History of Pumpkins and Recipe Round-Up

Pumpkin Pie

There is no denying that once autumn rolls in, the pumpkin reigns supreme. All year long folks wait for their favorite coffee shops to fill with the aroma of pumpkin spice lattes. It’s the season when grocery stores stock their shelves with limited edition pumpkin cookies and ice cream. October is synonymous with Halloween jack-o’-lanterns; as Thanksgiving approaches we pull out our time-honored pumpkin pie recipes. It seems that no food symbolizes the blustery fall season quite like pumpkins.

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Mark Twain: A Little Bill of Fare

Mark Twain

Mark Twain. Detail of photo by Mathew Brady, February 7, 1871. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“An American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person he generally selects Mark Twain.”

- Thomas Edison

Mark Twain, American literary luminary, was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835. A brilliant writer and humorist, Twain left behind a number of timeless and eminently quotable works. He is perhaps best known today for his classic American novels, Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In his time, however, Twain rose to fame as a journalist writing short, humorous stories for newspapers. His works of fiction were often inspired by the experiences of his childhood in Hannibal, Missouri. At the time, Missouri made up part of the country’s western border and legally allowed its residents to own slaves. His summers were spent in the slave quarters of his uncle’s farm. There he heard many of the tales that would later influence some of his most famous stories.

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Discover the History of Beets

Beets

Photo courtesy of Tori Avey – How to Roast Beets, ToriAvey.com

They are said to have grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Elizabethans enjoyed them in tarts and stews. Thomas Jefferson planted them at Monticello. Medieval cooks stuffed them into pies. The colorful, sweet root vegetable known as the beet tends to spark an impassioned response from folks who either love it or loathe it. In the anti-beet camp are President Obama and his wife Michelle, who asked that they not be planted in the White House’s organic vegetable garden. Many complain that beets have an “earthy” taste, which isn’t far off the mark. Beets contain a substance called geosmin, which is responsible for that fresh soil scent in your garden following a spring rain. Humans are quite sensitive to geosmin, even in very low doses, which explains why our beet response ranges from one extreme to the other. Some people adore the sweet and earthy flavor of beets, while others can’t stand the thought of them.

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History in a Jar: The Story of Pickles

Quick Pickles

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It is rumored that they were one of Cleopatra’s prized beauty secrets. They make apperances in the Bible and in Shakespeare’s writing. Pregnant women have been known to crave them along with ice cream. Pickles have been around for thousands of years, dating as far back as 2030 BC when cucumbers from their native India were pickled in the Tigris Valley. The word “pickle” comes from the Dutch pekel or northern German pókel, meaning “salt” or “brine,” two very important components in the pickling process. Throughout history pickling was a necessity, as it was the best way to preserve food for a long period of time. As one of the earliest mobile foods, pickles filled the stomachs of hungry sailors and travelers, while also providing families with a source of food during the cold winter months.

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Judy Garland and Her Favorite Vegetable Salad

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Judy Garland

A publicity still of Judy Garland from MGM film The Harvey Girls (1946). (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The incomparable Judy Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Her parents, Ethel and Frank Gumm, were former vaudeville actors, so it’s no surprise that Judy’s stage career got started when she was very young. In 1926 the Gumms relocated to California where she and her two older sisters, Susie and Jimmie, took lessons in acting and dancing and Ethel served as manager and agent for her daughters. When Judy was just 6, the girls began performing vaudeville acts under the name “The Gumm Sisters.” Judy stood out as Baby Gumm and audiences were very impressed with this small child’s phenomenal voice. Though her acting career was extraordinary, Judy Garland will always be remembered for her gifted singing abilities.

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Get Cinco de Mayo Recipes for a Festive Celebration

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Though many believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, Mexico’s national independence day is actually celebrated on September 16th (celebrations begin the night of the 15th). Cinco de Mayo, also known as the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over Napoleon III’s French soldiers on May 5, 1862. In 1861, French, Spanish and English troops invaded Mexico after they declared a moratorium on repayment of foreign debts. Eventually the Spanish and English troops withdrew. The French, with support from wealthy landowners, stayed in hopes of establishing a monarchy under Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Austria; they also hoped to limit U.S. power in North America.

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Get Vegetarian Ashkenazi Passover Recipes

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

Passover Recipes

Image source: Deposit Photos

I’m not currently a vegetarian, but I was for several years. It started in high school for ethical reasons. My father, who grew up on a 1,000 acre farm in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was an agriculture professor at our local university. From a young age I was exposed to all aspects of animal husbandry—the good, the bad, and the ugly. As an adolescent I believed that vegetarianism was something to aspire to, and I slowly began to cut out red meat. I finally gave up meat completely at 16. I kept at it for many years, but in my early twenties my health began to suffer. I discovered in college that I was sensitive to soy and prone to anemia (a strange genetic quirk in my family). It proved difficult to keep myself healthy and energized without the protein of meat. I slowly introduced meat back into my diet and my health improved. Even so, I ate meat sparingly. Recently I learned the word “flexitarian,” which best describes my current approach to eating. I eat vegetarian most of the time, reserving meat only for when I really crave it. That means I’m eating meat once or twice a week (sometimes less). My husband is the same way. Growing up in Israel, his mom cooked lots of vegetarian dishes like eggplant, hummus, and shakshouka. We’re happiest with a simple dinner of eggplant stew or lentils with rice. Our eating habits change around the holidays and special occasions, but generally speaking, being a flexitarian feels right to my body. I don’t have trouble staying at a healthy weight, I have lots of energy and I feel great.

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Magical Mushrooms: The Allure of Edible Fungi

On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.

History of Edible Mushrooms

Edible Fungi Chart from The New Student’s Reference Work, 1914. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Delicious, deadly, magical, intoxicating, mysterious. Throughout history mushrooms have gained many varying reputations, considered both food and foe. Today it is easy for us to find safe, tasty mushrooms at the grocery store, but it wasn’t always this way. Over the years reckless mushroom hunters have thrown caution to the wind with sometimes fatal results, giving food-safe mushrooms a bad reputation. It’s resulted in two very different categories of people—mycophiles (those who love mushrooms) and mycophobes (those who fear mushrooms). Then there are folks like me, who fall somewhere between adoration and trepidation. I enjoy mushrooms, but I’ve heard enough horror stories about them to be cautious; you won’t see me hunting for wild mushrooms without an expert guide by my side. As we’ve familiarized ourselves with their many different species, mushrooms have become less forbidding. With the recent focus on locally sourced food and foraging, the allure of the mushroom doesn’t seem to be slowing down. If anything, mushrooms are now more popular than ever.

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