History of Food

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Schnitzel History:

The chicken schnitzel is a very popular dish in Jewish homes but in reality it is a variation of the Weiner Schnitzel. The Weiner schnitzel is a Viennese veal cutlet and is a very popular dish amongst the Austrians. There are those who say the Viennese actually got this recipe from the Italians, so who knows? The point is that recipes have always been borrowed from different places around the world and usually adapted to its new location.

Salad History:

The word salad comes from the French word “salade” meaning the same thing, and in Latin it’s “salata” which means salty. When reading about the origins of this dish, I found out that ancient Romans and Greeks would eat salad with vinegar oil and herbs. The debate in those days was whether it is healthier to eat salad before or after the main course. Some said that the vinegar destroyed the taste of wine and should be eaten last, while others said that it should be eaten first because raw vegetables would digest very quickly. Later on, the salad lost its popularity because people thought that raw vegetables belonged in animal feed and that it had no nutritional value for humans. It was only three hundred years ago that people began to warm up to the idea of salads and in the turn of the 19th century it became quite popular in America. Today, salads are a staple of our diets and we are all aware of the wonderful nutritional value that vegetables hold for our health and development.

Potato History:

The word “potato” was somehow derived from the Caribbean Indian word for sweet potato, “batata,” and then from the Spanish word,”patata.” It originated in Peru, South America, and it developed in a region that has fluctuating temperatures and poor soil conditions. The South Americans began cultivating the potato 7000 years ago, while the Europeans only did so in the 1500s. The Spanish were the next ones too use potatoes but mainly as food for the underprivileged. In 1780 Ireland adopted the potato and realized its great nutritional value as a main source of sustenance, more so than any other vegetable. Thomas Jefferson grew potatoes in the 1700’s, and in 1836 the potato was planted in Idaho by Indians, and Idaho soon became famous for their fabulous Idaho potatoes. 

Soup History

“Emma Ewing,” wrote the first American cooking pamphlet focusing on soups in 1882, and she said that soups are: “convenient, economic and healthful.” But people began eating soups long before her pamphlet appeared. Soup was first known as either broth or pottage and it was poured over either toast or bread. The word soup evolved from the French word “sope” and “supper.” People would sop up the bread covered in liquid and it was the main ingredient in the dish. Early proof of soup recipes could be found from approximately the 1400’s only after waterproof pots were invented. Boiling the food proved a useful tool for getting the most out of either an animal or plant that was eaten. For instance, the bones in animals could be used in a soup and when boiling grains they would release starches which would thicken the soup. There have been recipes found dating back to the Turkish Empire in 1454 and also to Medieval England. Back then they used to eat their soup by drinking it from a bowl but mainly by pulling large chunks of meat or vegetables by hand.

Canned Tuna History

For centuries, fish has been caught and eaten by man, and salmon has been the most popular fish to catch and eat. The history of canned fish is relatively new; only one hundred years ago tuna was not the fish of choice amongst Americans; it was the sardine fish that was extremely popular. Nevertheless, when Californian fishermen were having a hard time supplying the demands of sardines, they began fishing for tuna. In 1903 a Southern Californian canner, decided to can the tuna instead of the sardines, and sure enough, this fish caught on and very quickly replaced the demand for sardines. In fact, by 1954, the United States became a world leader in canned tuna production.

Unfortunately in the process of catching the tuna, many dolphins would end up in the nets, and as a result of this practice a large number have perished. The good news is that since the inception of the “Marine Mammal Protection Act” of 1972, and the 1990 “Dolphin Safe” labeling campaign, canned tuna is produced without harming the dolphin population.

Shakshukah History

Shakshukah was originally known as Chakchouka, a Berber word meaning a vegetable ragout. The Berbers are the aboriginal people of Tunisia. The Shakshukah is eaten in most Middle Eastern countries, and not necessarily as a breakfast food, but rather at any time of the day. Israel, which is a melting pot of immigrants from all over the world, has turned this recipe into one of its staple foods. The Israelis’ adapted the word Chakshukah to their own Hebrew language, and that is how Shakshukah came into being, meaning to shake it all up.  In Jaffa, Israel there is a restaurant called “Dr. Shakshukah,” where the owner is known for his great Shakshukah, but I have not yet experienced it. There are those who add spicy sausage and spicy peppers to this dish, and this is exactly how my family members like their Shakshuka, hot and spicy.

Apple Crumble History:

This traditional American recipe belongs to the early European Settlers. The recipe evolved from the English cobbler desserts. In fact, in America, the Apple Crumble was actually called Apple Crisp, and it usually involved seasonal fruit with a finer but crispy topping. The Settlers had to use the ingredients that were available to them in America as opposed to Europe, and this is exactly how new recipes evolve. The recipe became very popular in the 1920’s by appearing in cookbooks and the newspaper.

History of Macaroni and Cheese

There is plenty of proof that pasta in general was enjoyed by different cultures over a period of thousands of years.  The Arabs are actually the inventors of Macaroni and only later it was adopted by the Sicilian/Italian culture. By the 14th century Macaroni became one of the most popular foods in Italy because it was easy to store and it cooked very quickly. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the first pasta machine to America from one of his stately visits to France. Later on he actually improved the original design and he also came up with many recipes, like the Macaroni pie or what we know as baked macaroni and cheese. In this early recipe the macaroni was cooked and then mixed together with melted butter, salt and grated cheese and then it was placed in the oven for an extra 15 minutes.

Macaroni and cheese gained its greatest popularity when it was introduced as a ready made and packaged food item by Kraft foods in 1937. Since then it has become one of the most popular foods in America and appears in numerous versions especially in Southern cookbooks.

History of Baba Ghanouj

Baba Ghanouj is a mashed eggplant dish, and its origin is believed to have been in Lebanon. In Arabic baba means father and ghanouj means spoiled, so the dish is called “spoiled father.” It was given this name because you immediately become spoiled beacuse of the unique flavors of this dish.  These days, Baba Ghanouj has become an international dish and it’s not only Middle Eastern countries who have adopted it as their mainstay starter, but rather it is served all over the world. There are those who prepare it with tehina sauce mixed into the eggplant and then there are those who prefer mayonnaise. Both ways make for an exquisite taste.

History of Sweet and Sour Chicken

Chinese cuisine uses a variety of ingredients and cooking methods that are very different from other cultures. Their own food and recipes vary according to the different Chinese regions, but generally speaking their basic diet consists mainly of rice and vegetables. Sweet and Sour chicken recipes in Western countries are not exactly what you would find in China. Usually the Chinese use the sweet and sour flavor for fish recipes rather than for chicken. Also, the Chinese, unlike the Americans, do not drown their food in the sauce; rather they serve it on the side for dipping. The sweet and sour recipes for fish are associated with the region of Hunan in China. The recipes that we use in America do however combine the classical combination of the five flavors of: sweet, sour, salty, pungent and bitter. The Chinese do not use as much sweet as we do, and their recipes tend to be more on the bitter side; to create the sweet and sour flavor they mostly mix vinegar with sugar. It is believed that the authentic cuisine of China developed during the Manchus Dynasty of 1644-1911; they introduced a life of decadence and leisure, where food became an important feature in their three day long Imperial Banquets. For the Chinese, food is treated with utmost respect, and is associated with health, luck and prosperity.

History of Chocolate:

The Cacao tree was discovered over 2,000 years ago in Southern and Central America, and the chocolate that we know today, has gone through many transformations throughout the centuries. Theobroma Cacao is the scientific name for the cocoa bean, and it also means food for the gods. In fact the Aztec and Mayan people actually believed that the Cacao tree was given to them by Quetzalcoal, the feathered snake god, and that the Cacao bean has magical powers. The Cacao tree produces pods containing pulp covered seeds that were then dried, and processed into chocolate. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma used to drink something called xcolatl, a bitter mixture of the Cacao bean with chili and other ingredients. The Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1519 sent the Cacao bean and the Xcolati recipe back to Spain. The Spanish added sugar to the drink and kept their recipe a secret for about 100 years, until it finally spread throughout Europe. Only the very wealthy could afford this luxury drink because Cacao and sugar were both very expensive imports. In 1675 the first Cocoa house opened in London, where people would still only drink chocolate, and it was only in the 1700’s when the steam press was invented that it was easier to grind the Cacao bean, and this made the price of Cacao more affordable. In 1847 it was the English who came up with the more solid fondant like chocolate, replacing the more coarse grained chocolate. The recipe was then perfected even more by the Swiss, when they added milk to it. America’s first chocolate factory was built in 1780, where John Hana, an Irish chocolate maker and Dr. James Baker, made the famous Baker’s chocolate.

History of Nutella

Americans first fell in love with Nutella when it was imported into the U.S. in the 1980’s. Nutella is a creamy, chocolaty, hazelnut spread; it was actually created in Italy, in 1867, out of necessity, because of the high price of producing chocolate. This hazelnut and cocoa mixture was originally named “pasta gianduja,” which means the paste of gianduja, the name of the carnival character that was on the first advertisements for the product. It became an instant hit with the Italians. At first the paste was more like a loaf and people had to slice it when putting it in a sandwich. The children would eat the slices of gianduja, but not the bread. Only later on, in the 1940’s, Mr. Pietro Ferrero, improved the product by making it more of a thick spread; it was then known as “Supercrema Gianduja.” In 1964 the product became known as Nutella, and store owners began a special service where children could bring a slice of bread to the store and have it smeared with Nutella. Today there are many variations of the original Nutella spread, but still, Nutella itself remains the most sought after spread, even more than peanut butter. In fact it became so popular in the US that the Ferrero Company has built a Nutella plant in Somerset New-Jersey.

History of Avocados

Avocados have been around for thousands of years, and were first grown in the northern and southern parts of Mexico; also in central America as far as Peru. In fact, Archeologists in Peru have found avocado seeds buried with mummies dating back to 750 B.C. The Spanish conquistadors in the 1500’s were delighted to discover the avocados, they loved the taste of this buttery fruit but they also developed an ink out its pit. They could not pronounce the Aztec word for avocado “ahucatl,” and instead called it aguacate, and this eventually turned into avocado in English. The first avocado trees in the U.S. were grown in California, and they were brought into the U.S from Mexico by Judge R.B Ord from Santa Barbara California. Another noted pioneer was Mr. Rideout who grew many varieties of avocados. The Hass avocado has become the most popular avocado in the U.S. because it is grown all year round and has a wonderful texture and taste. Hass avocados have a rough skin, a small pit and have a very buttery texture. Avocados do not ripen on the tree but rather only after they are picked. The Hass Avocado developed by accident. In 1920, Rudolph Hass, a postman bought some avocado seedlings from Mr. Rideout, and had them grafted with the popular fuerte avocado trees. It is said that one of the trees did not take to the grafting and this became the Hass avocado. Hass got a patent for the tree in 1935 and every Hass avocado tree today is descended from that original tree. Mr. Hass lived to the ripe old age of 98, eating a slice of wheat toast and sliced avocado every single morning for breakfast.

History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

For the history of pasta please read about Mac and Cheese. The first tomato sauce was made by ancient South Americans, and it was very spicy, probably what we now know as salsa. Europe was introduced to the tomato by the New World explorers in the 16th century, but at first the tomato was regarded as poisonous, and was adopted only as an ornamental fruit rather than food. It was only in the 17th century that it was included in the Elite European cuisine. In 1839 the first spaghetti with tomato sauce recipe appeared in a Neapolitan cookbook . The Italians named it ‘pomodoro,’ meaning ‘golden apple,’ and once the Italians adopted the tomato for their famous sauce, pasta was no longer eaten cooked without the sauce.

History of the Sandwich

In the first century B.C. the famous Rabbi Hillel began a Passover custom of sandwiching the haroset in between two matzoth. However others have argued that this does not represent the sandwich of today because it was made with unleavened bread.

Some believe that the sandwich, before it was coined as a ‘sandwich,’ was known as ‘bread and cheese’ or ‘bread and meat,’ and proof of this exists in plays from the 16th century. However, the sandwich got it’s name from John Montague, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who lived between 1718 and 1792. Montague was a naval officer who worked with the famous explorer James Cook. In his travels he was exposed to many different culinary experiences, which probably planted the sandwich idea in his head. It is said that Montague was a gambler, and in order to continue gambling undisturbed, he would order a piece of meat tucked in between two slices of bread. Others who saw this began to order the same as Sandwich, and soon enough that turned into ‘I would like to order a sandwich.’ 

When it comes to the grilled sandwich, the earliest ones have been found in ancient Roman cookbooks. In America, grilled cheese sandwiches began to emerge in the 1920’s, just when sliced bread became popular in the markets. At first the sandwich was actually open faced, and only in the 1960’s was the second slice of bread added on top. It was a very inexpensive way to prepare a meal and it caught on rapidly in kitchens all over America.

The Panini Sandwich stemmed from the Italian word ‘panino’ which in Italian means little sandwich. The sandwich consists of high quality bread like focaccia or ciabatta and is then filled with meat, cheese and vegetables with a flavorful condiment and it is then grilled. This type of sandwich became popular in America in the 1970’s.

History of Israeli Cuisine

The Israelis have come a long way since the manna that they had to eat in the Sinai desert! Today Israel is a melting pot of Jews who have come from different parts of the world and therefore its cuisine is influenced by these different places. The Middle Eastern flavor is the most dominant of all in Israel because Israel is after all in the Middle East, and is surrounded by Arab countries who have all contributed to its flavorful cooking style. It’s also considered a healthier cuisine because of the use of olive oil instead of butter and the grilling and baking instead of the frying. The Jewish food that people in the west are familiar with is that from Eastern European countries, and it’s what you might normally find in delis. It’s stuff like gefilte fish, Pickled herring, chulnt, latkes, chicken with matzo ball. These foods though would by no means be considered on the light and healthy side! The Kashrut laws (religious dietary laws) have also shaped the eating habits of Israelis. For those who keep Kosher there are a variety of foods that are not permitted for consumption, like pork and shellfish to name a few, and they are also not permitted to mix meat and dairy in the same meal.

Generally speaking Israel has an exciting blend of cuisines and its local produce is fresh and exceptionally tasty. It’s things like fish, dairy products and very flavorful fruits and vegetables and even baked goods. Whether you are eating on the go, from a small roadside food stand or at a gas station (known for their great food) or a sophisticated restaurant, you just can’t go wrong. I love the Israeli breakfasts which arrive on a huge platter with a selection of maybe 5 different freshly baked breads, olives, olive spread, jams, cream cheeses, goat cheese, and that's before you get your eggs.

History of Yogurt

Yogurt is usually associated with good health and longevity and in places like the Balkans people have been known to live a very long life, over 100 years old because of the large quantities of yogurt that they eat. Yogurt is made from fermented milk, in other words milk that has gone bad, but sometimes bad is actually good. Yogurt was discovered a long time ago when milk was carried in pouches made out of sheep skin, and those pouches contained an enzyme called rennin which together with the hot climate curdled the milk, especially in Middle Eastern counties. This is basically how yogurt was discovered. Yogurt was really only accepted in the United States in the 20th century when the Dannon company introduced yogurt mixed with strawberry preserve.

History of Ceviche

Although in my webisode I did not use fish, originally ceviche is a dish that is prepared with raw fish and its origin is in Peru, a Latin American country. It has spread across to other Latin American countries who have since added their own little touches to this dish. Sometimes it is possible to cook food without using heat, this process is called curing, and it’s exactly what happens with ceviche ; the seafood is cured in lemon juice, although in Peru the lemon that they use is a little different, it’s less sour than the ones that we use here in the States. Ceviche is known as Peru’s national dish.

Potato Latkes History

Latkes are grated potatoes with egg and onion that are then fried in oil. They are traditionally eaten during Hanukah but they are not originally associated with Jewish cuisine, or even with the Hanukah story. They became part of the Hanukah celebration only for the past few hundred years and only because the oil that we fry the latkes in, is the actual part of the Hanukah story. On Hanukah, Jews celebrate the miracle of the oil, and this is how the story goes: Approximately 2200 years ago part of the Greek kingdom was Judea; the Syrian-Greco King Antiochus Epiphanes did not allow the Jews to pray to their God and erected a statue of the Greek God Zeus on the altar of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. As a result of this, the Jewish resistance fighters known as the Maccabees, lead by Judah and his brothers organized a revolt against the Greeks. It took a few years but the Maccabees were victorious in freeing themselves from the Greeks, and when they arrived at their Temple they discovered that it was completely defiled and that there was only one cruise of oil left for lighting the Temple Menorah. They rededicated the Temple on the 25th day of the month of Kislev in 164 BCE and when the Maccabees lit the menorah it miraculously illuminated the Temple for eight whole days instead of one day.

The potato latkes/pancake in reality evolved as a result of cooks’ trying to utilize every bit of leftover food including bits of potatoes, it’s not necessarily linked to one individual country because anywhere the potato was eaten, one could find it fried in the form of a pancake.

Please refer to my section about the history of the potato, above, for further details.

History of Bread and Butter Pudding

When we think of pudding, we think of a ‘custard like’ sweet texture, but in Medieval England, puddings were a lot different, they were mostly savory and looked a lot like sausage, and you may have already heard of their blood pudding and black pudding which is still eaten today! Later on around the 17th century, sweet tasting puddings were made out of sugar, flour and nuts, and like the meat puddings, they were boiled in pudding bags. Close to the end of the 18th century, the puddings for the most part, were not made out of meat but were still boiled and resembled cake. The English Christmas pudding, is very much cake like and resembles the old fashioned puddings. The custard pudding that we know today actually dates back to the Ancient Romans who were the first ones to develop egg based dishes, one of which was the custard. When custard was then produced in powder form, it very quickly replaced the need to use eggs as a thickener for desserts, and pudding making became much easier and popular. In America during the 19th century these new puddings, even chocolate puddings, were actually promoted as health foods. They weren’t entirely wrong about the healthy part because some puddings if you think about it can be healthy, like rice pudding or tapioca. In America the instant pudding mixes became all the rage in the 1930’s and were promoted by companies such as Jell-O or Royal.

Chocolate Chip Cookie History

In 1930 Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased a Toll House on the outskirts of Massachusetts. Originally a Toll House was a place where travelers would stop for food, drink, rest, and change their horses before continuing on their journey. Kenneth and Ruth wanted to keep in with tradition and decided to serve guests at their Inn with good old fashioned home cooking and baking. It wasn’t long before Ruth became known for her wonderful deserts. On one occasion while preparing her ‘butter drop do cookies’ she was missing an ingredient so she decided to use a semi sweet chocolate bar that Mr. Nestle had given her. She chopped it up and mixed it into the dough, thinking that while it baked the chocolate would melt, but it didn’t. Instead she got a beautiful batch of cookies dotted with chocolate pieces and they tasted very good. These cookies became hugely popular and Nestle chocolate then struck a deal with Ruth that if she would let them use her recipe on their chocolate bar, they would then supply her with free chocolate for her Inn. Today you can find the Toll House Inn recipe for these cookies on the package of every semi sweet chocolate morsel bag. 


Venice Beach, California History

I grew up in Venice Beach, California, and I have the fondest of memories of all those years. It was definitely a unique lifestyle that involved a lot of outdoor activities, and plenty of interaction with the eclectic people who make up the Venice community. These days I no longer live in Venice, but whenever there is a long weekend you can be sure that this is exactly where I go for a weekend of great fun. Nowadays, Venice is much different than what it used to be 100 years ago because there are actually less of the attractions that were once offered to beach goers. My short clip will give you a little glimpse of some things that you might see while touring Venice.

The way it used to be:

In the 1890’s a businessman named Abbot Kinney had a dream of turning the land south of Ocean Park and through the Del Rey peninsula into the Venice of America. He wanted to duplicate all that he had seen and loved in Venice, Italy and that included canals with gondolas and amusement piers. As soon as the land was purchased, Mr. Kinney hired all the right people and construction began turning the area into a Venetian style town. Venice of America officially opened on 4 July 1905 and it instantly changed the face of the Los Angeles coast line. People went there in droves to enjoy the canals and take gondola rides, minature railrode rides, visit the auditorium and the Ship Cafe, swim in the ocean, take part in yacht racing, swimming races, take a dip in the indoor heated salt water plunge pool or listen to concerts by the swimming lagoon. Later on a roller skating rink was also built, as well as a large dance hall, big enough to hold 800 dancing couples. Venice also featured a beautiful aquarium and a medley or resaurants, the Starland Vaudeville Theater House, two carousels, fun rides and of course the Frazier Amusement Pier known as the biggest park of its kind anywhere in the world. This development did not go without its share of disasters and in fact early on a fire destroyed a large area including the pier. Venice recovered and added new attractions including a baseball franchise, Grand Prix automobile races and even a bathing beauty contest in 1912. Mr Abbot Kinney died on the 4 November 1920 and a month after his death his amusement pier burned to the ground. It was rebuilt again and again after a series of fires eventually destroyed the Ocean Park Pier and Licks Pier.

Venice was finally annexed to the city of Los Angeles and as a result the city began to dismantle and remove most of its attractions even filling up most of the canals. In 1930 oil was discovered in the Venice peninsula and that of course created jobs but from an environmental stand point it created a lot of pollution and destruction to the surrounding beaches.

The depression obviously affected business in Venice but it did begin to recuperate when liquor was once again legal. Sailors and soldiers loved spending their time off in Venice, and by 1946 the city of Venice decided to get rid of most of the piers in order to make room for more beach instead and the city slowly began going downhill. Then, in the 1960’s the “beats” who were artists of all kind, brought new life into the area. In the 1970’s Venice was reborn again and the city built the famous bicycle path; roller skating outdoors became all the rage and people were able to rent skates and enjoy the sport. 

More artists were drawn to the place and tourists began pouring in once again to enjoy the beachside atmosphere and attractions

Chinese Chicken Salad History:

The Chinese Chicken Salad that we all love to eat originated in the 1930’s in Szechwan, where it was known as Pong Pong Chicken. It was made out of shredded pieces of cold chicken, mixed with bean sprouts and the dressing consisted of peanut butter, red pepper and garlic sauce. Truthfully, the Chinese were not fond of uncooked vegetables and just like a number of other cultures around the world, they believed that raw vegetables were actually dangerous for their health. For this reason most of their salads comprised of either cooked or stir fried vegetables instead. The Chinese Chicken Salad that we are all familiar with today, was created around the 1960’s in California, and it became a very popular dish among film industry people. It didn’t take long before it caught on and was even considered a healthy salad choice because of the ingredients used in its salad dressing.

History of the Ice Cream Sundae

There are many versions of the history of the Ice Cream Sundae, so I will stick to the main one. During the American colonial era there were the Blue Laws which prohibited doing certain things on the Sabbath, things that the clergy considered inappropriate. In Maryland it was prohibited to sell Tobacco, alcohol, mineral water candy and sodas on Sundays, in other states the same laws persisted but varied in nature. Soda fountain owners devised a way to still obey the law but also to make a profit somehow by selling ice cream without the soda. One version of this history tells of a drug store owner by the name of Edward Berners from Two Rivers Wisconsin, who was asked by one of his customers a George Hallauer for an ice cream soda. The year was 1881 and since it was a Sunday, Hallauer asked Berners to pour the chocolate syrup used for making the flavored ice cream sodas, on top of his ice cream. Soon enough Berners adopted this concoction and for the price of a nickel everybody could get some. You might wonder about the spelling of “Sundae” and the truth is that there is only a theory about it which states that religious leaders felt that the word Sunday was too sacred and holy and therefore should not be used for commercial purposes. 

History of Carrots

Did you know that there are actually two types of carrots, the wild carrot and the domesticated carrot. The wild carrot is very tough and bitter tasting and looks white. It’s indigenous to Europe and only parts of Asia - archeologists found evidence of the carrot 10,000 years ago. It’s believed that the carrot seeds were used for medicinal purposes only because the flesh was terribly bitter. The carrots that we eat are usually orange and taste sweet. They originated 5000 years ago in Afghanistan. At first they were either purple or yellow but through mutations and cross breeding and some intervention by Dutch growers the carrots became fleshier and sweeter. It is believed that in the sixteen hundreds when the Dutch were fighting for independence from the Spanish, the orange carrot was developed as a tribute King William the l of Orange.