Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 06/12/2017

June is National Dairy Month. The Holstein is typically the first cow to come to mind upon the mention of dairy. The breed arrived in the US by way of Massachusetts, in 1852. The dairy industry was growing and breeders needed a high-producing animal. The original Holstein is the product of a cross between two breeds, about 2,000 years ago; one from present-day Germany and the other from present-day Holland. The animals were bred specifically for their ability to produce high volumes of milk on limited feed resources. Our relationship to dairy changes with our beliefs about nutrition. According to economists, Americans currently consume more yogurt and cheese than milk. Interestingly, we also consume more butter.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s noteworthy Food Highlights… 

June 12 is National Jerky Day – The Native People of the Andes and other regions of South America mixed dried meet with animal fat or dried fruit thousands of years ago. They later taught settlers how to make their own and this became an important source of nutrition for early New World explorers. The simple, yet ingenious mixture allowed early humans to preserve and carry a dense source of protein while traversing territory with limited food resources.

June 13 is Kitchen Klutzes of America Day – Ah! This could have been such a promising entry on our weekly list. Alas, copyright laws prevent us from sharing any of the many delicious  gag-reel clips from famous chefs, though you may find them on YouTube. Yes, even those super-heroes of the kitchen make clumsy mistakes and producers cannot resist saving a few tasty clips, just in case. Kitchen klutz memories from your own repertoire probably make you smile. The word “klutz” is of Yiddish origin. It means “wooden block” and entered popular usage in the 1960’s.

June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day – Some cupcakes are shortcakes, but shortcakes are not necessarily cupcakes. What’s the deal? The original “shortcake” was any cake that was high in fat, when “shortening” was the common household name for fat. Thus, shortcake is short for “shortening cake” and any cake made with eggs is, well, just cake. However, you may be glad to learn, any butter-rich cake that is split and filled with berries can rightly be called a shortcake. You may have to read this a second time. And if you eat shortcake, a second serving is a must of course.

June 15 is National Lobster Day – A Newfoundland fisherman caught a four-clawed lobster recently. It is said that the beast was spared from the table thanks to its uniqueness. Here are a few unique lobster facts you may not know. Lobsters were originally caught by hand. Trapping began in the mid-1800’s. In Colonial times, lobsters were commonly known as “the poor man’s chicken.” It was an easy-to-acquire food source for the less fortunate. The wealthier folks often fed it to their livestock instead of eating it themselves.

June 16 is National Fudge Day – Legend has it that a confections chef “fudged” a caramel recipe and accidentally created a new, delicious treat. The name stuck and we love it so much that there are three National Holidays in honor of fudge: National Nutty Fudge is celebrated on May 12th; today honors equally satisfying plain Fudge and peanut Butter Fudge has its day of glory on November 20th. The honors would be incomplete without a world record. In 2010, Ontario-based Northwest Fudge Factory produced a 5,760 pound slab of fudge.

June 17: Eat All Your Veggies Day – There is not enough room here for the history of vegetables, but how about an appetizer of sorts? The star ingredient: the word “vegetable.” It first comes into use in the 16th century and finds its roots (an appropriate image) in Late Latin, “Vegetabilis” and Middle English, “Vegetate.” The Latin term means, “animating;” the English word refers to the act of “growing as a plant.”

June 18: International Picnic Day – One of history’s most famous picnic scenes was reproduced in an equally famous movie featuring a now legendary Vermont family. If you guessed “The Sound of Music (1965)” and the von Trapp Family, you are correct. The al fresco luncheon takes place in the Austrian Alps. The scene is followed by the unforgettable countryside bicycle ride to the tune of “Do-Re-Mi.”

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