Posts Tagged With: Christopher Columbus

256/365: National Snack A Pickle Time*

Friday, September 13 is your lucky day if you love pickles! It’s the holiday that is a real mouthful: National Snack A Pickle Time.

Not “day,” mind you. “Time.” I don’t know who came up with the name of this holiday, but it’s a real doozie. It’s also National Peanut Day which, despite being more straightforward and easier to say, didn’t appeal to us as much. We’ve already gone nuts with the legumes in other celebrated dishes this year, so we might as well get our pickle on!

Also, on a personal note, this is a very special weekend for Tara and I: we are getting married tomorrow. Today, we are setting out for the Oregon coast, where we rented a beach house for the festivities. It’s going to be a pretty small gathering, just 14 of our closest family members. Lest you think a little event like a wedding is going to prevent us from participating in our food challenge, guess again! The celebrated foods over the next few days are pretty easy, and we are incorporating tomorrow’s into the theme of our wedding. Let’s just say everything sort of lined up perfectly for the type of ceremony (read: casual and quirky) we are having.

People have been getting pickled for as long as alcohol existed. And people have been pickling foods since the Mesopotamians pick(l)ed up the habit in 2400 BC. While cucumbers are most commonly associated with pickles, virtually any vegetable or fruit can be pickled: it’s just got to be submerged in a brine that consists of salt and vinegar. Pickles have long been revered as being nutritional, having healing powers, and serving as beauty aids. Cleopatra attributed her good looks to a diet rich in pickles, and Julius Caesar fed pickles to his troops to provide them with physical and spiritual strength as they set out to conquer the world. Even Shakespeare made reference to pickles in Anthony and Cleopatra when he wrote, “What say you? Hence, Horrible villain! or I’ll spurn thine eyes like balls before me; I’ll unhair thy head: Thou shalt be whipp’d with wire and stew’d in brine, Smarting in lingering pickle.” Death by pickle juice? How horrible! (“Unhairing thy head” doesn’t sound very pleasant, either). ‘Twas Christopher Columbus who introduced pickles to the New World, planting cucumbers in Haiti for the sole purpose of pickling. In fact, pickles were a mainstay on long ocean voyages, providing sailors with a snack that didn’t spoil and prevented scurvy. What’s not to love about a pickle?

I do love pickles and they happen to be a favorite snack of mine, so this holiday was hardly a stretch. I can often be found hunched over the kitchen sink, munching on a pickle after a hard day at work or coming back from running errands. I suppose most people would reach for a piece of fruit, but not me. Naturally, we had plenty of pickles on hand, so Tara and I snacked on a pickle before embarking on our trip to the Oregon coast.

See you on our wedding day!

National Snack A Pickle Time

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Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

184/365: National Eat Beans Day

Today’s holiday is good for the heart. The more you eat, the more you…

I’ll let you fill in the blank. July 3 is National Eat Beans Day!

Beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history. They were grown for thousands of years B.C., and even predate ceramic pottery – meaning ancient people were cooking beans before they had anything to eat beans out of. They were an important source of protein since waaaay before the Dark Ages, and remain so to this day. The most common edible bean, of the genus Phaseolus, is native to America; several varieties were domesticated before Christopher Columbus ever landed on these shores. Native Americans practiced the “three sisters” method of agricultural cultivation, planting maize, squash, and beans in the same place, utilizing natural resources in an environmentally responsible way. Al Gore would be proud. Beans are a heliotropic plant, meaning the leaves turn toward the sun during the day, and then fold up at night.

As for the old children’s rhyme, many beans contain oligosaccharides, sugar molecules that are also found in cabbage. The human digestive tract does not have any anti-oligosaccharides enzymes, crucial for properly digesting these molecules, so bacteria in the large intestine feast on them instead. The result? The reason why beans are considered “the magical fruit.” The more you eat, the more you toot.

Tooting aside, I love beans! But Tara does not. This is what you’d call an honest-to-goodness conundrum. But she was game enough to go along and at least try a forkful. We barbecued hot dogs and had beans on the side. Beans ‘n franks, man. It’s a classic combo.

National Eat Beans DAy

Categories: Too Weird to Categorize | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

90/365: National Tater Day, National Oranges & Lemons Day*

If whoever created these food holidays had a sense of humor, then the last day of March would be dedicated to lamb. (You know – “in like a lion, out like a lamb” and all). But alas, it is National Tater Day. Not to be confused with National Potato Day (October 27). Oh, and it’s also National Oranges and Lemons Day. And National Clams on the Half Shell Day. And on top of all that, it’s Easter, too. Sheesh! (I mean, Happy Easter). After learning about the clamming accident that has led to supply shortages, we decided to focus our efforts on both potatoes and oranges and lemons, Knocking them all out in one sitting.

Potatoes grew wild throughout the Americas, and were first domesticated in Peru sometime between 8000-5000 B.C. A well-kept secret at first, when the Spanish conquest decimated the Inca Empire, the Spanish brought potatoes to Europe in the 16th century. Over the next couple of hundred years they spread around the world, becoming a staple crop in many countries. Plentiful and easy to grow, the potato is responsible for an estimated 25% of the world’s population growth during this time. Some of this population gain was wiped out in 1845, when the Irish Potato Famine devastated that country, wiping out the entire crop and leading to approximately one million deaths, and causing a mass exodus from the land o’ leprechauns.

Oranges and lemons are two of the most popular citrus fruits. I feel bad leaving out limes and grapefruit, but rules is rules, man. There’s a popular English nursery rhyme about oranges and lemons that goes,

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Yikes! That’s supposed to help a kid fall asleep? How will that work, with the threat of decapitation looming? Seems like something the brothers Grimm might conjure up. It is believed that oranges originated somewhere in Asia around 2500 B.C. In Europe, oranges and other citrus fruits were grown largely for medicinal purposes; Vitamin C is still considered an excellent cold remedy to this day. Lemons came from the same region, and are a cross between the sour orange and the citron. Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds along on his voyages, introducing them throughout the New World. Today, they – and oranges – grow exceptionally well in Florida and California.

We celebrated both food holidays with a delicious breakfast (using the taters and oranges) and later, iced tea and sweet tea vodka with fresh lemons. Everything was great!

Taters, oranges, and lemons. That's two food holidays in one!

Taters, oranges, and lemons. That’s two food holidays in one!

Categories: Fruit, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

39/365: National Molasses Bar Day

February 8 is National Molasses Bar Day! If your first reaction is “What the heck is a molasses bar?!,” you are not alone. Tara and I wondered the same thing. Turns out it’s sort of like a brownie, only without the chocolate. Which makes for a pretty pointless brownie, if you ask me.

One website describes molasses bars as “a vintage favorite brought back to life” and mentions visits to grandma’s house. Neither of my grandmothers ever made molasses bars, so I was really in the dark on what they were, but there are enough recipe links online to be able to cobble something together, which is exactly what my sweet cobbler-slash-baker, Tara, did.

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.

Molasses is really good when it’s turned into rum, but is too richly flavored to slurp right out of the bottle by itself. Trust me on this. When sugar cane or sugar beets are processed, the sugar crystallizes and turns into a thick syrup. This is molasses. The word comes from melaco, Portugese for honey. Christopher Columbus introduced molasses to the Americas when he brought sugar cane to the West Indies in 1493, and it quickly became an important trade item for the early Colonists, who used it to bake gingerbread and taffy when they weren’t getting plastered on rum. Molasses may be sweet and sticky, but it is also deadly: in 1919 a tank of molasses at the Purity Baking Company in Boston exploded, generating an 8′ high sticky flood of hot molasses that traveled through the north end of town at 35 mph. Known as the Great Molasses Flood, it ended up killing 21 people and injuring 150. What a horrible disas-tah. Local residents claim they can still catch a hint of molasses in the air on warm and windy days. Now, that’s morbid. And what a horrible way to go, smothered by thick, hot syrup. Kinda makes you feel bad for pancakes.

As tragic as this was, we have to remember: molasses doesn’t kill people, people kill people. Only, in this case, molasses did kill people…

Anyway. Molasses bars! Tara made them last night, and we enjoyed them with coffee this morning. But “enjoyed” is a strong word, because honestly, neither of us were blown away. They taste sort of like spice cake, and were awfully crumbly. And neither of us is particularly keen on the flavor of molasses anyway. But hey, that’s another one in the books!

Molasses Bar

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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