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what FOOD is associated with history? or perhaps a piece HISTORY associated with food?

Mooncake season just passed with the end of the Autumn Festival. The mooncake is served for the full enjoyment of the Moon's splendor and to celebrate the end of a harvest season. Historically, it is also a reminder of a time when Chinese revolutionaries utilized this pastry to overthrow the Mongolian rulers occupying their country. Messages were hidden within the cake or were printed as code on top of the pastry. The moon is mysterious in many cultures and for the chinese, there are many myths and legends that speak of the moon.

What are some other specific pieces of history or perhaps myths that is associated with a food you know?

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  1. No meat on Fridays during Lent.

    1. I have heard (though can't find any sources)that classic French cuisine, which developed by leaps and bounds during the reign of Louis XIV, was used by the Sun-King as a political weapon. One of the biggest threats to his rule was powerful, rebellious aristocrats. So... he held the most lavish banquets with the best food at Versailles, with all aristos invited... except if you challenged his power, no banquet for you!! Plus, the expense to the aristocrats of maintaining the lavish retinue required to appear at court took the money that could otherwise be used to foment rebellion.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Brian S

        Actually the founder of French food is really a Florentine when Catherine de Medeci married Henry the II. She thought the food in France was dreadful and she bought her own cooks into France.

        Louis XIV favorite food was peas out of all things he could of had.

        1. re: designerboy01

          You should read 'Heat'. He debunks that chestnut.

      2. Most food eaten at a religious observance/ritual would fall into this category (not necessarily historical).
        Latkes re miracle of oil after the destruction of the temple.
        Hamentashen to remind us of the evil Hamen at Purim. Makes me laugh when I think of it. You know, you're biting into the evil Hamen.
        Food eaten at Passover - i.e. salt for tears, radish for bitterness, shank's bone re sacrifice, matzoh because they didn't have time to let the bread rise before fleeing into the desert...

        1. How about Mama Cass choking on a ham sandwich?

          4 Replies
            1. re: ciaobella

              That's a myth. And a rather unpleasant one. She died of a major heart attack.

              1. re: bryan

                well, it's still food associated with history- unpleasant or not

              2. For Dragon Boat Festival in China/Hong Kong we ate "tzung tze" - parcels of steamed glutinous rice with duck egg/meat filling wrapped in bamboo leaves, tied and steamed: http://www.gio.gov.tw/info/festival_c...

                It's to commemorate a poet & patriot who drowned himself because the emperor refused to see the light. The populace, who loved him, were supposed to have dropped these into the lake so that the fishes would have something to eat instead of his body.

                  1. Another:

                    After the battle of Marengo in Italy, I believe a victorious Napoleon sent off one of his men to forage for whatever he could from the village - he combined everything he'd managed to scrounge up and the resulting dish became known as Chicken Marengo. (But these days I think we leave out the crayfish.)

                    1. The mission of the HMS Bounty (of mutiny fame) was to sail to Tahiti to obtain breadfruit plants. The plan was to transport the breadfruit to the West Indies, where it was to be grown as cheap and plentiful food for the local slave population.

                      1. Have you read Cod or Salt: A World History?

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                          1. A lot of food in the US associated with Great Depression and in Europe, with WWII.

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                            1. re: welle

                              Also, the refugees in China bought Cha Cherng Mein to Korea and it was a hit. You can even get an "instant version" of this now in the Korean Market.

                            2. Pasta Puttanesca, or alla Puttanesca:

                              The name originated in Naples after the local women of easy virtue. Pasta Puttanesca means "The way a whore would make it", but the reason why the dish gained such a name is debated. One possibility is that the name is a reference to the sauce's hot, spicy flavour and smell. Another is that the dish was offered to prospective customers at a low price to entice them into a house of ill repute. According to chef Jeff Smith of the Frugal Gourmet, its name came from the fact that it was a quick cheap meal that prostitutes could prepare between customers.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: RicRios

                                Years and years ago I spent summers in Naples with my parents. I used to eat in a cheap dive that made excellent pasta. A lot of prostitutes ate there. Guess what pasta they never ordered? (I guess they were afraid the waiter would snicker. He probably would have, too.)

                                1. Beef Wellington

                                  Oysters Rockefeller

                                  Eggs Bendict, maybe that one is a stretch

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. We already had a really long thread on eponymous foods recently: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                    a food named after a person isn't the same as a food with a mythical or historical context.

                                    1. I'll add mooncakes to the growing list of Chinese foods associated with historical events or mythical figures.

                                      Actually, almost every Chinese holiday is associated with some food, like how turkey=Thanksgiving.

                                      1. When Mahatma Gandhi made salt and refused to pay the tax he pointedly reminded the British about the Boston tea party.

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                                        1. re: atheorist

                                          Did you ever notice that he had orange juice in the movie? I wonder if he invented the juice diet? :)

                                        2. I remember learning in microbiology class that some experts suspect that fungus in the grain silos may have contributed to the fervor leading up to the french revolution.

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                                          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                            and possibly the salem witchcraft trials....ergot poisoning i believe...

                                          2. Mormons and seagulls.

                                            1. The potato famine in Ireland and the Irish immigrants that came to North America.

                                              1. To paraphrase a Wikipedia article, the eating of youtiao (the deep-fried Chinese cruller typically eaten with "jook" or pao fan) is viewed as a symbolic protest against Song Dynasty official Qin Hui. Qin is said to have orchestrated the plot to frame the general Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in Chinese culture. The food represents Qin Hui and his wife, both having a hand in collaborating with the enemy to bring about the great general's demise. Thus the youtiao is deep fried and eaten as if done to the traitorous couple. In keeping with the legend, youtiao are often made as two foot-long rolls of dough joined along the middle, with one roll representing the husband and the other the wife.

                                                1. Cadireon, The weird cheese combination in Welsh Rarebit is supposed to have inspired Louis Carrol's "Alice In Wonderland" because of the odd dreams it produced. (That and a penchant for young girls.)

                                                  1. Don't forget spice. Explorers sailed the earth for them, people fought and died for them, they were literally worth their weight in gold. Cloves, for example, grew only in the Spice Islands and inspired conflict between the Dutch, Portuguese, and local rulers untli the French smuggled some out in 1770 and grew them in Mauritius.


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                                                    1. re: Brian S

                                                      Think - locked boxes of the spices we today have in our cupboards. I think the spice trade is an excellent example of how the hunger for gastronomical delight changed history.(Can you imagine pepper being exotic?)

                                                      I guess I'd rather have people daring and exploring for spices and foodstuffs than weaponry and slaves, although there is some overlap I guess.

                                                      1. re: cayjohan

                                                        Don't forget about the cost of salt and sugar in the "Good old days."


                                                      1. re: klmonline

                                                        LOL! Is it still the official drink of NASA?

                                                      2. Mushrooms (see Tiberius, Claudius, Buddha, Czar Alexander I, Pope Clement VII, Charles V of France, any number of the Borgias' enemies).

                                                        1. Tea (colonial protest of taxes, also had a major role in the Opium Wars)

                                                          1. Mayonnaise was invented in 1756 by the French chef of the Duc de Richelieu. After the Duc beat the British at Port Mahon, his chef created a victory feast that was to include a sauce made of cream and eggs. Realizing that there was no cream in the kitchen, the chef substituted olive oil for the cream and a new culinary creation was born. The chef named the new sauce "Mahonnaise" in honor of the Duc's victory. -howstuffworks.com

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                                                            1. re: tbear

                                                              Some more quick research shows the above account to be disputed. Whatever the truth, its a good story.

                                                              1. re: tbear

                                                                tbear, I think food poisening was invented about 4 hours later...

                                                                1. re: Walters

                                                                  My mother used to keep mayo in the pantry. We survived but ech..

                                                              2. All food is related too history...you'd be better to explore food that isn't related to history, now that would keep you busy.

                                                                1. The agricultural revolution; when we as a species transitioned from hunter-gatherer societies to farmer ones. As we all know only with a reliable food source can civilization take hold.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                    I agree with the importance of the ag. revolution, but I note with interest how much wild game and "wild-like" farmed meat we are intereted in now, along with foraged vegetation. Have we come full circle, and are looking for a taste of hunting and gathering to temper what has become, by and large, a bland heterogeneous reliable food supply?

                                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                                      That's an excellent point that I hadn't considered. And by any measure "wild" food does taste more interesting. So I guess that there is some trade-off in terms of food flavor for civilization.

                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                        However, the venison/ostrich/kangaroo one gets in a restaurant is miles away from a deer you just managed to take out on a hunting trip. Wild animals are simply far less consistent in terms of texture and even taste, which isn't always a bad thing

                                                                  2. I don't recall that anyone has mentioned the beginning of cross-Atlantic trade started by Columbus' voyages.

                                                                    The New World (well, new to Europeans) gave corn (maize), tomatoes, potatoes, chilies, bell peppers, chocolate, vanilla, green beans and most other beans (limas, pintos, navies, etc), and turkeys. These ingredients transformed cuisines from Ireland to Thailand. Imagine Italian food without tomatoes or polenta, Korean or Thai or Sichuan food without chilies, German or Irish food without potatoes.


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                                                                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                                                                      To continue Ed Dibble's excellent point, where would we be without the products brought by Europeans: wheat, pigs, citrus, olives, spices and cattle, to name a few.

                                                                    2. The Carpaccio was named after a Italian Painter who like to use bright reds! Some people say this was invented at Harry's but some people say it was invented by the Cipriani's in Venice.

                                                                      1. French Fries where named after Jefferson after he went to a potato party and asked his servant to make him some of those "French Fries"!

                                                                        1. Tartar steak's story is from the Mongols. Who use to like to put raw beef under their saddles and while riding it would pound the meat. The people who wanted to be as strong as the Mongol Tartars would eat this raw meat that was pounded in this fashion.

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                                                                          1. re: designerboy01

                                                                            It was likely horse that was tenderized under those saddles instead of cattle. Mongols had a string of mounts and switched often, they did not travel with herds of cattle. When their horses were exhausted, they were slaughtered and distributed.

                                                                            NB: this is the widely accepted story. Since nomadic warrior bands did not keep a written history, we must accept this as the likely version of the truth, not the absolute truth that can be verified.

                                                                          2. Don't forget the abductee who smuggled out the message, "Help, I'm a prsoner in a fortune cookie factory"!

                                                                            1. Pizza Margherita was created to honour Queen Margherita of Svoy. It has the colours of the Italian flag: white cheese, red sauce, green basil leaves

                                                                              1. The good old Aussie Pav was created to honour the tour of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova back in the 1920's (I think)

                                                                                New Zealanders will tell you THEY created it for Anna's tour of NZ, but ALL kiwi's lie and copulate with sheep.

                                                                                It's a known fact.

                                                                                1. Twice a month most of us get paid our Salary, a word which derives from the latin for salt... in which multitudes of Roman legions were paid.

                                                                                  1. if you want to read a really fascinating non-cook book about food & history "6000 years of bread" is a very cool read


                                                                                    i like to read all of jessica b. harris' work tracing african foodways & cuisine influence throughout the caribbean, american south, new orleans etc.

                                                                                    i also like food mythology and stories-- persephone and her pomegranate seeds, cinderella and her pumpkin, stories about how traditional chinese foods like ma po tofu and barbarian head dumplings were first made.

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                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                      Don't forget Dolly Madison and ice cream!