History is Not Boring discussion

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food, food origins and other topics

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message 1: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Hi everyone, I thought it might be fun to start another thread about food and food origins as it relates to history and the many books we read.

On one of the other threads, Will and I were discussing the origins of marmalade and the use of quince fruit.

I mentioned the story associated with Mary Stuart. Supposedly .....Marie est malade or Marie malade became marmalade.

Will mentioned that the true origins of marmalade probably started in Portugal with the use of quince/marmelo


message 2: by James (new)

James Nevius | 157 comments I'm interested in The Food of a Younger Land The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America, a compilation of WPA-era food writing that was never published. But I'm leery of it because the editor/compiler, Mark Kurlansky -- author of Cod, Salt A World History, etc. -- isn't a favorite of mine.

Has anyone read this?


message 3: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Ive seen those book titles James, but I havent read them yet. I thought they looked like interesting books.

Are they a chore to read?


message 4: by Manuel (last edited May 23, 2009 02:20PM) (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Marco,
I never thought about it, but it makes sense that Mexico and the Philippines would share some of their food traditions, since they were connected by the Spanish trading routes and both being Spanish colonies.

I know the Mexicans fell in love with the potato, after they were introduced to them by the Spanish, who also fell in love with them in Peru.

The Mexicans also fell in love with domesticated pork introduced from Spain, supposedly it reminded the Aztecs of the taste of human flesh (forbidden after the conquest). The Spanish had also forbidden the eating of dogs. Chihuahuas were a source of protein to most Aztec families, consequently Lake Texcoco, which used to surround Tenochtitlan/Mexico City, was exhausted of all its fish...........leading to massive malnutrition among the Indians.

Unfortunately for the environment; pigs adapted too well in Mexico. They devastated the countryside and displaced countless numbers of native plants and animals.
The recent swine flu, is yet another consequence of too many pigs living close to large human population centers.


message 5: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa "The recent swine flu, is yet another consequence of too many pigs living close to large human population centers."

But I've heard there's a very effective oink-ment for it...


message 6: by Manuel (last edited May 24, 2009 04:33PM) (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments LOL Barbarossa,

I remember in one of my history classes in college, someone asked our teacher why we eat ham for Easter?

I was dismayed to learn that in the early days of the Christian church most Christians were still practicing Jews......as more and more non Jews (gentiles) became Christian, they didnt have to follow Jewish dietary laws. The eating of pork became a way of distinguishing Christians from main stream Jews.

Eating pork-ham for the holidays became a status symbol for Gentiles and another symbol of antisemitism. A very visual reminder and symbol to say to Jews..."You are not welcome here"



message 7: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Pork was/is also a popular feast meat in some Northern European countrys. Yule ham etc.


message 8: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Ive been reading a lot about Mary Stuart lately.
When she was a prisoner in England, she complained she only had two courses for her main meal.

I was feeling sorry for her until I discovered food courses in the 16th century are very different from what we mean by a course in the 21st century.

Mary was served two courses with 7 different dishes in each course. Today we have become accustomed to the Russian method ....a la russe.....in which we are served one dish at a time. In Mary's day nobility, was accustomed to the French method ... a la francaise .... in which several dishes were presented with each course.

Is it any wonder Henry VIII was so fat and suffering from goat, when his meals consisted of 7 or more courses per sitting?. If we assume 7 dishes per course, that equal 49 different dishes of food.

It seems incredibly expensive, not to mention wasteful.






message 9: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Manuel, great typo: "Henry VIII was so fat and suffering from goat".
I will be checking my Merck Manual for the symptoms of acute goat.
My day just cheered up, thanks.


message 10: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments I too have suffered from goat--barbecued cabrita in excess will cause that.

I like this thread, thanks; I just found it. I love tracing foods across continents and cultures. I connect gyros to tacos, Texas barbecue to Chinese barbecue. The Chinese laid the ralroad lines to Kanasas where Texican/Mexican cowboys hired Chinese cooks for the trail drives and Mexican peppers met Chinese cooking styles and Kansas, Texas barbecue was born. Kansas style is sweeter and Texas style is spicier with more vinegar but they both came from China.


message 11: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 14 comments I read Taste The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It seemed reasonably well-researched, though one had to hunt and peck for actual source in the back of the book -- I would have preferred footnotes. The Victorian chapters was fascinating.


message 12: by Will (last edited May 26, 2009 08:51AM) (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Yeah, but the problem is: Britain's food is notoriously bad. How would you like to be stuck with researching that?

I would have to reasearch its origins but I tend to follow a style of first course with one item, second course with two items...four for fourth, and switching to descending amounts following the main course; just for major meals, not everyday. I may be the only person who does it; I honestly don't know. I mention that to explain that I think Henry VIII (and his goat) had UP TO seven items per serving, not seven at each. I could be wrong. Can you imagine seven items of boiled fare? Everything was roasted or boiled; not suateed, fried, grilled, etc.


Aren't some typos fun?



message 13: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa As a Scot I'm hugely proud of our traditions of haggis and deep fried Mars Bars...we fry everything in suet. OK, broad generalisation there. Though I have eaten a pizza that was deep fried in batter (traditionally covered with salt and vinegar).
We have one of the highest heart disease rates on the planet...I wonder why???


message 14: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1011 comments Mod
The Medieval Kitchen Recipes from France and Italy is interesting - both for the recipes and for the essays on food and food culture.


message 15: by Tom (last edited May 26, 2009 09:52AM) (new)

Tom Foolery (tomfoolery) | 89 comments James, what didn't you like about Salt and Cod? I found Cod to be a decent though not outstanding read, and was fascinated by the suggestion that the Basques were fishing off the coast of Newfoundland long before Columbus. I've several times considered reading Salt but just haven't gotten around to it.

I haven't thought much about histories of food and why we eat what we do, before reading this thread, but it seems like there's plenty of material for several books there-- anyone know of any in print? I know there's a book or two about Kellogs and breakfast cereals, but i'm thinking a little more broadly. Not too terribly long ago i was reading a novel (by Steven Brust) which described the breakfast of one of the characters and involved fish. Led me to wonder why Americans don't eat fish-- or beef or poultry, for that matter-- for breakfast. Why is it pancakes and scrambled eggs and oatmeal and waffles and muffins and fruit and such? Why not hamburgers and pot roast and tomato soup?


Now that i think about it, i wonder if those books ARE out there, but as cookbooks and food books and not classified as history...



message 16: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1011 comments Mod
I think there is some of that out there, but not necessarily classified as "history."

I have a little of it, which I think I have categorized as "historical cookery."

I love old cookbooks.


message 17: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Apparently Henry VIII was fond of lampreys,
huge quantities of them, baked in pies.

At least French food seemed much more palatable our modern tastes.
In the recent movie "Marie Antoinette" there is a great scene where the newly married Marie and Louis are sitting at a huge breakfast table with dozens of dishes placed before them........the entire court is standing and watching them as they decide what to eat first........


message 18: by Tom (new)

Tom Foolery (tomfoolery) | 89 comments I always hate when i read something about ancient cultures having corn at such-and-such a time, and start to reply before i realize they're not from the US, and not talking about maize...


message 19: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Barbarossa wrote: "As a Scot I'm hugely proud of our traditions of haggis and deep fried Mars Bars...we fry everything in suet. OK, broad generalisation there. Though I have eaten a pizza that was deep fried in batte..."

I can't imagine why they have heart attacks, Barbarossa. I always seize every opportunity to make fun of British cuisine, but give the Scots a pass; after all, it's haggis they're known for...'nuff said.

Marco: "an obsolete term for sinangag or fried rice" reminded me of a frien of mine who thught they'd said, "Sin and gag." His response was, "I'm in."

Lamprey eels in pies; yummy. Talk about sin and gag!







message 20: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments I recently went to the Minnesota State Fair.
I had never seen so many foods "served on a stick"
You haven't lived until you have tried Spaghetti on a stick, or fried turkey legs
followed by fried cheese curds.

My favorite was a heart attack in a cone called "frozen custard"......delicious.


message 21: by James (new)

James Nevius | 157 comments Sorry to have been away for a few days and not answered questions.

My objection to "Salt" and "Cod" were stylistic; I just didn't enjoy the prose very much.

My objection to Kurlansky's next book, "The Big Oyster," was that he got a lot of the early history of New York City wrong. I don't know much about oysters, but I do know a lot of about New York and I kept wincing as I read the book, thinking, "That's not quite right...." or "That's a gross oversimplification..." That made me question the whole book: if the basic NYC history was wrong, was the information about oysters wrong, too? Since I have no background, I can't say, but it made me find the whole project suspect.

But I looked at "The Food of a Younger Land" in a bookstore a couple of days ago and it seems like it is almost entirely the WPA writers from the 1930s, so I'm looking forward to adding to my never-ending list of things to read.




message 22: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Hi, James; I know the feeling of doubting it all based on knowledge of part. I've been involved in newsworthy events several times in my life and as I watched the news, I wondered where they got their info. It was wrong based on my experience, so then I doubt all news, history books, etc.


message 23: by Tom (new)

Tom Foolery (tomfoolery) | 89 comments That makes sense, James... and if he had things a bit off in one book, you do have to wonder about the others...


message 24: by Manuel (last edited May 28, 2009 10:26AM) (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments it reminds me of Glen Beck's recent visit to "The View".

Barbara Walters and the other ladies raked him over the coals about a story he told about them on his radio show.

Barbara asked him.....You're a journalist, dont you check you sources!!????"

He replied that he was'nt a journalist.........."just a commentator".

The ladies on The View were not happy with his answer, especially since he had participated in the alleged incident he reported.

They kept questioning his credibility on all his other comments.


message 25: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Recently I was taking a walk during my lunch hour (Carmel, California) and I overheard two men having an argument over the subject of hot dogs.

They were arguing over who had the better hot dog?
New York? or Chicago?

Having tried both, I couldn't help offering my opinion.

I had heard so much about Nathan's hot dogs for so long, I had to try one when I was in New York. I must say I was very disappointed. Im not used to garlic in my hot dogs. The experience was anti-climatic.

On the other hand, I loved Chicago hot dogs. The best dog I ever had was in O'Hare airport as I was changing planes. There was a long line at the hot dog stand, but I had 30 minutes to kill.
It turned out to be a complete meal, not just the dog, but cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers.....simply delicious.

any thoughts?


message 26: by James (new)

James Nevius | 157 comments Read The Jungle The Uncensored Original Edition; it'll put you off hot dogs for life! :-)


message 27: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Supposedly,
President Roosevelt threw his breakfast sausages out the window, while he was reading that book at the breakfast table at the White House.


message 28: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes on a hotdog would be enough to turn me off hotdogs and throw them out the window.


message 29: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments LOL
Will, so do I take it you like the New York dog?


message 30: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa At what point does a sausage become a hotdog?
Meat (sic) composition and type? Presentation (bun etc)?


message 31: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Good question Barbarossa...............
The Main Difference is the Origin and Ingredients.......

The genuine frankfurter comes from Neu-Isenburg a small town on the road from Frankfurt to Darmstadt. In the original is made of prime lean pork a little salted bacon fat and it is then finely chopped into a smooth paste put into pork casings and smoked. It is a high quality traditional German sausage.

The stuff we call hot dogs is made from very different stuff. One recipe calls for 27% each beef and pork "trimmings" (one can only guess what that means), 24% pig cheek, 13% tripe, and 9% pig heart. To this is added iced water at 1/3 the weight of the meat and it is stuffed into Narrow Bullock Runners and smoked. All sorts of variations exist with various additives and spices. Okerman's book lists over 100 different formulations and the list of possible additives approaches 50! Ich!

Probably the most famous American hot dog was originated by a guy named Nathan Handwerker and is still marketed as Nathan's Great Coney Island Frankfurter. It is 100% beef plus seasonings. Two very famous 1915 era entertainers, Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante (both of whom loved hot dogs) backed Nathan to open his business.

Prior to that time it is unclear who invented the American version and there are conflicting claims to that honor.





message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) We raised pigs one year & had a pig farmer as a neighbor. I helped butcher hogs a few different times. We never made hot dogs, but made sausage. Every batch was different, but basically any scrap meat went into a grinder during the butchering. The result was mixed with spices, which varied widely depending on the family, & the meat was then put into a sausage machine which stuffed it into store bought casings that were twisted as they came out to create links.

I knew of a few sausage makers that were available to borrow or use. Different nozzles allowed different size skins to be used, but I think there was also a different machine around too. Don't recall the details. I've heard that intestines used to be inverted, cleaned & stuffed for sausage. I never saw it done. Heard it was a lot of work & messy because a nick in the skin would blow out & the size wasn't regular or something.

I was told that hot dogs used a different kind of machine that rolled the ground meat into a paste & then it was rolled up. I think it was cooked in there at some point, but I don't know. No one in the area owned a hot dog maker.


message 33: by Will (last edited May 29, 2009 10:26AM) (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments I thought American hotdogs came from the New York or Chicago World's Fair where one guy was selling bread rolls and another was selling sausages but needed a way for people to hold them to eat, so they teamed up. NO? Maybe I'll research it, when I have the time...and remember it...and get around to it....

We used to make a lot of sausages on the ranch, mostly deer meat mixed with pork fat; and yes, we used intestines for casings. They made great hotdogs each year at the 4th of July picnic at my home.

Here in New Mexico a friend makes great sausages from elk meat with a very specific seasoning recipe. We cook them and eat them much like dogs on buns with pico de gallo.

For me, if it's in a bun, it's a hotdog. If it's not in a bun, it's a sausage. I just don't like cucumbers on them unless they're pickled...and never lettuce, ever; not on a dog.

I've never lived where they are referrred to as frankfurters. Some do call wieners franks, though. We mostly cook brats for hotdogs.

I actually cooked on the Johnsonville Grille, once--the largest grille in the world, pulled with a semi tractor. 700 brats at a time!



message 34: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Certainly not the first frankfurter but here is what I found:

1880 - A German peddler, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, sold hot sausages in the streets of St. Louis, Missouri. He would supply white gloves with each purchase so that his customers would not burn their hands while eating the sausage. He saw his profits going down because the customers kept taking the gloves and walking off with them. His wife suggested that he put the sausages in a split bun instead. He reportedly asked his brother-in-law, a baker, for help. The baker improvised long soft rolls that fit the meat, thus inventing the hot dog bun. When he did that, the hot dog was born. He called them red hots.


message 35: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa What are those South African sausages that you eat in a roll with sweet chutney?


message 36: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Those S African sausages are delicious, those Boers might be racists, but they cook a fantastic sausage. Unfortunately I dont remember what they are called.

My African studies teacher once served them to his students in his home.

Will those elk sausages sound tasty.
Regarding Chicago hot dogs: I too was skeptical about the Chicago dog, but I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful combination of flavors. Much superior to the New York dog.

Is it sill a hot dog, if its eaten with a tortilla?
We've been trying to cut down on carbs, so we chucked the buns and switched to tortillas.

Always been curious why buns come in packages of 8, but hot dogs come in packages of 10? I would have thought this problem would be fixed by now.



message 37: by Will (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments That's so you can snack on a couple while grilling them, Manuel.

I was in Costa Rica recently, where coffee is a big export crop. I was visiting with a coffee grower and I asked him how someone decided to roast, grind and percolate coffee originally. Here is what he told me.

In Java, they were burning to clear an area for farming. They noticed that the burnt beans of one plant smelled good so they made a stew from them, then had a lot of energy for working afterward. They began having that stew frequently and burning the beans on purpose.

Anyone ever heard something like that before? It sounds credible.


message 38: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited May 30, 2009 05:59AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Will wrote: "That's so you can snack on a couple while grilling them, Manuel.

I was in Costa Rica recently, where coffee is a big export crop. I was visiting with a coffee grower and I asked him how someo..."


I heard the coffee thing was started by a herder noticing his goats were wired and dancing...think it was in Ethiopia. Then coptic monks started to chew the beans to stay awake during long rituals. Also, from what I remember the early coffee drinkers used the leaf to brew it.
Can't remember my source though, sorry...
A stew from the beans, surely that would throw you into some kind of cardiac crisis?
Oh, this may be of interest: http://www.energyfiend.com/death-by-c...


message 39: by Mir (new)

Mir | 44 comments In the Devil's Garden A Sinful History of Forbidden Food is an interesting overview of foods that were forbidden in various times and places, and why.


message 40: by Manuel (last edited May 30, 2009 10:25AM) (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments I had heard the coffee theory mentioned by Will, but I thought the origin was in the middle east or horn of Africa.

What Im curious about is how someone discovered coffee made from the undigested coffee bean/droppings of the civet made for some of the "most delicious and expensive coffee in the world?".

Was someone too cheap or lazy to harvest fresh beans, they would rather roast the beans found in the droppings of this small cat-like jungle mammal?

I would love to have heard that conversation....
"Hey guys....you thought coffee was delicious, try this special roast made from this jungle manure!!!!???


message 41: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa At least they didn't make coffee from the beans that had been eaten in their own stew...


message 42: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments LOL
Maybe they did Barbarossa, but it was'nt as delicious as the civet?

I figure if your too lazy to pick your own beans, you might be lazy enough to recycle your own beans from your own stew.


message 43: by James (last edited May 30, 2009 02:31PM) (new)

James Nevius | 157 comments There is a interesting review in the Sunday book review of the WPA I had mentioned before (The Food of a Younger Land The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America).

The review is at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/boo...

My favorite line is about mashed potatoes:

"not only should there be a law against serving mashed potatoes, the writer argues, but 'a law against even the use of the words on menus.'"


message 44: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Question for Will...

Im curious about your cook book Will. What kind of cook book is it?





message 45: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Almost everyone I know
has a story about how pervasive the Canada Goose has become in our country.

They seem to be settling everywhere except Hawaii.

I wonder if they make good eating? They seem like hearty birds with a few pounds of meat of them.
Here in Carmel, they are everywhere that has a pond of stream. They are also on the golf courses, parks, baseball fields, polo grounds, lawns, cemeteries, pathways, bike trails, basically any open green space is invaded by them.


message 46: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads, Crazy Cat Lady (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 1011 comments Mod
I hear they are a bit stringy.


message 47: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments I was having lunch with some British friends the other day.

After lunch, I felt a bit decadent and ordered a brownie a la mode.

My British friends thought my brownie was delicious but they were more amused by the name ( a la mode)

I remembered the story I heard in one of my French classes in college.
According to my prof; during the turn of the 20th century, it was the custom in France to have a scoop of ice cream with cake or pastries.

Americans have always copied the French, and they began to order dessert according to the French custom .........a la mode, in the style of...., in the fashion of.....

Ironically, the practice was soon abandoned by the French, but the term and practice continues in America.


message 48: by James (new)

James Nevius | 157 comments There seems to be much disagreement about who coined "a la mode" as a synonym for "with ice cream," but it seems likely that it was popularized by Delmonico's, New York's most esteemed restaurant. They added pie a la mode to the menu sometime around World War I.

(PS: While a Delmonico's restaurant still exists in New York's financial district, it is not the same as the famous one from the 19th century; that restaurant went belly up during Prohibition. They found it too hard as the city's best-known eatery hiding their booze.)


message 49: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments You beat me to it James.
I was going to ask if Delmonico's still existed.




message 50: by Will (last edited Jun 11, 2009 07:28AM) (new)

Will Kester | 1047 comments Manuel wrote: "Question for Will...

Im curious about your cook book Will. What kind of cook book is it?"

Good question, Manuel. My best answer is, "It's not a typical cookbook." But that doesn't say what it IS. My best description of what I hope it is:

It's a fun read designed to help reluctant cooks learn to enjoy cooking, entertaining and experimenting with food, flavors and styles of cooking and sharing with frinds and loved ones. It's titled "Seven Courses of Love, Food and Fun."

I refuse to use the description "a la mode" even when I put ice cream on top, just as I refuse to use "entree" to mean "main course" as we do in America.

Quick story: A friend of mine in Paris' Alliance France School was learning French and ordered for the four of us in French, "Tres cafe au latte" and feeling like splurging added, "y un cafe au creme, por moi."

The waiter giggled and said, "They are the same, mademoiselle."


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