Food Facts & Lore, Monday Magazine

This Week in Food History – 10/02/2017

October is rich with National Holidays. As you might imagine, many pertain to sweets and we’ll get to these as they pop up. A change of season often implies a change in food cravings and October food highlights seem rather à propos. October is National Pasta Month and National Pizza Festival Month. It is the Month of Seafood and Pickled Peppers too. This week begins with an ancient seafood dish and a dessert that used to be the main course. Pull up a chair. The first week of October celebrations begins now.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s food & beverage highlights… 

October 2 is National Fried Scallops Day – Aristotle, who was no doubt as astute a gourmet as he was a philosopher, believed scallops to be among the best flavored shellfish. Ancient Japanese people were especially delighted with the mollusk’s means of transportation, and so their name for scallop means “full-sail fish.” Scallops have been prepared in various ways throughout the ages. In the first century, they were minced and mixed with spelt and eggs. In 18th-century England, they were stewed in wine, vinegar, fresh orange juice and spices and rolled in flour. In America, they’ve been boiled, baked and fried until the late 20th century, when someone had the wonderful idea to cook them en brochette.

October 3 is National Caramel Custard Day – In French, it is called “Crème Caramel.” In spite of the fact that the milk and eggs mixture is a common component of many French delicacies, from desserts to quiches, there is no word equivalent to “custard” in French cuisine. Custard got its name from the “crustade” of the Middle Ages (5th to 15th century), a very popular crusted tart filled with minced meats or fruit purées. At that time, custards were used as a binding agent in food mixtures that were almost always served in a crust. Sweet, fruit purées served without a crust became popular in 16th century Europe. This is also when the sweet purées we now refer to as “custard” were first offered in single-serve dishes rather than in a large pastry shell.

October 4 is National Cinnamon Roll Day – Cinnamon is an ancient spice that was well-known to the people of Sri Lanka, its place of origin. However, it would not become a common spice in the rest of the world until Marco Polo, Columbus and other notable explorers between the 13th and 15th centuries ventured to find the best route to spice-producing lands. Before this, breads and sweet dough were flavored with honey, nuts or raisins. According to historians, pepper was the first spice used in breads. German and English immigrants introduced the “sticky Bun,” or “Cinnamon Roll” to Philadelphia, sometime in the 18th century.

October 5 is National Apple Betty Day – The Apple Betty shares some affinity with other favorite fruit filled desserts such as the cobbler, Apple Crumb, Peach Crisp and Blueberry Buckle. While these are characterized by a dough or crumb or crust either mixed with the fruit filling, underneath it or over it, the Betty is recognized by the predominant presence and flavor of brown sugar. In fact, the original name for this Autumn treat was “Apple Brown Betty.” It dates to colonial times when apples were a traditional sweetener. The first known published recipe appeared in the Yale Literary Magazine in 1864.

October 6 is National Noodle Day – Noodle Day and Pasta Month. Redundant? Well, actually, no. Pasta and noodles are two different things. Pasta is made from durum semolina, which is much coarser and stiffer than regular or whole grain flour. It is mixed with water to form a dough that is forced through a mold to create various shapes. Noodles are made with common wheat. In this case, the dough is flattened into a sheet that is cut into different shapes. Noodles and pasta are among the most common staple foods. Almost every country produces them. One of the earliest mentions of noodles was found in China, in ancient texts from the 3rd century CE.

October 7 is National Frappé Day – A Frappé is shaken, not stirred, and certainly not made in a blender. The original frappé was created during the 1957 International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki, Greece, when an employee of the Nestlé company made himself a cold coffee in a shaker he was using for the instant chocolate beverage his company was introducing at the fair. The Frappé is often dubbed the “official beverage of post-war Greek coffee culture,” as it became popular at a time when outdoor cafés were the favorite hangout spot for young adults. The trend took over Europe and America in a very short time. A true frappé includes coffee, water, ice cubes and sugar only; no flavoring and no milk.

October 8 is National Pierogi Day – Pierogi always refers to more than one Pierog, for they are traditionally served in pairs or more. Pierogi are dumplings, Polish style; and there are as many styles and fillings as there are occasions to eat them. Indeed, every Holiday in Poland has its own traditional Pierogi. Sounds absolutely delicious! Minced meat, mushroom and sauerkraut are traditional fillings. Bilberries, curd cheese and potatoes are favorites as well. Pierogi likely evolved from the Chinese Dumpling, as did the ravioli of Italy. Poland had made it its own by the 13th century, and the first Polish cookbooks distinctly mention Pierogi by the mid-1600’s.

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