Where Your Favorite Foods Really Come From Slideshow
February 24, 2011
One of the more surprising discoveries is that our beloved tempura shrimp and vegetables is actually Portuguese. Sure, if we do a little Freudian free association beginning with the word "fried" we’d most likely find our way to Southern Europe, specifically, the Mediterranean and fried calamari, but how did the concept make its way to Japan, where, according to The Food Timeline, Edo period foods were rarely fried in fat? With a little help from 17-century Chinese influence.
Is it French or is it Italian? The debate need not rage any further because it’s American. The first mention of chicken Francese is in a 1970 restaurant review from no less than The New York Times. Oh breaded, fried, lemony goodness, of course you’re American. This is the fry capital of the world, isn’t it? Well, maybe further research would prove otherwise.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
The origin of the dish, spaghetti and meatballs, is really a matter of semantics. As separate entities spaghetti and meatballs have existed since ancient times. However, it wasn’t until the birth of Little Italy that Italian immigrant restaurateurs began topping plates of spaghetti with meatballs to soothe savage American meat cravings.
Unless you’re Homer Simpson, you know that French fries and French kisses aren't actually French. However, did it ever occur to anyone but a food historian that French toast might hail from ancient Rome instead? In ancient times, it was called Roman bread.
Since it's the secret sauce on many a burger in America, it should come as no surprise that Russian dressing is an American delicacy. At least, that’s what American food historians say. Europeans, however, believe Russian dressing was invented by the French and introduced to Russia in the 19th century. Americans argue Russian dressing was concocted from ingredients inspired by Russian cuisine. It’s one of the many debates in food history that may never be settled.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is of Lebanese descent. So is Salma Hayek. And so are Mexican wedding cakes, those powdered-sugar-covered crunchy nut cookies that are as addictive as it gets. What other national treasures did the Lebanese contribute to Mexico upon their great migration in the early 1900s?
They’re basically a requirement as party favors at weddings, but Jordan almonds, which are covered in a candy shell and likely a precursor to M&Ms, are not Jordanian. Nope, in fact, the act of coating almonds in some sort of preservative goes so far back in time it’s hard to tell exactly where the Jordan almond got its start.
We’ve been corrected many a time at many a Greek diner that gyro should be pronounced year-ro. Well the joke’s on us. Yes, it’s most likely that in its current form, gyros are a Greek-American invention, but the gyro's ancestor really comes from the Middle East. To all those New York City diner owners, we say year-ro and also thank you because the gyro is one delicious sammich.
Despite our national obsession with Jamba Juice and all things smoothie, America did not invent them. Although the exact timing of the smoothie is hard to pinpoint, most smoothie aficionados agree that a smoothie involves blending a milk product with fruit. In that case, many signs point to Central and Latin America where a creamy fruit drink called a licuado has been popular for generations.
“We’re fighting for mom and apple pie.” That’s what the American GI’s often said when asked what they were fighting for during World War II. Actually, apples aren’t even native to the Americas. Remember Johnny Appleseed? The first known recipes for apple pie date back to medieval Europe. As the Americas were settled, Europeans brought apples and planted their seeds and from those seeds the American apple pie was born.