Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 06/19/2017

If you’ve been following this weekly exploration of Food Holidays, you may have noticed a pattern. Is it just us, or the ratio of sweets versus any other type of edible is rather high. We suspect there is deep psychology behind this, though we cannot claim to be experts on the topic. However, instinct points the way. We are wired to seek confirmation that our actions and dealings in the world are both worthwhile and acknowledged. A delightful sweet treat can provide a personal pat on the back, a reward for a job well done or an attained goal; in moderation, of course. Doesn’t the mere shift in hormones that takes place upon imagining a favorite dessert make life, well, sweet?

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

June 19 is National Dry Martini Day – The original Martini was made with Gin and dry vermouth. Vodka Martinis were made popular around the 1980’s. The original brand behind the festive cocktail was created in Northwest Italy in 1863, by Alessandro Martini and Luigi Rossi. Versions of the concoction already existed in the mid-1700’s. At that time, it would have been consumed primarily for medicinal purposes, or so they said.

June 20 is National Vanilla Milkshake Day – You might not have readily offered a milkshake to your children before 1900. That is because the original version was an alcoholic tonic consisting primarily of eggs and whiskey. The first modern, kid-friendly, version was created by a Chicago Walgreen employee who decided to add ice cream to malted milk. By the 1930s, all soda fountain shops offered their own variation, and so they were commonly called, “malt shops.”

June 21 is National Peaches and Cream Day – The peach was originally known as “persicum malum,” meaning “Persian Apple.” Yet it is traced to 10th century China, not Persia. The name is accurate, however, since it is Persian traders who brought it first to the Romans. Alexander the Great would spread it further among European territories. English horticulturist George Minifie is credited with introducing the peach to the New World via his Virginia estate in the early 17th century. In the Victorian era (1837 – 1901), a proper meal often concluded with a fresh peach served in an ornate napkin. Ah! But it is so much nobler with cream!

June 22 is National Chocolate Éclair Day – Éclair is French for “lightning” and may refer to the glistening effect of the pastry’s chocolate coating. The first known reference to Chocolate Éclairs is attributed to Chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784 – 1833). He is considered the founder of French haute cuisine and was personal chef to George IV of England, among several other dignitaries. The first known published recipe for éclairs in America appears in the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1884.

June 23 is National Pecan Sandy Day – Sandies are shortbread-like cookies thus named for their texture and color. They are one the oldest form of cookies and a reminder of the very nature of the treat. You see, cake existed before cookies. According to Food Historians, bakers tested a small amount of batter to test the oven temperature. It would not have taken much of a jump of imagination to conceive of a delicious use for the tiny, bite-size cakes. This practice probably dates back to 7th century Persia.

June 24 is National Pralines Day – The original praline was a sugar-coated almond. Until proven otherwise, the story goes it was created in 1636 by Chef Clément Lassagne. The chef in question was at the service of French diplomat and soldier César, earl of Plessis-Praslin. Either the chef wanted to honor a beloved master, or he was too humble to use his own name. Upon retiring from serving the earl, Lassgne founded the Maison de la Praline in Montargis, France. Today, any filled chocolate is commonly referred to by the name “praline.”

June 25 is National Strawberry Parfait Day – Ah, the strawberry parfait! It is indeed perfection, as far as desserts go. That perfection presented a significant challenge to advertisers before Photoshop and greater-than-life virtual images. To make the fruit appear perfect in close-up photographs sold to fancy magazines, they often painstakingly plucked each tiny hair from the surface of the fruit in preparation for its moment of glory. Yes, with tweezers. Raspberries enjoyed the same pre-portrait pampering ritual.

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