This Week in Food History – 05/15/2017

Hamburgers are among the many foods enjoying a month-long spotlight in May. Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan conquered two thirds of the known world in his time (12th – 13th century). His cavalry-based army adopted ground meats, mostly lamb, formed into a patty as a convenient and portable ration. The Mongols invaded Russia in the late 13th century and certainly caused much damage, but they also brought elements of their culture, meat patties included. The Russian name for the Mongols was “Tartars,” as in “Steak Tartar.” And this is the very abbreviated story of early day hamburgers. Learn more at What’s Cooking America, perhaps while enjoying a 158 Main Portobello Bacon Swiss or Bacon & Blue Cheese Burger.

Meanwhile, more tasty food Holidays on the horizon this week…

May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day – The Chocolate Chip Cookie will be 80 years old next year. The irresistible American classic was originally intended as an accompaniment for ice cream. Ruth Wakefield, co-owner of the famous Toll House Restaurant of Whitman, Massachusetts, whipped up the first batch in the 1930’s. It was known as the Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. The recipe appears in print for the first time in 1938.

May 16 is National Coquilles St. Jacques Day – According to legend, a Medieval knight had fallen into shallow waters and struggled to get up due to his heavy and cumbersome attire. James the Great noticed the struggling man and promptly came to the rescue. The knight emerged covered with scallops. Medieval Christians subsequently carried a scallop shell whenever they journeyed to St. James shrine, in Spain. Our Coquille Fruits de Mer pays homage in its own way. It is a suitable dinner selection whenever you feel heroic or victorious.

May 17 is National Cherry Cobbler Day – The Cobbler’s origin resembles the pie’s in that both dishes initially consisted in a mixture of readily available, ingredients. However, they differ in that the first pies were mostly filled with meats, whereas the Cobbler has typically included only berries and fruits. English steamed puddings were early American’s inspiration for the cobbler. Local ingredients and improvisation did the rest.

May 18 is National Cheese Soufflé Day – The Soufflé was not possible prior to the 17th century. This is because chefs adhered to strict guidelines supporting their belief in the connection between food and “bodily humors,” or well-being. A soufflé would have been pure indulgence then; not that there is anything wrong with that. But a shift occurs at the turn of the century when flavor for its own sake becomes the central premise of culinary refinement. This revolution, if you will, gave us Soufflés and Coq au Vin, among other delicacies.

May 19 is World Baking Day – Ask any farmer’s market, flea market or garage sale shopper and you will almost certainly find that what they envision coming home with the most is a delicious and decadent fresh-baked item or two. And would you be surprised if we told you that one of the most popular child’s toys of the last century was the Easy Bake Oven? The first one was sold in November 1963. Girls and boys fought over it. The design evolved with the times and by the early 1990’s it looked like a microwave. By now it looks like a boom box. Bet you still have yours, or wish you did. Any memories? Do share.

May 20 is National Quiche Lorraine Day – Quiche Lorraine is a classic French dish… hmm, it’s actually German. Technically. You see, the original recipe was developed in a German province known as Lothringen, just on the north-eastern border between France and Germany. The area changed allegiance over time, so to speak, shifting Lothringen east or west of the border until it finally settled on the French side and becoming Alsace-Lorraine. “Quiche” is from the German for “cake.”

May 21 is National Strawberries and Cream Day – Enough geography and history for one day. Let’s eat dessert. How do you like your Strawberries? Ever tried to grill them?

BBQ Strawberries and Cream: Hull as many whole strawberries as you fancy you can eat. Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle generously with lemon zest and brown sugar. Scatter the strawberries on a large piece of heavy-duty foil, leaving room on the side to fold the foil tightly over the fruit. BBQ over medium heat, until strawberries soften, about 4 minutes or to taste. Serve over yogurt or ice cream.


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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