Food History: What Did the Pilgrims Eat?

What foods did the Pilgrims eat on that first Thanksgiving?

  • Wild fowl such as Turkey, Ducks, Geese, Quails, and Passenger pigeons
  • Possibly – cranberries (or other berries)
  • Corn (flour and porridge)
  • Venison

Some traditional foods NOT on the table were:

  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Yams
  • Pie

November 23, 2016

Food History: The Many Uses of Lettuce

Love potion? The Greeks thought that lettuce was an anaphrodisiac, (i.e. it suppressed the sex drive), while the Romans thought lettuce was an aphrodisiac (i.e. – well, never mind, we all know what aphrodisiac means!) Hmmm… 

Digestif or Appetite Suppresant?  For centuries, lettuce was eaten at the end of the meal and was seen as a “refreshing” food. Sort of a digestif. Then, someone decided that it should be eaten at the beginning of a meal because it stimulates the appetite (keep that in mind when as you try to lose weight). This debate rages on. The French still insist on refreshment, while the rest of the world focuses on gluttony.

Relaxant or stimulant? Through the centuries, there have been recommendations to eat a small bowl of lettuce prior to sleep and there have been recommendations to eat it when you want energy.

Confused? The best reason to eat lettuce is because, on some days, nothing tastes as good as a well made salad! 

Food History: Pie – Part 2

Thinking about Pie today…

What is a pie?

The pies we know today are a fairly recent addition to a history that goes back as long as mankind has had the dough to bake into a crust and stuff to put inside it. The purpose of a pastry shell was mainly to serve as a baking dish, storage container, and serving vessel, and in the past, these were often too hard to actually eat.

For hundreds of years, a pie was the only form of a baking container used, meaning everything was a pie.
Reposted from a Nov 24, 2016, 4:49 pm Facebook Post

Food History: Pie – Part 1

Thinking about pie today…

History of Pies

“Men may come and men may go…but Pie goes on forever.” ~ George Augustus Sala

Egyptian Pies
• Some early Egyptian pies were sometimes made in “reeds” which were used for the sole purpose of holding the filling and not for eating with the filling.
• 9500 B.C. – The origins of pie can loosely be traced back to approximately 9500 BC. These pie-like treats were made with oat, wheat, rye, and barley vessels, which were filled with honey and baked over hot coals.
• 1304 to 1237 B.C. – Bakers began to incorporated nuts, honey, and fruits in bread dough, a primitive form of pastry. Drawings of this can be found in the Valley of the Kings etched on the tomb walls of Ramses II, who was the third pharaoh in the 19th dynasty (1304 to 1237 B.C.)

Greek Pies
• Historians trace pie’s initial origins to the Greeks, who made a pastry shell by combining water and flour. The Greeks began the tradition of “galettes”, which is a free form pastry wrapped around a meat filling that served to cook the meat and seal in the juices.

Roman Pies
The Romans, sampling the Greek delicacy, carried home recipes. Romans used various types of meat in every course of the meal, including the dessert course (secundae mensea). According to historical records, oysters, mussels, lampreys, and other meats and fish were normal in Roman puddings. It is thought that the puddings were a lot like pies
160 B.C. – The Roman statesman, Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.), also known as Cato the Elder, wrote a treatise on agriculture called De Agricultura. He loved delicacies and recorded a recipe for a popular cheesecake-like pie/cake called Placenta, which was baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case. Pies were also called libum by the Romans and were primarily used as an offering to their gods.
• The delights of the pie spread throughout Europe, via the Roman roads, where every country adapted the recipes to their customs and foods. The first pie recipe was published by the Romans and was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.

Reposted from Nov 24, 2016, 4:49 pm Facebook post

Food History: Squash


The English word “squash” derives from “askutasquash” (a green thing eaten raw), a word from the Narragansett language*,  Similar words for squash exist in related languages of the Algonquian family such as Massachusetts.

Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita:

  1. Cucurbit. maxima (Hubbard squash, Buttercup squash, some varieties of prize Pumpkins, such as Big Max),
  2. C. mixta (Crenshaw squash),
  3. C. moschata (Butternut squash), and
  4. C. pepo (most Pumpkins, Acorn squash, Summer squash, Zucchini).

In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash. Some varieties of which are also called marrows (mainly in British English). Gourds are from the same family as squashes.

Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, squash is a fruit (being the receptacle for the plant’s seeds). The squash fruit is classified as a pepo by botanists, which is a special type of berry with a thick outer wall or rind with a fleshy interior. 

Archaeological evidence suggests squash may have been first cultivated in Mesoamerica some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago and may have been independently cultivated elsewhere at a later date.

Squash was one of the “Three Sisters” planted by Native Americans. The Three Sisters were the three main native crop plants: maize (corn), beans, and squash. These were usually planted together, with the cornstalk providing support for the climbing beans, and shade for the squash. The squash vines provided ground cover to limit weeds. Weeds can be detrimental to the growing conditions of the squash. The beans provided nitrogen fixing for all three crops.

*Documented by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, in his 1643 publication A Key Into the Language of America.

Source: Wikipedia

Food History: Pigs

Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig – review

Why the pig is so loved and so shunned … this is a witty history of western civilization told through our four-legged pork producer. 

Jeffreys, Henry. Book Review. The Guardian. May 28, 2015.

Food History: In Defense of the Humble Casserole

My mother could really whip out a casserole. She was famous for her “Johnny Knows It” dish.  However, her Tuna Casserole left something to be desired. To her, a casserole was a miracle of modern cuisine. Yet, unbeknownst to her, casseroles have a long history. 

According to this article “The word casserole refers not only to a prepared dish but to the cooking vessel as well.”

‘There are two histories of casseroles. There’s a medieval history and the modern history. The modern history really begins in America,” says Clifford A. Wright, author of “Bake Until Bubbly: The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook” and “Hot & Cheesy.’ ”

Dispatch-Argus. In Defense of the Humber Casserole. January 27, 2015.