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.

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News Update


I haven’t posted in almost a week, and I thought I should explain why.

If you have read the ‘About’ section on Delicious History, you’ll know that I work for a prominent Australian chocolate company. Five days ago that company went into voluntary administration. For all of you non-Australians out there, this is a big deal not only for myself, but for the majority of Australia.

Darrell Lea has been around for 85 years and has been a family owned business throughout. For almost a week, the Australian media has been exploding with stories and opinions on the future of the company. As I’m sure you can imagine, this has kept me rather busy.

|’m about to post the story of my experiences with Darrell Lea growing up, so I thought that I should post this first in order to clarify what’s going on for those who don’t live Down Under.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Cocktail Party: The Mojito


Hello all, welcome back!

We’re up to cocktail number four, albeit a day late. I offer my most sincerest apologies, I was feeling rather under the weather yesterday and needed a little disco nap before getting back on the party bus.

So, at this point of the night those of you who can hold their drink are ordering straight shots and those who are more like me are trying to prove that they’re “not that drunk” by attempting to correctly pronounce words such as onomatopoeia. That is something I seriously do.

Today we’re taking a hop across the water from Mexico to Cuba to taste the rum sodden and utterly delicious Mojito. Once again, the origins of this fruity delight are shrouded in many a controversy, so I’m going to tell just two of the most fascinating tales.

Apparently Ernest Hemmingway loved Mojitos. I think that whoever first spread that story confused the word ‘Mojito’ with ‘Booze’

Our first story claims that the Mojito was created by African slaves working in the sugar cane fields of Cuba in the late 19th Century. Supposedly, the drink’s name comes from the African word “mojo,” which mean “to place a spell.” This tale is however widely contested. Many historians believe that this story seems to be related to, or confused with the origin of the daiquiri, another popular Cuban cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and sugar.

A much more accepted story is that Sir Francis Drake was involved in the creation of the Mojito as far back as the 16th century. Drake was a celebrated naval captain and navigator during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. However, if you were a Spaniard at the time, Drake was an infamous pirate and slave trader who was responsible for the sacking of many ports and towns during the Spanish Armada. These acts persuaded Phillip II of Spain to not only place a bounty on his head, but to also plan an invasion of England.

If I may interject for just one moment – these dual perspectives of Drake are exactly why I adore history. There is almost always conflicting accounts and different ways of looking at situations and people. Some may call this lack of definitiveness frustrating. I call it fascinating.

Legend has it that Sir Richard Drake (an underling of Francis who was of no relation) prepared the first version of the drink using aguardiente, a primitive version of rum, which he mixed with sugar, lime and mint. According to the story, the drink was originally called “El Draque” which was Spanish for The Dragon, which was a homage to Sir Francis. Personally, I think this was just a clever ruse to secretly name it after himself.

From the high seas, the drink supposedly made its way to Cuba when these explorers, or pirates, landed to conduct treasure hunting expeditions throughout The Caribbean and Latin America. Interestingly enough, the fruity concoction was originally consumed for medicinal purposes. I think that sounds a great deal more appetising than the cherry flavoured cough syrup of my childhood. I’ll have to question my mum about why she didn’t just throw hard liquor my way.

Eventually, rum replaced the aguardiente and the Mojito, as we know it today, was born.

Recipe time!

Ingredients

40ml White Rum
30ml Lime Juice
3 Mint Leaves
2 tsp Sugar
Soda Water

Method

This is a really simple one.

Muddle the mint sprigs with the sugar and lime juice in a highball glass. Add the rum and top up with soda water. Garnish with sprig of mint leaves. Consume!

Mmm, refreshing.

I’ll try my best to knock out our next two cocktails over the weekend as promised. Unfortunately, I’m still not feeling 100%. Either way, I’ll make sure they’re served up to you as soon as possible.

Have a great weekend!

Cocktail Party: The Cosmopolitan


Alright ladies and gents, we’re one drink in and the party is starting to heat up. Day two of our soirée has begun and someone has started passing around the Cosmos.

I’m afraid that we can’t avoid the horse faced elephant in the room so we might as well get it out of the way.

The vast majority of the population associate the Cosmo with the ever popular Sex and the City. Ever since the late 90s, fans of the show have been ordering the pink concoction under a false pretense of sophistication. Unfortunately, most of them were ordering them in backwater bars on the corner of Tumbleweed Road and You Got a Pretty Mouth Avenue.

I believe that it’s due to the Carrie Bradshaw association that little is known about the true origin of this sweet and chic drink. I have even heard people muse over whether it was invented for the show itself. This notion is enough to send my inner historian into a rage blackout, so I think that it’s best if we move on.

Drinking this won’t make you pass for a classy New Yorker

It seems that conflicting origin stories are becoming a theme on this blog, and the Cosmopolitan is no exception. The general school of thought concedes that the Cosmo was born in the 80s, but nobody can seem to agree where. This seems to be common with drinks – they are notoriously difficult to patent and are so often based off other similar concoctions. However, I am able to provide you with a few theories and possible creators.

The first culprit is Dale Groff, a bartender who spent a large portion of his career at the legendary Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Plaza. It was there that he supposedly had the idea to add liqueur and a mixture of vodka, cranberry  and lemon juice to create the original Cosmo. This theory is naturally quite popular with Manhattanites.

Another rumour is that there is a version of the cocktail that can be attributed to the entire gay community of Provincetown, Massachusetts. I just love that an entire group of people can supposedly invent a drink. Thanks, internet.

The last commonly cited story is from South Beach, Florida. A bartender named Cheryl Cook is said to have invented it in 1985. Although this isn’t interesting in itself, there are some who believe Cook to be a mythical character invented by the community in order to lay claim to the drinks creation.

These stories may seem somewhat devoid of information. Unfortunately, this is because there is very little out there. I think that the consequence of this is that despite its origin, the Cosmopolitan is doomed to be forever associated with Carrie and her Prada clad pals.

Now, because I know you all just skipped to this part anyway, onto the recipe!

 Ingredients

40ml Vodka
15ml Cointreau
15ml Lime Juice
30ml Cranberry Juice

Method

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake well. Double strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lime or lemon wheel.

I hope you can all hold your liquor adequately because I’ll be serving you up yet another delicious concoction tomorrow!

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