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A Wonderful Site About the History of Food

August 27, 2009

The Food Timeline!

A Facebook friend posted a link to this fascinating site. Beware, my food loving friends – it is quite the time sink. Along the timeline, you’ll find the approximate date that different food items evolved, were invented, or began to be used by humans. The site provides links to short articles from myriad references on everything from ice to sandwiches to kool-aid pickles. And of course, it includes my favorite, kale.

Some interesting highlights:

On Challah: “It was the Eastern European immigrants who put challah on the gastronomical map in the country. In biblical times…Sabbath bread was probably more like our present-day pita. Through the ages and as Jews moved to different lands the loaves varied. But only in America could Jews eat challah…every day of the week…Elsewhere a round challah at Rosh Hashanah became a symbol of life. Usually the Rosh Hashanah bread is formed in a circle, to signify the desire for a long life. At this point, local traditions diverge. Some people add saffron and raisins to make the bread just a little bit more special than a typical Friday-night loaf. In certain towns of Russia, the round challah was imprinted with the shape of a ladder on top, to symbolize the ascent to God on high…Many challot traditions were lost as a result of the Holocaust or because of Soviet religious suppression.”

An early American coconut recipe: “Cocoa Nut Puffs. Take a Cocoa Nut and dry it well before the fire, then grate it and add to it a good spoonfull of Butter, sugar to your tast, six Eggs with half the whites and 2 spoonfulls of rose water. Mix them all together and they must be well beat before they are put in the Oven.”

On the mass-marketing of banana bread: “Banana recipes began showing up in popular American Cookbooks in the 1880s. It is apparent that trendy Americans cooks were eager to include this new fruit in their meals. Most of the banana concoctions were simple adaptions of existing recipes. Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, Sarah Tyson Rorer [1902] contains isntructions for fried bananas, baked bananas, sliced bananas, banana pudding and banana cake in a special section titled “Hawaiian Recipes.” Other cookbooks contain recipes for banana ice cream, bananas en surprise (mashed bananas with strawberries), fruit salads with bananas and, of course, Jell-O molds with bananas inside. The banana split was invented in 1904.

Banana nut bread eventually became a mainstream staple item [ie included in many popular American cookbooks] by the 1920s. This coincided somewhat with the mass marketing of baking powder/soda, ingredients used to create “quick breads” [breads that did not require yeast]. Food companies flooded the American consumer market with recipes [we have one from this Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes [1933] to promote the use of their flour and baking soda products. Eventually these companies manufactured boxed mixes [instant cake mix was introduced in the late 1940s] for banana nut bread. You can still buy these today.”

Go and check it out for yourself! What a wonderful way to learn about the history of our cuisine – and our species.

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