Thanksgiving Special: Get Stuffed


ImageI’ve heard some argue that when stuffing (also known as dressing, although that is a hotly debated topic) is done right it can be the highlight of a Thanksgiving meal. With so many delicious food options, this may be a somewhat controversial viewpoint. What can’t be denied though is that humans have thought that stuffing was a damn good idea long before the first Thanksgiving or the discovery of the New World.

The exact origin of stuffing can’t be exactly pinpointed. However, I would imagine that the practice has occurred ever since people have been ripping the entrails out of carcasses. Many seem to have forgotten that stuffing is supposed to be on the inside of an animal, not in a baking dish next to it.

The first written record of stuffing fares from the Roman Empire in a cookbook titled De Re Coquinaria. It contained recipes for a variety of stuffed animals; including hares, pigs and chickens. For the most part the stuffing consisted of a variety of vegetables, spices, nuts and herbs, as well as spelt and organ meat. It of course wasn’t called ‘stuffing’ at the time, in fact that word didn’t appear in print until about 1538. Prior to this, it was mostly referred to as farce which came from the Latin farcire which meant ‘to stuff.’ By the Victorian era, the word ‘stuffing’ became a little too crass for 19th century sensibilities and was thusly referred to as dressing instead, which we of course know is still used today interchangeably.

It can’t be known exactly when stuffing became popular in America, however, written evidence shows that it was a Thanksgiving staple by at least 1836. It’s more than likely that it has been utilised far earlier though, after all, there was already a long historical tradition of the practice. Also, you gotta stuff a bird with something. What we do know for sure is that different parts of the nation adapted the dish early on in order to incorporate local flavours. For example, in the Boston area oyster based stuffings are incredibly popular. One of the earliest printed recipes is from the 1832 Cook’s Own Book which instructed “Fill your chickens with young oysters cut small, truffles, parsley and spices, and roast them.” Comparatively, New England stuffing at the time tended to incorporate chestnuts, and often continues to today. In the South, cornbread based stuffing is the way to go, although they tend to refer to it as the aforementioned dressing.

There’s no evidence to show exactly when stuffing left the animal cavities and became a side dish onto itself. However, it could be argued that it at least became widespread during the early 1970s. This was due to the the release of Ruth Siems’ Stovetop Stuffing in 1972 by General Foods, which is now known as Kraft Foods. It was quick, convenient and tasty, and therefore was an instant hit. Today, over sixty millions boxes are sold every year at Thanksgiving time. As an Australian, I still don’t quite understand the idea of a roasting pan full of stuffing. As a historian, I think I’m obliged to examine the matter by making a huge batch for this years Friendsgiving I’m attending. All in the name of research, of course.

Thanksgiving Special: A Shortcrust History of Pumpkin Pie


Pumpkin-Pie-ImageIf you’re in the USA you’re undoubtedly getting ready for one of the biggest feast days of the year – Thanksgiving. Perhaps your thoughts are already being filled by the delicious delicacies that you’ll be treating yourself to. Turkey, stuffing, mac n’ cheese, green bean casserole and of course – pumpkin pie. It may surprise you discover that this Fall dessert, whilst delectable, wasn’t found on the tables at the first Thanksgiving. Nor did it originate in the New World. In fact, it’s far more of a modern day staple for Turkey Day.

Evidence suggests that pumpkins originated in South America over seven thousand years ago and overtime also became native to New England. It’s believed that Native Americans traditionally prepared pumpkins by cooking them in slices over the hot coals of their fires. The vegetables began being exported to England and France during the Tudor period and the versatility of them were quickly recognised, including using them as a filler.

Pumpkin pies as we know them today were developed in the mid seventeenth century in France. Renowned chef Francois Pierre la Varenne created a recipe for a pompion torte – a pastry crust with a sweet pumpkin filling. Similar recipes began appearing in English cook books by 1675, one of the most notable being Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion.Meanwhile, it took 150 years for Varenne’s creation to begin appearing in American cookbooks, and it was only then that the pies began become a common item at the Thanksgiving table.

However, despite this beloved pie not being present at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the vegetable itself certainly was. Pilgrims had brought pumpkin recipes with them on the Mayflower that were sweeter than that of the the Native Americans. In fact, they served a kind of pudding at the iconic dinner which involve hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with milk, honey and spices. It was then baked in hot ashes.

Regardless of the pie’s origin, it continues to be a staple at American Thanksgiving dinner tables today, as well as a symbol of the Fall season in general. With that it mind, you should probably go and have a slice.

From Tudors to Turducken: An Engastration Tale


Greetings, food history lovers.

I’d like to start this post by thanking Sally Evans for choosing this topic and for her donation to the Delicious History Podcast Project! Part of her prize was getting to choose something for me to write about, and she definitely chose wisely. Now let’s explore the world of monster-roasts!

Engastration is the proper term that is used to describe the act of stuffing an animal into the insides of another animal, and then cooking it. A charming description, I know.

Arguably the most famous engastration creation is the Turducken – A de-boned chicken stuffed inside a de-boned duck, stuffed inside a de-boned turkey. The exact origin of the Turducken is debated, however, Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme claims to have invented it and managed to secure a patent on the recipe in 1987.  It was then further popularised by American football commentator John Madden during the NFL. He also promoted it on Fox Sports by feeding it to the Thanksgiving Bowl winners.

Despite the three-bird feast being in the public eye for a relatively short period of time, the tradition of multi-bird and multi-animal roasts have a long history. This is unsurprising if one considers humanities love for playing God. Some historians claim that these roasts emerged during the middle ages, while others believe they can be traced back to ancient times.

Although there are literally hundreds of variations, today we’re going to be looking at some of the more notable edible monstrosities from history.

Tudor Christmas Pie – It actually looks quite palatable…from the outside

Tudor Christmas Pie

The Tudors are known for their overly gluttonous feasts, and their Christmas Pie certainly fits the mold. It consisted of a coffin shape pie crust that enveloped a turkey stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a pigeon. The tradition of this extravagant pie lived on, and a similar recipe can be found in The Art of Cookery, which was published in 1747. It also became fashionable to serve these pies cold during the 19th century, which is something I think I would find rather hard to stomach.

Cooking these multi bird roasts inside a pie was a common practice at the time due to the use of fire for cooking, as opposed to ovens. If cooked on their own, the outer layers of meat would become tough and dry.

Cockentrice

Not satisfied with merely stuffing creatures into one another, the Tudors can also be attributed with combining animals for their feasts. The most famous is the cockentrice – a pig and a capon that are sewed together to create a new mythical beast. It was born out of Henry VIII’s uncontrollable desire to impress the King of France by throwing a £5 million on a literal meat feast. In addition to the cockentrice, the celebration also consisted of 2000 sheep, 1000 chickens and a dolphin. Because, y’now, that’s necessary.

A similar creation to this is the Helmeted Cock, which first appeared in medieval French cookbook Le Viandier de Tailleven. As opposed to sewing the two animals together, the capon rides the pig and is outfitted in the coat of arms of the honoured Lords who are present.

Rôti Sans Pareil

Translated to ‘Roast Without Equal’, this was created by 19th century French gastronomist Grimod de la Reynière. This testament to human will consisted of seventeen birds that were stuffed in the following order:

  • The Helmeted Cock
  • Giant Bustard
  • Turkey
  • Goose
  • Pheasant
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Guinea Fowl
  • Teal
  • Woodcock
  • Partridge
  • Plover
  • Lapwing
  • Quail
  • Thrush (not the disease)
  • Lark
  • Bunting
  • Warbler

Reynière even published the recipe for his creation in a volume of L’Almanach des Gourmands. Because obviously this is something that people would want to make on a regular basis, and clearly gives Jamie’s 15-Minutes Meals a run for its money.

 

Kiviak

This one isn’t for the faint hearted, nor the weak stomached.

Kiviak is a traditional winter food of Greenlandic Inuits that involves obtaining roughly 400 auks (a type of sea bird) and stuffing them into a seal carcass. In case you were wondering, this includes their feathers, beaks and feet too. Seal grease is applied in order to prevent spoilage and then the entire thing is covered by a large rock pie and fermented for 3 – 18 months. Once the carcass is unburied everything is consumed…raw.

Thanks for joining me on this exploration into the realm of culinary monstrosities! To finish, I’d like yo know if any of you out there have tried a Turducken or any other multi-animal roast. If not, would you be game?

The Delicious History Podcast Project


Greetings, Food History Lovers!

It was a year ago that I first started this blog. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’ve be fortunate enough to find that there are quite a few people out there who are interested in the tasty world of Food History. I now want to take the next step in sharing my food related historical tidbits with the world by creating a companion podcast to go with the website. I think it will be an fantastic way to build a larger following, as well as prove how fun and delicious history can be. Who doesn’t love a little food and humour with their education

Now here’s the tricky part. Thanks to a recent redundancy, I need your help you make this dream a reality. Podcasts need equipment, software, media hosting, artwork, and music – all of which need to be paid for. Because I can’t rely on the kindness of retailers to simply give me the resources I need, I’m hoping that some of my beloved readers can help me to get Delicious History onto the internet airwaves.The best part about pledging to the Delicious History Podcast Project is that every donation entitles you to a reward. That’s right, if we hit our target you not only get Delicious History in your earbuds, you also get a BONUS PRIZE. What’s not to love?

So if you love food, history or my good self, please help get Delicious History into an iTunes store near you! If you also wouldn’t mind reblogging or sharing the project with your friends and other fellow history lovers, I’d be eternally grateful.

Simply follow the link below for more info or to make a pledge –

Delicious History Podcast Project

Thank you in advance for supporting Delicious History and for making this first year in the blogosphere truly amazing.

Marshmallows – An Australian Bush Fire Special


For all of my international readers that aren’t aware, New South Wales has been issued with a Catastrophic fire danger level for tomorrow. Temperatures are set to be around 41 degrees celsius (roughly 106 degrees farenheit) and this kind of weather almost always ends in disastrous bush fires. As a distraction, I thought that I could use our impending doom as inspiration for a fire-centric post on marshmallows. Whipping out a bag during a bush fire wouldn’t be my highest priority, however, under SAFE circumstances there’s nothng wrong with cooking those babies under a nice NON-CATASTROPHIC flame. Mmm, survivalicious.

The Marshmallow Plant

Now, I hope you’re sitting down and have your smelling salts handy, because I’m about to drop a knowledge bomb on you all. Marshmallow is actually derived from a plant. That’s right, it’s organic and not a purely factory produced diabetes inhibitor. The Marshmallow Plant, or, Althaea Officinalis, is native to the wet marshy regions of Europe and West Africa. Hence the name. Greek physician Dioscorides advised that marshmallow extracts be used in treating wounds and inflammations. During the Renaissance, extracts from the plant’s roots and leaves were used for medicinal purposes, namely as an anti-inflamatory and soothing agent for sore throats.

The modern marshmallow confection is a mid-19th century French Invention and was a cross between a medicinal lozenge and a bonbon. Originally, the plant’s root juices were combined with eggs and sugar and then beaten into a foamy paste. The plant extracts were later replaced by gelatin, which still gave the candy its signature pillowy texture and, given its ready availabilty, allowed for quicker, less labour intensive production.

Original Campfire Marshmallow tins

It’s unknown when people first began roasting marshmallows over a fire. However, the product Campfire Marshmallows have been popular in the USA since 1917, when the Imperial Candy Company introduced the delicious treats with packaging that recommended roasting the product over fires.

But what about S’mores? Although this treat isn’t particularly popular in Australia, it would be doing the history of marshmallows an injustice to exclude them.

For those who are unaware, S’mores consist of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two Graham Crackers. The name is a contraction of the phrase “Some More.” While the origin of the dessert is unclear, the first recorded version of the recipe can be found in the 1927 publication “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.” The recipe is credited to Loretta Scott Crew, who reportedly made them by the campfire for the Scouts. It is unknown whether the Girl Scouts were the first to make S’mores, but there appears to be no earlier claim to their origin or invention. Although it is unknown when the name was shortened, recipes for “Some Mores” are in various Girl Scout publications until at least 1973.

So there you have it folks, just a few little historical snippets about marshmallows. I hope that all of you who are currently in Winter run straight to a fire to roast one. In the meantime, us Australians will continue running from any sign of fire.

Choctoberfest: The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Accident


Unlike so very many of the origin stories here at Delicious History, the creation of the Chocolate Chip Cookie isn’t disputed.

I’ll give you a moment to get over the shock.

Despite its lack of ambiguity, the invention of this tasty treat is quite an interesting little tale. So go ahead and grab a cookie and a glass of milk, and read on.

The creation of the Chocolate Chip Cookie is attributed to Ruth Wakefield, who invented it at her Toll House in Massachusetts. This was a very popular restaurant that featured home cooking during the 1930s. The restaurant’s popularity was not only due to the style of meals, but also Wakefield’s policy of providing diners with extra helpings to take home, as well as serving homemade cookies for dessert.

Ruth Wakefield: Hero

One of Ruth’s favorite recipes was Chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies, which I think sounds like some kind of dance. The recipe called for the use of baker’s chocolate, and one day Ruth found herself without the needed ingredient. She substituted it for a semi-sweet chocolate bar cut roughly into small pieces. However, unlike the baker’s chocolate, the chopped up pieces didn’t melt. They only softened.  This may have been an accident, but it certainly was a profitable one. The cookies were an absolute hit and customers began to ask for the recipe.

Conveniently enough, the chocolate bar used for the cookies had been a gift from Andrew Nestle. I’m sure you recognize the name. As the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe gained in popularity, sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also increased. As a consequence, Andrew Nestle and Ruth Wakefield struck a deal. Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its packaging, and Wakefield would have a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. A fair deal? Perhaps not, but I like the sound of a lifetime supply of chocolate and being immortalized as the inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Wakefield released a cookbook in 1936 titled Toll House Tried and True Recipes, which featured the original chocolate chip cookie recipe under the name ‘Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies’.  The recipe can be found RIGHT HERE:

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Method

  • Sift flour together with salt and set aside.
  • Cream together butter and sugars. Add the eggs mixing until combined. Dissolve baking soda in hot water and add alternately with flour mixture.
  • Add vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours. (WHAT!? I don’t want to wait that long for my cookies!)
  • Preheat oven to 190°C.
  • Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls refrigerated dough and roll between hands into a ball. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and press ball down to flatten.
  • Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool cookies on the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate at War!


I bet that caught everyone’s attention!

Today we’ll be continuing Choctoberfest with a look at the role of chocolate during wartime. Interestingly enough, I don’t mean chocolate on the Homefront. This is purely an insight into how chocolate played a role in the US military during wartime. Pretty cool, huh?

Strangely,  Hershey’s have produced more than just their signature Kisses and crazy delicious Cookies and Cream Bars in the past. In fact, they’ve been heavily involved in providing rations for soldiers since before WWII .

Hershey’s involvement with the production of military rations began when Army Quartermaster Captain Paul Logan met with William Murrie, President of Hershey’s Chocolate, in April 1937. This visit resulted in the experimental production of a ration bar which would meet the needs of troops during wartime.

Unfortunately, ordinary chocolate bars melt far too easily in the summer heat, and therefore wouldn’t be viable for a soldier to carry around. Furthermore, normal bars were considered to be too tempting to be used as an emergency ration. As such,  Captain Logan outlined strict requirements for the bar, with was to be called The D Ration:

– Weigh four ounces (113.398 grams)
– Able to withstand high temperatures
– High in food energy value/calories
– Taste only marginally better than a boiled potato. Yum.

The D Ration Bar

Unfortunately, the Hershey chemists may have erred too much on the side of un-palatability. The D Ration was almost universally detested, and was often discarded or traded for more appetizing foods from unsuspecting civilians. Troops called the bar “Hitler’s Secret Weapon” due to its effect on soldier’s intestinal tracts. Also, because of how chewy it was, it couldn’t be eaten by soldiers with poor dentition. Even those with good dental work often found it necessary to shave slices off the bar with a knife in order to consume it.

The first of the Field Ration D bars were tested in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama and at various Army posts throughout the US. The results of the test were satisfactory and Field Ration ‘D’ was approved for wartime use.

In 1939, Hershey was able to produce 100,000 units per day. By the end of 1945, production lines on three floors of the plant were producing approximately 24 million units per week. It has been estimated that between 1940 and 1945, over three billion ration units were produced and distributed to soldiers around the world.

Mmm, appetizing

In 1943, the US Army inquired about the possibility of obtaining a heat resistant bar that didn’t taste like absolute arse. After a short period of experimentation, Hershey’s Tropical Chocolate Bar was added to the list of wartime production items. This bar was destined to replace the D Ration by 1945. In July of 1971, Hershey’s Tropical Bar went to the moon with the Apollo 15 team. Reports state that it was only a slight improvement on the original D Ration bar.

In recognition of its outstanding war effort, Hershey’s was awarded the Army-Navy ‘E’ Production Award in 1942. The Corporation received a flag to fly above the chocolate plant and a lapel pin for every employee. The award was presented for exceeding all production expectations in the manufacturing of an Emergency Field Ration. This wartime honour recognized companies that consistently met high standards of quality and quantity in light of available resources. By the end of WWII, Hershey’s would receive a total of five Army-Navy ‘E’ awards.

Production of the D ration bar was discontinued at the end of WWII. However, Hershey’s Tropical Bar remained a standard ration for the United States Armed Forces. The Tropical Bar saw action in Korea and Vietnam before being declared obsolete.

The only slightly better tasting Tropical Bar

In the late 1980s, the US Army Lab created a new high-temperature chocolate bar that could withstand heat in excess of 60 °C (140 °F). It was dubbed The Congo Bar, and 144, 000 were shipped out to troops during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. While Army spokesmen said that the bar’s taste was good, troop reactions were mixed and the bar was not put into full production.

The Gulf War ended before all bars could be shipped, so the remainder was packaged in a desert camo wrapper and was dubbed the Desert Bar. It proved to be a brief novelty for consumers, but Hershey declined to make more after supplies ran out.

So it seems that chocolate has had quite a significant influence on 20th century militaristic history, even if it wasn’t particularly sweet. In closing, here are a few more interesting wartime facts about chocolate:

Advertisement for the Cadbury Ration Bar

– Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate came off the shelves in 1941 when the government banned manufacturers from using fresh milk. Instead, they released Ration Chocolate, made with dried skimmed milk powder.

– The Nazi’s began producing bombs that were disguised as chocolate bars. A more in-depth look at this amazing story can be found in one of my older posts – Death by Chocolate:  Hitler’s Camouflaged Bomb Plot

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