Posts Tagged With: England

302/365: National Oatmeal Day

In the mood to sow your wild oats? Today’s your day! October 29 is National Oatmeal Day!

Oatmeal is a porridge or cereal made from ground, rolled, crushed, or steel-cut oats. Though oats have been a food source for thousands of years, they initially played second fiddle to wheat and barley. They were originally viewed as a weed-like plant and burned to clear room for more important crops. When they were used for food, it was mostly to feed livestock. The Scottish were the first to cultivate oats and use them as a food source, since oats grew better than wheat in Scotland’s short, wet growing season. This was met with derision by the English, who described them as “eaten by people in Scotland, but fit only for horses in England.” The Scots replied, “That’s why England has such good horses, and Scotland has such fine men!” Ooh. BURN. Oats were first brought to America in 1602, planted off the coast of Massachusetts. They were an important crop to George Washington, who sowed 580 acres in 1786. They were still predominantly a livestock crop in the U.S. until around the turn of the 20th century. As their health benefits became increasingly well known – oats are rich in soluble fiber, and have been shown to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease – oatmeal consumption rose dramatically. Today, it is one of the country’s most popular breakfast cereals.

To celebrate, I stopped by Starbucks for one of their specialty oatmeals, while Tara went the instant (and economical) route. I have to say, I was impressed with all of the add-ins Starbucks included…fruit, nuts, and a packet of brown sugar. Perfectly fitting for such a chilly autumn morning…it dropped to freezing today!

National Oatmeal Day

Categories: Grains | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

295/365: National Nut Day

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. If you don’t, today’s not your day. October 22 is National Nut Day!

National Nut Day has been around for a long time in the U.S. A few years ago, it spread across the pond when Liberation Foods Company, a U.K.-based organization run by and devoted to supporting small farmers and nut gatherers in some of the world’s poorest countries, “imported” the holiday to England as a way to raise awareness for nuts while promoting a healthy lifestyle. The British take it very seriously, with an official website and a nationwide public awareness campaign. Talk about a noble cause. Here in good ol’ America, few people probably realize today is devoted to going nuts. But they should: nuts are healthy and nutritious, and are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is believed that a handful a day can help prevent heart disease. There are many varieties of nuts, some meeting the true botanical definition (acorns, chestnuts, hazelnuts, palm nuts) and others considered culinary nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts). What’s the difference? Let’s ask Wikipedia!

A nut in botany is a simple dry fruit with one seed (rarely two) in which the ovary wall becomes very hard (stony or woody) at maturity, and where the seed remains attached or fused with the ovary wall. A nut in cuisine is a much less restrictive category than a nut in botany, as the term is applied to many seeds that are not botanically true nuts. Any large, oily kernels found within a shell and used in food are commonly called nuts.

Clear? Good! We had a tough time deciding how to celebrate. We’ve already paid homage to many different types of nuts this year, including peanuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds, pralines, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts. They’re all good! We finally decided the best way to honor nuts, plural, was to sample from a can of mixed nuts. It’s recommended you eat a handful a day, and that’s precisely what we did. The can included peanuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, filberts, and pecans. All good stuff!

National Nut Day

Categories: Nuts | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

286/365: National Yorkshire Pudding Day

You’ll want to pop over to the oven and bake up a fresh batch of today’s celebrated food. October 13th is National Yorkshire Pudding Day!

We’ve already celebrated this holiday twice. Sort of. American popovers are basically identical to Yorkshire pudding, and we’ve made them with blueberries and cherries. Both times, they were delicious. But the dish is native to England, so this is our chance to pay homage to our friends across the pond. The first recipe appeared in The Whole Duty of a Woman, published in 1737; this feminist manifesto was a guide for women, teaching them how to behave around men, among other topics. Because women belonged in the kitchen, recipes were included, such as a “dripping pudding” featuring a pancake-like batter. Ten years later Hannah Glasse – sort of a Victorian era Martha Stewart, if you will – published her own recipe in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple, renaming the dish Yorkshire pudding. It became a British staple, traditionally served alongside a Sunday roast, where it was used to scoop up gravy for the meat. In 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry declared, “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.” Many a London housewife has since been surprised by a ruler-yielding intruder in the kitchen who hands out citations for those puddings that don’t rise to tall enough heights.

I wanted to celebrate with a whole ode to the English Sunday roast. It was too perfect not to, considering that this holiday actually happens to land on a Sunday this year, so that’s exactly what we did. Roast beef, mashed potatoes, salad…and Yorkshire pudding for scooping up the gravy. I’ve gotta hand it to those Brits: they’re onto something. The Yorkshire pudding was bloody good, mate!

National Yorkshire Pudding Day

Categories: Pastry | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

77/365: National Oatmeal Cookie Day

Feeling your oats? Then you’ll like today’s food holiday. March 18 is National Oatmeal Cookie Day!

Oddly, April 30 is also designated as National Oatmeal Cookie Day on some calendars. Turns out oatmeal cookies are honored on both days. We’d rather not celebrate the same food twice, and April 30 is also dedicated to raisins, so oatmeal cookies are on the menu today.

Not very long ago, oats weren’t considered fit for human consumption. They were seen as food for horses. Kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing, Loch Ness Monster-harboring Scots were the first to incorporate oats into their own diets. In a friendly little bit o’ UK rivalry, the English used to say, “A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” The Scots fired back,“England is noted for the excellence of her horses; Scotland for the excellence of her men.” This was proven true on the battlefield: when Rome invaded England they had no trouble dispatching the British army, but Scottish soldiers – who were fond of carrying around oatcakes for nourishment – put up a real fight. Lest you think that’s a coincidence, health studies show that a diet consisting of oats lowers cholesterol and contains large amounts of fiber, vitamin E, selenium, copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, and protein. Oats are good for you (though you may set off an airport metal detector if you consume too many pre-flight). Oatcakes were more like a pancake back then, but eventually evolved into cookies in the 19th century. The first known recipe for oatmeal cookies appears in Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking School cookbook.

Raisins are a common ingredient in oatmeal cookies, but Tara uses Craisins instead. Plus white chocolate. She whipped us up a batch this evening, and my mouth was watering while they were still baking in the oven. I love these cookies! Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup butter flavored shortening
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups uncooked oats (quick or old-fashioned)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup Craisins
1 cup white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a cookie sheet. Meanwhile, combine shortening, brown sugar, egg, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat until well blended. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix into creamed mixture at low speed just until blended. Stir in Craisins/white chocolate chips. Drop 2 inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Oatmeal Cookies

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

43/365: National Plum Pudding Day

Today is National Plum Pudding Day! If you’re wondering what plum pudding is, you’re not alone – so were we! Imagine our surprise when we learned that plum pudding contains no plums, and is more of a cake than a pudding. Before you scream “false advertising!” you have to understand that in Medieval times, when the dessert was first invented, raisins were called plums.

Plum pudding is also known as Christmas pudding, and in England – where it originated – it is traditionally served at Christmas time. It was historically prepared with 13 ingredients, to represent Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, and made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity (which occurs on the 8th Sunday after Easter, which itself occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox (March 21). How anybody keeps track of all that is beyond me). It all roughly translates to Christmas time anyway, hence the name. Tradition dictates that all members of the family grab hold of the wooden spoon and help to stir the batter while making a wish. (If it were me, I’d wish we were making something other than plum pudding, but more on that later). This was known as “Stir-Up Sunday,” not to be confused with “Stirrup Sunday,” the popular gynecological holiday. Plum pudding was actually banned during the Puritan period in England because it was deemed “sinfully rich.” It used to be baked with silver coins and miniature thimbles, anchors, and wishbones, to signify wealth, thrift, safe harbor, and luck. This practice died out because people could never find their Monopoly pieces when they were ready to play.

3.5 ounces was plenty.

3.5 ounces was plenty.

I’m glad we planned ahead for the plum pudding, because lemme tell ya, it is a bitch to find in stores. Maybe it’s common in Liverpool, but in Portland? Not so much. So we looked up some recipes, and to say they looked daunting is an understatement. The ingredient list is a mile long (13, my ass!) and includes things like suet, mace, and currants. Oh, plus, after steaming it for six hours, you’ve got to let it all sit – in order for the flavors to blend together – for three weeks. This food holiday might easily have tripped us up had we not planned in advance. Planning in advance, in this case, meant ordering a small plum pudding online from Blue Moon Tea, an importer of teas and foods from the UK located just a few hours north in Tacoma, Washington. Whew! We ordered a small 3.5-ounce container of plum pudding, and believe me, that was plenty. The stuff is dark (because of treacle and other dark sugars, and the long cooking time) and not very appealing in appearance. We microwaved it for 30 seconds and each had a fork full with our morning coffee. It is cloyingly sweet and fruity, and reminds me of fruitcake. Suffice it to say, neither Tara nor I were real impressed with plum pudding.

Mmm!! Your mouth is watering now, huh?

Mmm!! Your mouth is watering now, huh?

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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