This Week in Food History – 05/08/2017

Since balance is everything, we thought we’d point out that in addition to being National BBQ Month (see last week’s post), May is National Mediterranean Diet Month also. This particular way of eating is often, and mistakenly, associated with the ancient feasts of the ruling class. In truth, the inspiration for the Mediterranean Diet comes from the fare of the “poor” from Greece and Southern Italy. Their diet consisted in fish (healthy fats), produce, fruit, whole grains and red wine. The term “Mediterranean Diet” emerges in the 1960’s, when research showed that populations from these regions experienced the lowest rate of chronic disease in the world. They also had the highest life expectancy. Contemplate life at 158 Main over a Mediterranean Omelette, or as you share a Mediterranean Pizza at JPD.

Meanwhile, this week’s food holiday line-up…

May 8 is Have A Coke Day – Not a single historical account in the illustrious birth and life of America’s most popular soda pop refers to May 8 specifically, so poor a cold one and enjoy these few Cola facts you may not have heard before. 1891, Vicksburg, Mississippi: The first bottling of Coco-Cola. 1894, Cartersville, Georgia: Painting of the first outdoor wall Coca-Cola ad. 1995, Atlanta’s Fleeman’s Pharmacy closes its doors. It housed the longest running Coca-Cola fountain in the world (1914 to 1995).

May 9 is National Butterscotch Brownie Day – Butterscotch relies on the Maillard reaction to acquire its distinctive flavor and consistency. This is the same principle that applies to toasting bread. While it is clear that the first part of the confection’s name pertains to one of its main ingredients (the other is brown sugar), the “scotch” part remains a mystery. Some believe it is related to the cooking method and is merely a variation on the word “scorch,” as it might be pronounced with a mouthful of the thing, perhaps.

May 10 is National Shrimp Day – Shrimp seem to come up repeatedly in these food holidays. But we are not at a loss for topics yet. What say you to a nice Shrimp Cocktail? The oldest written reference to the delicious appetizer appeared in a New York Times ad dated December 15, 1926. It read, “Pride of the Farm Tomato Catsup. Cocktail Sauce for Christmas Dinner. Start your dinner with an appetizer. An oyster, clam or shrimp cocktail gives tone as well as relish…”

May 11 is Eat What You Want Day – We like to call it, “Satisfy Your Cravings Day.” Interestingly, the verb “to crave” does not originally refer to food at all. It is from the Old English and German and means “to demand.” It would have been used in such requests as, “May I crave your indulgence?” A very polite way of asking for approval or permission to proceed with a desired want… chocolate cake.

May 12 is National Nutty Fudge Day – True or False? Fudge was invented by accident when a confectionery chef “fudged” a batch of caramels. This story’s been going around, but it’s false. True or False? Fudge is an American invention. This one’s true. The first documented sale of fudge took place at a Baltimore grocery store in 1886. It sold for 40 cents a pound.

May 13 is National Apple Pie Day – Apple pie is an undeniable treat, but what of the name of it? The French call it “tarte,” a word of Latin origin that means “round loaf.” Go figure. The name “pie” first appears in Middle English (12th to 15th century) and is believed to refer to the magpie, a cousin of the crow known for its habit of collecting random objects. People often collected random, leftover ingredients into a pie.

May 14 is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day – If you’ve ever had our Southern Benedict, you enjoyed two poached eggs sitting on soft biscuits. However, the term “biscuit” does not actually refer to a soft pastry. It comes from “bis” and “coctus.” That’s Latin for “twice cooked.” Indeed, the original method for making these small, dense pastries consisted in first baking the dough and then drying it out slowly in the oven. The Dutch called these “koekie,” and you can see where we’re going here. This is how we got the word “cookie.”


Thanks for reading. Liked what you learned here? Please share it. Also visit 158 Main and JPD on Facebook and See you here next week for more historical nibbles…

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