Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 04/03/2017

We would be failing in our duties if we omitted to mention that April is National BLT Sandwich Month. See what we mean? The Food Holidays of the week ahead nearly pale in comparison, yet this makes a succulent introduction indeed.

The right ingredients had to come together for this one. Tomatoes were introduced to Europe in the 16th century. The French invented Mayonnaise two centuries later and most modern sandwiches appeared on our menus in the 1900’s. The BLT stands out (that goes without saying). Here is an early recipe from the Calendar of Sandwiches & Beverages, a 1920 publication.

“Tomato and Bacon Sandwiches. Cut white bread in 1/4 in. slices, lightly toast slices on one side. Spread untoasted side with mayonnaise dressing; cover half the slices with peeled and thinly sliced firm tomatoes, spread tomatoes with mayonnaise and cover with thin slice of broiled bacon. Cover bacon with lettuce leaves and remaining slices of bread. Cut in triangles and serve with sweet gherkins.” 

On With This Week’s Noteworthy Food Celebrations…

April 3: National Chocolate Mousse Day – The Spanish introduced chocolate to the French in the early 1600’s. The practice of transforming it into a mousse is first recorded a century later. There is little doubt that the creamy dessert gained in popularity in short order. In America, it became an overnight sensation as soon as it was featured at the Madison Square Garden Food Expo of 1892. The Boston Daily Globe published one of the first recipes in 1897.

April 4: National Cordon Bleu Day – Picture if you will 16th century French Knights laughing and chatting away over extravagant meals. Their attire includes a Holy Cross hung on a distinctive blue ribbon. The luxurious meals are soon known as “Blue Ribbons.” This later inspired the name of the world’s largest school for hospitality education, Le Cordon Bleu, opened in Paris in 1895. Ah, but it all began with a culinary magazine, really. It featured lessons by some of France’s top chefs. They are the ones who revived the name “Cordon Bleu.” As for the famous chicken dish, the Knights themselves would have approved.

April 5: National Caramel Day – The caramel’s journey begins in Spain, where it was known as “caramelo” and served in its simple caramelized sugar form. The origin of the word itself is most likely “Calamus,” meaning “cane” in Latin, as in sugar cane. The iconic soft candy cube made from sugar that is melted until it turns to an amber liquid is an American invention. Food historians believe it dates to the mid-1600s. The word caramel appears in writing by 1725.

April 6: National Caramel Popcorn Day – You probably will not mind if we skip the history on this one and jump straight to the popcorn bowl with the following recipe from A Side of Sweet Blog. The word bacon sort of caught our eye, sending the mind into a whirl of imagination and temptation. You can hardly blame us. It takes about 35 hours to make and it’s probably gone by 1/7th that time. A double or triple batch might be in order. Go to it, but please come back. Spicy Caramel Bacon Popcorn.

April 7:  National Beer Day – There is no record of the first beer ever made since it was made well before we picked up writing implements. Suffice it to say that archaeologists have found evidence that our Fertile Crescent ancestors began consuming beer around the 6th Century B.C.E. You’ve heard the expression, “worth his salt.” We owe it to the Romans, who paid their soldiers with salt. Well before this, Egyptian Pharaohs paid their slaves with jugs of beer. Bad work conditions, better pay?!

April 8: National Empanada Day – We turn to the Spanish again, who plaid a role in this uncommon Holiday. “Empana” is a Spanish word meaning, “to wrap in bread.” The concoctions that are deliciously nestled in the middle of the half-moon or wedge-shaped bread dough vary widely, from sausage and pork to sardines, minced meat and even fruit and dessert fillings. Oh my.

April 9: Chinese Almond Cookie Day – No, no. We did not say Fortune Cookie, though if you happen to be sinking your teeth in a Chinese Almond cookie right now, surely your fortune must be good. Simple pleasures, ya know! Historians believe that Chinese Americans came up with this one in the mid-1900s. Interestingly, the Chinese Walnut Cookie was associated with good luck and may be the inspiration for the Almond Cookie. So all is well and may your sweet tooth be blessed.

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