Some Food Origins

Image credit: 

You may have heard that pizza is an American invention, ice cream is Italian, and The Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich. Not so! Here's a look at the origins of some foods you enjoy every day. Some are a lot older than you may think!

The sandwich was named after John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was a prominent citizen of 18th century England and who did, indeed, eat meat between two slices of bread. But he was far from the first. The earliest recorded account of what became known as a sandwich was a Passover dish. The ancient sage Hillel was known to put meat from the Passover lamb, along with the ceremonial bitter herbs, inside matzo (unleavened bread). Montague was also not the first sandwich-eater in Britain, as bread was often used as plates during the Middle Ages. Even today, one of the best things about a sandwich is the lack of dishwashing involved.
435_noodle.jpg
Pasta is an Italian word, and Italy probably has the highest usage of pasta in the world, as well as the most shapes. But the food that is unleavened dough, extruded and dried, then boiled before eating, is definately Chinese. The oldest known noodles (pictured above) were found in 2005 in northwest China, supposedly 4,000 years old. I've occasionally put off cleaning out my refrigerator for a long time, but that's ridiculous.

More food history, after the jump.

435_icecream.jpg
Is ice cream really an Italian invention? That depends on how you define ice cream. Frozen desserts were made in ancient times by mixing various ingredients with snow or ice. In warmer climates, this was a delicacy reserved for the wealthy, as ice had to be brought down from the highest mountains. The Arabs were the first to make ice cream using sugar, and the first to sell such treats from commercial factories. The first ice cream using milk was created in Italy in the Middle Ages. Ice cream was served in the courts of Charles I and Charles II of England in the mid-1600s. Several ice cream recipes appeared in the a French cookbook in 1700. Recipes with actual cream didn't appear until the 18th century. The earliest known recipe with cream was published in 1751 by a London cookbook author named Hannah Glasse.

435_pizza.jpg
You've probably been told that pizza is an American invention. Not so, it is quite Italian, but pizza would never be if it weren't for the Americas. If you define pizza as Mediterranian flatbread cooked with tomatos, then you have your American connection. The tomato is a native American plant, introduced to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish travelers to America. Many Europeans considered the tomato to be poison, but they got over that eventually. By the 18th century, poor people in Italy were making tomato-based pizza, which led to street vendors, then finally the first pizzaria, Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba in Naples.

Update: For a much more detailed history of pizza, see David's Tuesday Turnip!

435_sausage.jpg
There's an old saying, If you love sausage and you love the law, you don't want to watch either being made. The word sausage covers a lot of different foods, but is usually defined as ground meat packed in casings, often with salt and spices for both flavor and preservation. Traditionally, the casings were the intestines of butchered animals, but now are often made of cellulose or plastic. Almost all populated areas of the world have their own forms of sausage. It was developed to efficiently use all the available meat from an animal, even if it were in parts too small to serve on their own... or too ugly to appear appetizing. The origins of sausage date back to at least 3000 BC, when Sumerians in what is now Iraq invented the technique.
435_coffee.jpg
Coffee consumption goes back to Ethiopia in the nineth century. The legend says that shepherds noticed the strange energetic way their goats danced after eating the berries of the wild coffee plant. Whether the story is true or not, it brings up a nice picture. By the 15th century, the beverage was popular all over the Middle East. It spread to Italy and the rest of Europe, and became fashionable after Pope Clement VIII pronounced the "Muslim drink" acceptable to Christians in 1600. Coffee consumption in America rested upon the availability of tea. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, coffee gained a significant hold in the US due to trade problems with Britain. Today, the majority of caffeine consumed worldwide comes from coffee.
435_hamburger.jpg
Hamburgers are indeed named after Hamburg, Germany, where they put pork roast on a bun. However, the sandwich we know as a hamburger, with grilled ground beef, was first recorded in 1885 in the United States. The delicacy seemed to arise in several locations, with Seymour, Wisconsin, Athens, Texas, and Hamburg, New York all claiming the first hamburger. On the other hand, the hot dog has a European origin. Frankfurt maintains the Frankfurter wurst was developed in the city in the 1480s. Vienna claims the hot dog decended from its wienerwurst. The city of Coburg in Bavaria says that a butcher there invented the "dachshund" or "little-dog" sausage. In any event, you have to wonder why people say "as American as hot dogs," when the hamburger has a better claim.

More from mental_floss...

October 9, 2007 - 1:00am
webby
submit to reddit