Posts Tagged With: World War II

355/365: National Kiwifruit Day*

You’ll be green with envy if you don’t take a bite into today’s sweet and juicy food of honor. December 21 is National Kiwifruit Day!

Alternatively, some calendars list today as National Hamburger Day, but others show that as May 28 (we celebrated brisket). There was also a National Cheeseburger Day in September, so we’re going with kiwifruit (only I’m shortening it to kiwi, since that’s what many people call it, and it’s less cumbersome to type) instead.

Kiwi is the edible berry of a woody vine native to China, and has actually been declared a National Fruit of China. In the early 20th century, Mary Isabel Fraser – principal of a girl’s college in New Zealand – brought back kiwi seeds after visiting mission schools in Yichang. The seeds of the Chinese gooseberry, as the fruit was known back then, were planted in 1906, and began fruiting in 1910. The fruit was popular with American servicemen stationed in New Zealand during World War II, and plans were made to market and export the fruit to the U.S. Not feeling the name was an accurate representation of the fruit, it was changed to melonette, but the importer was unhappy because melons and berries attracted high duties. Exporter Jack Turner suggested the name “kiwifruit” in 1959 because both the fruit and New Zealand’s native bird, the kiwi, were similar in appearance – small, brown, and furry. The name has stuck ever since (except in China, where it is now known as the Macaque peach.

Whatever you call it, kiwis are delicious! The easiest way to eat them, I learned long ago, is to slice them in half, and then scoop out the sweet flesh with a spoon. Which is exactly what we did this morning.

National Kiwifruit Day

Categories: Fruit | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

337/365: National Apple Pie Day*

Today’s food holiday is about as American as baseball, hot dogs, and Chevrolet. December 3 is National Apple Pie Day!

And also National Peppermint Latte Day. I love a good latte, but find peppermint flavor a little strong for my liking in a coffee drink. And since we have options, we decided to celebrate National Apple Pie Day instead. Call it our ode to patriotism in the month of December.

While apple pies are viewed as a quintessential symbol of America, recipes date back to the 14th century – long before our country was even “discovered.” English apple pies consisting of good apples, good spices, figs, raisins and pear were popular around this time. They were baked in a cofyn – a casing of pastry – and the filling was colored with saffron. American apple pies took awhile to catch on; it was the 17th century when recipes first began to appear. This is primarily because there were no native apples in early Colonial settlements; apple trees had to be brought in from Europe and planted. And then, they had to mature – several years would pass before they could bear fruit. By the end of the 19th century, apple pie had become a symbol of American prosperity and national pride. A 1902 newspaper article declared, “No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.” During World War II, when soldiers were asked why they were going to war, the popular answer became “for mom and apple pie.” And, of course, who can forget this classic commercial? 

My mom baked an apple pie and shared it with us, and if that isn’t fitting – something about mom’s apple pie – then, I don’t know what is. Granted, she baked it last summer and had it stored in the freezer, but she defrosted it just for us. Aww…thanks, mom. It sure was delicious!

National Apple Pie Day

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

180/365: National Almond Buttercrunch Day

June 29 is one of those oddly specific food holidays that left us scratching our heads in confusion at first, wondering what the heck it is exactly. It’s National Almond Buttercrunch Day! But there’s no need for bewilderment; that’s simply the generic name for a well-known brand of candy known as Almond Roca.

Whew. That I know.

Candy company Brown & Haley developed almond buttercrunch just in time for World War II, where it became a popular treat with soldiers thanks to J.C. Haley’s novel idea of storing it in tins to keep it fresh, similar to the method used for storing coffee at the time. This made the candy easy to ship to far-flung locations across Europe and Asia. Brown & Haley named their creation Almond Roca because the almonds they used were exported from Spain, and the candy’s texture reminded them of rocks; “roca” is the Spanish word for rock. Almond Roca is essentially English toffee with just a few ingredients – butter, sugar, salt, and almonds.

I suppose we could have slaved over a hot stove making our own almond buttercrunch, but why bother when every it’s easy enough to find in the grocery store? (Although, it did take us three tries). I’m very familiar with Almond Roca because it was my former father-in-law’s favorite candy. Odd that the candy outlasted the marriage, but hey – it’s good stuff!

National Almond Buttercrunch Day

Categories: Candy | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

102/365: National Grilled Cheese Day*

You just might melt with desire over today’s food holiday. April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Day – a favorite of kids and adults alike! At least these two adults. In fact, last year Tara and I did a grilled cheese challenge on my regular blog…long before this one ever got started. You can read about it here. Suffice it to say, we both love grilled cheese, and were happy to be able to celebrate it today.

For the record, it’s also National Licorice Day. We both despise licorice, so choosing which holiday to celebrate was a no brainer! Besides, not only is today National Grilled Cheese Day, but April is Grilled Cheese Month. How could we resist?

Bread and cheese have been served together at mealtime for centuries – a practice dating back to at least Roman times. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s – at least here in the U.S. – that the bread and cheese actually joined forces, when people who were flat-ass broke and struggling to survive the Great Depression took two inexpensive ingredients, sliced bread and American cheese, and turned them into a cheap meal. They were a staple of the armed forces during World War II; navy chefs prepared countless “American cheese filling sandwiches” aboard ship. Early versions of the sandwich were served open-faced and initially called Cheese Dreams, and then “toasted cheese” or “melted cheese” sandwiches, remaining popular well into the 1960s. That was when enterprising chefs realized they could add a second slice of bread and create a more filling meal, one that was capable of being eaten by hand. And also when they were first referred to as “grilled cheese” sandwiches. The very definition of comfort food, grilled cheese sandwiches fell out of vogue for a number of years, but starting in the 1990s have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. They can be made with any cheese that will melt, and an endless array of toppings (see link to our blog post above).

For today’s challenge, we kept it simple and went back to basics. Just bread and cheese (cheddar for Tara and American for moi). After all, why mess with perfection?

Grilled Cheese

Categories: Bread, Dairy | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

37/365: National Nutella Day

Today is an unusually confusing day. As you know, we have an official food calendar we are consulting for these various holidays. Just for fun, I double check several other sites every day, to verify there isn’t a mistake. It’s all about authenticity, folks! 99% of the time there are no issues. Today? Ugh. Our calendar says it’s National Nutella Day. Some online sources agree, but others say that was yesterday. Depending on who you believe, today is either Nutella Day, Chopsticks Day, Frozen Yogurt Day, or even Food Checkout Day. Weird that February 6 is so full of disagreement. Since at least 4 or 5 different sites match our calendar, and we’d already planned for it, we are sticking to our guns. With that in mind, Happy National Nutella Day!

Nutella (like carrot cake) is another food item we can thank World War II for. Chocolate rationing left Italian baker Pietro Ferrero in a lurch. Chocolate was his bread and butter, so to speak. Looking for a way to make his supply last, he turned to hazelnuts, which grew like weeds in and around his hometown of Alba, in the Piedmont region of Italy. Ferrero initially created a solid block of hazelnuts and chocolate, but in 1951 he produced a creamy version he called Supercrema. In 1963 his son Michele (yes, son) wanted to sell the product all over Europe, so he modified the recipe and renamed it Nutella. It was an instant global success. But Nutella has lately suffered from some negative press. A class action lawsuit against Ferrero was settled just last year, after it was deemed that Nutella’s marketing claim of being “part of a nutritious breakfast” was, to put it mildly, not exactly the truth. Well, duh! One glance at the label – sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa solids, and milk – should give a clue to even the most naive consumer that Nutella is not on par health-wise with, say, oatmeal. Half of the calories come from fat, and 40% from sugar. If you really think that’s nutritious, I’ve got a bridge for sale.

Nutritious or not, Nutella is good. I had never tried it before today! I know, I know. I lead a sheltered life. Since I was a Nurgin® (a Nutella virgin, and yes, I’m trademarking that), I figured the simplest presentation would be best. A slice of white bread toast topped with Nutella. I’m not a big fan of sweet breakfasts unless there is something savory to accompany them, which may be why I said, two bites in, that the Nutella toast would have been perfect if it were topped with bacon. I wish I’d thought of that sooner! But, it was good. Nutty and chocolatey and creamy and smooth. I get the appeal now.

IMAG0503

Nutella on toast. Not a bad morning pick-me-up!

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

34/365: National Carrot Cake Day

Today is both Super Bowl Sunday AND National Carrot Cake Day. There would have been less work involved today if we were celebrating chicken wings or chips and dip, I suppose, but we can’t control the calendar!

At least carrot cake is healthier than most other cakes. Carrots have been used to flavor cakes since Medieval times, when sweeteners were hard to come by and expensive. Nothing satisfied a battle-hardened army freshly returned from plundering, pillaging, and ravishing young maidens more than a big ol’ hunk of carrot cake! This practice died out once sugar became more common and cheap, and for centuries the practice of using a veggie in a dessert was about as foreign as Donald Trump ever getting a decent haircut. And then World War II came along, and with it, sugar rationing. (I’ve never understood this. There was also metal and rubber rationing, which I get. Those are both used to make tanks and Jeeps. But while sugar might satisfy the sweet tooth of some boogie woogie bugle boy from Company B, why else was it such a big deal during “the big one”)? The British government promoted desserts using carrots in order to keep its citizens happy, and there was a sudden glut of carrot puddings, pies, and cakes. Carrot cakes first showed up in the U.S. right around the same time as the Beatles in the early 1960s, and were considered a novelty item on restaurant and cafeteria menus. Until people actually tried them, and fell in love. They are now a standard dessert item everywhere.

It’s been a crazy weekend – Tara and I got engaged Friday night (!) so we’ve been sort of preoccupied with thoughts about our future, ya know? But time – and Eat My Words – waits for no man, as they say. Mrs. Smith’s used to sell a frozen carrot cake that was really good, but we couldn’t find it anywhere yesterday, so we resigned ourselves to baking a cake of our own (and by “we” and “ourselves” I mean “Tara” and “herself”).

Tara diggin' in to the carrot cake!

Tara diggin’ in to the carrot cake!

Unfortunately, we had to use a box mix.  I don’t know why I feel like I have defend that choice, but we were already at the store and didn’t have a recipe on hand, so a pre-made mix seemed like the best choice.  And the weird thing is that Carrot Cake is one of the few that I’ve always wanted to make from scratch.  I loves me some Carrot Cake!  But after the excitement from this weekend and a few Bloody Marys during the Super Bowl, this is what we got.

By the way, I tried guilting Mark into baking the cake.  I’ve been up since 4:30am and was downstairs and cleaning the kitchen by 5:30.  We crashed early last night and the house has been neglected pretty much since before Christmas…I was long overdue for some productive chores.  By the time Mark’s parents showed up for lunch at noon, I was dead on my feet.  But at least the house looks good!

Anyway, Mark is always a trooper, but he seemed reluctant to bake that damn cake.  I showed him the instructions on the back of the box and assured him how easy it would be.  He eyed me skeptically, while about to dump the dry mix into a bowl.  I quickly yanked the bowl away and reminded him that Alton Brown always has a Dry Party and a Wet Party!  So I whisked together the eggs, veggie oil, and water…added the dry mix and poured it all into a cake pan.  As I opened the oven door, Mark asked, “Is that it??”

By the time the game was over, the cake had cooled enough for the pre-made (blech) cream cheese frosting.  Mark said it was “Sooooo good!”, but it reminded me too much of plain ol’ Spice Cake.  Definitely not as good as Mrs. Smiths!

I loved it, babe. Carrot cake is always good. (And I would have made it, even though I guess I would have made it wrong). Thanks for your help, as always!

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

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