Posts Tagged With: Pecan

234/365: National Eat A Peach Day*

If you’re a lover of sweet and juicy summertime fruit, you’ll be quite keen for today’s holiday! August 22 is National Eat A Peach Day.

It’s also National Pecan Torte Day. But we just celebrated National Pecan Pie Day last month, and though a torte is technically more like a cake than a pie, it’s still close enough to give us a serious case of deja vu and want to branch out and try something new. Something not-desserty. So, a peach it is!

Think peaches, and chances are, Georgia pops into your head. But the fruit actually originated in China, where it was a favorite of emperors and kings, and dates back to 2000 B.C. Cultivation spread throughout Persia and Greece, and when Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he introduced the fruit to Europe, where it quickly gained favor, especially with Romans. Archaeologists digging through the remains of towns decimated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. found wall paintings depicting peach trees (along with the curious discovery of Kilroy was here in spray paint). Spanish explorers brought peaches to England and France in the 17th century, where they became valuable and expensive treats. English horticulturist George Minifie brought the first peaches to the North American colonies in the early 17th century, planting them at his Virginia estate. Commercial production began some 200 years later, centered in Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, and Virginia. Peach trees are kind of finicky; they require both cool winter temperatures for proper chilling, and intense summer heat to mature the crop. For this reason, their range is fairly limited.

Peaches and nectarines are the same species, though they are considered different fruit. The fuzzy skin of the peach is dominant, while the smooth skin of the nectarine is the result of a recessive gene.

I love both fruits, and was eager to celebrate today’s holiday – especially since fresh peaches are very much in season right now. If I had my little way, I’d eat peaches every day!

Celebrating this holiday was a breeze, but I’m a little bummed out. Last week I had fresh peaches from the farmer’s market, and they were amazing: perfectly sweet and juicy, just the right consistency. Since we were out of town last weekend we couldn’t make a trip to the farmer’s market, so we settled on peaches from the grocery store. Which paled in comparison. If you ever think farmer’s markets are “too expensive” (hi, dad!), I’m telling you, the little bit extra you’re paying is well worth it. You get quality produce and are supporting the local community.

National Eat A Peach Day

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Categories: Fruit | 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

175/365: National Pralines Day

Today’s food holiday is a little bit sweet and a little bit nutty. June 24 is National Pralines Day!

A praline is essentially a pecan that has been boiled in sugar until it turns crisp and brown. In some parts of the world, almonds are used. Pralines are popular additions to cookies, candy, ice cream, and chicken noodle soup.

Pralines are French in origin, and were named after the 17th century diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin. Talk about a mouthful. Dude-with-a-long-name’s personal chef, Clement Lassagne, actually created pralines after watching children scavenging leftover scraps of almonds and caramel from one of his pastries. Other versions of this story exist. In one, he followed the children, who had stolen almonds and heated them over a candle, caramelizing them. Or, one of his klutzy apprentices knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of caramel. Whatever the true story, pralines caught the fancy of many, and even though dude-with-a-long-name gets all the credit, Lassagne didn’t do too badly for himself. He opened a candy shop in France called Maison du Praslin which is still around to this day.

Pralines made their way with French settlers to New Orleans. Because almonds were in short supply, cooks began substituting nuts from Louisiana’s abundant pecan trees instead. Women who sold pralines on the streets of the French Quarter were known as Pralinières and were given the unique opportunity to sell their wares in order to earn a living. Women who sold “other things” on the streets of the French Quarter earned a living in other ways, but we won’t discuss that since this is a family blog. Since New Orleans was a busy port city, pralines spread around the country, and became a popular confection nationwide.

To celebrate the mighty praline, we stopped by Baskin Robbins for pralines and cream flavored ice cream. I had never had it before, and I’m not exaggerating at all when I say it was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had!

National Pralines Day

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104/365: National Pecan Day

Today is Groundhog Day! Well, not really, but it sure feels like it. Because we celebrate National Pecan Day. Even though we already celebrated National Pecan Day on March 25. Early on, we were warned there were a few duplicate holidays. Several are devoted to potatoes. There’s even a second Coq au Vin Day. Honoring a food more than once seems like overkill, especially when there are plenty of deserving foods that do not have their own holiday yet. Like Spam.Deja Vu

And it also presents a dilemma. I’ve already cracked my jokes and shared the history of the food. I don’t want to repeat myself, so if you are interested in the background of pecans, click on the link above.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll just keep this post really short and let you know how we indulged in the tasty nut this time around. A few weeks ago, we celebrated joint holidays and made pecan waffles. Had I known then that pecans had another day coming up, I’d have just gone with the waffles. Instead of enjoying them for breakfast, this time around we indulged in dessert. Tillamook Caramel Butter Pecan ice cream, to be exact. If you’re not from around these parts, you are missing out. Tillamook is an Oregon creamery known for their cheese and other wonderful dairy products. The ice cream is no exception. I believe this was the first flavor I ever tried, and remains one of my favorites.

Caramel Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Categories: Nuts | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

84/365: National Waffle Day & National Pecan Day*

March 25th is set aside to honor not one, not two, but three separate food holidays. While we’d love to tackle all three, it is a work day, and we have other pressing demands. However, as Meatloaf (the singer, not the food) famously said, “two out of three ain’t bad.” So today we’ll celebrate National Waffle Day and National Pecan Day, but skip National Lobster Newburg Day. Besides, that’s a dish similar to National Lobster Thermidor Day, which we already celebrated in January.

In the Rules section of this blog, I even mentioned today specifically: When there are multiple selections on a given day, we only have to try one. However, if we can incorporate more than one, we will. Using the March 25th example, if it’s Pecan Day and Waffle Day, we’ll make Pecan Waffles!

I guess we’re making Pecan Waffles, then!

I already talked about the history of waffles earlier this month, but I didn’t mention Cornelius Swarthout. He is credited with filing the first patent for the modern waffle iron in 1869. His patent (you can take a look at it here – it’s surprisingly detailed and complex) took a cast-iron skillet and added a hinged lid, with a divider for individual waffles. 42 years later, the electric waffle iron was invented by Thomas Steckbeck of General Electric, with a built-in thermometer to prevent the waffles from burning. But perhaps the most interesting waffle-inspired invention of all belongs to Bill Bowerman, track and field coach at the University of Oregon in the 1960s. Bowerman used his wife’s waffle iron to develop a sole for running shoes that was light and grippable. Hopefully he told her this before she made breakfast! Flush with success at the U of O, Bowerman started an athletic footwear distribution company with Phil Knight called Blue Ribbon Sports, which they renamed Nike. His Waffle Trainer (real name) shoe helped catapult Nike to international success in 1974.

Pecan is a species of hickory tree and is the only nut native to North America (other than Phil Spector). It comes from an Algonquin word meaning “a nut requiring a stone to crack.” Doesn’t get much more literal than that, folks. Like other nuts-that-aren’t-nuts (I’m thinking of you, almond), the pecan isn’t a true nut either, but rather the seed of a fruit. Potato, po-tah-to. Native Americans valued pecans as a food source because they provide 2-5 times more calories per unit weight than wild game, and can be eaten as is. Pecans that fall to the ground are still edible the following year, which I guess makes them nature’s leftovers. They were quite popular with Colonial Americans; Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees at his home in Monticello, and after giving some to George Washington, he in turn planted pecan trees at his home in Mount Vernon. The U.S. grows 80-95% of the world’s pecan crop, with Georgia and Texas the top two pecan-producing states.

We had breakfast for dinner tonight, which allowed us plenty of time to make some tasty pecan waffles. Just a sprinkling of pecans in the batter, and the result was scrumptious!

That’s how you kill two birds with one stone, folks.

Pecan Waffles

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

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