Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 09/04/2017

September is rich in color in this part of the world. The sunlight turns a deeper shade of gold, somehow. The sky seems a deeper blue. And, of course, the trees put on a show. Colors abound table-side as well this month, with no fewer than 12 month-long Food Holidays in addition to the daily fare. September is National breakfast month, honey month, chicken month, organic harvest month, biscuit month, whole grains month, rice month, papaya month, mushroom month, potato month, California wine month and Bourbon heritage month. Everything we need for a feast or two. But first, the week at hand.

Meanwhile, here’s what’s happening in the realm of food highlights this week…

September is 4 National Macadamia Nut Day – Many believe the Macadamia nut is a Hawaiian native. In truth, it was brought there from Australia in 1882. British colonists in Queensland, Australia, found and consumed the first Macadamia nuts in 1857, though they did not have a name for it just yet. Botanist Walter Hill planted the first commercially harvested Macadamia nut-tree. He named the uniquely aromatic nut after his good friend John MacAdam, who was a member of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria at the time. Hill’s original tree in Australia, and the first seedling planted in Hawaii, are said to be alive and striving to this day.

September 5 is National Cheese Pizza Day… and it falls on a Tuesday this year. That means FREE small Cheese Pizza with any large at JPD. Mark your calendar! Naples was an affluent community by the early 19th century, but it was also home to a large population of poor workers. Flatbreads with simple toppings were an easy, versatile and inexpensive meal. It is said that wealthy Neapolitans found this sort of food repulsive. Meanwhile, those who survived on it enjoyed flavorful toppings such as anchovies, cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic.

September 6 is National Coffee Ice Cream Day – Coffee is from Ethiopia; ice cream is from China… as far back as 3,000 BC according to historians. Nectar and fruit infused snow was well-known to anyone living in the proper climate to supply these. Sweet creams and custards have been refreshing treats throughout history. Contrary to popular belief, true iced-creams, as they were also known, were rarely consumed by the lower classes since only the wealthy had access to refrigeration, even if that merely meant an ice box. In America, ice cream became a staple treat across all economic circumstances by the late 1800’s. The term itself first appears in print in 1688.

September 7 is National Acorn Squash Day – Early settlers could not pronounce the word, “askutasquash.” This was the term used by the Narragansett Indians (Rhode Island region) to refer to squash. Historians believe it means, “something that is eaten raw.” The acorn squash gets its name from its shape, obviously. It would not be “commercialized” until the early 1900’s. The first written recipes appear sometime around the 1920’s. Due to its versatility, it gained in popularity rather quickly. Indeed, it could be baked, pureed, liquefied, sun-dried and used in breads.

September 8 is National Date Nut Bread Day – Better known as “daktulos” in Ancient Greece, meaning “finger,” the date was actively cultivated and traded some 7,000 years ago. The Romans delighted in nut-stuffed dates dipped in honey. We could feast on that! The date palm is likely a native of the Arabian Peninsula and Northern Africa. It promptly reached much of the Mediterranean region. Many ancient people considered it a sacred tree. Spanish missionaries introduced the date to California, which remains the top US producer to this day.

September 9 is Wiener Schnitzel Day – We get “Schnitzel” from Old German, “Sniz,” meaning slice. The Wiener Schnitzel is a delicious example of the ancient art of tenderizing meat by dredging it in spices. A 12th century family quarreled over the origin of the dish. The Hapsburg of Italy and their Austrian counterparts both took credit for the invention of the dish. But here the Romans enter the picture again, for they took their love of good food along wherever they marched. Recipes for meats prepared “Wiener Schnitzel” style were in use in the Alps region soon after the Legions marched through around 100 BC.

September 10 is TV Dinner Day –  The television greatly influenced meal time habits. Prior to its arrival in the household of the early 1950’s, families often dined by the radio. The television demanded a new level of attention. It also meant timing meals around favorite programs. The Swanson company coined the phrase, “TV Dinner.” Indeed, they turned the convenient frozen meal into a cultural icon (1954 on). The first frozen meals were manufactured nearly a decade earlier by Maxson Food Systems, Inc. Their compartment tray consisted in a vegetable, starch and meat combination designed for civilian and military airplanes.

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…