Posts Tagged With: Pennsylvania Dutch

313/365: National Split Pea Soup Day*

All we are saying is give peas a chance. Especially today: November 9 is National Split Pea Soup Day!

It’s also National Scrapple Day. If you’re wondering what the heck scrapple is, so was I. I’m almost afraid I bothered to look it up. Apparently, scrapple is a loaf of meat made with the scraps left over from butchering hogs. Spices and buckwheat flour are added to the pork fat and trimmings, and the whole thing is poured into a loaf pan to chill and take on a semi-solid congealed texture. Later, it’s sliced and fried, and this “delicacy” – popular in the Mid-Atlantic states – is panfried and served with ketchup, jelly, honey, mustard, or syrup. It’s considered a traditional meal of the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish. And people give me a hard time for liking Spam! {Shudder}. What a shame scrapple is pretty much impossible to find out here on the West Coast. Of course, some people (cough*Tara*cough) don’t consider split pea soup much of a step up, but given the alternative, c’mon! (And there’s a 3rd food holiday – National Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day – that is much too wide open to interpretation to do us much good. We’re having a fun and busy weekend in the Emerald City. Who’s got time to think?).

Oh, and it’s also my mother-in-law’s (Tara’s mom’s) birthday. Happy birthday, Tracy! Sorry I don’t have a nice, gift-wrapped scrapple for you.

Peas have been cultivated for nearly as long as humans have walked the earth, and pea soup dates back to ancient times. Greeks and Romans were growing peas around 500 to 400 B.C., and street vendors in Athens often peddled hot pea soup. The soup is made from dried split peas and can range from grayish-green to yellow in color, depending on the variety of pea used.

We have a busy day planned and nobody was crazy about serving split pea soup on Tracy’s birthday (with the possible exception of me – I love the stuff), so we took the easy way out and heated up a can of Campbell’s Split Pea with Ham. For an appetizer before the birthday dinner. As per usual, I loved it. Tracy loved it. Anne loves it. Tara thought it was disgusting, but took her requisite spoonful. My nephew Anthony and I polished off the rest of the bowl, ’cause we can appreciate a delicious soup!

National Split Pea Soup Day

Categories: Soup | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

283/365: National Angel Food Cake Day

Today’s food of honor is a heavenly treat. October 10 is National Angel Food Cake Day!

Angel food cake is the culinary opposite of Devil’s food cake: a light and airy sponge cake made with no fat (butter, cream, or egg yolks). It was named for its angelic light color, and was described as a “food of the angels.” Personally, I think angels would be more into wings, but what do I know? It is made by whipping egg whites until they’re stiff, adding cream of tartar as a stabilizer, and then folding additional ingredients in. The Pennsylvania Dutch, who began mass-marketing bakeware in the early 1800s, are given credit for inventing angel food cake, which perfectly fit the specialized cake mold they developed at the time. The first angel food cakes were baked by African-American slaves in the American south, and soon became a popular post-funeral meal. Perhaps the name had something to do with that? An early recipe for a “snow-drift cake” appears in Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book, and Companion for Frugal and Economical, published in 1871, and a recipe for a similar “silver cake” is printed in What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. in 1881. Angel food cake was a favorite of Lucy Webb Hayes, wife of  Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th President.

We picked up some mini angel food cakes to celebrate, rather than messing around with making (or buying) a whole cake. They were like angel food cupcakes (though sadly, without frosting) and were just freakin’ adorable. I wanted to hug mine. But I ate it instead, with a cup of coffee before work.

National Angel Food Cake Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

116/365: National Pretzel Day

You’ll be in the mood to twist and shout today if you’re a pretzel lover. April 26 is National Pretzel Day!

It is believed that the pretzel was created by a bored monk (is there any other kind?) in the year 610, at a monastery somewhere in southern France or northern Italy. Scraps of dough were formed into strips and folded, to represent a child’s arms in prayer, with the three holes representing the Holy Trinity. The warm dough was offered as a bribe to children who memorized Bible verses and prayers. They called the doughy creation pretiola, Latin for “little reward.” As it spread through Italy the name was changed to brachiola, meaning “little arms.” Germany, probably more closely associated with pretzels than any other country, offers up an alternate version of their backstory, claiming they were invented by desperate bakers being held hostage by local Dignatories. Whatever their true source, pretzels (called bretzels there) have been an integral part of German culture for centuries. German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch introduced the pretzel to America in the 19th century, and soon handmade pretzel bakeries flourished throughout the Pennsylvania countryside and beyond. In 1850, the first hard pretzel bakery opened in Lilitz, Pennsylvania; hard pretzels became a popular snack food that appears in various shapes and sizes – sticks, rods, braids, and loops. In the 20th century, street vendors in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia popularized soft pretzels. The pretzel remains an iconic image of Philadelphia today, with residents consuming 12 times the national average each year.

I love pretzels, particularly freshly baked soft pretzels warm from the oven, sprinkled with salt and dipped in yellow mustard. I will rarely emerge from a shopping mall without eating a pretzel. Sometimes, I go to the mall just for a pretzel. Today was one of those days. Auntie Anne’s never disappoints.


Categories: Snacks | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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