66/365: National Cereal Day*

We’re going to milk today’s holiday for all its worth: it’s National Cereal Day!

And also, Crown Roast of Pork day. It sounds like a royal pain to cook such an elaborate meal after a hard day at work, so we’re sticking with cereal – a great morning pick-me-up. Besides, who doesn’t love cereal? It’s the 3rd-most sold item in grocery stores, after soda and milk. I’m shocked that kumquats didn’t top the chart, but oh well.

German immigrant Ferdinand Schumacher began grinding oats in the back of his store in Akron, Ohio, in 1854. This first oatmeal was a substitute for breakfast pork. I don’t understand why anybody would want less pork, but I guess the sausage market was no longer sizzling. Schumacher’s oatmeal was a hit, despite the fact that oats were traditionally viewed as “horse food.” Schumacher adopted the Quaker as his logo, and went to war against rival oatmeal manufacturers, until they all joined forces in 1888 to form Quaker Oats. At the turn of the 20th century, they figured out how to make puffed rice by shooting the kernels from guns. I have no idea if it snapped or crackled, but it sure did pop!

Around the same time, the first breakfast cereal was invented by James Caleb Jackson. His creation, Granula, never caught on because the heavy bran nuggets needed to soak overnight before they were tender enough to eat. Ready to eat breakfast cereals came about because vegetarians wanted something non-meaty in the morning. Again: less pork? Really?? Members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church latched onto the vegetarian movement, and one of their headquarters – in Battle Creek, Michigan – soon became synonymous with cereal. John and William Kellogg, sons of a devout church member, owned a sanitarium there, and prescribed for their patients a regimen of fresh air, exercise, and a vegetarian diet. They experimented with a boiled wheat product that was rolled thin and flaked, and in 1895 patented Cornflakes cereal. Charles Post, a former sanitarium patient, created a rival product – Grape Nuts – in 1898, and the cereal war was on! To this day, Kellogg’s and Post remain rivals in the breakfast foods marketplace.

Growing up, I was never into sweet cereals like many of my friends. I preferred Rice Krispies and Special K. To celebrate today’s holiday, I had a bowl of Honeycombs, about as sweet a cereal as I’ll ever eat. Tara, unlike me, was a fan of sugary cereals like Cap’n Crunch and Golden Grahams growing up, and today she went for Cocoa Pebbles.


Categories: Breakfast | 3 Comments

52/365: National Sticky Bun Day

February 21st is National Sticky Bun Day. I’d always assumed sticky buns and cinnamon rolls were the same thing, but Tara informed me that they are actually different. Both are decadent, both contain cinnamon, and both are pastries made with leavened dough that is topped with sticky, sweet icing. But the similarities end there.

I think. Sticky buns usually include nuts. But otherwise…well, I don’t see much difference myself. Let’s ask Tara!

Cinnamon rolls have a mixture of butter, cinnamon, and sugar spread onto dough that is then rolled up and cut into sections.  It’s topped with cream cheese frosting or icing.

Sticky buns are like cinnamon rolls, except they are topped with a caramel sauce and pecans.  When I was a baker at JB’s Restaurant in Idaho Falls (holy crap…was that really almost 20 years ago?!?!?) we would use a small round pan, pour in the caramel sauce, add pecans, and then place a section of the cinnamon roll on top.  After rising it would be baked and then while still warm, turned out on a plate.

Yum! Sounds delicious, babe. Thanks for the clarification.

Sticky buns originated in Germany, where they were called “schnecken” (German for “snails”). Luckily, this referred to their shape, rather than their flavor or ingredient list. The only country that can get away with actually cooking snails is France, dammit! German settlers immigrating to the United States in the 17th century brought schnecken along with them, and when they settled in and around Germantown, Pennsylvania (homesick much?), sticky buns became a popular local treat.

At Camp Walden, an all-girl’s summer camp in Maine, a longstanding tradition involving schnecken continues to this day. It is served every Sunday morning for breakfast, along with eggs, oatmeal, cereal, and yogurt. The Girl Scouts have their cookies, and Waldenites (as they refer to themselves) have their sticky buns. I’m not sure what Boy Scouts have, other than outdated moral principles.

Ooh, slam.

Tara picked us up a sticky bun from Shari’s last night, which we shared this morning for breakfast before work. It was sweet and decadent, and included a topping of pralines, which – according to my fountain-of-knowledge fiance – are caramelized pecans. Hmm. I had no idea! All I know is, the sticky bun was deliciously satisfying.


Categories: Breakfast, Pastry | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

40/365: National Bagels and Lox Day

Here’s the truth, the hole truth, and nothing but the truth: today is National Bagels and Lox Day.

I was pretty excited for this holiday. I love bagels – they’re in my Top 2 list of favorite foods with a hole in the center – but had never tried one with lox. In fact, I wasn’t completely sure what lox even is. Some kind of fish, I knew that much. Turns out it’s thinly sliced smoked salmon – yum! My favorite fish. Living in the Pacific Northwest, it’s basically a prerequisite that you like salmon. Apparently Tara didn’t get the memo (ahem), but we decided to let her in anyway.

Bagels and lox traditionally consists of a bagel, cream cheese, salmon, and sliced red onion. Other ingredients such as capers, dill, and chives may be added. Bagels originated in Poland in the 16th century. They were a nod to the bublik, another circular bread with a big hole in the middle. Why the world needed two such similar foods is anybody’s guess, but then again, Ding Dongs and Ring Dings have coexisted peacefully for decades, so why not? Polish Jews immigrating to the United States brought along bagels, which is why they’re such a staple in New York City (which still makes the best in the country, in my opinion). Bagels caught on everywhere in the 1960s, when bagel bakers Harry and Murray Lender teamed with Florence Sender (they went on a real bender!) to mass produce and distribute frozen, pre-sliced bagels.

Lox have been around for thousands of years, swimming around contentedly in oceans and rivers.

For our bagels and lox, we headed to New Season’s Market, a local grocery store that advertises the delicacy. They served theirs with cream cheese, lox, red onions, and capers. I have to say, I was blown away, and declared this my favorite food challenge yet. The salty, smoked salmon perfectly contrasted the sweetness of the cream cheese, while the thinly sliced red onion added subtle crunch and the capers, a tart bite. I loved the bagels and lox, and will order this one again soon!

A little heavy on the red onion, but oh so good!

A little heavy on the red onion, but oh so good!

Categories: Breakfast | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

28/365: National Blueberry Pancake Day

January 28 is National Blueberry Pancake Day. IHOP is trying to muscle in and create their own “Pancake Day” on February 5th. In many parts of the world, pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday (aka Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras). But that occurs the following Tuesday – Feb. 12th. Just what are you doing, IHOP? Trying to bypass the official petition-your-congressman procedure? We’re sticklers for the official rules, which state that September 26 is the true National Pancake Day, and that’s what we’re going with. See how easy it is to get bogged down in the details, though?

Pancakes were created by the same folks who gave us Plato, democracy, gyros, and the Olympics. Hats off to Ancient Greece! They were called tagenon, which means “frying pan,” and were originally made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk. A papyrus scroll was recently unearthed in an archeological dig near Athens; scholars made the startling discovery that it is in fact an ancient fast-food menu touting a breakfast sandwich called the McTagenon, a precursor to the McGriddle. (It should be noted that not all scholars agree with this particular interpretation). Eventually, the thin, round cakes spread throughout Europe and Asia, with multiple regional variations including crepes, potato pancakes, blintzes, blini, and crumpets. The first reference to the word “pancake” appears in the 15th century. In North America, pancakes are sometimes called flapjacks, hotcakes, griddlecakes, or johnnycakes. They are typically served at breakfast topped with butter and maple syrup, and occasionally double as blankets for pigs. In other parts of the world pancakes may be topped with ingredients like fruit, honey, jam, cream, cheese, nuts, and vegetables.

Fruit is often added to pancake batter, and in the U.S., blueberry pancakes are especially popular. It’s no wonder they’ve got their own food holiday! We wanted to savor our blueberry pancakes, so instead of knocking back a quick microwaveable breakfast, we decided to make Brinner instead. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, Brinner is simply “BReakfast for dINNER.”

God, I miss Scrubs. 

Anyway, Tara whipped up blueberry pancakes from scratch, and we were good to go!

Blueberry Pancake

Categories: Breakfast | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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