Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 04/17/2017

We’ve celebrated BLT’s and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches already this month. It so happens April is National Garlic Month too. We’ll steer away from history for a moment to contemplate instead the festive side of things. Turns out garlic is highly celebrated in all corners of the globe. Venture south to the annual Gilroy, California Garlic Festival, for instance (July) or over our Northern Border to the Toronto Garlic Festival (September). With Easter a very recent memory, we might as well indulge in something sweet and unique. We stumbled across a recipe that was originally playfully intended for Halloween, but that perfectly suits the mood of the moment: Chocolate-Covered Roasted Garlic. Make it if you dare. Bet it’s surprisingly delicious. Find it at Cupcake Project.

On With This Week’s Noteworthy Food Celebrations…

April 17 is National Cheese Ball Day – The Cheese Ball was a modest and popular wartime appetizer during the mid-1940’s, one that no doubt added an ornamental touch to the table when entertaining guests. The first cheese ball to catch public attention would not have fit on a buffet table. It was crafted by Elder John Leland of Cheshire, Massachusetts, and weighed over 1,200 pounds. Leland transported it to the White House by wagon as a gift to President Jefferson, announcing that the cheese was produced entirely without the assistance of slaves. There is much more to this story and it is well worth further research if you are interested in politics.

April 18 is Animal Crackers’ Birthday – The classic red, Barnum’s Animal Crackers’ box with a string is an icon perhaps even the youngest among us recognize. The P.T. Barnum Circus’ tour of England, in 1889, inspired manufacturers to create the then known as Barnum’s Biscuits. They were later exported to the US and introduced as “Barnum’s Animals” in 1902 by the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). The famous red circus car box with a string was introduced as a Christmas tree ornament that same year. By the way, you might like Great American Things. That’s where we found the Cracker Box image. Your kids might enjoy the Americana segment.

April 19 is Garlic Day – Those Chocolate-Covered Roasted Garlic Cloves we mentioned earlier would not be the same without a bite of history. You might have read this already if you happened to stop by our Jeffersonville Pizza Department Facebook Page recently. Garlic is one of the earliest documented plants used for the maintenance of health. Fully preserved garlic cloves were discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, who ruled over Egypt from about 1332 to 1323 BCE.  Athletes consumed garlic to enhance their performance during the original Olympic Games of Ancient Greece.

April 20 is Lima Bean Respect Day – Search high and low, we could not figure out why this is Lima Bean Respect Day rather than National Lima Bean Day. Let us know if you are in the know! Lima Beans were discovered by 16th century Spanish explorers. They had been a diet staple of the inhabitants of the South American cost since 5000 BCE. The beans were brought back to Europe. The climate was more than favorable and the plants thrived. Sea faring explorers and merchants soon recognized the nutritious gem at hand and dry Lima Beans became a commonly stored food source during long voyages.

April 21 is Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day – We see a unique trail mix in the making here. Actually, we might be willing to try that Chocolate Garlic after all, with a generous handful of Chocolate Cashews nearby. Maybe. Can you say “Anacardiaceae” with a mouthful of cashews? That is the cashew tree’s family name. The name “cashew,” comes the Portuguese, “caju.” The cashew tree originated in Brazil. Many of the nuts we import today come to us in the shell, but not cashews. That is because their shell is toxic.

April 22 is National Jelly Bean Day – Candy maker William Schrafft, of Boston, is credited with producing the first known public advertisement for Jelly Beans sometime in the 1860’s. The ad suggested sending the candy to Union Soldiers engaged in the Civil War. The process that creates a hard sugar-coating was developed in France in the 17th century. It consisted in stirring nuts in a mixture of syrup and sugar and was known as “panning,” a word also used when searching for gold. If you have a sweet tooth, you will find this perfectly appropriate.

April 23 is National English Muffin Day – Yet again, a Food Holiday fit for a Sunday Brunch. We believe the English Muffin was meant for poached eggs. Does the name “Thomas” ring a bell? Samuel Bath Thomas, to be precise. He was the British immigrant to New York who introduced the “toaster crumpet” to fine American hotels in 1894. It was a dainty alternative to toast. The English did not hear of such a thing as English Muffins until the 1990’s. That is when the now well established round breakfast toast was first exported to the UK.

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…