Food History

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Sliced Bread Was Once Illegal In the United States?

If you thought prohibition was a doomed experiment, imaging prohibiting sliced bread. Yet, not long after sliced bread was invented, it was indeed banned, albeit temporarily, in the United States.

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Grocery Warehouse with Oxydol Laundry Soap, 1942

In this photo from July 1942, a warehouse worker for a grocery store distribution company is filling an order for a local store in the Washington, D.C. area. Behind him are stacked many boxes marked Oxydol. The box he is carrying on his shoulder appears to be Duz soap.

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Does German Chocolate Cake Come from Germany?

German chocolate cake, with extravagant richness, is just the kind of recipe German immigrants would have brought with them to the United States. We wouldn't have a hard time associating such a rich chocolate cake, with its decadent coconut and pecan filling, with Germany. And, in fact, it was German immigrants who settled in the midwest that introduced America to one of its favorite chocolate cakes. Or was it?

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Lorings Fat-ten-u & Corpula Fattening Food - Vintage Ad, c. 1895

The fat loss industry is a multi-billion dollar one. It is rife with fraudulent promises and outright pseudoscience. The advertisement on this page illustrates a fascinating fact. During the 1800's, the "fattening" industry was just as rife with pseudoscientific ramblings and fraudulent promises as the fat loss industry is today.

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Universal Food Chopper - 1898 Vintage Ad

Today, when we think of automatic food choppers, we envision a device designed to replace knife work and make chopping ingredients for dishes faster and easier. But this Universal Food Chopper advertisement seems to indicate that the appliance will chop up just about anything, pigs, cows, sheep, fish, lobster, vegetables, etc.

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Who Was Brownie Mary?

Brownie Mary is probably the only person in history to be arrested on brownie-related charges. On January 14, 1981, the police raided her home and found over fifty dozen marijuana (cannabis) brownies along with over 18 pounds of marijuana yet to be, pardon the pun, baked. Her real name was Mary Jane Rathbun. Her punishment was 500 hours of community service and three years of probation.

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What Happened To Sizzlean Bacon?

During the late seventies and eighties, Sizzlean was a popular bacon alternative produced by Swift & Co. The breakfast strips were marketed as a healthier alternative to bacon and boasted less fat and less shrinkage than regular pork bacon.

Sizzlean was supposedly 50% leaner than pork belly bacon, in fact, although it actually contained 37% fat. And let's be honest, if it didn't, it wouldn't have tasted as good.

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Chun King Chow Mein, Sold by an Italian American

While Chinese immigrants were starting Chinese restaurants in the United States during the early part of the 20th century, the potential for mass distribution of ready-prepared Chinese dishes was not readily apparent. One of the first to see it was a man of Italian ancestry. Luigino 'Jeno' Paulucchi started the Chun King corporation during the later 1940's. His first product was canned Chow Mein, using bean sprouts grown locally by Japenese immigrants, and leftover celery trimmings. He patented his unique product, which had the 'chow mein' or noodles, in a separate compartment from the vegetables.

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What Is French Dressing?

Dedicated reader Frank W. was kind enough to send me his favorite recipe for French dressing, a "Catalina-style" French to share with readers. You might like this spicier version of French dressing over the stuff you usually find at salad bars or in bottles.

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Curry Powder Has Nothing to do With Indian Cooking

And Perhaps Neither Do Curries

I was shopping for groceries online (I order most of my groceries through Peapod) and I came across a newly added product: a Thai red curry sauce. This is one of those pre-made sauces in a pouch that you just add to chicken and/or vegetables to make an instant dish. Of course, I would never buy this, I would just make my own Thai curry which I do quite often (sometimes obsessively). But, being the CulinaryLore guy, I had to read the reviews to see what customers were saying. Of course, some people loved it, and some hated it. But of the few hating it, one of them complained that it burned their tongue off and had no curry flavor because it DID NOT CONTAIN any CURRY POWDER!

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Origin Of 'Hot Potato' Expression

Meaning of Hot Potato

When we say something is a hot potato, we are referring to something that is controversial, awkward, embarrassing, difficult, or unpleasant to deal with and which people want to avoid. We often refer, as well, to a 'political hot potato.' Either term is in most often used in reference to a public issue. But, the idiom can also refer to a person who is disagreeable or unpleasant. Examples of how 'hot potato' might be used are:

We might say, for example, "Abortion was a hot potato subject during the last election." How did the term come to be used in this way? Why a potato, and not some other object?

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Origin Of 'Kill The Fatted Calf' Expression

To kill the fatted calf is to prepare a huge celebratory feast, especially to welcome someone. It means to have a big party with lots of food and drink.

The American Heritage Dictionary Of Idioms defines it as "to prepare for a joyful occasion or a warm welcome." An example would be a long lost beloved relative coming home: "When Steve comes home from his deployment we are going to kill the fatted calf.

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A Man Bought Lobster and Steak on Food Stamps?

A viral image of a grocery store receipt from Menominee, Michigan has been circulating online since May of 2011. The receipt, from Angeli's Country Market, lists fresh cold water lobster, porterhouse steak, and diet Mountain Dew, totaling $141.78, dated February 8, 2011.

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Origin of the Word Pumpernickel

I've written about many food word origins here on CulinaryLore. I have been meaning to write about the origin of the word pumpernickel for a while, especially since I had read it had some surprising derivations. I thought I may as well do some research of my own to confirm these odd and funny origins.

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