A Quick History of Culinary Apparel
Just as the art of cooking has evolved since the advent of culinary television programming, so too has the traditional “chef whites” uniform in professional kitchens.
When first introduced by Marie-Antoine Carême in the mid-19th century, chef wear was meant primarily as a symbol of respect for accomplished chefs.
But according to Chef Works, the leading global provider of culinary apparel to professionals and home cooks alike, the chef uniform goes well beyond being a status symbol, with each part playing an important role:
Jacket — By far the most iconic part of a chef’s attire, the traditional jacket serves a multitude of purposes, beginning with its classic white, double-breasted design. While the white is meant to denote cleanliness in the kitchen and reverence towards the profession, the double-breasted design allows the chef to reverse sides in order to hide stains. From a more practical standpoint, chef jackets are designed to protect against burns from steam, heat, and spills. Today, chef coats are available in a diverse array of styles and colors.
Hats or caps — While the white, 100-fold toque was and is a symbol of status with heights varying according to one’s level of experience, headwear actually serves a valuable service in the kitchen as it keeps sweat and hair out of food.
Apron — Often worn at the waist, aprons protect the lower body from burns, spills and stains. When tied in the front, dirty aprons can be changed quickly before meeting with diners.
Pants — In the traditional chef uniform, black or checkered pants are worn as a means of hiding stains, but their primary purpose is to prevent hot foods and liquids from burning the skin. They are also quite durable in order to stand up to everyday wear-and-tear and frequent laundering. Chef pants also usually feature elastic waistbands to make them easier to take on and off.
Chef shoes — Completing the chef outfit is the shoes. Designed to provide support during long periods on one’s feet and prevent slips on wet or greasy floors, chef shoes also offer protection from spilt hot liquids and dropped cutlery.
Since its formation in the 1960s, Chef Works has been at the forefront of the culinary apparel marketplace, including the company’s introduction of such advancements as its Cool Vent moisture management technology that brought needed comfort and ventilation to traditional chef coats, shirts, pants, and headwear.
Equally, the company’s ever-expanding catalog of styles, colors and patterns — including its highly popular Urban Collection — has set the new standard for what back-of-house and front-of-house attire can be. Today, hospitality and food service professionals are not only able to keep themselves safe and clean in the kitchen, but also showcase their personalities and styles through a diverse array of innovative designs, fabrications, and color ways.
French botanist Tournefort provided the Latin botanical name, Lycopersicon esculentum, to the tomato. It translates to "wolfpeach"—peach because it was round and luscious and wolf because it was erroneously considered poisonous. The botanist mistakenly took the tomato for the wolfpeach referred to by Galen in his third century writings, ie., poison in a palatable package which was used to destroy wolves.
The English word tomato comes from the Spanish word, tomate, derived Nahuatl (Aztec language) word, tomatl. It first appeared in print in 1595. A member of the deadly nightshade family, tomatoes were erroneously thought to be poisonous (although the leaves are poisonous) by Europeans who were suspicious of their bright, shiny fruit. Native versions were small, like cherry tomatoes, and most likely yellow rather than red.
The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. In 1519, Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten.
Most likely the first variety to reach Europe was yellow in color, since in Spain and Italy they were known as pomi d'oro, meaning yellow apples. Italy was the first to embrace and cultivate the tomato outside South America.
The French referred to the tomato as pommes d'amour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating aphrodisiacal properties.
A few introductory words about traditional Polish food
Poland is a European country with a trying history spanning over more than 1000 years. In theory, it is possible to go back to the distant times of the first princes and Kings of Poland, and look at the Polish state in the Middle Ages, and have a general image of the early culinary customs Polish food traditions, because they have partly survived throughout the centuries. Some aspects present in the modern Polish cuisine are still the same. A willingness to keep with the tradition has always been present. However, a notable part of the traditional Polish food culture transformed itself during the course of time. With the development of trade, various Polish foods and products naturally fused with one another, inspired themselves from neighboring nations, or according to the traditions of ethnic groups.
We know far more details about the history of Polish food in the next ages after medieval. The first survived Polish recipes cookbook dates back to 1682, a year when Philadelphia is founded, de La Salle claims the region of Mississippi River as La Louisiane (today Louisiana) and Halley makes the first observation of a body today known as the Halley's comet. Contemporary Polish state, called Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a multiethnic country. And Polish food was affected by strong Lithuanian and Tartar-Turkish influences. This fact exerted an additional positive effect on a wealth of tastes and a composition of the national menu. Polish food culture, as we know it today, has formed. Admittedly, over three hundred years later we can assess it empirically, and with a pleasure :) Nowadays, some courses and meals that are a base of modern and traditional Polish cuisine, are common for the West Slavonic and Central-European nations. E.g. various national kinds of beetroot borscht or dumplings are well-known not only in Poland, but also in Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. On the other hand one of the most popular, simple and not time consuming Polish food &ndash kotlet schabowy &ndash is completely similar to a schnitzel known very well in Austria and Germany.
We know far more details about the history of Polish food in the aftermath of the Middle Ages. The first surviving Polish recipe cookbook dates back to 1682, the year when Philadelphia is founded, de La Salle claims the region of Mississippi River as La Louisiane (today Louisiana), and Halley makes the first observation of a body today known as Halley's comet. The Polish state of those days, called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was a multiethnic country. Polish food of the epoch was affected by the strong Lithuanian and Tartar-Turkish influences. This fact exerted an additional positive effect on a wealth of tastes and a compositions present in the national menu. Polish food culture, as we know it today, was in the making. Admittedly, over three hundred years later, we can assess it empirically, and what a joy it is :) Nowadays, some courses and meals that are the foundation of modern and traditional Polish cuisine, are common for the West Slavonic and Central-European nations. E.g. various national kinds of beetroot borscht or dumplings are well-known not only in Poland, but also in Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. On the other hand one of the most popular, simple and not time consuming Polish food &ndash kotlet schabowy &ndash is completely similar to a schnitzel known very well in Austria and Germany.
Around the Roman Table
In addition to a wealth of material about culinary customs and techniques in ancient Rome, Patrick Faas translated more than 150 Roman recipes and reconstructed them for the modern cook. Here are eight recipes from from the book&mdashfrom salad to dessert.
Columella's writings suggest that Roman salads were a match for our own in richness and imagination:
Addito in mortarium satureiam, mentam, rutam, coriandrum, apium, porrum sectivum, aut si non erit viridem cepam, folia latucae, folia erucae, thymum viride, vel nepetam, tum etiam viride puleium, et caseum recentem et salsum: ea omnia partier conterito, acetique piperati exiguum, permisceto. Hanc mixturam cum in catillo composurris, oleum superfundito.
Put savory in the mortar with mint, rue, coriander, parsley, sliced leek, or, if it is not available, onion, lettuce and rocket leaves, green thyme, or catmint. Also pennyroyal and salted fresh cheese. This is all crushed together. Stir in a little peppered vinegar. Put this mixture on a plate and pour oil over it. (Columella, Re Rustica, XII-lix)
A wonderful salad, unusual for the lack of salt (perhaps the cheese was salty enough), and that Columella crushes the ingredients in the mortar.
100g fresh mint (and/or pennyroyal)
50g fresh coriander
50g fresh parsley
1 small leek
a sprig of fresh thyme
200g salted fresh cheese
Follow Columella's method for this salad using the ingredients listed.
In other salad recipes Columella adds nuts, which might not be a bad idea with this one.
Apart from lettuce and rocket many plants were eaten raw&mdashwatercress, mallow, sorrel, goosefoot, purslane, chicory, chervil, beet greens, celery, basil and many other herbs.
Soft-Boiled Eggs in Pine-Nut Sauce
In ovis hapalis: piper, ligustcum, nucleos infusos. Suffundes mel, acetum liquamine temperabis.
For soft-boiled eggs: pepper, soaked pine nuts. Add honey and vinegar and mix with garum. (Apicius, 329)
200g pine nuts
2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons garum or anchovy paste
Soak the pine nuts overnight in water. Then drain and grind them finely in the blender or pound them in a large mortar. Add the pepper, honey and garum. Heat the sauce in a bain-marie. Meanwhile put the eggs into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Let them cook for 3½ minutes, then take them off the heat, plunge them into cold water and peel them carefully. The outer edge of the egg white must be firm, but it must be soft inside. Put the eggs, left whole, into a deep serving bowl and pour over the sauce. Serve.
This recipe can be adapted easily to other eggs, such as quail's eggs. In that case keep an eye on the cooking-time: a quail's egg will be firm in 1 minute.
Lentils with Coriander
Aliter lenticulam: coquis. Cum despumaverit porrum et coriandrum viride supermittis. (Teres) coriandri semen, puleium, laseris radicem, semen mentae et rutae, suffundis acetum, adicies mel, liquamine, aceto, defrito temperabis, adicies oleum, agitabis, si quid opus fuerit, mittis. Amulo obligas, insuper oleum viride mittis, piper aspargis et inferes.
Another lentil recipe. Boil them. When they have foamed, add leeks and green coriander. [Crush] coriander seed, pennyroyal, laser root, mint seed and rue seed. Moisten with vinegar, add honey, garum, vinegar, mix in a little defrutum, add oil and stir. Add extra as required. Bind with amulum, drizzle with green oil and sprinkle with pepper. Serve. (Apicius, 192)
2 litres water
1 leek, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
75g fresh coriander
5g coriander seed
3g peppercorns, plus extra for finishing the dish
3g mint seed
3g rue seed
75g fresh pennyroyal, or mint
Wash the lentils and put them into a saucepan with 2 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, and skim off the scum. When the water has cleared, add the leek and half of the fresh coriander. Grind the spices and the other herbs, and add them with the garum, vinegar and defrutum to the pan. Let the lentils simmer until they are almost cooked. Check the pan every now and then to ensure that the water has not evaporated. At the last minute add the olive oil, the freshly ground pepper and the remainder of the chopped coriander.
Roast Wild Boar
Aper ita conditur: spogiatur, et sic aspergitur ei sal et cuminum frictum, et sic manet. Alia die mittitur in furnum. Cum coctus fuerit perfundutur piper tritum, condimentum aprunum, mel, liquamen, caroenum et passum.
Boar is cooked like this: sponge it clean and sprinkle with salt and roast cumin. Leave to stand. The following day, roast it in the oven. When it is done, scatter with ground pepper and pour on the juice of the boar, honey, liquamen, caroenum, and passum. (Apicius, 330)
For this you would need a very large oven, or a very small boar, but the recipe is equally successful with the boar jointed. Remove the bristles and skin, then scatter over it plenty of sea salt, crushed pepper and coarsely ground roasted cumin. Leave it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, turning it occasionally.
Wild boar can be dry, so wrap it in slices of bacon before you roast it. At the very least wrap it in pork caul. Then put it into the oven at its highest setting and allow it to brown for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4, and continue to roast for 2 hours per kg, basting regularly.
Meanwhile prepare the sauce. To make caroenum, reduce 500ml wine to 200ml. Add 2 tablespoons of honey, 100ml passum, or dessert wine, and salt or garum to taste. Take the meat out of the oven and leave it to rest while you finish the sauce. Pour off the fat from the roasting tin, then deglaze it with the wine and the honey mixture. Pour this into a saucepan, add the roasting juices, and fat to taste.
Carve the boar into thin slices at the table, and serve the sweet sauce separately.
Until the 1980s the ostrich was considered as exotic as an elephant, but since then it has become available in supermarkets. Cooking a whole ostrich is an enormous task, but Apicius provides a recipe for ostrich:
In struthione elixo: piper, mentam, cuminum assume, apii semen, dactylos vel caryotas, mel, acetum, passum, liquamen, et oleum modice et in caccabo facies ut bulliat. Amulo obligas, et sic partes struthionis in lance perfundis, ete desuper piper aspargis. Si autem in condituram coquere volueris, alicam addis.
For boiled ostrich: pepper, mint, roast cumin, celery seed, dates or Jericho dates, honey, vinegar, passum, garum, a little oil. Put these in the pot and bring to the boil. Bind with amulum, pour over the pieces of ostrich in a serving dish and sprinkle with pepper. If you wish to cook the ostrich in the sauce, add alica. (Apicius, 212)
You may prefer to roast or fry your ostrich, rather than boil it. Whichever method you choose, this sauce goes with it well. For 500g ostrich pieces, fried or boiled, you will need:
2 teaspoon flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
300ml passum (dessert wine)
1 tablespoon roast cumin seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
3 pitted candied dates
3 tablespoons garum or a 50g tin of anchovies
1 teaspoon peppercorns
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons strong vinegar
Make a roux with the flour and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, add the passum, and continue to stir until the sauce is smooth. Pound together in the following order: the cumin, celery seeds, dates, garum or anchovies, peppercorns, chopped mint, the remaining olive oil, the honey, and vinegar. Add this to the thickened wine sauce. Then stir in the ostrich pieces and let them heat through in the sauce.
Ius in cordula assa: piper, ligustcum, mentam, cepam, aceti modicum et oleum.
Sauce for roast tuna: pepper, lovage, mint, onion, a little vinegar, and oil. (Apicius, 435)
3 tablespoons strong vinegar
2 tablespoons garum, or vinegar with anchovy paste
9 tablespoons olive oil
4 finely chopped shallots
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lovage seeds
25g fresh mint
Put all of the vinaigrette ingredients into a jar and shake well to blend them together.
Brush your tuna fillets with oil, pepper and salt, then grill them on one side over a hot barbecue. Turn them and brush the roasted side with the vinaigrette. Repeat. The tuna flesh should be pink inside so don't let it overcook. Serve with the remains of the vinaigrette.
Fried Veal Escalope with Raisins
Vitella fricta: piper, ligusticum, apii semen, cuminum, origanum, cepam siccam, uvam passam, mel, acetum, vinum, liquamen, oleum, defritum.
Fried veal: pepper, lovage, celery seed, cumin, oregano, dried onion, raisins, honey, vinegar, wine garum, oil, defrutum. (Apicius, 335)
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon peppercorns
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon lovage
1 tablespoon dried onion
1 teaspoon defrutum
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons white raisins
300ml dry white wine
1 dash vinegar
1 dash garum
Pound the cumin and the celery seed in powder, then grind the peppercorns. Mix all the ingredients together and leave the raisins to macerate for at least a few hours and up to a day. Beat the veal fillets with a rolling-pin or meat-tenderizer, until they are flattened. For Roman authenticity, the escalopes should be cut into small pieces or strips after frying&mdashthey didn't use knives at table. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fry briefly on both sides in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Remove the veal from the pan. Put the sauce mixture, let it reduce, then pour it over veal and serve immediately.
Patina versatilis vice dulcis: nucleos pineos, nuces fractas et purgatas, attorrebis eas, teres cum melle, pipere, liquamine, lacte, ovis, modico mero et oleo, versas in discum.
Try patina as dessert: roast pine nuts, peeled and chopped nuts. Add honey, pepper, garum, milk, eggs, a little undiluted wine, and oil. Pour on to a plate. (Apicius, 136)
400g crushed nuts&mdashalmonds, walnuts or pistachios
200g pine nuts
100ml dessert wine
100ml full-fat sheep's milk
1 teaspoon salt or garum
Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas 9.
Place the chopped nuts and the whole pine nuts in an oven dish and roast until they have turned golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Mix the honey and the wine in a pan and bring to the boil, then cook until the wine has evaporated. Add the nuts and pine nuts to the honey and leave it to cool. Beat the eggs with the milk, salt or garum and pepper. Then stir the honey and nut mixture into the eggs. Oil an oven dish and pour in the nut mixture. Seal the tin with silver foil and place it in roasting tin filled about a third deep with water. Bake for about 25 minutes until the pudding is firm. Take it out and when it is cold put it into the fridge to chill. To serve, tip the tart on to a plate and pour over some boiled honey.
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
More than 80 percent of Israelis are Jewish. Of these, a small percentage observe a set of dietary laws called kashruth (or "keeping kosher"). Although only a small percentage of Israel's population strictly observes these laws, the laws affect the availability of certain non-kosher foods throughout the country. The laws also affect both food preparation and availability of certain foods in some restaurants.
According to the rules of kashruth , meat and milk products cannot be served at the same meal. Also, the consumption of certain types of animals is banned. Meat must come from animals that have cleft (divided) hooves and chew their cud. Pork and other products that come from pigs are not to be eaten. Also, an animal must be slaughtered quickly and under supervision of religious authorities for its meat to be considered kosher.
Other restrictions include bans on the consumption of shellfish and of carrion birds (flesh-eating birds). Kosher households have two different sets of dishes and silverware, one for meat meals and the other for dairy meals, which must be kept separate at all times. Some households even have separate sinks for washing the two sets of dishes.
Another religious dietary restriction observed by Jews in Israel is the set of guidelines for the holiday of Passover, which occurs every spring. Leavened bread and many other foods are prohibited during this period, so unleavened bread (called matzo) is substituted. Some Jewish households may eliminate all banned foods from their homes every year before Passover and use a special set of dishes and cooking utensils throughout the holiday. Seder is the time during Passover when lavish meals and family gatherings are enjoyed.
Chicken soup with matzo balls
Dessert: macaroons cakes made from special Passover flour
Typical Menu for Passover Seder
Boiled eggs dipped in salt water
Celery or other green vegetable
Charoseth (recipe provided below)
New Year's Honey Cake
This cake is typically served on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
- ⅓ cup self-rising flour
- ⅓ cup flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 medium egg
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup cooking oil
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅓ cup boiling water
- Preheat oven to 375ଏ and grease and line a baking pan.
- Place flour, baking soda, cocoa, and spices into a sieve over a large mixing bowl and shake them gently through the sieve.
- In a separate bowl, mix the egg with the sugar.
- Add the oil and honey and mix together.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture in the first bowl.
- Pour in the boiling water and mix together until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into the greased pan and bake for 45 minutes.
- Leave the cake to cool in the pan before removing and serving.
This dish is part of the ceremonial Seder plate on Passover.
- 1 apple, peeled and cored
- 2½ ounces almonds, shelled
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 Tablespoons red grape juice
- Chop the apple into chunks.
- Place the apple and almonds into a food processor (or finely-chop by hand).
- Blend together until they are in small pieces.
- Add sugar, cinnamon, and grape juice and blend the mixture into a thick paste.
- To serve, spread the paste thickly on matzos (unleavened bread).
Pasta’s Predecessor: The History of Gnocchi
There are many regions that lay claim to the origins of gnocchi. While they are generally associated with northern Italy, the truth is that these dumplings are found all over the peninsula and in many diverse forms, made with a variety of base ingredients depending on where they come from: flour, corn meal, semolina, bread, chestnut flour, ricotta, or vegetables—from pumpkin to spinach to the classic potato.
The word gnocchi is thought to come from nocca, which means knuckles, or from the Lombard word knohha, which means knot (such as wood knot) or walnut—all words that imply the small, tight, rounded shape of gnocchi that we know today.
The most famous potato gnocchi that are known and loved world-wide date back to the sixteenth or, more likely, seventeenth century—well after Spanish explorers brought potatoes from South America and introduced them to Italian kitchens.
But other forms of gnocchi have been around since the Renaissance (and likely much earlier), as the sort of elegant dish you might find on banquet tables for important occasions. In fifteenth century Lombardy, gnocchi made of bread, milk, and ground almonds were called zanzarelli. In his 1570 cookbook, Bartolomeo Scappi has a recipe for “gnocchi” made from a dough of flour and breadcrumbs mixed with water and pushed through the holes of a cheese grater. A little later, egg, flour, and water were introduced to the recipe, which became known as malfatti. The word means “badly made” and is still the name that Tuscans apply to their spinach and ricotta dumplings, gnudi.
In the nineteenth century, Pellegrino Artusi, the “grandfather” of Italian cuisine, published a recipe for potato gnocchi prepared in exactly the same way that we see today, complete with the story of a woman whose gnocchi disappeared in the pot she was boiling them in—because she hadn’t used enough flour to hold them together. He first shapes his gnocchi into pinky-sized pieces and then rolls them against the back of a cheese grater for texture. That texture, whether created by rolling gnocchi with the tines of a fork or with a special wooden implement, help give the otherwise smooth dumplings little nooks and crannies where sauce can hide, and guarantee full flavor with every bite.
Every region in Italy, especially in the north, has its own gnocchi variation and its own specific sauce or serving style. In Piedmont or Lombardy, you might find potato gnocchi tossed in a simple dressing of butter and Parmesan, or in a creamy, cheesy sauce passed under a grill to brown the top before serving. In Verona, potato gnocchi is traditionally served in a tomato sauce—it’s a dish associated with Carnival that goes as far back as the 1500s.
In Venice, gnocchi is also known as “macaroni.” Made from a base of flour, milk, and eggs cooked and shaped into little discs, they are baked in the oven with butter and cheese. It’s an almost identical preparation to Lazio’s famous gnocchi alla romana: round, flat discs of cooked and cooled semolina. Still further south, on the coast of Sorrento, a Sunday lunch typically includes potato gnocchi baked in the oven with a bright tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil: gnocchi alla sorrentina.
The gnocchi family is numerous, to paraphrase Artusi, and when you look at the extended family tree, you see that in many ways, these recipes—the early bread-and-flour versions in particular—are the predecessors of pasta. But even moreso than pasta, this humble and beloved preparation has largely remained a homemade one, keeping the Italy’s traditions safe in the kitchen.
Candy bars may seem quintessentially American, but they have origins in the World War I chocolate rations given to European soldiers. The American military followed suit, helping its doughboys develop a sweet tooth they would bring home after the war. Throughout the 1920s, . read more
On July 9, 1962, a little-known artist named Andy Warhol opened a small show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. His head-scratching subject: Campbell’s Soup. Each of his 32 paintings portrayed a different flavor in the lineup, from Tomato to Pepper Pot and Cream of Celery. For . read more
Aztec food was a rich combination of many foods that we take for granted today. Not only is much of this rich diet still common in Mexico today, it's spread around the world. Here's a look at some of what the ancient Mexica peoples ate:
Maize (also called corn or mealies) was the staple grain of the Aztec empire. Maize has been domesticated for thousands of years, and it likely first came into common use in Mexico, spreading to the rest of the world from there. Mexico is still one of the world's top maize growing countries. Corn could be ground into flour and used to make tortillas (a sort of flat bread, sometimes used to wrap a filling to make tacos), tamales and even drinks. Corn has transformed the world perhaps more than any other food. Today it's used not only in food, including candy and of course feeding the cattle that is eaten, it's even used in things like sticky tape and making boxes.
How did all this food grow? Find out about Aztec farming here.
Aztec food also included beans and squash. Of course, maize and beans are still a cornerstone of the Mexican diet, a healthy combination especially if you're not eating a lot of meat.
To add to these three, the Mexicas (people of the Aztec Empire) ate chillies, tomatoes, limes, cashews, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and of course chocolate. The Mexicas domesticated bees for honey, and turkeys for meat and eggs, also dogs and duck. They hunted and fished as well, and used animals such as deer, rabbits, iguana, fish and shrimp for food. Even insects, such as grasshoppers and worms were harvested. These various types of meat made up only a very minor part of the Aztec food that was eaten.
Large amounts of algae were collected from the surface of the Texcoco Lake water. High in protein, this algae (known as tecuitlatl) was used to make bread and cheese type foods. This algae is still used in Mexico as a fertilizer.
The Aztecs often cooked food bundled in the Maguey plant leaves. This dish is called Mixiotes, and it's still eaten in Mexico today. Different leaves are used because the Maguey population was suffering.
One of the greatest gifts to the world from Mexico is chocolate. The cocoa bean was highly treasured in the Aztec Empire. In fact, the bean was used as a currency, as well as Aztec food. Or, in this case, drink.
The cocoa beans were used to make a thick chocolate drink, but far different than the hot chocolate we know today. Since they didn't use sugar, the Mexicas added peppers, corn meal and spices. A similar hot drink is still found in Mexico today with corn, known as atole.
Though Columbus brought cocoa to Europe in the early 1500s, it was mostly ignored. Hernan Cortes was more interested, and substituted sugar and vanilla for the spices. It became a commercial success.
The word chocolate even comes from an Aztec/Mayan word chocolatl.
Chocolate actually may have played a part in the fall of the Aztec empire. The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought the cocoa beans from the tree of life to give to man. Later, the god was banished. It seems that at first the Mexicas believed that Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquerer, was their returning god.
Aztec food recipes
There are some excellent recipes available online. Find a low carb Mixiotes recipe here. There's also a recipe for atole. cdkitchen.com has a unique hot chocolate recipe, a combination of Aztec and Spanish traditions.
For more Aztec recipes, try a search at cooks.com. Of course, not all of these are real authentic Aztec food, but after reading this article you should have an idea what common elements are in Aztec cooking. For more on traditional Mexican food and what came from the Aztecs, check here. By the way, we know the Aztecs didn't eat chicken, but just for fun here's an Aztec chicken recipe.
Above: A Mixiotes dish I ate at Teotihuacan, Mexico. The meat is rabbit, and it's in a red sauce with cactus. Delicious!
Celebrating Passover: The History And Symbolism Of Matzo Balls
Matzo ball soup with dill. Matzo represents the unleavened bread the Jews ate while fleeing Egypt.
Nothing says Passover like a good bowl of matzo ball soup. That's according to Joan Nathan, chef and grande-dame of Jewish cooking, who spoke to Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition about the importance of the tradition.
The Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates the Biblical story of the Exodus, or the freeing of Hebrew slaves from Egypt.
"It's really the defining story of Judaism. Everybody in some way can identify with it – Jewish or not," says Nathan, author of a new book, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France. "I like the tradition of going back to a lot of these old recipes that have been here for centuries and centuries and sort of realizing who I am and where I came from."
The Passover meal, known as a Seder, is all about remembering Jewish history. Much of the food is deeply symbolic. Matzo represents the unleavened bread the Jews ate while fleeing Egypt, for example, and horseradish is a symbol for the bitterness of slavery.
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Before the machine-made matzo became widely consumed in the 19th century, Jewish people would visit their local bakery for Matzo bread, and make matzo balls with the leftover crumbs.
But the dumplings were not always called matzo balls. They were called knoedel, Nathan says, and the Germans, Austrians and Alsatians used them in soups. When Jews moved to Poland, they referred to them as knoedela, and in the 1930s, the U.S. Manischewitz company started packaging the product and called them "Alsatian feathery balls." Nathan says it was probably U.S. comedians and vaudeville performers that finally dubbed them "matzo balls."
Recipe: Joan Nathan's Matzo Ball Soup
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Put the chicken fat, eggs, broth or water, 2 teaspoons salt, freshly ground pepper, the ginger and the nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Stir well with a wooden spoon, then add the matzo meal and stir just until mixed. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
Bring a large pot of water with the remaining teaspoon of salt to a boil. Set a small bowl of cold water next to your work space. Dip your hands in the water, then form matzo balls about the size of small walnuts. Drop the matzo balls into the boiling water, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until al dente.
Yield: About 10 matzo balls
Note: There are two ways that one can render the fat. The first way is to take the fat off the chicken and melt it down in a frying pan with onions. The second and easiest method is to make chicken soup (using the skin), then cool and refrigerate the soup overnight, and spoon off the fat that accumulates on top.
Reproduced from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France copyright 2015 by Joan Nathan.
7 FURTHER STUDY
Denny, Roz. A Taste of France. New York: Thompson Learning, 1994.
Fisher, Teresa. France. Austin: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1999.
Langer, William L. An Encyclopedia of World History . 5 th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
Loewen, Nancey. Food in France. Vero Beach: Rourke Publications, 1991.
French Food and Cook. [Online] Available http://www.ffcook.com (accessed July 24, 2001).
French Information Center. [Online] Available http://www.france.com (accessed July 24, 2001).
Babette's Feast. Rated G. (1987) This film is set in France in the late 1800s. During an uprising, a French chef named Babette is exiled to Denmark where she becomes maid and cook for two sisters. Babette spends years making simple meals for the sisters until one day she wins the French lottery. Babette uses her winnings to prepare an extravagant seven-course French meal for the sisters and ten other community members. The film depicts the lavish feast in detail, including the food preparation and consumption.