September is National Honey Month, a great excuse to learn more about a remarkably popular, enduring, and versatile product that has quite possibly been around since the dawn of recorded time.
The World of Food
“Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”
“Yankee Doodle went to town, a-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni.”
--“Yankee Doodle Dandy”
With apologies to Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a big plate of really good pasta can make almost anything better. Of course, many countries and cultures across the globe figured this out long ago, as there are local interpretations of pasta everywhere – think Polish pierogi, Greek pasticcio and orzo, Israeli ptitim, Argentinean sorrentinos, and Hungarian and German spaetzle, to name just a few. The World of Food previously touched on this essential culinary mainstay in our treatise on Italy, (how could you not?), but there’s a lot more to know about pasta, starting with…
Along with a tinny rendition of “Turkey in the Straw” emanating from an ice cream truck, the sticky sweetness of fresh watermelon on your chin and fingers, and the sound of kids frolicking in an outdoor pool, nothing says summer quite like the aroma of burgers and brats cooking on a backyard barbecue grill. The practice of cooking meat over fire, of course, is an age-old tradition, but its methods, equipment, and what is actually being grilled have definitely evolved over the centuries.
The history of grilling begins shortly after the domestication of fire, some 500,000 years ago. The ritual of outdoor grilling as we know it may have originated with South American and Caribbean tribes, who cooked meats over a roaring fire built with sticks in a pit, a method known as barbacoa. It’s likely that it was the Spanish conquistadors who brought this custom with them to North America.
“Americans will eat garbage provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup.”
“I mix mayonnaise, ketchup, and brandy with a little bit of mustard. This is a heck of a good sauce for seafood.”
“The Japanese have become so smitten with the Western condiment…that today they have a word for mayonnaise junkie: mayora.”
From the very beginning of food consumption, humans have been on a quest to make it taste better. So, after the addition of simple salt or sugar left them unsatisfied, the use of condiments has been the way to go, while also providing a way to challenge the autonomy of the chef by altering a dish to the diner’s personal taste.
“Where the Piñon Mesa rolls
And the campfire cures your woes
Watchin' the sly roadrunner flee
On the tail of an autumn breeze…
That's where you'll find me
Where the big back country lies
There the cowboy's free to ride
Out under New Mexico skies.”
-- “Under New Mexico Skies” (New Mexico’s Official State Song)
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