Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 08/07/2017


August is National Sandwich Month. When is a sandwich a sandwich? Well, officially, when the assemblage consists of no more than 50% bread and no less than 35% cooked meat. This, it seems, does not reflect reality. The sandwich was created on a whim by Lord Sandwich, remember? He needed one hand to gamble and one to eat. It stands to reason that any good sandwich should conveniently suit the occasion, and mood. PB & J sandwiches started out as a delicacy enjoyed by the upper class. Apparently, all of us eventually joined the elite. Astronaut John Young (Gemini 3 Mission, March 23, 1965) is said to have smuggled a corned beef sandwich onto the spacecraft he piloted. It is possible to eat 56 different sandwiches between the Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Brunch Menus at 158 Main, and the JPD Menu.

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

August 7 is National Raspberries in Cream Day – The raspberry is another staple of the human diet dating back thousands of years. Controlled cultivation began in England and France in the 1600’s. By the mid-1900’s, Scotland was the biggest producer of cultivated raspberries. By then, England imported its supply via rail on a train famously known as, “the Raspberry Special.” The raspberry’s crimson juices have been compared to the pure blood that runs through the heart. For this reason, it has long been a symbol of kindness.

August 8 is National Zucchini Day – Today’s zucchini comes from a long line of gourds. In fact, the name “zucchini” is the Italian diminutive for “zucca,” or gourd. The plant is native to South America and Mexico, where it was known and consumed over 7,000 years ago. So why the Italian name? Europeans colonizing America in the 17th century brought seeds back to Europe. By the 19th century, farmers in Italy had bread the plant into its modern version. Italian immigrants brought this newer strand to North America around 1920.

August 9 is National Rice Pudding Day – Recipes for Rice Pudding appear in print in the early 17th century. Prior to this, rice or grain puddings were almost exclusively reserved for medicinal applications, primarily as a digestive aid. Some place the origin of the dish in China, where rice was cultivated initially. However, it is interesting to note that India cultivated both rice and sugar, making it tempting to assign the dish to this culture instead. In Europe, rice pudding as a dessert was reserved for the rich, mainly due to the high cost of importing the ingredients.

August 10 is National Banana Split Day – The Banana Split, like the Sundae, is split between two contenders: Latrope Pennsylvania, 1904 and Wilmington Ohio, 1907. One thing is certain, the soda fountain shop, often a part of the local drug store, was a popular feature in early 20th century cities, leading to all sorts of rivalry around inventive, sweet concoctions. David Strickler, an apprentice at a Latrope pharmacy, took it one step further by adding the “banana boat” that would become the signature dish for the decadent banana-ice cream-chocolate dessert.

August 11 is National Raspberry Tart Day – Why is there no top crust on the tart? Strictly poetic license. The original tarts and pies were typically savory. In the Middle Ages, fruit fillings became somewhat of an obsession, as did the urge to display the array of colors within the crust. In fact, recipes from that time period often refer to “Colored tart stuffs.” The modern American use of the word “tart” refers to a one-portion pie; not necessarily the open-pastry style.

August 12 is Julienne Fries Day – While Jules is a Roman emperor’s name, the origin of the term “Julienne” to refer to vegetables cut into thin, matchstick strips, is unclear. Add to that the fact that “Jules” means “downy-bearded” and the connection is further lost in the stew, so to speak. Interestingly, “Julienne,” is not the fry itself, but rather the cut, and it pertains to vegetables. The carrot was probably the first vegetable to be cut in this fashion. The first written reference to “Julienne” is found in “Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois,” a cookbook published in 1722.

August 13 is National Filet Mignon Day – The term “Filet Mignon” first appears in print in a novel rather than a cookbook. It was coined by O Henry in his second collection of short stories titled, “The One Million,” published in 1906. The steak cut, in this context, aptly set the tone for luxury and romance. “Filet Mignon” is French for “Dainty Filet.” This tender cut is obtained from the back rib of the animal, a non-weight-bearing area leading to more pliable tissue. Incidentally, we highly recommend “Of Cabbages and Kings,” also by O Henry. It is a pure delight.

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…