the eastern United States. (Now, don't go out searching for the marsh mallow plant and eat the wrong thing!)

History of the S’More

No one really knows the origin of toasting marshmallows., however, the 1927 Girl Scout handbook (ha - we beat the Boy Scouts at something!)  was the first to document the recipe of combining graham crackers, chocolate and toasted marshmallows. The name s’more is also a mystery…but we know it means… WE WANT S’MORE CAMPFIRE MARSHMALLOWS!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why is the Pineapple on the Welcome Sign

To make a long story short - when the tall ship captains came home in the 1700s and 1800s usually they would have ship full of bounty.  Because it was tradition to share the bounty with friends and neighbors, they began putting a pineapple on the front steps of their house.  This would be the sign that the captain was home, he had bounty from the ship and all were welcome to come to share it with his family.

Some stories also date back to Colonial days.   In the United States, families would set a fresh pineapple in the center of the table as a colorful centerpiece of the festive meal, especially when visitors joined them in celebration. This symbolized the utmost in welcome and hospitality to the visitor, and the fruit would be served as a special desert after the meal. Often when the visitor spent the night, he was given the bedroom which had the pineapples carved on the bedposts or headboard--even if the bedroom belonged to the head of the household.

Others share the story of To the Carib appellation that the pineapple symbolized hospitality, and the Spaniards soon learned they were welcome if a pineapple was placed by the entrance to a village. This symbolism spread to Europe, then to Colonial North America, where it became the custom to carve the shape of a pineapple into the columns at the entrance of a plantation.

The presence of pineapples on Caribbean islands was not a natural event, but rather the result of centuries of indian migration and commerce. Accomplished dugout canoe navigators, the maritime tribes explored, raided and traded across a vast expanse of tropical oceans, seas and river systems. The herbaceous plant they called "anana," or "excellent fruit," originally evolved in the inland areas of what is now Brazil and Paraguay and was widely transplanted and cultivated. Highly regarded for its intense sweetness, the "excellent fruit" was a staple of indian feasts and rites related to tribal affirmation. It was also used to produce Indian wine.

The first encounter between a European and a pineapple occurred in November, 1493, when Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the Caribbean region, lowered anchor in a cove off the lush, volcanic island of Guadaloupe and went ashore to inspect a deserted Carib village. There, amidst parrot-flecked jungle foliage and wooden pillars spiraled with serpent carvings, his crew came upon cook pots filled with human body parts. Nearby were piles of freshly gathered vegetables and fruits, including pineapples. The European sailors ate, enjoyed and recorded the curious new fruit which had an abrasive, segmented exterior like a pine cone and a firm interior pulp like an apple.

A small, peaceful hamlet in rural Alabama boasts symbols of the pineapple everywhere your eyes may look. Pine Apple, settled by "Easterners" from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia around 1820 was originally named "Friendship". But there was already another Friendship, Alabama, so the settlers named their town in honor of the pine and the apple trees that gave the land its beauty and the town its wealth. These days the town's name is as often written "Pineapple" and it is Pine Apple. Signs of this universal symbol of hospitality are seen painted on the front doors of homes and the town's welcome sign, carved in fanciful finials and Christmas decorations, atop gate-posts and roof-tops, carved into bedposts and head-boards, and found in a variety of table centerpieces.5 Other carved items found around southern homes include serving trays and wooden bowls.

Not only have wood-carvers etched this immortal symbol, but the delicate hands of needle-workers have preserved this symbol in family heirlooms over the centuries. Items such as pineapple samplers, table cloths, and crochet doilies are but a few of the items found in homes of unbounding welcome. Modern decorative items include pot holders, towels, small framed accents, drink coasters, decorative flags, brass door knockers, curtain finials, stair-rail and mailbox posts, and welcome mats.

The pineapple has been a universal symbol of hospitality and welcome for many centuries all over the world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

National Chocolate Covered Cashew Day (4/21/2010)

What a day to cheer and celebrate!

While I couldn't find any particular history about National Chocolate Covered Cashew Day, I decided to take this opportunity to learn a little more about cashews.

Cashews are native to the Americas, however since the 16th century cashews are now widely growin in Africa and India.

Did you know???
  • You will never see cashews sold in their sell in the store of markets
  • Cashews have two shells and between the two shells there is a VERY caustic oil
  • To get the outer shells off first the cashew is roasted or burned off with the oil - even the smoke from this process is an irritant
  • To remove the inner shell the cashew is boiled or roasted again allowing the inner shell to come off
  • Cashews are native to the Amazon region
  • Cashews were introduced to India by the Portuguese in the 16th Century
  • Oil from cashew nut shells is used in insecticides, brake linings, and rubber and plastic manufacturing
  • The milky sap from the tree is used to make a varnish
  • The cashew family includes: cashew, sumac, varnish tree, smoke tree, mombin, kafir plum, mango, pistachio, Peruvian pepper tree and poison ivy
  • The cashew (Anacardium occidentale; syn. Anacardium curatellifolium A.St.-Hil.) is a tree in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae
  • The cashew tree is native to northeastern Brazil. Its English name derives from the Portuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree, caju, which in turn derives from the indigenous Tupi name, acaj├║.
  • In Goa, India and Mtwara, Tanzania and Mozambique the cashew apple (the accessory fruit) is mashed and juice is extracted & kept for fermentation for 2-3 days. Fermented juice then undergoes double distillation process to make a strong liquor.
  • The fats and oils in cashew nuts are 54% monounsaturated fat (18:1), 18% polyunsaturated fat (18:2), and 16% saturated fat (9% palmitic acid (16:0) and 7% stearic acid (18:0)).
These are cashews ready for harvest.
A Cashew Tree

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prawns versus Shrimp

Prawns look like Shrimp, Shrimp look like prawns. Prawns and shrimp are used interchangeably in restaurants.  They bear the resemblance of each other in appearance, they have very similar taste, but they are not the same creatures biologically.  Prawns and shrimp:  what is generally referred to shrimp in the United States is referred to prawns in England.  How can we sort it all out?  Well, let's try....

At first look, first taste, it is often difficult to differeniate between the two.  Let's look at the similarities:
  • Appearance - they look like the same creature.
  • Taste - they seem to have the same taste and flavors.
  • They both are decapod crustaceans, which means they both exhibit exoskeletons and feature 10 legs.
  • They are typically found swimming in salt and fresh water sources across the globe, in search of food.
  • Because of this, they are considered scavengers, thus they are NOT kosher
  • They tend to dwell near the ocean floor and come in scores of sizes, from minuscule to large
  • Both are edible crustaceansm but biologically different
  • Both are very high in protein, low in fat, and calories
  • Although shrimps and prawns have a high cholesterol content, they are low in saturated fat, which is the fat that raises cholesterol levels in the body and is bad for you.  For this reason, there is no need to avoid eating shrimps or prawns, as the cholesterol in the food is not the same as the cholesterol in one's blood.
  • Shrimps and prawns do contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, but these fatty acids are good for you and help prevent against heart disease, circulatory diseases and many other types of illnesses. 
  • Prawns and shrimps also contains high levels of vitamin B12, zinc, iodine, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and iron and have smaller quantities of calcium, magnesium and sodium. Many of these vitamins are essential for healthy skin, bones and teeth. 

Now on to the differences of Shrimp and Pawns - Biologists distinguish the true shrimp from the true prawn because of the differences in their gill structures.
  • Shrimp have two pairs of claws
  • Pranws have three pairs of claws
  • With the structure of the shrimp, the second segment of the abdomen overlaps the segments on either side
  • Prawns do not have an even-sized segments on the abdomen
  • The Shrimp abdomen shows a pronounced caridean bend
  • The Prawn has no pronounced bend in the abdomen
  • The term “prawn” is also loosely used to describe any large shrimp, especially those that come 15 (or fewer) to the pound (such as “king prawns”, yet sometimes known as “jumbo shrimp”)
  • Prawns are larger than shrimp referring to approximately 15 per pound
  • Prawns are like lobsters in that they have two pair of penchers and shrimp do not.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Leprechauns, Melting Pot, and Food

Food memories are gloriously evocative. In our mind's eye, we conjure up time - enhanced remembrances of our immigrant grandmothers' kitchens and their wealth of tastes and smells. Whether we yearn for clam chowder or choldick or egg drop soup, moussaka or manicotti, we almost all are awakened to the joys of eating at a shared family table. For those who cook the traditional dishes of our individual ethnic heritages there is enduring pleasures and comfort in preparing the food that is familiar to us. Like the melting pot of ethnic diversity, the foods of our society can also be compared to that of a melting pot of culinary diversity.

Every year leprechauns of all ages, sizes, and shapes enjoy one of the most recognized holidays associated with a particular food - corned beef and cabbage. St. Patrick's Day just wouldn't be the same without it. Although corned beef and cabbage is closely associated to the celebration of Irish culture, its roots can be traced back to that of "Merry Olde England" and the curing process of beef with the corn size pieces of salt. Interestingly, the colonists of our country often turned their backs on new foods, refusing to eat them until after Europe had accepted and re-imported them back to the land of their origin.

Both the potato and tomato, originated in the Native American Indian civilizations. They both reached Anglo-American taste in the eighteenth century, only after gaining grudging approval in Britain. The Colonials accepted the pumpkins of the New World because they resembled European squash. Many fruits were also indigenous to the New World. The apple has remained the most common fruit because they were believed to have medicinal properties, thus the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

With a little research, all foods can be traced to a legend or story. Legends of the Leek is a great example. Emperor Nero was rumored to have eaten leeks regularly because he believed they were good for the vocal cords. Therefore, Roman legions spread the leek far and wide, even as far as Wales, where it became the national emblem. It seems that either St. David or a Welsh prince named Cadwallader instructed his soldiers to wear leeks in their caps for identification during battle - and as legend has it, they were victorious. Ever since, loyal Welshmen bring out the leeks on March 1st, St. David's Day.

So, as we plod along in our daily activities, try not to live just by our National Food Motto of "Gobble, Gulp, and Go." Savor and enjoy your foods, what you eat could have a history dating back to your ancestors. And most of all, during March, remember - keep a cautious eye, watching out for the wee little people - leprechauns. Any one of them could be one of my ancestors coming out to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 13, 2010 National Coconut Torte Day

Together a coconut torte does not have any discernable history. However, separately, coconuts and tortes have interesting facts.

The first mention of the English name of coconut printed in English was in 1555. The word coconut comes from the Portuguese Spanish word coco and means monkey face. The Spanish and Portugese saw the resemblance of a monkey's face in the three round indented markings or "eyes" found at the base of the coconut.

Like many different things in history coconuts were used as currency.  They were used as currency on the Nicobar Islands of the Indian Ocean. Coconuts continued as a form of currency through the early part of the twentieth century.

Cococnuts are fruits of the coconut palms which are native of Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia. Through the advancement of modern global civilization they are now prolificin South Amercia, India, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, and Florida. The coconut's name is a not actually accurate. It is not a nut, but rather a seed and it the largest known seeds in the plant world.

The word torte is German and literally means cake. One of the oldest known torte's in the world is the Linzer Torte - which was named after the city of Linz, Austria. Torte refers to both a multi-layered cake filled with buttercream, jam, or cream and to a rich, moist, and dense single-layered cake. When tortes are multilayerd and fancifully decorated they are closer to gateaux EXCEPT for the fact they can last quite nicely for several days.

One Excellant Recipe for Coconut Crunch Torte
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. moist coconut
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 pt. butter brickle ice cream

Combine crumbs, coconut and nuts. Beat egg whites, salt and vanilla until foamy. Gradually add sugar until stiff peaks have formed. Fold cracker crumb mixture into egg white mixture. Spread in well greased and floured 9 inch glass pie plate.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool. Cut into wedges. Top with scoops of butter brickle ice cream. Drizzle a little caramel sauce (store bought) over top.

NOTE: Make torte a day ahead. Cover with wax paper and keep at room temperature. Less crispy this way

From a Dietitian's Perspective - this is a relatively decent recipe when reviewing it for fat content.  The primary sources of fat in this recipe is the walnuts, the ice cream, and the coconut.  Walnuts contain heart healthy omega-3 fats, the ice cream can be changed to a low fat version, and the coconut - unfortunately is a saturated fat.  However saturated, it is not a large amount and with choices made within moderation, coconut can be a part of your diet.




Combining my fascination of food history, food culture, and March being National Nutrition Month, I am launching this blog as my contribution to share my fascination. I am going to be featuring food trivia, food history, and yes, even helpful hints for every day use with our foods.
There will be times of what I share to be the most interesting to the most mundane to the most surprising to the most interesting and even to the most ridiculous. All in all this should be rather fun, enlightening, and educational without having to work to hard to learn something new. As you read, you will probably learn, raise an eyebrow in surprise, and yes you may even turn up your nose if there is something you might not like. It would be extremely arrogant to think that every one eats like you do. There are many different cultures throughout the world. With these different cultures there are a vast majority of different foods that are shared within and without these different cultures.

This is your (and mine) opportunity to broaden your knowledge of the foods within these cultures. The concept of this blog has been on the back burner of my brain, but never far from my thoughts. It has taken time for me to mull over just what I want to do with this idea.

At work I have been featuring daily trivia and facts on a dry erase board to share with my co-workers. My goal has been to do this every day I am at work to help focus on National Nutrition Month. Every March The American Dietetic Association (the professional organization for Registered Dietitians) attempts to bring the focus onto to nutrition even more than usual, however this attempt starts with each one of the members of the America Dietetic Association. This is my attempt to contribute my part.

If you have questions or specific areas of interest I also encourage you to contact me and I will be excited to investigate your ideas, as well as sharing with everyone also.