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.

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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.

The Origin of Margherita Pizza


Hello all! Welcome back after such a long hiatus!

As you may have noticed, today’s topic has absolutely no relation to Christmas or Holiday eats. Never fear, there will a festive themed post before the 25th. More importantly, there will be a Mayan themed post on Friday. If we survive, of course.

In the meantime, I thought we could take a peek at the origin of Margherita Pizza. I have always rather enjoyed this story and am arrogant enough to assume that you’ll share my convictions.

Foods similar to pizza have been prepared since the Neolithic Age. In fact, records of people adding other ingredients to bread to make it more flavourful can be found throughout ancient history.

  • In Sardinia, French and Italian archeologists have found a kind of bread baked over 7,000 years ago. According to Professor Philippe Marinval, the local islanders leavened this bread.
  • The Ancient Greeks made a flat bread called Plakous, which was flavored with toppings like herbs, onion, and garlic.
  • In the 1st century BCE, the Latin poet Virgil refers to the ancient idea of bread as an edible plate or trencher for other foods in his epic poem, The Aeneid.

In short, evidence clearly suggests that the origins of pizza can’t be pinpointed to a single place or time. However, there is one particular historical tale that is attributed with making pizza the sensation that it is today.

In 1889, Queen Margherita of Savoy, and her husband, King Umbero I, were taking a royal tour of Italy. This was only a short 29 years after the unification of the country. Throughout their travels, Margherita had noticed a a great deal of peasants eating large, flat bread with colourful toppings.Curious, the queen ordered her guards to bring one of these so called ‘pizza breads’.

MP

Margherita Pizza – a delicacy that’s literally fit for a Queen

The Queen loved the bread and would eat it every time she was out amongst the people, wich caused some consternation in Court. It was unseemly for a Queen to dine on peasant food. Naturally, Margherita didn’t care, because she was a bitchin’ queen who had just discovered pizza.

However, the Queen’s love for the bread was legitimized when a famous pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito, created a pizza topping in honour of the Queen. It was garnished with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese in order to represent the Italian flag. He of course named it the Pizza Margherita. Legend also has it that he was the first to add cheese to pizza, which means that we’re all obliged to worship him as our deity from now on.

There is contention to this origin story. It wouldn’t be Delicious History if there wasn’t. Descriptions of a similar pizza recipe can be traced back to at least 1866 in the book “Customs and Traditions of Naples.” The author describes the most popular pizza toppings of the time, which included one with tomato and basil, often topped with slices of mozzarella.

Whatever the real origins of this pizza recipe are, it can be firmly declared that Esposito’s creation for Queen Margherita was the one that made it popular. Since then, it has grown into one of the most recognisable symbols of Italian food culture in the world, as well as a staple in the lives of most university and college students. All hail, Queen Margherita!

Next time – We talk about some Mayan staples to celebrate the end of the world.

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.

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! 

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.

How Were Potato Chips Invented?


Those of you who know me personally will be aware of the fact that I spent many years working as a waitress. My close friends in particular have been repeatedly exposed to lengthy rants about some truly horrific customers and the ways in which I would subtly punish them.

The Gobbledok – Potato chip enthusiast

Here’s just a small taste of the things I’ve done to patrons in my time:

Crime: The customer dared to click at me.

Punishment: I purposely moved his order to the end of the queue on a busy Saturday Night.

Crime: The boozed up customer forgot what main he ordered and then blamed me when I didn’t bring him “what he wanted.” This was a particularly stupid move because he and his wife were regulars but he was currently sitting next to someone in the 21 -25 age bracket who definitely wasn’t his daughter.

Punishment:
Pretending his credit card was declined in order to embarrass him in front of his lady friend.

Crime: This group of women were self-important and incredibly rude. They spouted classic one liners such as “Oh, the red-head is at least at university. That other one is just a waitress.”
For lunch they slammed down cream based pastas and double servings of garlic bread. They then proceeded to order quarter strength skinny caramel lattes with artificial sweetener because they were dieting. Their hypocrisy aside, no one should disrespect coffee like that.

Punishment: Full cream milk and sugar as well as convincing them to have a second cup since they were “only drinking skim.”

The lesson – always be incredibly nice to people who are in control of your food. There are service staff out there who will be far more creative than myself in regards to how they will mess with you if you’re a jerk.

It’s due to my exposure to the vile underbelly of the service industry that I particularly like the story behind the accidental invention of the potato chip.

George Crum – Potato chip inventor and alleged vengeful man

Our tale starts way back in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York. There we find a young chef by the name of George Crum who is being subjected to the relentless torture of an overly picky customer. The unhappy gentleman was continuously sending plates of french fried potatoes back to the kitchen because he found them to be too thick and soft.

One source contends that Crum was known for literally dishing out punishments to customers who irritated him –

“The few who did complain and returned their orders to the kitchen, were rewarded with the most indigestible substances the chef could concoct.   His somewhat irascible nature made him commit mayhem on many a returned meal.   It pleased him to watch their reaction, which ranged from disbelief to a hurried departure.”

The possible validity of this source aside, Crum was thoroughly irritated in this particular instance and decided to teach the impossible to please patron a lesson.

Firstly, he took a fresh batch of potatoes and sliced them as thinly as he could. He then fried them until they were overcooked, ie – hard and crunchy. Finally, to top them off, he added an overly generous heaping of salt. Quite please with himself, Crum sent the pile of dismembered french fries back to the customer.

It was at this point that fate stepped in because, much to Crum’s surprise, the dish ended up being a hit with the patron and thus a new snack was born. The chips became incredibly popular and were subsequently known as ‘Saratoga chips’ or ‘potato crunches’ before eventually being universally recognized as potato chips. Years later Crum would open his own restaurant where he placed bowls of his tasty invention on every table.

Unfortunately, there is a possible dampener to this story. Some sources indicate that other cooks may have been serving thinly sliced fried potatoes garnished with salt years before Crum. There are also several recipes for incredibly similar concoctions that definitely predate 1853. However, none of these creations became commercial successes, nor were named a potato chip. As such, I’m more than happy to accept this as the origin story of our delicious and crunchy friend.