Wednesday , 14 November 2018
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Foods and their twisted histories

Foods and their twisted histories

Zubin Dsouza

There was a time when humankind couldn’t control fire. Food was basic and raw.

But then a couple of lightning strikes, flint stones and dried grass later we were able to make fire do our bidding.

The culinary world that we know today began from that very initial spark. Cooked meat tasted better than the raw version, seasoned meats tasted infinitely better.

Agriculture was discovered and that was followed by milling which gave the grains a more palatable feel and made them last longer.

There were innovations that were goaded on by royal patronage and some successes that were the results of happy accidents.

Then there were those with weird and twisted histories behind them.

For those who know me, the weirder and more twisted equals something that I find extremely fascinating.

Speaking about something twisted; pretzels were originally created by monks as a treat for children. They were made out of the leftover dough that formed the base of the communion wafer. The dough was then twisted to form the shape of a child’s arms folded in prayer.

Pretzels weren’t the only food designed to turn a person’s mind towards the spiritual.

John Harvey Kellogg fiercely believed that overindulgence in carnal feelings was instrumental in making people travel on the wrong path. He decided that the only way forward was to create a meal so insipid that it would remove lustful desire from everyone. He succeeded in the insipid category when he made his cornflakes but the ultimate goal is quite far from being attained.

Taking a cue from Kellogg, a Presbyterian minister called Graham invented the Graham crackers to prevent his youthful flock from straying. Biting into this insipid and dry biscuit is definitely going to deprive most folks of their libido but they make interesting snacks.

7 up, the bubbly lemony and lime soda beverage used to contain lithium citrate which is a mood inhibitor. Sometimes it was given to troublesome kids to help them stay out of trouble.

This is in stark contrast to Coca Cola. In the original formula, the drink contained cocaine which would be an excellent counteroffensive to the Graham cracker. Unfortunately by 1903, the company removed this ingredient from the recipe dampening parties everywhere. That wasn’t the end of their woes. Deprived of their magic herb, Coca Cola was susceptible to the competition and Pepsi managed to emerge and grab a large share of the market.

This was a major fall for the beverage that was so sure of their success that they even designed the bottle in such a manner that it should be recognized if it was felt in the dark.

After the Americans were attacked at Pearl Harbor during WWII, Coca Cola refused to ship their top secret syrup to the Germans. Max Keith who was the German CEO at the time was stuck in a bind. He wasn’t getting in supplies and the business was bound to go belly up into liquidation. He cobbled together several leftover ingredients to create what the world today knows as Fanta.

I guess you did not know that about the world’s most famous beverages!

And I guarantee that you wouldn’t have probably heard about the next nuggets of wisdom on the world’s most famous pasta dishes.

Spaghetti bolognaise does not exist in the cuisine made famous by the city of Bologna. In fact traditionalists and residents will meet you with scorn should you happen to ask for the ‘traditional’ stewed minced meat and pasta dish at one of their restaurants. The correct pasta that goes with this dish is tagliatelle which is a flat pasta cut into ribbon like thick strips.

This is a similar situation with spaghetti and meatballs. The Italians never serve meatballs with pasta. Should you want to eat that dish, America is the place I would suggest judging from the fact that it originated from there.

The best news that I have to share however is about ketchup. It was once considered a medicine and was used to treat diarrhoea.

Heinz ketchup is widely recognised as the most perfect food with the most perfect recipe. It apparently satisfies all the taste requirements including the much sought after one referred to as ‘umami’.

And of course a little bit of trivia closer to home. Chicken tikka masala which is fiercely protected as a homegrown dish has more likely originated in an Indian restaurant in Birmingham rather than in India.

Maybe we could offer something to counter that infused with pre-1903 Coca Cola!

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