Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 08/28/2017

August ended with an uncommon grand finale. We’re thinking about the eclipse, of course. Here in our little town, mesmerized kids waited patiently from the front porch of the Varnum Memorial Library for the spectacle to take place. The sun seemed bright and undisturbed as we typed these words, but a Sunday afternoon sort of silence descended on the street. A dog and cat on their respective chairs seemed utterly unconcerned. The show must go on, as they say, and it was time to round-up the bits and pieces for this week’s food fact feast.

We’re turning the corner into September, and here’s what’s happening in the realm of food highlights this week…

August 28 is National Cherry Turnover Day – Who remembers making those golden turnovers from the tube as a kid? Did you try to squeeze the very last beads of frosting from that little packet after spreading it on each pastry? This remains one of the most popular easy-to-make treats of the 20th and 21st centuries. In fact, the turnover is ancient. The original pastry consisted in dough folded over meat fillings. The first written reference to a sweet, fruit-filled turnover was found in a 1789 publication called “Sporting Magazine.”

August 29 is Lemon Juice Day – We readily associate the lemon with vitamin C, but few people realize it is one of the top sources of potassium as well. In addition to this, lemon juice has been shown to be an efficient pain-killer. Scientists have found that heating lemon juice produces salicylic acid, the very same ingredient used in aspirin to help subdue the sensation of pain. Christopher Columbus brought lemon seed to Haiti in 1493. In the Victorian era, growing lemon trees indoors was a sign of prestige.

August 30 is National Toasted Marshmallow Day – The mallow, a herbaceous plant that grows in marshes, was well-known to the Egyptians; hence “marsh” and “mallow.” They used the root to make sweet confections to offer pharaohs and deities. In fact, it was unlawful for anyone else to consume the treats. “Mallow” is a word of Greek, Latin and Old English origin referring to the color purple, the mallow flower’s color. Until the 1800’s, the mallow plant was used mainly in the treatment of digestive ailments. French chefs added egg whites and sweeteners, creating the substance we know today as marshmallow.

August 31 is Eat Outside Day – The picnic started out in Europe during Medieval Times. It is intimately linked to the hunting parties of the time, but perhaps not as you might imagine. The outdoor feast was not an opportunity to sample the freshly acquired game; it took place as a prelude to the hunt. The idea of the picnic we hold as traditional now surfaced when big American cities took shape in the 18th century and large public gardens became a fixture of daily life. People paid to walk about the scenery and often brought a meal to share al fresco.

September 1 is National Cherry Popover Day – The name sounds British, but popovers are in fact an American dish. However, the Brits were not far behind the idea, as the popover was inspired by their classic 17th century batter puddings. You’ll get the idea if you look up Yorkshire pudding. As you might imagine, the name refers to the batter as it swells off the baking tin. Food historians believe Maine settlers Americanized the recipe.

September 2 is National Blueberry Popsicle Day – The Popsicle, in on e shape or another, seems to be in the limelight every week. Let’s explore a different angle. Cherry is the most popular Popsicle flavor. It was one of the original 7 flavors on the market in the early 1920’s. They sold for just 5 cents a piece at the time. Brooklyn’s Coney Island Amusement Park frequently sold over 8,000 Popsicles a day. The double-stick Popsicle was introduced during the Depression. It provided a treat two kids could easily share for the same price as the single pop.

September 3 is the birthday of Anna Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford – Tea became popular in England around the mid-17th century, but only the aristocracy could afford such luxury. Supper, as it was commonly called, was rarely served before late evening, sometimes as late as 9 o’clock. Once upon an evening, some 200 years later, the hungry Duchess of Bedford ordered tea and a light snack to be brought to her chambers. Soon, this became a personal tradition for Lady Russell, and friends were invited to share the afternoon tea and light treats. Afternoon tea caught on, naturally.

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