Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 07/10/2017

Where were we? Ah yes, as we’ve already discussed, July is National Hot Dog Month. It is also National Ice Cream Month. The inspiration for Ice Cream consisted in wine-based, not milk, chilled desserts only the wealthy could enjoy. A fruit-based frozen dessert known as “sorbet” was served in 16th and 17th century France and Italy. It, too, inspired the evolution of ice cream. Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd President (1801 – 1809), is said to have learned how to make ice cream while visiting France. He returned to America with recipes, as well as equipment he used to make his own ice cream.

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

July 10 is National Piña Colada Day – The Piña Colada was proclaimed official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978, 24 years after its creation at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar, a high-end establishment in San Juan. The bartender was asked to create a new signature drink. It took three months to perfect the strained (colada) pineapple (piña), coconut and white rum drink. But story goes a Puerto Rico pirate by the name of Roberto Cofresi introduced his crew to a very similar concoction in the early 1800’s, to help keep their spirits up.

July 11 is National Mojito Day as well as National Blueberry Muffin Day – Which one would you rather talk about? We thought so. The Mojito is also a product of South America, and pirates. The year was 1586. Sir Francis Drake and his crew of pirates went to Havana, Cuba, with gold on their minds. It is there that his crewman and cousin Richard Drake came up with the lime, mint and sugar spirits. It was originally called “El Draque.” The name “Mojito,” was substituted by the Bacardi Company (mid-1800’s). It comes from “mojo,” a voodoo word meaning, “to cast a small spell.”

July 12 is National Pecan Pie Day – The name “pecan” is derived from the French, “pacane,” which in turn is derived from the Algonquian word for “nut.” For this reason, and because pecans grow along the Mississippi River, many believe the pecan pie may have originated among the French settlers of New Orleans. The earliest recorded recipes can be found in Texas cookbooks from the late 1800’s. The rich and sweet pie gained in popularity around 1920, when a recipe was printed on the packaging of Karo Syrup.

July 13 is National French Fries Day – In 1748, the French Parliament banned potato cultivation. It was believed that they caused leprosy, among other diseases. Mind you, People in Belgium were slicing and frying potatoes alongside their traditional fried fish a century earlier, and no one got sick. Meanwhile, French army medical officer Antoine-Augustine Parmentier was made prisoner in Prussia, where potatoes were common prison rations. He soon realized the leprosy belief was a myth. Upon his liberation, he became a notable advocate of the potato in France, serving it to dignitaries in various creative ways, one of which became known as “French” in English-speaking regions.

July 14 is Macaroni Day – Research the history of macaroni and you will soon feel like giving up and cooking a comforting batch with cheese instead. The history of this tubular pasta is garnished with disagreements between historians and linguists alike. However, one thing is almost certain. Macaroni probably would never have gained the fame it enjoys today without cheese, and man needed to domesticate milk-producing herd animals to get there. Indeed, cheese is one of the oldest “man-made” foods and while macaroni was a deliberate invention, it is likely that cheese was a mere accident. Interestingly, the combination of the two is ancient as well.

July 15 is National Gummy Worm Day – First things first… the Gummy Bear. It was invented in 1922 by Haribo, a candy confectioner in Germany. The “Gummy Bear” name appears in 1967, along with a menagerie of gummy animals. The “Gummy Worm” is a creation of Trolli, also a German-based candy maker. It was introduced in 1981. What say you to “Rummy Worms” and “Tipsy Teddy Bears?”  You can sample the Rum-infused Gummy Worms and Champagne-soaked Gummy Bears at the Monarch Rooftop, a Manhattan lounge.

July 16 is Fresh Spinach Day – We typically associate Spinach with Mediterranean cuisine, but it was unknown to Europe until the 11th century. It was grown and bred in Nepal long before the current era. Merchants and explorers introduced it to China sometime during the second half of the 1st century. The Moors later introduced it to Spain. The rest of Europe was but a short journey away. Dishes that are served with a bed of spinach are known as “a la Florentine” in honor of Catherine de Medici (Queen of France from 1547 until 1559), for she was so fond of spinach that she brought her personal cooks from Florence to make her favorite spinach recipes.

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