Sunday, October 12, 2008

Food for Thought

We can’t live without it and too much will send us to the gym or worse. Food and drink, a necessary requirement for our very existence has some wonderful and interesting origins that I’ve included in this post.

TeaThe Brits have a special time for it - 4 PM with cakes and tiny sandwiches.
The first pot of tea was believed to have originated with the Chinese emperor, Shen Nung who in 2737 BC was boiling some water when some leaves fell into his pot from a nearby tree. He drank the liquid and enjoyed it so much that he made a note in his diary saying, “It quenches the thirst. It lessens the desire to sleep. It gladdens and cheers the heart.”

CoffeeSometimes needed to jump-start us in the morning.
Many legends surround the origin of the coffee bean but probably the most famous is the story about Kaldi a 9th-century Arab goat-herder. Kaldi noticed his goats became frisky after eating the red berries of a nearby bush. He took a handful himself and ate them experiencing the same friskiness. For the next few hundred years the berries were chewed to obtain the stimulating affect of the berry until in the 13th century, Arabs brewed the first roasted beans, which is the forerunner of coffee as we know it today.

Salt – The origin of the word "salary"
So important was salt to ancient people that it was often kept under lock and key. Salt pans were found all over the world and archeologists know that by 6500 BC people were panning salt to provide a meager living. When William the Conqueror landed in England in 1066, he had his scribes note in the Domesday Book (an inventory of England’s wealth) the amount of salt pans used by the Saxons. William levied a tax against the collection of salt by the Saxons. There was also a tax levied against their houses, livestock, and other possessions.

The Roman writer Petronius gave us the expression “not worth his salt.” Roman soldiers were often given special allowances for salt rations called salarium, from which the word salary is derived.

Chicken Tetrazzini An opera singer’s delight
The famous opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini loved this dish so much, it still bears her name to this day. Comprised of chicken, mushrooms and spaghetti in a creamy sauce, it is said that Luisa loved the dish with a passion that was equal only to her love of the opera.

Peach MelbaA dessert sweet enough for a Soprano
This dish was a favorite of the Australian soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. Nellie adored this dessert that still bears her name to this day. A combination of halved peaches, vanilla ice cream topped with a sauce of raspberries and currants make this a delicious dessert.