As American as…
They are a symbol of home, of Americana, of simplicity. They are the classic way to finish off a meal — everyone saves room for pie — and if the menu offerings of McDonalds restaurants are to be trusted, we are all “Lovin’ it”. But the history of pie has been anything but easy.
You could say that pies date back as far as 9500 B.C. in Egypt, when the Egyptians began baking food into pastry shells in order to make them easier to transport. Evidence of these early pies can be seen on the walls of some Egyptian tombs, specifically that of Pharaoh Ramses. While often filled with sweets like honey, fruits and nuts, there were also “savoury” versions of pie which featured whole birds and vegetables. When this type of pie was prepared, the legs of the bird were left exposed through the pie shell to be used as handles.
The early Egyptians, did not enjoy the flakey, buttery crust we have today as the original pie crust was hard and not intended to be eaten; their crusts were considered a disposable baking dish. The majority of pies were made with covers, which were known as ‘coffyns’ (literally meaning basket or box) while the lidless pies were called ‘traps’. Egyptians shared pies with the Greeks, who turned over their recipes to the Romans who then took the notion of stuffing and baking pastry and spread it across their empire.
Pies slowly made their way into England, around the 12th century. Where they gained popularity. This is when people likely would have started eating the crust as it was passed down to servants after the people of the household ate the contents. By the 16th century, English chefs were creatively baking live birds into pies to be served as entertainment a dinner parties or Entremet. If you’ve ever sang the nursery rhyme A Song of Six-Pence as a child, you were singing a song from this point in time.
That which made pie easy to transport in its early days in Egypt, also made pie a natural choice for food to be brought over by colonial settlers traveling to America. Though there is no evidence of pies being served at any of the first feasts after the pilgrims landed, pies have become a staple of Thanksgiving dinners and the preferred choice of dessert for many American dinner tables.
We’ve already explained the significance of the traditional chef’s hat, but what about the rest of his uniform? Here are a few fun facts about a chef’s apparel:
1. In the mid nineteenth century, Chef Marie Antoine Careme introduced the white fabric into the chef’s uniform, believing that white symbolized cleanliness and professionalism. Most chef apparel remains white to this day.
2. The double-breasted chef’s coat has a hidden purpose: as well as being distinctive and fashionable, it is also reversible, allowing for chefs to hide stains when presenting themselves.
3. The size of a chef’s hat is equivalent to rank: a sous-chef’s hat would be smaller than the head chef’s, while that of a line worker’s would be smaller than that of a sous-chef.
Believe it or not, carrots were originally purple.
Food is delicious, fun to make, needed for survival and well, the best thing to ever happen to ones kitchen. But did you know:
Carrots used to be purple. Dutch growers in the late 16th century took mutant strains of the purple carrot, including yellow and white, and gradually developed them into the plump, crunchy veggie we have today.
The color of the twist tie on bread packaging actually means something? It signifies what day of the week the bread was baked on. The person stocking the shelves uses them to know whether or not the bed is too old to sell.
That Twinkies actually expire fairly quickly? When they were first introduced, they only had a shelf life of two days. By substituting chemicals for various dairy products and putting them in an air tight packaging, the shelf life has increased to 25 days.
That the color orange was names after the fruit? The word orange itself was introduced to English through the Spanish word “naranja”, which came from a Sanskrit work which literally means “orange tree”.
Street food is more than just hot dogs.
The concept of “street food” has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years, with the proliferation of gourmet food trucks and vendors (artisanal grilled cheese truck, anyone?). Although its become easier to get exotic street food experiences closer to home, its still worth visiting the following cities to get a taste (literally) of what local street vendors have to offer:
1. Bangkok, Thailand: Whole books have been written on the street food of Bangkok, and for good reason. In addition to noodle, curry, and made-to-order stands, one can also find stalls offering oyster omelettes, biryani, and the bright purple “butterfly pea juice”.
2. Penang, Malaysia: Penang has become the mecca of street food, thanks to the local street food culture and the hawker centres where delicacies can be purchased for pennies. Specialties include laksa, sambals, and “roti panggang,” a toasted flat bread smeared with coconut jam.
3. Tel Aviv, Israel: The street food in Tel Aviv is not to be missed, especially since it encompasses not only Israeli dishes, but also African and Middle Eastern fare. As well as falafel and shawarmas, stalls offer Turkish burekas and Tunisian sandwiches called Fricassees.
Although we may associate the fortune cookie with Chinese cuisine, it is, in fact, an all-American invention. The fortune cookie we know today is said to be inspired by a similar Japanese cookie made out of miso and sesame that also featured a fortune.
David Jung, owner of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles, claimed to have invented the standard fortune cookie in 1918. Despite its popularity in America, the fortune cookie has enjoyed little success in China; Chinese consumers have generally rejected the taste and the cookie itself as being “too American.”
It is said that soup is as old as cooking itself. It is a staple in the diets of almost every country and has been as long as anyone can remember. No one knows the true beginning of soup or the very first person to ever make it, but there are signs of the even cavemen new how to boil water and residue sticking to pots in the Iron and Bronze ages.
Soup likely started out as a watery, gruel-like substance that was sopped up with bread. In fact, the English definition of “sop” is: a piece of bread soaked in liquid: Between lunch and supper the second is usually a smaller meal. With a lighter supper came a lighter food, soup. The second meal started to be called “souper” which then transitioned in the word we know today: “supper.”
Soup has helped humans through some very hard times. In the Great Depression, soup kitchens served the poor and hopeless. Because soup can be made out of virtually any ingredients on hand, it can be an inexpensive source of nutrition. This method of helping those hungry and less fortunate continues today.
In 18th century Paris public soup houses started to become popular, they were called “restoratifs,” which is where are word for restaurant comes from. Some of the most popular, staple soups were created in France such as bouillon, broth and consommé.
From there soup has gained even more popularity with gourmet versions of classic recipes or trusted healing properties of homemade chicken noodle soup.
White truffles. Don’t let their appearance fool you.
In the mood for a culinary splurge? Look no further than this list of the world’s most costly ingredients.
1. White Truffles (up to $3600/lb): Only found in one particular area of Italy for a few months of the year, the white truffle earns its price due to its rarity. Scientists have yet to figure out how to domesticate this notoriously hard to find mushroom, so if you are craving the white truffle, be prepared to pay a pretty penny!
2. Saffron ($500-5000/lb): The spice saffron is made from the dried stigmas of the purple crocus flower. Seeing as each flower only possesses three stigmas, an acre of crocuses is required to manufacture one pound of this expensive spice.
3. Matsutake Mushrooms ($3000/kg): The survival of this Japanese mushroom is in danger, due to the fact that a parasite has been killing the pine trees upon which these mushrooms grow. With the mushrooms becoming rarer, the price has become steeper.
4. Almas Caviar ($34 000/kg): This “black gold” is produced from the eggs of a rare albino sturgeon between 60-100 years old, found in the southern Caspian Sea where there is less pollution.
There is no shortage of strange pub names, case in point, The Quiet Woman.
Ever wonder how your favorite pub got its name? Pub-naming traditions date back centuries, to the days when most customers would have been illiterate. Pictorial signs were hung instead of signs with words, so that people could associate the pub with the images on the sign. These images were often elements taken from noble coat of arms (the White Hart for Richard II, the Eagle and Childe for the Earls of Derby), animals, or occupations, among others.
Some seemingly nonsensical names are actually errors: Elephant and Castle is commonly thought to be a corruption of the name of a Spanish princess, “Infanta de Castile,” while Cat and the Fiddle is probably a corruption of “Caston la Fidèle”, one of King Edward III’s governors. Others, like the Pig and Whistle, are mispronunciations of Anglo-Saxon phrases; in this case piggin wassail, meaning “good health”.
Chanoyu Tea Ceremony
Tea is one of those magical substances that can perk you up, calm you down, soothe, and rejuvenate. Drinking a cup of tea can be a simple affair or an elaborate ritual. Here are a few fun facts about one of the world’s favorite beverages:
1. Tea is a natural source of fluoride that can help protect against tooth decay and gum disease, and has health benefits that help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.
2. Anna, Duchess of Bedford, is thought to have established the British tradition of afternoon tea. She would become hungry during the afternoon, and asked her servants to bring her sweets and a cup of tea to tie her over between breakfast and supper. She began sharing this ritual with her friends, and afternoon tea soon became popular among the aristocratic class and eventually the working classes.
3. The Japanese tea ceremony, or the Chanoyu, is a time honored tradition that is dictated by the concept of hospitality. The bowl of tea is meant to be prepared “from one’s heart,” and everything from the host’s physical gestures to the placement of tea utensils is directed at the guest.
4. In Tibet, it’s common practice to mix yak butter and salt with your tea. The people of Tibet are known to drink up to 40 cups of this butter tea a day!
The acai berry has acquired a reputation as a superfood, product that include this ingredient are claiming lofty effects such as appetite suppression and weight loss, but how much of the hype is true? Turns out that many of the supposed “health benefits” are nothing more than marketing scams. One claim is true: the acai berry is high in antioxidants, which fight radicals that can lead to heart disease and cancer. However, other fruits, such as pomegranates and blueberries, contain higher levels of antioxidants! Conclusion? Before shelling out money for expensive acai products, peruse your local produce section to find cheaper and healthier alternatives.
Source: Canadian Living