Choctoberfest: The Origin of the Brownie


Happy Choctober, everybody! You’re right, it *is* way better than Ocsober.

For the entirety of this month I’ll be posting chocolate-centric articles for your reading pleasure.

Disclaimer – Delicious History will in no way be held responsible for any severe chocolate cravings resulting from the reading these posts.

Without further ado, let’s kickoff Choctoberfest with a much beloved favourite – The Chocolate Brownie. I highly recommend that you pause for a moment to get yourself a glass of milk to accompany this.

A original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book

The name ‘brownie’ first appeared in the 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, where it describes molasses cakes baked individually in small tins. For those who are unfamiliar with molasses, it’s a kind of syrup that comes from the beating of cane sugar, grapes or sugar beets. Personally, I’ll stick to the chocolate variety of brownies. Thanks for asking though.

The origin of the  brownie is thought to be American and to derive its name not only from the colour, but also the elfin characters featured in the popular stories and verses by author Palmer Cox. The Eastman Kodak Brownie camera was also named after these elves.

Unfortunately, like so many food explorations here at Delicious History, the exact origin of the chocolate brownie is shrouded in myth. There are in fact several legends involving how they came to be:

– A chef mistakenly added melted chocolate to a batch of biscuits
– A cook was baking a cake but didn’t have enough flour
– A housewife in Bangor, Maine was making a chocolate cake but forgot to add baking powder. When her cake didn’t rise properly she cut and served the flat pieces.

The latter tale is the most widely circulated and is even cited in Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics and John Mariani’s The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.

The earliest published recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in the Boston Daily Globe on 2 April 1905. It read:

BANGOR BROWNIES. Cream 1/2 cup butter, add 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 squares of chocolate (melted), 1/2 cup broken walnuts meats, 1/2 cup flour. Spread thin in buttered pans. Bake in moderate oven, and cut before cold.

Culinary historians have traced the first appearance of the brownie in a recipe book to the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is an early, less rich version of the brownie we know, love and nom today.

The second recipe for brownies, appearing in 1907, was in Lowney’s Cook Book. The recipe added both an extra egg and additional chocolate to the Cooking-School recipe, thus creating a richer brownie. She named the recipe Bangor Brownies. This of course assists the origin theory of the housewife who forgot to add the baking soda.

The original 1907 recipe publication of Bangor Brownies

The use of the terms ‘Bangor Brownies’ or sometimes ‘Boston Brownies’ continued into the 1950s. It also took until the Roaring Twenties for brownies to become a national staple.

It goes without saying how popular chocolate brownies remain today. Any self-respecting dessert queen has a killer recipe in her repertoire, and you can find them in most cafes and bakeries. Suffice to say, they have come a long way since first being made with molasses…

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to hear it in your earbuds? If so, I humbly ask you to take the time to donate $1 to the Delicious History Podcast Project.Only $500 is needed make this dream a reality, and all donations over $10 receive a reward! 

What does German Chocolate Cake, French Toast and White Russians Have in Common?


Hello food history lovers!

Today I intend to answer a question that has been plaguing mankind since the dawn of time. A question that perplexed the likes of Gallileo, Socrates and Plato. A question of such magnitude, that I almost fear answering it.

What does German Chocolate Cake, French Toast and White Russians have in common?

Three seemingly unrelated consumables. All delicious. All fairing from different corners of the Earth. What could possibly link them?

The answer?

None of them were invented in the countries that grace their names.

Are you terribly shocked and appalled? That’s a natural reaction. I’ll give you a moment to fetch your smelling salts…

Recovered? Excellent. Let us then move onto the exploration of the origins of these three individuals and how each of them acquired their incredibly misleading names.

 

This, in actual fact, needs to get in me immediately

German Chocolate Cake

The roots of this rich and delicious mistress can be traced back to 1852 when an American by the name of Sam German developed a brand of dark baking chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company. The product, German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named after him.

In 1957, the original recipe for ‘German’s Chocolate Cake’ was sent into a Dallas newspaper by a local homemaker. The recipe utilized German’s dark baking chocolate, and it became quite popular. General Foods, which owned the Baker’s brand, took notice and distributed the cake recipe to other newspapers across the country. Sales of Baker’s Chocolate is said to have increased by 73% and the cake itself became a national staple. The possessive form, ‘German’s’, was dropped in subsequent publications, which resulted in it being referred to as ‘German Chocolate Cake’. The outcome? The false impression of a German origin for the dessert.

Nom nom, French Toast

French Toast

French toast existed long before France was established as a country. The exact origins of French Toast are unknown, but it’s unsurprising that humans developed the recipe quickly, given that it is traditionally made out of stale bread. Bread has been a staple of most cultures since food preparation first began. Coupling this with a rejection of food wastage (which is really only something that is acceptable in modern society), it’s unsurprising that man had to find a way to make stale bread palatable.

The earliest reference to doing this dates back to 4th century Rome, in a cookbook attributed to Apicius. This style of toast was called Pan Dulcis. The Romans would take the bread and soak it in a milk and egg mixture, and then cook it, typically frying it in oil or butter.

This practice of cooking stale bread became common throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. In fact, the name for French Toast in France is “pain perdu”, which literally means “lost bread”. There are some that still insist that French Toast  originated in France, however, it’s interesting to note that before the French called it “pain perdu”, they called it “pain a la Romaine” (Roman bread).

So why is this clever concoction attributed to the French? One theory is that it’s reminiscent of French cooking before the invention of proper refrigeration. It’s said that many of their rich, heavy and creamy sauces were created to hide the fact that the meat or fish in the dish was, or was very nearly off.

Me thinks this would go quite well with the German Chocolate Cake

White Russians

This origin story is quite short, and most definitely sweet.

The White Russian is the sister cocktail of the Black Russian – a drink concocted from vodka and coffee liqueur. Both initially appeared in 1949 and were invented Belgium Bartender  Gustave Tops. Black Russians transform into White Russians with the simple addition of cream. Neither drink is Russian in origin, but were named due to vodka being the primary ingredient. It is unclear which drink preceded the other.

 

 

BOOM! That’s the sound of knowledge bombs blowing up everywhere. I do love a good debunking, so I naturally loved writing this post. In closing I pose this question – Do you know of any other food names that are misleading or outright incorrect? I’d love to hear about them.

The Last Meals of the Damned: Part Two


A few months ago I published a post on the last meals of criminals on death row. It was rather dark and macabre, and for that reason I’m doing it again! That and the fact that it was the most keen my boyfriend has ever been about reading my blog.

Philip Workman – Possibly Innocent?

Philip Workman

Philip Workman was convicted of the murder of a police office that occurred during a failed robbery of a Wendy’s in Tennessee.

Workman’s guilt remains controversial. Five of the jurors that convicted him have since signed affidavits renouncing either the sentence or the verdict. They cited both medical and ballistics evidence, unheard during the trial, that suggested the fatal shot was inconsistent with the bullets in Workman’s gun and were possibly accidental shots from other officers. Furthermore, one witness for the prosecution was found to have lied in his testimony.

Charges – Murder in the first degree

Execution – Death by lethal injection in Tennessee in 2007

Last Meal- Workman requested that a large vegetarian pizza be given to a homeless person in Nashville. Prison officials denied his request, but homeless shelters across the state received pizzas from all over the country in honour of his last request

Ronnie Lee Gardner

Ronnie Lee Gardner

Gardner was already on trial for the murder of a man during a robbery when he fatally shot an attorney in an failed escape attempt.

Charges – Two counts of murder in the first degree. He received life imprisonment for the initial murder and the death penalty for the second.

Execution – Death by firing squad in Utah in 2010.

Last Meal – Steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7-up. What I found cool was that he also spent his final hours watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

James Edward Smith – You remind me of a man…

James Edward Smith

Former Tarot card reader, Smith, like our previous two subjects, shot a man during a robbery attempt. Smith’s mother recalled that he was a loving and kind child until he began practicing black magic, voodooism and witchcraft.

Smith claimed to have participated in six ritualistic killings prior to his arrest. He also claimed that he had thrown the corpse of a one-year-old infant over a bridge after being beheaded as a sacrifice to a voodoo god.

Charges – Murder in the first degree

Execution – Death by lethal injection in 1990 in Texas

Last Meal – Smith requested a lump of dirt for a Voodoo ritual. His request was denied and he settled for a small cup of yogurt instead.

Lawrence Brewer – Ruined it for everyone

Lawrence Russell Brewer

A rampant white supremacist, Brewer and three other men offered a lift to a young black man who was walking home from a party. They proceeded to tie his feet with a chain and drag him behind the back of their truck. Eventually they decapitated the man and left him on the side of the road.

Charges – Kidnapping and murder in the first degree.

Execution – Death by lethal injection in Texas in 2011

Last Meal: Two chicken-fried steaks, one pound of barbecued meat, a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger, a meat-lovers pizza, three fajitas, an omelet, a bowl of okra, one pint of icecream, peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts and three root beers.

Brewer did not eat any of his epic meal, which resulted in the laws for last meals in Texas being changed. Inmates no longer receive a special choice. Dick move, Brewer.

That’s it for now, I’ll see you all next time. Have a happy Macbre Monday.

Famous Last Meals: Part Two


Last Month, I started a series on the last meals of the rich and famous. I’m very excited to continue this after such a long hiatus. My apologies for that by the way, work has been a bit of a nightmare. The good news is that I do in fact still have a job and am thus able to continue funding my internet connection and tea addiction.

With the explanations out of the way, let’s crack on, shall we?

Second Class Passengers of the Titanic
Death – 1912 from a rather pesky iceberg sitting in the middle of the North Atlantic.

In my previous post,  I discussed the rather extravagant final meal of the 1st class passengers. As it turns out, the 2nd class passengers did pretty well for themselves too.

Let’s take a peek at the menu:

Consomme
Tapioca
Baked Haddock with sharp sauce
Curried chicken with rice
Spring lamb with mint sauce
Roast Turkey with cranberry sauce
Green peas
Puree turnips
Boiled rice
Boiled and roast potatoes
Plum pudding
Wine jelly
Coconut sandwich
Ice cream
Assorted nuts
Fresh fruit
Cheese biscuits
Coffee

As far as last meals go, I must say that I’m rather impressed. I’ll be interested to see whether I can uncover the final meal of those in steerage for my next post.

Abraham Lincoln
Death – Assassinated by John Wilkes-Booth in the Presidential Box of Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

Before Old Abe’s literal final curtain (Sorry, I know that was bad), he dined at  the White House on Clear Mock Turtle Soup, roast Virginia fowl with chestnut stuffing, baked yams and cauliflower with cheese sauce.

Jimi Hendrix
Death – 1970 after taking 9 sleeping pills and choking on his own vomit. Delicious.

Uncontested rock God and Woodstock icon, Jimi Hendrix (despite is rather Rock n Roll style death) had a somewhat less than revolutionary final meal before his accidental overdose – a simple tuna sandwich.

JFK
Death – Assassinated in 1963 by a gunshot wound to the head that totally came from the School Book Depository and definitely not from the Grassy Knoll, despite what forensic and video evidence suggests.

JFK’s final breakfast was consumed at a meeting with supporters before his fateful Dallas motorcade. It was supposedly quite typical of the pragmatic President – orange juice, coffee, soft-boiled eggs, bacon, and toast with marmalade.

Hitler
Death – Suicide in 1945, alongside his mistress-turned-wife, Eva Braun. A shot to his temple was the method of choice, whereas his bride of less than 48 hours swallowed a cyanide capsule.

Hitler became a vegetarian after the suicide of his niece, Geli Raubal. On a side note, I highly recommend that you read up on that inappropriate train wreck of a relationship.

Despite often being caught eating meat, Hitler’s final meal adhered to his vegetarian diet. It consisted of a simple vegetable soup with mashed potatoes.

That’ it for now, kids. I promise that with my life settling down a bit there won’t be such large gaps in  between posts. I look forward to throwing more food related history at you soon.

Eggs Benedict – The Breakfast Food of Champions


I strongly believe that the greatest example of human advancement is breakfast foods. A controversial statement, I know. For those who would argue that advances in technology, infrastructure and medical research are more worthy candidates for this honour – I’m afraid that you’re terribly misguided and need to spend some serious time reflecting on your life.

So, why am I of this opinion? Think about it – sweet AND savoury flavours are socially accepted norms at the breakfast table. You simply cannot beat that.

I’d have to say that my favourite breakfast concoction is Eggs Benedict. Why? Because I’m not a commy bastard, that’s why.

As per usual, there are conflicting accounts of how this magically delicious meal came to be. Here’s a couple of the more interesting ones:

The earliest account of the Benedict comes from the 1860s.  Credit is given to Delmonico’s Restaurant – the first restaurant/dining hall to be opened in the United States.  A regular patron of the restaurant, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, was bored with the menu and asked the chef,  Charles Ranhofer, whether there was anything new he could cook for her. He suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, topped with hollandaise sauce and a truffle.

I wish being a demanding bitch resulted in getting a delicious breakfast dish named after me. I suppose having a name such as ‘LeGrand’ would help.

Ranhofer went onto include a recipe for Eggs Benedict in a cookbook that he published in 1894. He called it ‘Eggs à la Benedick’, and had by this time removed the truffle from the list of ingredients.

The Lovely Katie took a photo of the delicious looking Eggs Benedict she had over the weekend. As you may notice it includes spinach. I knew I wasn’t crazy…

1894 seems to be intimately intertwined with the history of the Benedict, because it’s from this year that my favourite account of its creation hails. This story first appeared in an issue of the New Yorker from 1942, and was based on an interview with one Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street broker.

Mr. Benedict claimed that he was dining at the The Waldorf one morning whilst suffering from a particularly nasty hangover. In order to combat his ailment he ordered “some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce” The Waldorf’s chef, Oscar Tschirky, was so impressed with this invention that he put the dish on his breakfast and luncheon menus. Are you at all surprised that the Benedict may have started out as a therapeutic hangover cure? Me either.

Meanwhile, I’m going to personally crusade to bring back the term ‘hooker’ as a name for crockery and containers.

“Honey, can you put the gravy hooker on the table?”

So kids, I have a bit of a confession to make. After many years of eating Eggs Bennie, I have only recently discovered that traditional recipes do not include spinach, despite the fact that I always seem to get it in restaurants. As many of you are probably aware, spinach is in fact a substitute for the ham or bacon, which renders the dish as Eggs Florentine. Despite the error of my ways, I stand firmly by the belief that the Benedict is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of spinach, and not just because it makes me strong like Popeye.

My discovery (and subsequent food-knowledge shame) inspired me to look up other variations of Eggs Benedict – and good lord are there a lot of them.  Enjoy the long and fascinating list!

  • Eggs Blackstone – adds a tomato slice. OUTRAGEOUS.
  • Eggs Florentine – As discussed,  substitutes spinach for the ham.
  • Eggs Mornay – Surprise, surprise, it substitutes the Hollandaise with Mornay sauce.
  • Eggs Atlantic or Eggs Hemingway – Substitutes salmon  for the ham. This is a common variation found in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This variation can also be referred to as Eggs Royale or Eggs Montreal in New Zealand, and Eggs Benjamin in Canada. In Australia, I’ve only ever seen it referred to as  ‘Eggs Benedict with Salmon’. Yeah, we’re original like that.
  • Huevos Benedict – Substitutes either sliced avocado or chorizo for the ham, and is topped with both a salsa and hollandaise sauce.
  • Oeufs a la Benedictine – Replaces the ham with salted cod and the muffins with potatoes.
  • Eggs Hussarde – Substitutes Holland rusks (similar to melba toast) for the English muffin and adds Bordelaise sauce.
  • Eggs Sardou  – First served  in a New Orleans restaurant. Originally, it replaced the English muffin and ham with artichoke bottoms, topped with anchovy fillets.  On top of the egg and hollandaise sauce was a dollop of chopped ham and a slice of truffle. A more widespread version of the dish starts with a base of creamed spinach, substitutes artichoke bottoms for the English muffin, and eliminates the ham.
  • Artichoke Benedict – Replaces the English muffin with a hollowed artichoke.
  • Country Benedict – Replaces the English muffin, ham and hollandaise sauce with an American biscuit, sausage patties, and country gravy. The poached eggs are replaced with fried. This is also sometimes called Eggs Beauregard.
  • Irish Benedict –  Replaces the ham with corned beef.
  • Eggs à la Commodore – Poached eggs and béchamel sauce over pâté de foie gras purée spread on grilled buttered toast circles.
  • Portobello Benedict – Substitutes Portobello mushrooms for the ham. This is a popular alternative for Catholics observing the Friday Fast.
  • Eggs John Scott – Replaces the Hollandaise sauce with HP Sauce.
  • Eggs Maryland – Replaces the ham with crab cakes.
  • Waldorf Style Eggs – Replaces the English muffin with toast and is served with poached eggs, sautéed mushrooms and mushroom sauce.
  • Oscar Benedict – Replaces the ham with asparagus and crab meat. Also known as Eggs Oscar.
  • Eggs Billy – Replaces the English muffin with a lightly toasted buttermilk biscuit and the poached egg with fried.
  • Eggs Provençal – Replaces the Hollandaise sauce with Béarnaise Sauce.
  • Russian Easter Benedict –  Replaces the Hollandaise sauce with a lemon juice and mustard flavored Béchamel Sauce, and is topped with black caviar.

I’m willing to bet that there are an abundance of other variations out there. Do share if you have stumbled across any others!

Vintage Ads: Filet-O-Fish


I seem to be coming up with a lot of new segments lately. For example, ‘Tealicious History’ and ‘Last Meals of the Damned’. Well, I have another one for you. Wanna fight about it?

I’ve always enjoyed looking at old ads. I find them to be so revealing about the social and economic climates from whence they came. Plus, sometimes they’re incredibly politically incorrect, which is always fun and amusing.

I thought I’d start with a 1968 ad from our old friend McDonald’s:

I think the character name is stretching it a tad. Picture Credit: Waffle Whiffer via Flickr

The slogan ‘We do it all for you’ is rather telling in regards to McDonald’s desire to appeal to a wide demographic. They’re not prejudice, they’re happy to take EVERYBODY’S money.

The Filet-O-Fish was created in 1962 in Ohio. The area had a large Roman Catholic population, most of whom didn’t eat meat on Fridays, a practice that isn’t quite so widely observed today. The Catholic church, for the most part, only considers it to be obligatory during Lent.

In order to boost sales, the concept of a fish sandwich was created. Conveniently enough, it also appealed to pescetarians (fish eating vegetarians) and those with special dietary requirements. For example, the fish used in the sandwich is considered to be halal.

I hope you enjoyed our first vintage ad. I realise that it was quite short, and they will probably continue to be so. The good news is that it means I can easily publish more posts each week. Exciting stuff!

The Last Meals of the Damned: Part One


It seems that the Gods are smiling upon on me, albeit in a rather morbid fashion. Last night, I posted on our Facebook Page that today’s post would involve criminals. As this post title ever so subtly suggests, I’m going to discuss the last meals of some well known criminals.

This morning I was scouring the news headlines and one of the top stories was about Gary Simmons Jr, a recently executed inmate who requested an impressive 29,000 calories worth of food for his final meal. According to MSN news, the meal included “…two Pizza Hut pizzas (one a double portion), almost 6 pounds of cheese, 80 ounces of ranch dressing, a family-sized bag of Doritos, two strawberry milkshakes, 40 ounces of Cherry Coke, a supersized McDonald’s fries and two pints of strawberry ice cream.” Considering that many inmates have had far less extravagant meal requests denied, I found this rather astounding, and admittedly, impressive.

I felt that stumbling across this article was a sign to continue with my morbid post. So let’s dig in.

Have you met Ted?

Ted Bundy:
American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist and necrophile. He confessed to committing thirty murders between 1974 and 1978, but the true total is probably far higher. He is well-known for decapitating his victims and keeping the heads as trophies, as well as performing sexual acts on decomposed corpses.

Charges: Bundy was put on trial three times. During the first he was convicted of two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and two counts of burglary. The second and third trials gave him the same conviction – one count of first degree murder. The result? He was handed the death penalty three times.

Interestingly, Bundy shocked the court by marrying a witness for the defense during the proceedings of the third trial. During questioning, the two exchanged vows and, according to Florida law, a verbal promise made under oath is enough to make it legally binding.

Execution: Death by electrocution on January 24 1989

Last Meal: Medium rare steak, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with jelly (jam for us non-Americans), milk and Juice. This is the standard meal given to inmates if they decline a last meal request.

Military Man turned Terrorist. God bless America.

Timothy McVeigh
Perpetrator of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people and injured over 800. He claims that it was a retaliation for the WACO Siege, as well as other government raids and US foreign policy in general.

Charges: Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. The state of Oklahoma didn’t file charges for the additional 160 deaths due to being given the death penalty in his first trial.

Execution: Death by Lethal injection in Indiana, June 11 2001.

Last Meal: Two pints of mint chocolate chip Ben & Jerry’s icecream. I can honestly say that I’m on board with this choice.

No one who speaks German could be an evil man. Parole granted.

Adolf Eichmann
Senior Nazi official as well as one of the key organizers of the Holocaust. His main role was facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportations of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps. He managed to escape Germany after the fall of the Nazis and had been in hiding until his capture in 1960 in Argentina.

Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.

Execution: Death by hanging in Israel, 1962

Last Meal: A bottle of Carmel, which is a dry Israeli wine. I think there was a great deal of wisdom in this choice. I would certainly rather be tanked than sober whilst facing the noose.


This is why I’m scared of clowns

John Wayne Gacy
American serial killer and rapist. He sexually assaulted and murdered at least thirty-three young men and boys between 1972 and 1978. Disturbingly, he became known as the Killer Clown due to his involvement in fundraising events, parades and children’s parties where he would dress up as a clown. Terrifying.

Charges: Thirty-three counts of first degree murder, sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child.

Execution: Death by lethal injection in Illinois, May 10 1994.

Last Meal: 12 fried shrimp (prawns), a bucket of original recipe KFC chicken, fries,and one pound of strawberries.

Fun Fact: Gacy managed three KFC restaurants prior to his conviction.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky scamp!”

Saddam Hussein
I think we all know who Saddam was, so I’ll keep the mini bio simple. He was the fifth president of Iraq and a well-known dicktator. Yes, I did spell that correctly.

Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Execution: Death by hanging in Iraq, December 26 2006.

Last Meal: A rather bland serving of chicken, rice and hot water with lemon.

So there you have it, a small taste of the final meals of some of the world’s most notorious murderers. As the title suggests, it’s only the first in a series of grisly posts, so stay tuned for part two. I’ll also be writing a sister series on the last meals of celebrities and important figures from history.

See you all next time.