History of Food

History of Food

Thursday, June 14, 2012

June 14 - Flag Day, Wisconsin, Chicken Marengo

Today I am taking a little different turn with my blog....

Today is Flag Day in the United States.  

The Fourth of July was traditionally celebrated as America's birthday, but the idea of an annual day specifically celebrating the Flag is believed to have first originated in 1885. BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher, arranged for the pupils in the Fredonia, Wisconsin Public School, District 6, to observe June 14 (the 108th anniversary of the official adoption of The Stars and Stripes) as 'Flag Birthday'.
Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.
Today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day.  This is a delicious dessert that I will discuss at another time.    Flag Day has it's roots in Wisconsin.  There are several state symbols of Wisconsin's that are edible.  These include sugar maple (tree), muskellunge [aka muskie] (fish), white tailed deer (state wildlife animal), dairy cow (state domesticated animal), honeybee (state insect), milk (state beverage)and maize [corn] (state grain).
There is another historical recipe that plays a part of making June 14 significant in the history books.  You probably didn’t learn about this in high school in history class. 
On June 14, 1800 Chicken Marengo was supposedly created by Napoleon's Swiss chef to commemorate the occasion of Napoleon's victory over the Austrians in the Battle of Marengo on this day. Chicken Marengo is a French savoury dish, so named for being the dish that Napoléon Bonaparte ate after the Battle of Marengo.
The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy.
According to tradition Napoleon demanded a quick meal after the battle and his chef Dunand was forced to work with the meager results of a forage: a chicken (and some eggs), tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and crayfish. The chef cut up the chicken (reportedly with a sabre) and fried it in olive oil, made a sauce from the tomatoes, garlic and onions (plus a bit of cognac from Napoleon's flask), cooked the crayfish, fried the eggs and served them as a garnish, with some of the soldier's bread ration on the side. 

Napoleon reportedly liked the dish and (having won the battle) considered it lucky. He refused to have the ingredients altered on future occasions even when his chef tried to omit the crayfish.

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