One of the most favored fruit in the world is strawberry. It is a delicious small fruit widely appreciated mainly for its characteristic aroma, its bright red color and it is consumed in large quantities whether fresh or in prepared foods. Strawberries are rich in vitamin B, vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium.
The word strawberry is believed to be originated from two the old English words “streaw” and “beirge”. Linguists believe the word straw came into use from the straw-like runners that grow from the plant. According to popular legend, the word actually derived from the practice of farmers placing straw under the plant to prevent the fruit from touching the ground and becoming spoiled. Strawberries were not considered a major crop so often children from London and other towns would be allowed to pick the fruit themselves which they would tie onto pieces of straw to sell in the town markets yelling “straws of berries” to get attention. Many of the children were not educated and would mispronounce their call as strawberries.
Strawberries are grown in America, Europe and Asia but many varieties have also been successfully grown in Australasia and Africa. The red juicy fat varieties that are common today are the descendants from varieties that were cultivated after strawberries were discovered in North America and were bred to increase their size and improve their taste.
Strawberry plants are not very difficult grow and they can be grown almost anywhere in the world. A plant can be bought in early to middle spring and placed in sun light and in somewhat sandy soil. Strawberries are strong to survive in many conditions but enough water is needed during the time that the plant is forming fruit. Strawberries can also be grown as a potted plant and will still produce fruit. A strawberry plant will send out shoots in an attempt to propagate a new plant and if left alone it will be successful in doing so. This shoot can be cut off and placed wherever you wish to start a new plant.
Strawberry plants were used as a traditional Chinese medicine for most of the 26th Century BC. The leaves of the strawberry plant were used to make a weak tea that was thought to detoxify the body and aid in reducing the effects of aging.
It is not known when strawberries were first eaten by humans. Strawberries were one of the native fruits of Italian peninsula. The fruit was not believed to have been terribly popular but nevertheless they were taken to other parts of the empire by Roman settlers and traders.
A medieval seer – St Hildegard of Bingen declared strawberries as contaminated by undesirable animals and should not be eaten by humans as they could poison the human body with mucus that would fill the lungs leading to eventual death.
The North American strawberries were cross bred with the traditional European varieties during the middle of 1700s. They were becoming popular on the social scene not just as a fruit but also as an ingredient for small desserts. A number of new varieties were developed for the sweetness of the taste and perfect size and coloring. Strawberry preserves were also reinvented becoming the ancestors of today’s jelly and jams.
A Swedish botanist and doctor of the 1700s named Charles Linnaeus prescribed a diet of only strawberries believing that rheumatic gout could be cured if strawberries were eaten every day. According to him, the leaves of the strawberry could be dried served in tea and would help cleanse the bowel and relive acid buildup. Modern medicine evidence suggests that this is not true and strawberries are nothing more than a tasty treat.
Strawberry flavored beauty products have become popular during the late 20th century. This had led to a substantial increase in the cultivation of strawberries with many products like shampoos, facial cleansers, soaps and moisturizers requiring high quantities of strawberries in direct comparison with the number used for desserts.
Ratatouille is traditional French stewed vegetable dish. The word “ratatouille” is originated from French and is pronounced as rat-a-tooey. Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish but can also be served as a meal on its own. There is much debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille
There are different views about the exact origins of ratatouille, some believe it was the dish French, some say it was perhaps Catalonian and some say it could have been a Basque dish that reached Southern France, Northern Spain and the Balearic islands. The dish could have been pre-Roman although if this was the case then it would have most certainly been made with other ingredients since tomatoes and zucchini were only introduced to Europe from the Americas while eggplant is native to India, none of which were known in Europe until at least the 1600s and possibly later.
The Basque people used to make stew with potatoes and mutton since before written records in Roman times. The Basques landscape is rugged with plenty of hills and mountains completely unsuitable for crops so their main industry was sheep farming, fishing and growing potatoes.
According to political point of view, the province region and most of the French south coast along with the north western coast of Italy and the north eastern coast of Spain had always been close. Nice was part of the Kingdom of Savoy from 1720 till 1860 which also included Savoy in France and Sardinia, Piedmont and Liguria in Italy. Some local historians believe the ratatouille dish was first created during this time and then it had quickly spread to other parts of the kingdom.
Throughout the Mediterranean, any dish made with vegetables and stewed in olive oil will be given the name ratatouille even if it did not result in the true and traditional recipe. It can be fairly said that ratatouille is more like a style of preparing a vegetable stew than a particular recipe.
Modern explanation suggests that ratatouille could have only inherited its name from Nice later owing to a particular recipe that made it popular. Ratatouille could have been in fact first created somewhere else in the Savoy Kingdom. A definitive cookbook published in the late 1900s, La cuisiniére Provençale by J. B. Reboul which provides an thorough list of over 1100 traditional Provencal dishes and significantly ratatouille is not mentioned.
Samfaina was a recipe of the Catalans of Northern Spain which they claimed was adopted by Southern France. This recipe was noticeably similar to ratatouille and is often prepared with fish pieces. In Malta, a dish known as Kapunata and also made with eggplant, garlic and tomato is a local favorite, this added fuel to a speculation that ratatouille is prepared throughout the Mediterranean.
Although the Mediterranean has local variants or ratatouille but a true ratatouille from Provence will be made with just eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and onions, then simmered in olive oil and seasoned with herbes de provence. Chefs from the Provence region of France will laugh at any other recipe claiming the name ratatouille niçoise if any other combination of vegetables or herbs are used.
Ratatouille has spread worldwide during the 20th century with French cuisine and the word has also entered the English language. Ratatouille dish is a traditionally peasant food but is now a culinary dish served in the top restaurants and many top chefs have their own special recipe that regularly receive praise from critics.
Disney Pixar produced an animation film in the 2007 based on the story of a rat who loved nothing better than to cook up a storm in the kitchen. The title of the film was a play on the lead character that was a rat. It won the best Animated Feature Film in the 2008 Academy Awards and Golden Globe as well. The film’s success encouraged many family oriented restaurants to offer ratatouille as a menu item for children, although historians doubt the dish’s new found popularity will prove sustainable.
Thanksgiving is very closely related with American images of turkey dinners with family and friends that we haven’t thought of whether the holiday could be something more than remembering the Pilgrims. Actually, Thanksgiving has been celebrated not just in the Western world but in ancient times and in many different cultures.
In ancient times, Thanksgiving was usually celebrated after the harvest season when the produce was abundance blessing people with enough food to last through the winter. In ancient Greece, Thanksgiving was celebrated during the feast held in honor of Demeter who was the goddess of agriculture. As the celebration was heavily linked with fertility and childbearing, this was the reason married women would build shelters and fast during the first and second days of the festival.
The Romans celebrated the festival each year on October 4 in honor of Ceres who was the goddess of grains. The harvest festival for Chinese was a feast for the moon’s birthday and special “moon cakes,” which were round and yellow like the moon were baked. The Egyptians honored their god of vegetation and fertility, Min, with music, dancing and a great feast. And the Hebrews observed a harvest festival called Sukkoth, which was known to be a feast eaten inside huts.
All these festivals were held in honor of gods who oversaw the bearing of fruits, the growth of their crops and the fertility of the womb. Each event was celebrated with a lot of feasting, dancing and singing. Offers were made and pleas for another good harvest and for children were sent out to the gods. These same traditional practices are still being observed today despite the Christianity prevails.
During the time when Pilgrims were just newly settled in the New World, they experienced a period of hardship, tragedy and sorrow. They were used to an industrialized England and they faced with a terrible situation when they were suddenly forced to confront the wilderness in the New World. Many of them had died while struggling against the harshness of the land and the threats of the Native Americans. Beating the chances of surviving, becoming friends with their American Indian neighbors and producing plentiful harvest that would sufficiently last through winter were great reasons to give thanks to God.
Having the similarity with ancient peoples thanking their gods, the Pilgrims also gave their thanks to their Lord through a big feast with families and friends. However, it was different from the ancient times and there was not much dancing, drinking or even singing. Thanksgiving among the Pilgrims was a somber ceremony.
The custom of celebrating a feast after harvest was observed through the years but a specific date was not proclaimed. However in the year 1817, the state of New York adopted the Thanksgiving as an annual holiday for the state. Other states followed it and by the middle of the nineteenth century they each had their appointed Thanksgiving Day. President Abraham Lincoln declared a national date for Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Since then, each succeeding President has declared date for the national Thanksgiving Day. The day was usually designated the fourth Thursday of each November as a holiday.
An apple is a type of sweet fruit having round shape with a central core containing seeds, while the bulk of the fruit has edible flesh and covered in a thin skin which is also edible. There is a great number of cultivated varieties of apple as well as many wild varieties not usually picked for sale. The apple is the most popular fruit worldwide having more trees in cultivation and its sale is annually more than any other fruit available. In addition, apples are also used for extracting juice and often used in recipes for many other products such as baked goods, marmalade, jams and preserves or as a sweet additive for spicy foods such as curries.
The apple tree are Asian by origin specifically in the region of the central west corresponding with modern day Kazakhstan, archeological facts located the mountain forests of Tien Shan as the possible origin of all known apple farming. Around 10,000 years ago the first human settlements started to form across the near east, India and further east in China. The ancestors of modern domestic apples were from the tree ‘malus sieversii’ that were already known to nomadic people of the region and agriculture started to develop with the art of growing orchards. The apple tree was the first to grow domestically from seed.
It is known to us around 8,500 years ago apples were grown and eaten in ancient Jericho which was a city in the west bank region of the Jordan River. Jericho is considered to be the oldest and the longest inhabited city in the world with parts of the city dating back to over 11,000 years making the discovery of apple seeds from 8,500 years ago quite reliable and giving a clear indication that apples were eaten for almost as long as mankind have ever existed. There is no evidence that ancient Jericho had orchards as we understand them and the presence of seeds may only mean that apples were eaten and its seeds thrown out, although there are suggestions that if apple seeds were being stored then probably apple trees were also being grown.
Apples or at least the best fruit with sweetest taste and juiciest flesh could only be afforded by royalty and their court in some parts of the ancient world. Apples were a popular dessert from the time as long ago as 4,500 years back. Hittite people were known for favoring apples and the oldest known name for the fruit ‘warawaras’, comes from that time and their royalty is believed to have enjoyed eating sliced apple as a dessert served on plates by their slaves. A mummy of an Acadian lady by the name of Puabi was found in the Royal Cemetery of Ur along with the bodies of 5 guards and 13 ladies were buried with many items of food for her journey to the afterlife which included a plate of sliced apple.
Despite these archaeological findings, the first written reference to apples only appears around 3,500 years ago in the Assyrian Kingdom when an orchard containing apples was sold by one Tupkitilla for the sum of three breeding sheep. Sadly the record does not explain how large the orchard was or how many trees it contained, although it does suggest that apple orchards were common enough and were a part of regular property transactions.
Many scholars believe that the Book of Genesis was written in the time of Moses around 3,600 years back. It specifically mentions a fruit that is widely believed to have been an apple and which Satan encourages Eve to eat, thus cursing humanity and causing the expulsion of Adam, Eve and their descendants from the Paradise or the Garden of Eden. The image of a juicy red apple in Eve’s hand while a serpent or angel speaks to her from the apple tree is a common religious icon and the tree represented the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Jews thought that the tree was not in fact an apple but was a grape or a fig. The Christian era translation of the tree suggesting of being an apple is most likely an error based on the Roman word ‘Malium’ which means evil and is very similar to the Roman word for apple called ‘malus’. These types of errors in translation are common in many historical documents and unfortunately mean that we cannot say for certain that the Book of Genesis is one of the oldest sources of apple history. Although there is a similar Genesis story from Sumerian history which also exists but the tree is not described only to be the serpent.
Apple fruits referred outside the Judeo Christian religious books also appear as spiritual fruits capable of providing eternal life to those who inhale its fragrance as they pass from the world of the living into heaven. A Greek philosopher ‘Aristotle’ is widely reported to have smelled an apple’s aroma only moments before his death and the apple is credited with releasing his soul. A popular legend in Islamic history tells that the Prophet Mohammed was himself offered an apple by an angel and was told that if he inhaled the aroma of the apple he would be assured of eternal life in paradise, moments later the prophet breathed his last breath.
Apples were common fruit during the medieval times throughout Europe and available to everyone. Although orchards that grew the best fruit only sold their apples to those who could afford them or were owned by the nobility and church therefore they were never sold and theft of these was punishable by death or imprisonment. By all account the quality of fruit available varied considerably depending on the experience and skills of the orchardist. It became a custom during these times as an act of nobility to give several baskets of apples to their villagers for the May time festivities and it was also during these times that apple bobbing became a popular activity at local fairs.
The foundation of Switzerland in 1291 as an independent confederation was often attributed to an apple or rather the legend of William Tell who was forced under punishment of death to shoot an apple with his crossbow. The story tells that the Swiss cantons were invaded by Austrian troops and forced to swear allegiance to the Habsburg crown which William Tell refused to do. After Tell successfully shot the apple his fame spread throughout Switzerland and resulted in an uprising that ejected the Austrians. Swiss people are still proud of William Tell’s exploits even today but sadly no proof of his existence ever appeared.
The first editions of many English dictionaries and encyclopedias, apples or ‘appylls’ as they were then spelled during the 15th century were considered to be not just a fruit for eating but also a medicinal fruit capable of helping cure many number of diseases. Sniffing a very ripe sweet apple was particularly believed to have helped in curing an illness known as the sweating sickness. William Shakespeare mentioned apples in many of his sonnets and plays such as the invitation to Falstaff to eat ‘a pippin and a dish of caraway’. A pippin was known as a red and white variety of apple during those early days that was much favored in England.
The most famous mention of apples in popular culture in the US is the story of Johnny Appleseed who was a Massachusetts born eccentric and travelled for forty years around the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio giving small bags of apple seeds to anyone he met who was traveling to the new west. Born John Chapmen, he was a devout man who considered his duty to help spread the Lord’s message and who believed keenly that if America was filled with apple trees then no man, woman or child would ever get hungry again.
The apple is also well-known for a famous saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Nowadays, every young and old enjoy apple as this wonder fruit is very good for health and is rich with calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C besides providing other nutritious benefits.
Focaccia is a popular style of bread made in Italy and spreading around the world in Italian communities. The bread is fairly flat, plain from inside, topped with herbs and olive oil and sometimes with finely sliced olives. A range of focaccia varieties exist and in the 21st century new varieties have been created due to the versatility of the basic recipe.
Most historians believe that Focaccia originated with either the Etruscans of North Central Italy prior to the Roman Empire or in Ancient Greece at the beginning of the first millennium BC. Although flat unleavened bread has been made throughout the Middle East extending to Persia for this long as well and identifying a specific culture behind the first focaccia loaves is almost impossible. Focaccia bread is slightly different because the loaf rises slightly so it’s not traditionally unleavened bread and the focaccia recipe is mostly unknown in the Middle East, yet it has a history of being prepared in Turkey, Italy, Greece, Spain and France.
Focaccia was historically unleavened, the recipe rises naturally in the right climate which gives a further clue to its origins, the further inland one goes the less dense the air becomes and considering so much of the inland Mediterranean is quite mountainous. We can speculate that it was inland people who first created the focaccia bread. Contrast to this with Phoenician people who originated in what is now coastal Lebanon and coastal Syria and then spread throughout the Mediterranean by 1100 BC were not known to eat bread with the same properties as focaccia. In coastal areas a small amount of yeast is needed to make the bread rise otherwise traditional flat bread would be the result.
Its known that the name ‘Focaccia’ is derived from the Roman words “panis focacius”. Panis simply means bread and shouldn’t be confused with the modern English word pan, while used for baking bread is actually derived from the Latin word ‘patina’ meaning dish. Focacius is the Latin word for center or fireplace. Linguists conceive that since the fireplace was in the center of the house that the word could be used interchangeably. Focaccia in Roman times was cooked in the ashes of fire rather than on a tray above the fire so the translation seems right.
Romans used to mix up a simple recipe of rough flour, salt, olive oil, water, a very small quantity of yeast and may have been seasoned with other herbs but in most cases was probably quite plain, this was then baked in the ‘focacius’. In Roman times focaccia was used as dipping bread, usually being torn apart by hand and dipped into salty soups made quite simply from water, vinegar and possibly olive oil. Today, this doesn’t sound very appetizing but it provided nourishment and was a cheap and filling meal for people doing long hours of physical labor.
During the Roman ceremony of Saturnalia, a pig was sacrificed to please the Roman gods. In the later years of the Roman Empire a Lord of Misrule was chosen instead who would be feted upon while all the time wearing the costume of a pig. The Lord of Misrule was always a young man who was expected to act the part of a clown. A focaccia bread would be baked that included a fava bean and the lucky man to find the bean in his piece of bread became lord for the ceremony.
The basic recipe of focaccia spread with the Romans to France and Spain where it became a popular bread to bake initially in less well off areas. In fact focaccia style breads were used widely to feed slaves in the Roman Empire and a shame still exists today in some countries. In Spain, pan de hogaza, the peasant’s bread which is made in a similar way to Roman panis focacius is also known as pan rustica, a homemade bread typically made in the countryside among the very poor.
Focaccia style recipes in France such as fouaisse or foisse hat made in maroon are considered a daily bread by a significant part of the population and in bakeries is still one of the most popular selling breads. Similarly in the regions of Provence and Languedoc fogassa as it is known, focaccia breads are still very popular with bakeries and supermarkets all selling more fogassa than the French baguette which is a typical considered bread for France.
In modern times since the medieval ages, the Catholic Church used focaccia quite widely during religious festivities, most often during the Eucharist and the unleavened recipe of focaccia is most commonly used. It was primarily owing to Christ’s use of unleavened bread during The Last Supper. The tradition was derived from the ready availability of focaccia bread. The method is simple and some say pure recipe untainted with foreign ingredients thus representing Christ’s flesh which is of course considered entirely pure and free from sin.
Italian immigrants to the United States in the 20th century brought recipes with them for pizza, bruschetta, grissini and of course focaccia. Arguably focaccia is no longer strictly the preserve of Italian communities, nowadays it can be found in almost all bakeries and supermarkets. Wide variety of seasonings are available and focaccia bread makes very tasty sandwich bread frequently served with fillings of cheese and ham.
Mexican food lovers would have probably come across the enchilada. Enchiladas today are not only available at purely Mexican food outlets but can be found at restaurants that offer Tex-Mex specialties, diners and even many supermarkets sell either frozen enchiladas to make it quickly – using a microwave or they sell a package of ingredients that can help you to make several enchiladas for an easy family meal.
What is an Enchilada?
An Enchilada is purely a corn tortilla that is rolled around meat and cheese. Many top it with a spicy chili sauce or top it with onions, cheese, sour cream, beans, nacho cheese, guacamole, etc. It is similar to a taco, the enchilada can be made with a wide variety of ingredients, whether it is chicken, steak, fish, etc and a variety of cheeses, beans vegetables, etc. It is an extremely versatile dish and many find it pretty tasty.
Enchilada of the past
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that enchiladas come from the Mayans. The dish was first associated with the region of Mexico by the Yucatan in pre-Columbian days. Corn tortillas were a staple of the Mayan people and there is evidence that basically the first enchiladas were tortillas that had fish rolled in it. The enchilada is similar to papadzules which is a traditional Mayan dish and it also comes from the Yucatan region. This dish is made of corn tortillas which are dipped in pumpkinseed and rolled around chopped boiled egg, it is then smothered in tomato sauce. This dish was primary food for the nobles and was said to be served on special occasions.
When the Spanish conquerors made their way to the Western Hemisphere they documented the variety of foods eaten by the indigenous people. Tortillas made from flattened corn bread were originally called ‘Tlaxcalli’, however it was the Spanish conquerors that named it the tortilla. Throughout the later centuries, the Mexican people continued to enjoy this dish and the enchilada can be found in a wide variety of cook books dating all the way back to the first Mexican cook book which was published in 1831 called El Cocinero Mexicano or The Mexican Chef.
The Enchilada of today
Today with the internationalization of food, many chefs are always keen to look for the best foods of each culture to share with their friends and customers. It is no wonder that the enchilada has earned wide praise from many food lovers around the world, it is not only tasty but nutritional and extremely versatile making it a great item to serve. In addition over the years, many Mexicans immigrated to the US bringing their culture with them that included their delicious foods. Today, the enchilada and other great Mexican foods are continuing to grow in popularity because of it’s easy to make ingredients and plenty of ways to prepare it. It can be expected to continue to see the enchilada in our neighborhood served in its many forms.