Happy Columbus Day!
Although you may not get it off from work, Columbus Day is a widely celebrated holiday throughout the United States. The day celebrates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. To commemorate the day that Columbus, funded by Queen Isabella of Spain, reached the New World and "discovered" America, create a meal typical of the fare Columbus' crew may have enjoyed in the 15th century.
Before setting sail, Columbus’s crew stopped in La Gomera, Canary Islands, where they stocked up on cheeses. As a result, a cheese platter would be a great idea for an appetizer. Focus on Spanish cheeses like Queso de La Gomera. Serve the chesses along side Spanish Marcona almonds, honey, and raisins.
Typical meals onboard Columbus' ship would include salted fish, beef, and pork with olive oil, garlic, honey, salt, olives, vinegar, and molasses for flavor. Usually, rice, beans or dried legumes would be served to accompany the salted meat. Some great ideas for your dinner would be the traditional British dish of beef that has been salted for 10 days, a salt pork cake or any meat dish that relies on salt for a distinct taste. A rib steak in salt crust or a salt-crust baked salmon are a great options.
Sea biscuits were also commonly served on ships at this time. The dough of seasoned wheat flour and water was baked in molds and then, to make a more compact paste, after the initial baking the biscuits were broken up, pounded, re-mixed with water, re- shaped, and baked again. To eat them, sailors had to soak them in water or soup so they wouldn’t lose their teeth. At this modern version of a Columbus-inspired dinner party, serve a slightly more delicious bread or cracker (perhaps along with that cheese plate). This yummy, pumpkin biscuit is a great way to also enjoy the season.
Columbus's arrival in America allowed for the transfer of vast gastronomic riches from the New World to the Old World and back again, so be inspired by the ingredients found aboard Columbus' ships to create a festive meal to celebrate the day!