EATON Every Year, we wait for their arrival. We binge for six weeks, and then it’s over – back to less festive fare. But how exactly did these festive foods arrive in our holiday spreads? Here are the origins behind a few of our favorite holiday foods.
The first-known recipe of the sweet treat is said to be from Greece in 2400 BCE. The formula was developed and remixed through several cultures and eventually made its way to England, where Queen Elizabeth I was credited with the idea of decorating the cookies. Eventually, gingerbread was consumed year-round, and the shapes changed with the seasons. The designs got so elaborate that they became a symbol of elegance, which is, perhaps, why we save them for a special time like the holidays.
Fruitcakes are just cakes with candied or dried fruit, nuts, and spices. The modern version of this dish was likely whipped up in the Middle Ages, when dried fruits and nuts were really expensive. Because of the price of ingredients and the time and effort that went into making the dessert, it’s assumed December festivities were felt to be the time most worthy of the hassle.
They didn’t always have their stripes! According to legend, the original candy cane, made some 350 years ago, was an all-white sugar stick that was completely straight. In 1670, a choirmaster at a German cathedral bent the sticks to represent a shepherd’s staff. The canes were given out to children during a nativity scene. The candy arrived in America sometime during the 19th century, and around that time the refining process for sugar had gotten to the point where it could be pure white, and the development of better food dyes could create that strong red for the stripe.
Eggnog has a festive history as a staple for the British aristocracy. It’s based on a medieval drink called posset, which consisted of milk, often eggs, and some form of alcohol like sherry or Madeira. Since all the ingredients were expensive at the time, it became a drink of the wealthy. In the winter, the wealthy would drink warm milk and egg drinks with exclusive spices and liquors. Eventually, people in the American colonies were able to harvest the ingredients from their own farms and the drink caught on again. In fact, the drink you sip around the holidays today is uniquely American thanks to the rum—a critical component of American ‘nog which never really caught on with the British upper classes.
Americans have been making creamed vegetables, including green beans, since the late 19th century. When cream of mushroom soup was created, it became a common replacement for the white sauce. But the modern version of the dish was standardized by Campbell’s in 1955, simply to promote one of their soups. Smothering things was a trend at the time and the recipe got boxed to the Thanksgiving zone, with no argument from Campbell executives who estimate the company makes $20 million just off cans of cream of mushroom soup around Thanksgiving.
Many credit the French for inventing the pecan pie after they settled in New Orleans in 1718 and noticed the abundance of pecan trees. But the first recipes actually appeared in the late 19th century, and were often referred to as “Texas pecan pie.” These were standard custards topped with pecans, not the dark rich filling we associate with the dish today. That was created by the Karo Syrup Company in the 1930s when a sales executive’s wife allegedly came up with a “new” way of using corn syrup.
At the turn of the 20th century, marshmallows were handmade and overpriced. Using the gooey item in cooking was very trendy, but a 1917 recipe booklet by Angelus Marshmallow Company really made the idea of using them in candied sweet potatoes stick.
Pumpkin dates back 9000 years to Mexico and was cultivated by the Native Americans for centuries. Before modern food preservation methods, pumpkin was roasted or boiled and often mixed with pie-like ingredients: honey and spices. It’s suspected that the Pilgrims made a similar dish but without the crust.
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This article was written by Joi Louviere via http://mentalfloss.com/article/71273/origins-15-holiday-foods-and-drinks image courtesy of iStock
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