Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 07/03/2017

July. Family gatherings, 4th of July in the park and baseball come to mind. It’s National Hot Dog Month. The hot dog is German, and so was the man who introduced the traditional ball game fare. Christian Von der Ahe, was a German immigrant and the owner of the original St. Louis Browns franchise (Missouri) from 1881 to 1899. He also owned a popular bar where he served “Dachshunds,” or “little dogs.” The sausage and bread combination had been a German favorite since the 1600’s. In truth, sausage is the oldest form of processed food and written references exist dating back to the 9th century B.C.E.

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

July 3 is Eat Beans Day – Beans are one of the rare cultivated plant foods that have retained their genetic integrity. Indeed, beans from thousands of years ago are nearly identical genetically to the beans we produce today. How do we know? Tangible evidence recovered from Ancient Egyptian tombs. The main bean producing states are Nebraska, North Dakota and Michigan. And since you are wondering, but perhaps do not dare ask, here are three common legumes that do not result in, well, ya know: adzuki beans, black-eyed peas and lentils.

July 4 is National Barbecued Spare Ribs Day – You may have heard that the term “spare rib” refers to the spare meat found on the bone. Not so. You may have heard that the name refers to the presence of some fortuitous and delicious extra ribs we’ve turned into a delicacy. Not so. Once more, we turn to the Germans for the truth. It is not “spare ribs,” but rather “Rippenspeer” or “spear ribs,” since this particular pork cut was traditionally roasted on a spear.

July 5 is National Apple Turnover Day – The word turnover begins to appear in cooking reference books in the late 1800’s. A stuffed, triangular pastry was first described in 9th century Persia. The original turnover was more commonly known as a “portable pie.” The choice of filling was not limited to fruits or sweet spreads. Meats and root vegetables were common as well. In fact, the turnover and the calzone, by their very nature, are both members of the portable pie family, so to speak. The name “turnover” refers to the practice of turning one half of the laid-out dough over the filled half. The name is as practical as the meal itself.

July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day – Our English forefathers boiled and baked chicken; our Scottish forefathers fried it. Incidentally, fried chicken keeps longer. A plus for the nomad at heart. Any reason why one version gained favor over the other? Your guess is as good as ours and worth pondering over a good drumstick or two, but historians believe that African-Americans at the service of Americans in Southern States are responsible for contributing creative spices and seasonings that further enhanced the delicacy.

July 7 is National Strawberry Sundae Day – We could fill several pages contemplating the birthplace of the Sundae. Suffice it to say that no fewer than six cities claim to be the hot spot, two of them in New York State. One thing is almost certain, the concoction is the sweet embodiment of the proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” When President Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909) banned ice cream sodas on Sundays, soda fountain operators quickly imagined a new concoction they could get away with serving to their loyal customers anyway. At least that’s one version of the Sundae’s story. The spelling is likely pure poetic license.

July 8 is National Chocolate with Almonds Day – Forest Gump would have been an entirely different movie had chocolate still been consumed the way it was originally consumed in America and abroad. New World explorers were introduced to cocoa by the Mayan and Aztec people, who made a beverage from the cocoa bean whose purpose was to assist in one’s spiritual quest. Europeans brought the cocoa and tradition back home, sans the religious touch. They were enlightened in their own way, however, and promptly conceived of sweet new ways to transform the plant. In America, chocolate was first used for baking in 1828.

July 9 is National Sugar Cookie Day – Just a sugar cookie, say you? Ah, but this little cookie has a noble history. House Bill 1892 (September 2001) designated the Nazareth Cookie the official cookie of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This, the authentic and original American sugar cookie, was created in the mid-1700’s by German settlers residing in Nazareth, PA. It was small and simple, but mighty, for the lack of leavening agents in the recipe meant it would keep for long periods of time; a definite plus when you are going about settling a new world.

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