AMERICAN FOODS WE ENJOY ORIGINATED IN FAR
LANDS MANY CENTURIES IN THE PAST
By Helen Robertson
GOD BLESS AMERICA," we are singing with fervency and with a
prayer in our hearts this year. We are parading today,
picnicking, boating, driving, lolling on front porch and
lawn. We are feasting on foods that are American, that
are grown on our own native shores. Their origin may
go back many centuries and to distant lands, their use may
have passed through transitions and changes such as are now
being unrolled before our eyes.
There are the summer apples,
for example, that we will be using for frying for breakfast,
in apple sauce and in pies for dinner. America is the
greatest apple country in the world today. The fruit
is thought to have originated from the wild crabapple tree
in Europe. Remains of them are to be seen in the
prehistoric lake dwellings in Switzerland.
Beans for Votes.
Will there be succotash, or green beans, with the
fried chicken? Some varieties of beans were grown in
Switzerland and northern Italy in the bronze age. When
first grown in Egypt, they were regarded as unclean by the
priests. And at one time the Greeks and Romans used
them to buy votes for the election of the magistrates... An
interesting note for election year.
Potatoes Made Fashionable.
The same gallant who removed his cloak, placing it
over the mud puddle that the queen might not soil her dainty
slippers. Sir Walter Raleigh is accredited for
introducing potatoes into Ireland and making them
fashionable there. They are a native of Peru, were
early grown in Chile and Columbia and were widely cultivated
when the Spaniards came to America.
Corn on the Cob.
Sweet corn generally makes its appearance about the
Fourth of July. Corn is a native American food.
It is thought to have grown wild on the plateaus of Mexico
and Central America thousands of years ago. It was
used as a food by the Indians centuries before the era of
Columbus. With them it was a symbol of their
prosperity, and played a significant part in their religious
ceremonies. The Hopi tribes helped the corn to grow
tall and strong by performing the butterfly dance of young
men and maidens. The Iroquois marked the period of
gathering corn by a four day green corn festival. It
has, of course, passed through many stages of cultivation to
become as we know it today.
Lettuce and Cherries.
Lettuce, our chief salad green, is probably a
native of the Greek Islands. In England the type
generally known as romaine, still, or until recently, bore
the name cos lettuce, after the island of Cos (now Stanchio)
of the Aegean Sea, the birthplace of Hippocrates. It
was recognized for its health value early in the Christian
Lettuce was first served in England in 1520, and King
Henry the Eighth conferred a special reward upon the
gardener who devised the combination of "lettuce and
cherries" for the royal table. A salad note for modern
Spices and Wars.
The spice shelf in the kitchen looks innocent
enough. We take down a can of cinnamon, clove and
nutmeg to sprinkle on the apple pie, or the apple sauce, and
replace it again without a second thought. Yet, the
history involved in the production of that small package,
which has been purchased for only a few cents, is comparable
in tragedy and welfare to that which we read in the papers
In the early times spices, because of their scarcity,
were held in extremely high esteem. They were included
in the tribute paid to Solomon, and were indispensable
ingredients in the sacred oil of the tabernacle.
"Unspeakably vile is the later history of Ceylon cinnamon,
nutmeg, the clove, vivid with many a blood-stained strocity,"
states one authority.
Ice Cream, Not New.
The making of ice cream originated in Italy, about
1600 A.D., perhaps earlier, and spread thence to France,
through France to England. From England to the
American colonies. Dolly Madison is said to be the
first to introduce it to her guests.
So today, as we sit down to enjoy the Fourth of July
feast whether it is served at home or on the picnic grounds,
we are partaking of the products of modern science and
manufacture, and some, too, which come to us through
centuries of use.