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]