Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 08/21/2017

On to another favorite resource of ours when concocting this weekly Food highlight: Smithsonian Magazine. Of course, there is much more here than food articles; there’s an entire world. It is a true feast for the mind. We typically “enter” with one topic in mind only to get sidetracked into many enticing directions, much like trying to fill your plate with a bit of everything at an irresistible buffet table. Explore Smithsonian Mag, if you have not already… but do come back!!

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

August 21 is National Pecan Torte Day – The word “torte” is used in Hungary, Germany and Austria, but originally it comes from “torta,” the Italian word for “cake” or “round loaf.” You might find it interesting that “tortilla” has the same root. It means “little cake.” Torte differs from cake in shape and density, but also by virtue of the significantly low amount of flour used in the traditional recipe. In fact, most flour is replaced with crushed nuts, and occasionally bread crumbs, hence the density.

August 22 is Eat a Peach Day – Ah the peach… the little sour and fuzzy fruit that traveled. Indeed, the original wild peach was considerably fuzzier and more sour than sweet. It was cultivated in China as far back as 3,000 years ago. To this day, China remains the largest producer. Italy is a close second. Trade routes distributed the peach throughout the Mediterranean region. Columbus and the Spaniards took it across to the Americas. From this point, peaches traveled north to Massachusetts thanks to the English; south to Louisiana thanks to the French.

August 23 is National Sponge Cake Day – Cake mold hoops may seem like a clever modern invention, but in truth they date back to the mid-1800’s, and they are intimately linked to Sponge Cake. At that time, eggs became the favored raising agent in cakes. Yeats had been in common use prior to this. Creative cooks soon experimented with the many textures made possible with beaten eggs. The molds were designed to accommodate the new pastry. In truth, the sponge cake existed long before this. English poet Gervase Markham penned down a recipe in 1615.

August 24 is National Waffle Day – There’s good science behind the grid design of the waffle iron. It maximizes the use of batter over a small surface. Of course, it also allows the waffle to hold syrup nicely. The original waffle iron dates back to Ancient Greece. The ornate design evolved in Europe during the Middle Ages and was inspired by the Catholic Church. The designs at the time were elaborate, depicting Biblical scenes and religious icons. Only the Church could produce these, but eventually permission was granted to private chefs and everyday folks to produce their own. Family crests were typical designs then. In today’s more practical times, the crisscross design is simpler and less costly to produce.

August 25 is Whiskey Sour Day – First visitors to America endured long voyages at sea. Stored food and water spoiled during the long trips. And then there was malnutrition and scurvy. To help his crew stay hydrated without getting sick, English Vice Admiral Edward Vernon (1684 – 1757) mixed rum with the juice from the limes and lemons commonly consumed to help prevent scurvy. He watered the concoction down with water and allotted strict rations for each man. Hence the precursor to the Whiskey sour was a tasty solution to a serious health problem.

August 26 is National Cherry Popsicle Day – You’d think they would round up all the Popsicle Holidays and make it a one-day extravaganza! Let’s make the most of this one. What say you to Cherry Chocolate Chip Popsicles? You’ll need: A tray of 6 popsicle molds, 6 cups pitted cherries, 1 ½ cup coconut milk, 1 ½ TBSP vanilla extract and 6 TBSP mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Combine cherries, coconut milk and vanilla at high-speed in a blender. Fill each mold with 1 TBSP chocolate chips. Distribute cherry mixture evenly. Freeze at least 4 hours. Celebrate!

August 27 is National Banana Lover’s Day – The banana’s name suggests it may come from the Congo area of Africa. “Banana” means, “finger” or “toe.” Here we say “a bunch of bananas,” but in other English-speaking countries it is “a hand of bananas.” However, food historians believe the proper origin is Southeast Asia. From there, merchants brought it to the Middle East and Africa. Portuguese and Spanish colonists took the banana on its journey west to the Americas. The scientific name for the banana is, “Musa Sapientum.” It means, “Fruit of the wise man.”

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