Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 07/31/2017

We’ve already mentioned The Food Timeline and The Nibble as favorite resources for these weekly articles. The Spruce is an equally attractive source of inspiration. We love the streamlined, easy-to-navigate format. It is extremely user-friendly. This is the site to browse if you’re into food, family, gardening, décor, pets, crafts and repairs. Speaking of food, the recipes are deliciously tempting. We wanted to share one here, but could not decide, though the Butterscotch Brownies jumped at us.

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

July 31 is Cotton Candy Day – Who knows who invented Cotton Candy? Raise your hand… A dentist. No kidding. In 1897, dentist William Morrison (Nashville, TN) and candy maker John C. Wharton patented the “Electric candy machine.” Their contraption, and the sweet treat it produced, was a public sensation at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. What the good doctor may not have known is that 15th century Italian cooks melted sugar they then spun and pulled in strands around a broom handle to form edible sculptures.

August 1 is IPA Day – Necessity is the mother of invention. In the late 1700’s, while the British were colonizing India, one highly valued commodity their troops enjoyed did not fare so well during the long voyages. The high temperatures spoiled the beer. An East London brewer by the name of George Hodgson understood that alcohol and hops were preservatives. He is said to have come up with the ideal ratio of these to create a brew that could sustain the journey. IPA was born, but it was bitter and potent. The invention of refrigeration allowed further refinement.

August 2 is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day – A July 1900 New York Tribune article (four years before the invention of the ice cream cone) highlights an important character in the history of the great city. The man in question was a street peddler whose portable vanilla ice cream between wafers treat became an overnight sensation. They were so popular, in fact, that he pointed out he was often too busy assembling the sandwiches in his tin molds to make change, and demanded patrons to pay the exact price: one penny. He must have been a humble man, for his name remains unknown.

August 3 is National Watermelon Day – The watermelon is one of the vegetables (no, it is not a fruit) depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphs dating back at least 5,000 years. The plant was cultivated for its nutritional and fluid content value and it was clearly held in high regards. Indeed, watermelon has been found buried along with Egyptian kings. While Africa was the birthplace of the watermelon, by the 10th century merchants had taken it to China, which would become the number one producer worldwide. By the time explorers left Europe to venture west, the watermelon was well-known throughout the Mediterranean region. Historians believe Africans brought to the new world introduced the seed into American colonies.

August 4 is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day – The story of the chocolate chip cookie is rather popular. In the early 1930’s. Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA, added pieces of a broken-up chocolate bar into her famous cookie batter assuming they would melt, but they remained intact and the result was delicious. What you may not know is that Wakefield sold her recipe to Nestlé and may have received only a lifetime supply of chocolate in lieu of payment. The chocolate chip as we know it today was created later, in 1939.

August 5 is National Oyster Day – More than 2,000 years ago, people living along European coasts harvested oysters they moved to controlled oyster nurseries. These were not only for local consumption. For instance, the Romans were so enamored with the mollusks that they imported them from every possible source. And we cannot mention the oyster without talking about the Greeks and love. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, emerged from an oyster shell, and you know which word we got from that. The rest is both myth and history.

August 6 is National Root Beer Float Day – Let’s dig below the surface on this one. Ever wonder why it’s called “root beer?” Europe, 5th to 15th century. Water was not healthy to drink. Water and malt were boiled to make a lightly alcoholic beverage that could quench thirst all day. American colonists continued the tradition using regional roots. Safe to drink, but rather unpalatable. Charles Hires, a 19th century Philadelphia pharmacist, added his own herb concoction to create a “root tea,” but promptly understood that he would sell more if he used the word “beer.”

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…