Life is full of mystery, but the food you eat every day shouldn’t be one of them. Have you ever looked at some of your favorite foods and realized you have absolutely no idea where it came from? Well, look no further because here’s another round of 10 Curious ORIGINS Of Your Favorite FOODS (Part 3).
10. Tater Tots
They say the future of food is in the frozen aisle – well, at least that was the thought process behind the invention of one of America’s greatest treasures – Tater Tots. We’ve all had that moment before dinner when we just really didn’t feel like cooking, so instead, we turned to our trusty box of frozen little potatoes bites. This very convenient and practical alternative is all thanks to two brothers from Idaho, who decided to mortgage their corn and potato farms to purchase a flash-freezing factory on the border of Oregon in the 1950s. The two siblings quickly became one of the largest distributors of corn in the United States, but the real revelation was with their French Fries. Since the machine that cut the potatoes into fries was producing a lot of scraps, they would feed those to their livestock to minimize the waste. But then, a genius idea struck them: why not take the leftover potatoe bits and turn them into a new product? Hence the need for the flash-freezing factory. They would put all of the scraps together, blanch them and shape them into little bite-size potato bits, cook them in oil, and then freeze them. With this new discovery in hand, they headed to the 1954 National Potato Convention in Miami and bribed the hotel chef to serve the Tater Tots for breakfast in hopes people would love them. And, as we know today, they really did. Now, we can all admit that we’ve found ourselves at the mercy of these little fried delicacies once or twice – or more!
Whether you associate Jell-O with childhood birthday parties, scientific experiments, or even with that weird, slimy salad served at what seems like every pot-luck, it’s safe to say that that Jell-O is one jiggly icon. But haven’t you ever wondered who came up with this fruit-flavored sticky jelly in the first place? Apparently, it all went down in LeRoy, New York, and traces back to the late 1800s. A carpenter named Pearle Wait started experimenting with gelatine one night and the result was this funky wiggly dessert. His wife, May, came up with the name Jell-O and Wait tried his best to market it, but he lacked the capital, and his invention never took off. He eventually decided to sell his recipe for $450 to Orator Frank Woodward, who also gave up and sold it again – but this time for a mere $35 to Genesee Pure Food Company. It’s easy to say now that this third sale was a smashing success because, by 1900, Jello-O sales were reported at $250,000 – a long way from that original selling price. The original four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry, and raspberry. Lime was not a part of the Jello-O family until the 1930s. And now, there are simply too many flavors to even count. From Jello-O salads to the infamous Jell-O shots, Jell-O is everywhere and looks like it’s here to stay.
8. Corn Dogs
If you’ve ever been to a carnival, chances are, you’ve enjoyed a corndog or two. These little fried sticks of goodness were born in the USA and represent American innovation at its finest. The only problem is, they’re so great that everyone seems to want to take credit for them, and it’s practically impossible to track down their exact place of birth. Texas claimed they were the true inventors, then Portland comes in and tries to steal the show – it’s a real mess. However, the story of how they were modernized and became popular starts at Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield, Illinois. As a college student, one of the owners, Ed Waldmire Jr., recounted to his fellow classmate Don Strand about the time he had one of the best sandwiches ever at a roadside diner: a wiener baked inside cornbread. The only issue he found with this otherwise marvelous idea was how long it was to prepare. Strand, whose father was in the bakery business, helped Waldmire come up with a new and faster recipe that would stick to a hot dog while it was deep-fried. After years of perfecting the recipe, the two friends began selling their creations as “cozy dogs” in the 1940s. While they may not have been the ones to completely invent the idea of corndogs, they do get the credit for deep-frying and making them way more accessible. Modern corn dogs are still made the same way today. The moral of the story is this: no one really knows who’s the real inventor of corndogs, but one thing is for sure, they are delicious, and we are more than grateful that someone did invent them.
7. Shirley Temple
Everyone knows Shirley Temple – or at least, has heard the name before. A child actress, businesswoman, ambassador and America’s Sweetheart, Shirley Temple was a force to be reckoned with. Starting her acting career at the age of three, she quickly won the hearts of millions of Americans during the Great Depression with her wit and charm. As Hollywood’s number one box-office draw of the 1930s, it only seems logical that people would want to honor her in some way; hence the now-famous drink named after her – the Shirley Temple. However, like every good origin story, there is more than one. The Shirley Temple consists of ginger ale, a splash of grenadine and topped with maraschino cherries. The big problem is that many people claim to have been the first one to concoct such a drink. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki says the drink was invented for the young lady because she was a frequent guest of theirs. Just like the Brown Derby said. And Chasen’s restaurant. Basically, everyone is fighting over claim of ownership. Now, Shirley herself did not exactly appreciate having a drink named after her, and well, didn’t even like the cocktail. In the ’80s, Temple engaged in a legal battle over the right to use her name, saying she was opposed to the concept of cocktails, even non-alcoholic ones, for children – which, honestly, does kind of make sense.
Everyone has their own family recipe for making perfect, fluffy pancakes. It’s the ultimate American breakfast and even an occasional guest at dinner time. But turns out we’re not the only fans of these soft and delicious breakfast cakes. Each culture has its own unique take on them, and early renditions of pancakes have been found all around the globe. The origins of pancakes go back as far as 30,000 years, during the Stone Age. Researchers have actually found pancakes in the stomach of Otzi the Iceman, a corpse dating back 5,300 years. Obviously, back then, pancakes were not the same sweet kind we all know and love today. Instead of using sugar, butter, and white flour, in ancient Greece and Rome, they were made from a mixture of honey, wheat flour, olive oil, and curdled milk. Early American pancakes were made with buckwheat or cornmeal. During the English Renaissance, instead of maple syrup and bananas, they were flavored with spices, rosewater, sherry, and apples. Names like Indian cakes, hoecakes, johnnycakes, griddle cakes, and even flapjacks were thrown around at first, but America eventually settled on the “pancake” in the 19th century. Pancakes come in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors, each tastier than the last, and they’ve definitely withstood the test of time!
5. Fried Chicken
You would probably be tempted to say that the American South is where our cherished fried chicken was born – and you would be right – almost. With all due respect to Colonel Sanders and his “Original recipe,” fried chicken was initially invented in a different country – and on a completely different continent – in Scotland! Yes, the quintessential “American” food is actually Scottish – technically. You see, the Scots were the first Europeans to deep-fry their chickens in hot fat instead of boiling them. When Scottish immigrants came to America, they brought their technique with them. With a new nations embrace, American fried chicken was born. However, the Scots used to fry the chicken without any seasonings, and it was the African American community who came to the rescue and introduced the flavorful type of fried chicken we know today. Kind of like a perfected version of the Scottish version. So, settle down, friends from the South, you are also to thank for the deliciousness that is fried chicken. After all, it was Southerners who helped it to grow in popularity, but the “original” masterminds behind it were the Scots!
4. Key Lime Pie
You will be happy to hear that – unlike our beloved apple pie – Key Lime pie is uniquely American! No controversy, no importations, no drama – it’s a true American gem! The only thing that might be kind of hard to pinpoint is who actually came up with the recipe in the first place. But one thing we know for sure, it came from Florida! One theory is that Florida’s first self-made millionaire, businessman William Curry and his cook, known as Aunt Sally, came up with the recipe in the 1830s. One of the things Curry would import and sell was condensed milk, which was hugely popular since it didn’t need refrigeration and the region didn’t have access to ice until nearly a century later. Along with lime juice, egg yolks, and graham cracker crust, Aunt Sally would use the condensed milk to sweeten up the pies she would bake for Curry. Many believe, however, that she didn’t actually create the recipe but merely recreated it in her own way. Another possible creator would be the fishermen around Key West. With slim rations to eat at sea, they would make tarts with sugar, eggs, canned milk, soda crackers, nuts, and citrus fruit, and when the word got out, everybody wanted to try one. No matter who actually made the first official Key Lime pie, it’s still one of Florida’s most treasured desserts and a region specialty!
It’s hard to imagine a world without bacon. No side of bacon to complement your eggs, no extra crunchiness in your sandwich. It would make for one very sad breakfast. But thankfully, bacon is a delight we were lucky enough to discover and enjoy with literally everything. But contrary to popular belief, bacon wasn’t the result of an American’s desire for a more complete breakfast; it was actually first discovered in Ancient China in 1500 BC. At that time, the Chinese were curing pork bellies with salt, which created an early form of bacon. The practice began to spread throughout the Roman Empire, and soon enough, it became a wildly popular. Following the curing technique, everyone had their own version of bacon. The ancient Romans’ early form of bacon was called petaso, which was a pork shoulder boiled with dried figs, browned, and served with wine. In the 16th Century, the word “bacoun” or bacon was used to refer to any kind of pork, and it wasn’t until the 17th century that it was exclusively used to refer to the smoked strips we recognize today. While it wasn’t Made in the USA, bacon still managed to become one of the most iconic foods in America and led to so many delectable recipes. The world would definitely not be the same without bacon!
2. Caesar Salad
Okay, with a name like Caesar, it’s pretty understandable why most of us assume that this creamy salad comes from ancient Rome. There’s probably one name that comes to mind whenever you order a salad at a restaurant, but, surprisingly enough, Caesar salads have nothing to do with the other Caesar you’re thinking of. The first Caesar salad was actually created in Tijuana, Mexico! Although, not really a Mexican dish, it ended up there following a series of fortunate events. The name “Caesar” actually refers to Caesar Cardini, the actual inventor of the salad. He was an Italian-born restaurateur who moved to North America in the 1910s. However, that’s not where he tossed his first salad. After Prohibition hit restaurants pretty hard, he made a run for the border and ended up in Tijuana. Because supplies were running low, he used whatever he had left in an attempt to make a tableside finger food. A little romaine lettuce, olive oil, egg, croutons, parmesan cheese, and Worcestershire sauce later, the Caesar salad was here! An Italian-American-Mexican fusion, Caesar salad is the perfect partner – no matter what dish you’re eating!
1. The Hamburger
Hamburgers are probably one of the most popular and loved foods in America. It can be a cheap and fast meal or it can be a very fancy and quite expensive treat. Either way, hamburgers are a true delicacy. However, it’s important to highlight the difference between a regular hamburger and the hamburger we eat in a bun. The term “hamburger” comes from Hamburg, the second-largest city in Germany. In the 19th century, meat from cows was minced, mixed with spices, and shaped into patties, which we call “Hamburger Steak.” The meat patty was served on its own with no bun in sight. That is until German immigrants brought some of their favorite recipes to America, and the hamburger was one of them. Legend has it that Louis Lassen, an immigrant from Denmark living in New Haven, Connecticut, had the idea to stick the meat in between two slices of bread. He ran a small lunch wagon selling steak sandwiches to local factory workers in the 190os. Then again, such a popular dish means everyone wants to take credit for its invention and, well, it’s practically impossible to know for sure who we should really thank. So to that, we say, thank you to whomever it may concern, the whole world is grateful for this delicious food.