History of Food

History of Food

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.