The humble hot dog, considered as American as apple pie, can trace its earliest roots back to Roman times when an uncleaned pig was served to Emperor Nero. Nero stuck a knife in the carcass and discovered a fully cooked, puffy intestine which could be stuffed with ground meats, spices, and wheat. This incarnation made its way to Europe and was embraced and fully developed in what we know today as the hot dog by the Germans in the city of Frankfurter more than 500 years ago. German immigrants introduced the hot dog to New York in the 1860s, where hot dogs were sold on pushcarts.
Americans consume 3 billion pizzas annually, at a cost of $38 billion dollars. This favorite has its roots in Naples, Italy, where Raffaele Esposito wanted to create a dish to honor Queen Margherita in 1889. Known at the time as peasant bread, Esposito used a flatbread crust, and topped it with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil to represent the three colors of the Italian flag; red, green, and white. The dish was such a hit with the queen that Esposito dubbed the dish “Pizza Margherita”. Its popularity quickly spread to America, England, France and Spain. During World War II, American soldiers became acquainted with the dish, and its popularity in the US boomed upon their return home.
While one may assume from the name that this tasty treat originated in France, in fact, its origin traces back to Belgium where potatoes were first fried in the 1600s. Poor villagers often caught and fried small fish as their main source of food. However, the winter freeze forced the villagers to find another source of food. The potato, a root plant, was plentiful in the region and villagers began to slice and fry them in the same manner in which they prepared their fish, thus the earliest French fries were born.
While it is widely known that tacos originated in Mexico, the story of how the taco become known as the taco is not. Back in the 18th century, Mexicans working in silver mines used little charges to excavate ore. These charges, called tacos, were pieces of paper that were wrapped around gunpowder and inserted into holes carved into the mines. The blast would then expose the veins of silver. When the Mexicans began using the corn tortilla as a wrapping for meat, it was named the taco due to the similarity in appearance to the silver miner’s tacos. One of the first recorded references to tacos as food refers to tacos de minero, or miner’s tacos.
A much loved dish in the United States, particularly in the South, fried chicken has it origin with the ancient cultures of Asia, Europe, West Africa, and North America. The dish was perhaps fully developed by the Scottish, who used a variety of seasonings and coatings prior to frying it. The Scottish are credited with introducing the food to the US when Scottish immigrants resettled primarily in the Southern region of the country. West Africans are also acknowledged with increasing the popularity of the dish when pressed into service as slaves. West African cooks prepared a dish similar to the Scottish, but used different spices in their preparation.
The actual origin of cheese is unknown, the practice of making cheese is closely linked to the domestication of animals which began 8 to 10,000 years ago. We do have references to cheesemaking in ancient Greek mythology and evidence of cheesemaking in Egyptian tomb murals more than 4,000 years old. It is believed that cheese was discovered quite by accident when milk was stored in the stomachs of animals. An enzyme known as rennet would result in the milk coagulating, separating into curds and whey. Additionally, cheese resulted from the practice of salting curdled milk in order to preserve it.
Americans consume 3 billion pounds of chocolate each year at a cost of $13.1 billion, nearly twice as much as is spent on all other non-chocolate candy combined. The roots of chocolate can be traced back to 1900 B.C. when ancient Mesoamericans cultivated the cacao plants located in the tropical rainforests of Central America. The beans were fermented, roasted and ground into a paste that was blended with water, vanilla, honey, chili pepper, and other spices and served as a frothy drink. The Olmec, Mayan and Aztec civilizations used chocolate as a mood enhancer and aphrodisiac. Today, 80% of the world’s chocolate is produced by just 6 multinational corporations.
The earliest roots of the hamburger can be traced to Genghis Khan and the Mongol army. This fast moving army needed a food that could eaten on the move with one hand. Scrapings from lamb or mutton were formed into flat patties. These patties were softened by placing them under the horse’s saddle where it was tenderized between the saddle and the back of the horse. When the soldiers were ready to eat, the meat was pulled out and eaten raw with one hand. In the 1600s, Russian tartare began making its way to Germany. In the city of Hamburg, they perfected the art of grinding and cooking the meat in a patty. It was known at that time as the Hamburg Steak. German immigrants introduced it to the US where it quickly caught on and developed into the popular staple it is today.
As nomadic tribes changed society by settling into communities around 10,000 B.C., along came the agricultural revolution that led to the domestication of animals. As a result of this domestication, people began to use animal by-products, including milk. By 5 A.D., cows and sheep milk has become a staple in Europe, and in the 14th century, cow’s milk became more popular than sheep’s milk. Dairy cows came to America in the 1600s. A French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur, began pasteurizing milk in 1862, which allowed for safe consumption of milk. After that, milk began to be sold commercially and has been highly valued ever since for it’s nutritive benefits.
The Chinese are credited with the creating the first ice creams, as early as 3,000 B.C. Over a thousand years later, Marco Polo brought a recipe back from the Far East that was similar to sherbet, which evolved in the 16th century to ice cream as we know it today. The French dallied with a dish they called Cream Ice, which was a favorite of Charles I. At that time, it was only served to the royals. In 1600, it became available to the general public in a recipe that blended milk, cream, butter and eggs.
Soft drinks were first marketed in the 17th century in Paris, France, and were comprised of water and lemon juice sweetened with honey. Carbonated beverages were developed to imitate the much loved effervescent waters of famous springs, which were considered therapeutic in nature. Thomas Henry of England was the first to produce carbonated water commercially, which was made in 12 gallon barrels. These waters were first used medicinally, but by 1820, the drinks could be mass produced and skyrocketed in popularity. Additives such as ginger, lemon and tonic flavored the drinks. In 1886 an Atlanta pharmacist named John Pemberton invented Coca Cola, which became the first cola drink.