Posts Tagged With: George Washington

363/365: National Pepper Pot Day

One of our final challenges involves a thick and spicy soup that played a crucial role in American history. December 29 is National Pepper Pot Day!

And of course, this is one of those unusual/complicated dishes that is impossible to find in a small town like Ely (and probably a stretch to locate even in a thriving metropolis such as Portland). One that requires careful preparation at home. Of course, we’re not AT home, and busy with other things…so how on earth will we possibly celebrate this food holiday? Is our quest for completion doomed to failure with a mere 3 days left?!?!

Read on, friends.

The year was 1777. The date, December 29. The Revolutionary War was in full swing, and George Washington’s troops were hunkered down in a snowy field in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, tired, weak, cold, and hungry. Area farmers had sold their crops to the British Army for cash, rather than rely on the meager currency carried by the Continental Army. Capitalism was at its finest, even then. The soldiers were low on food, and even lower on morale. And then Christopher Ludwick, the baker general of the Continental Army, gathered together every bit of food he could find: scraps of meat, tripe, vegetables, and pepper. He mixed the ingredients together in a large pot with whatever spices and seasonings he had available, and created a hearty, thick, spicy soup that became known as Pepper Pot. It gave the soldiers much-needed strength, which in turn restored their confidence. Pepper Pot is known as “the soup that won the war.” If not for Christopher Ludwick, we might all be driving on the left side of the road today and speaking in funny accents.

There are many different recipes for Pepper Pot. Truly, it’s one soup you can create from scratch on your own, following Ludwick’s original idea of using whatever is available. We more or less used this recipe from the City Tavern in Philadelphia, altering it enough to make it our own. Here’s the kicker: we made the soup Thursday evening, before we left for Ely. We enjoyed it for dinner that night, and then brought leftovers with us to heat for lunch while out of town. Probably the most prep work we’ve had to do all year (minus the vanilla custard, which also took place during a trip to Ely).

And how was the Pepper Pot? Absolutely delicious! The soup was rich, hearty, and aromatic; the allspice added warmth and a unique depth of flavor. This recipe’s a keeper – definitely one of my favorite challenges of the year!

National Pepper Pot Day

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Categories: Soup | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

346/365: National Cocoa Day*

You might end up steaming mad if you overlook today’s food holiday. December 12 is National Cocoa Day!

It’s also National Ambrosia Day. This was considered a food or drink of the Greek gods that, when consumed, would provide immortality to whoever ate it. Seeing as how there aren’t any 1,000-year-old Greeks walking around nowadays, I’m thinking that’s one legend that never lived up to its hype. It’s also National Popcorn String Day. Great for decorating Christmas trees, but probably not meant to be consumed until after the holidays, by which time it’s stale. So we’re going with cocoa, which is a perfectly hot and refreshing treat this time of year!National Hot Cocoa Day

The Mayans were the first to use cacao beans to brew a beverage known as xocoatl, an unsweetened precursor to hot cocoa. In the 17th century, Spanish doctor Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma was the first to publish a recipe for modern-day hot chocolate, referring to it as an elixir to help cure ailments. The drink was a hit; even our esteemed first President, George Washington, enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa for breakfast every morning. Hey, a man’s gotta have something to look forward to after a busy AM chopping down cherry trees!

Though many people consider hot chocolate and hot cocoa one and the same, there actually is a difference. Hot chocolate is made by mixing hot water or milk with melted chocolate, while hot cocoa is a combination of hot water or milk and cocoa powder.

To celebrate, we had a cup of hot cocoa before bed. Yum! (I took the spoon out, first. Wouldn’t want to poke myself in the eye).

Categories: Beverages | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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

193/365: National Pecan Pie Day

If you’re a little bit nuts, you’ll be proud to partake in today’s food holiday. July 12 is National Pecan Pie Day!

First off, in order to make sure you’re pronouncing things correctly, here’s a clip of Harry teaching Sally how to correctly order pecan pie.

Oh, how I love that movie.

Pecan is a Native American word used to describe any nut that requires a stone to crack. Which means that a pecan is a pecan, and a walnut is also a pecan, but a peanut is not a pecan.

Far out, man.

Pecan trees are the only nut trees native to North America. They originated in the central and eastern parts of the country, and were favored by pre-Colonial Americans because of their close proximity to natural waterways, their smooth and buttery flavor, and the fact that they weren’t “a tough nut to crack,” which is more than I can say about some of my ex-girlfriends. Every autumn, Native Americans would gather pecans to make a fermented drink called Powcohicora. They would then sit around a blazing hearth and get silly-ass drunk off of nut juice. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were so enamored of pecans, they planted trees in their gardens. New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, became a crucial hub for marketing and distributing pecans throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. French immigrants living in that city baked the first pecan pie, and the Karo company popularized the dessert by including pecan pie recipes on bottles of their corn syrup. It soon became a Southern staple, particularly around Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving may be months away yet, but that didn’t stop Tara and I from sharing a slice of pecan pie today. For breakfast. Neither of us had ever had it before. It was a little sweet for my tastes, and definitely had a maple flavor…which actually made it perfect with a cup of coffee. 

National Pecan Pie Day

Categories: Desserts, Nuts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

158/365: National Chocolate Ice Cream Day*

Want the latest scoop? Psst…June 7 is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day!

It’s also National Doughnut Day, a “floating” food holiday that occurs on the first Friday in June. Normally we’d be all over that, except for the not-so-insignificant fact that tomorrow is National Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day. Gotta have a little variety, you know? Then again, a few days ago we celebrated rocky road ice cream…

But back-to-back doughnut days are overkill. So we went with ice cream instead.

When it comes to ice cream flavors, vanilla is the most popular choice hands down (with 29% of the vote). Chocolate comes in second place (8.9%). But hey, there’s no shame in being a runner-up! (Unless you’re only up against one other competitor. Sorry, Super Bowl-losing San Francisco 49ers). Chocolate ice cream is made by blending cocoa powder with eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla. It’s been around for centuries; the first ice cream parlor in America opened the same year we became a country, in 1776. Quakers brought over their favorite ice cream recipes, and the frozen treat became a widespread hit. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson all indulged in ice cream when they weren’t busy flying kites in thunderstorms or secretly crossing the Delaware River and stuff. In fact, there’s a brown smudge on one corner of the Declaration of Independence that is rumored to be a dripping from the chocolate ice cream cone that Jefferson was licking when he put quill to parchment. That’s a totally made up fact, by the way. But it could’ve happened.

To celebrate, we picked up a small container from Fred Meyer. And ate it in the bedroom by candlelight. Chocolate = romance, right?

Chocolate Ice Cream

Categories: Dairy, Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

51/365: National Cherry Pie Day

Today’s food holiday warrants a big celebration: it’s National Cherry Pie Day! In case that reference is a little too subtle (or a little too 1990) for you, here’s what I’m talking about.

Warrant takes “innuendo” to a whole new level there! But they are singing about cherry pie, so it was only appropriate to share.

The fact that National Cherry Pie Day is celebrated in February – and within days of President’s Day – can’t be a coincidence. After all, George Washington will forever be associated with cherries thanks to his famous “I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree” admission of guilt. Even though cherry pies are a quintessentially American dessert, credit for their invention actually goes to Queen Elizabeth I of England, whom it is believed not only came up with the idea for the pie but allegedly baked it herself in the royal kitchen back in the 16th century. In fact, the girl in Warrant’s video is modeled after Her Highness. Pies (originally spelled “pyes”) have been around a lot longer than that, but were usually made with meat. During the Medieval period, whole birds were typically baked into pies and their feet were left dangling out of the crust, to be used as handles. You might think that sounds disgusting, but I say it’s handy and convenient! Fruit pies (or pasties) were developed right around the time of the Queen’s reign. When pies came to North America, colonists added sugar and spices to the crusts to make them edible; prior to this, crusts were called “coffyns,” oddly appropriate considering they once contained whole dead birds inside, and were virtually inedible. Thankfully, cherries are a whole lot more palatable than dead foul, which probably explains why cherry pie is such a popular dessert. It was, in fact, a favorite of Kyle MacLachlan’s character, Dale Cooper, on Twin Peaks, who enjoyed his pie with a cup of coffee.

Hey, it's got natural AND artificial flavors!

Hey, it’s got natural AND artificial flavors!

Perhaps that was the inspiration for our celebration this morning. Or maybe we were just feeling lazy. There are other pie holidays to celebrate this year, and I promise at some point we’ll make a homemade one – when the ingredients are in season (i.e. strawberry rhubarb pie in June). But today, we shared one of those cheap prepackaged cherry pies that didn’t even have the decency to be Hostess, for crying out loud! But hey, it still counts. And, much like Agent Cooper, we had ours with coffee.

Thank you, Queen Elizabeth I.

Thank you, Queen Elizabeth I.

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

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