Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 01/30/2017


One week into the new presidency and our weekly food journey is here again, just in time for a bit of lighthearted distraction. A record was broken on this day, in 1774 and this should provide a sort of 180 degree shift from the talk of the day as we imagine Captain James Cook reaching within 1820 km of the South Pole. The closest anyone had ever reached.

Cook soon realized that the on-board diet during long sea voyages was rather detrimental to his men’s health. The bread-centric and otherwise dry menu resulted in numerous cases of scurvy. Realizing what was happening, Cook proceeded to make changes that would alter the course of sea-faring history. First, he procured fresh fruits and vegetables for his crew any time their expedition landed where these were cultivated. However, preserving these during a long voyage was not possible. So Cook made one more healthy change to his crew’s daily fare when he began to stock sauerkraut. This being loaded with vitamin C proved a clever solution to scurvy.

Other Momentous Happenings This Week…

January 31, 1851
Former Texas Newspaper editor Gail Borden announces the invention of condensed milk. He was creative by nature, and clearly a practical man. He is also credited with the invention of the Lazy Susan. It is upon noticing that many children died after consuming bacteria-laden milk that Borden committed himself to his new endeavor. The Shakers used a vacuum evaporator to preserve fruit. Borden adapted this idea to milk.

February 1, 1982
“Late Night With David Letterman” debut on NBC. While the first guest was Bill Murray, we must stay on topic and point out the appearance of illustrious Julia Child on numerous occasions… although one particular episode stands out.

February 2, 1653
New Amsterdam becomes a city and is later renamed New York. The now oldest, still operating New York restaurant opens 66 years later, in 1719. Fraunces Tavern is a historic landmark and museum. This is where George Washington bade his now famous farewell to his officers.

February 3, 1690
The First paper money is issued in America, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be exact, no doubt lightening the weight in many purses and pockets. Surely many an establishment, from taverns to dry goods suppliers, had to adapt to the new currency, some with more ease than others. Double-thined forks appear as an everyday eating implement around the same time. Spoons and knives were the common tools before this.

February 4, 1941
A U.S. patent for Teflon is issued to Roy J. Plunkett, who discovered the substance’s properties by accident in 1938 while experimenting on alternative, safer, refrigerants. Tetrafluorethylene was the object of his research. He stored 100 pounds of it in cylinders only to discover it had adhered beyond any means of removal. Further study revealed three promising qualities in “TFE:” It was non-corrosive, had an extremely high melting point and was the most slippery substance known to date.

February 5, 1872
American Biochemist Lafayette Benedict Mendel was born. He would become the founder of the science of nutrition. He established essential amino acids and went on to publish many articles including, Changes in the Food Supply and Their Relation to Nutrition (1916) and Nutrition, the Chemistry of Life (1923).

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…