This month is chock full of wonderful food-based celebrations: Memorial Day,
originally called "Decoration Day," is the second busiest grilling day in the U.S.
The first? Independence Day! Labor Day clocks in as the third-busiest grilling
As you chill and grill, ponder this from the foodie front:
The holiday weekend falls during National Barbecue Month. May also happens
to be National Hamburger Month.
Many of us will be throwing down the grilling gauntlet and dishing out everything from apps to sides to entrees and even sweet treats on the barbie. My favorite grilled dishes are salmon, eggplant, corn on the cob and peaches, which caramelize beautifully on the grill and taste delicious over ice cream or with a dollop of freshly whipped cream for a luscious end-of-meal treat.
As you're breaking bread –and buns –during the long weekend, you can nosh on these tasty tidbits:
President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to host a BBQ at the White House. The featured menu item was Texas-style barbecued ribs.
Burgers and hot dogs are the first and fourthmost grilled foods; steak snares the number two spot with the always popular chicken taking bronze.
The most commonly grilled side dish is corn, followed by other vegetables, and potatoes.
Hickory barbeque sauce is most favored, then mesquite, honey, and tomato based. In homemade barbeque sauces, garlic is almost always found in the recipe, as is brown sugar.
After aluminum foil, the preferred barbeque tools are long-handed tongs, clean brushes, and spatulas.
On this holiday weekend, let's take time to thank the men and women who have served our country and those who wear the uniform today. I salute them today and every day and never take their sacrifice for granted.
One of the most important festivals on the Jewish calendar wraps up today, April 29, as Passover 2016 is celebrated in style.
Passover (Pesach) celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt 3500 years ago.
Like most religious customs across the faith spectrum, Passover involves several food traditions, including eight days of eating restrictions – mainly no wheat – and two feasts called Seders.
Here are a few things to nosh on:
Jews from Iran and Afghanistan whack each other withspring onions. The custom takes place before the traditional song Dayenu. The origins of this are unclear but it’s possible that it started as a way to mimic the whips of the slave drivers.
Coca Cola actually make Kosher for Passover coke. Normal Coke is off limits because of the corn syrup used.
Horseradish symbolizes the bitterness that the Jewish people felt at their enslavement.
A piece of matzo is broken off during the Seder meal and hidden in the house for the kids to hunt down after the meal. When they find it, they bargain to get a small gift in return for handing it back.
Most families will pour an extra glass of wine for the Prophet Elijah. It remains there until after the meal when the door is opened and a prayer said to represent the coming of the Messiah. Source: Metro.co.uk
And this additional nugget from an economist friend in Washington, D.C., Elliot Eisenberg:
“Part of the Passover celebration entails placing unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and other items which allude to or are symbolic of the holiday, on a platter. Assuming all American Jews celebrate and share the platter with another celebrant, the platter content will cost $50 million. Freedom isn’t cheap, Jews enjoy eating!”
Spring 2016 edition features more than 200 eateries
Stash your skinny jeans and yoga pants in the back of the closet and tune up your knife and folk, food fans.
Would you believe next week is the Spring version of Local Restaurant Week, running from April 11th – 17th?
Here’s the delicious dish from organizer Christa Hobart on the deals starting at $20.16:
“All of WNY has a lot on its plate during Local Restaurant Week. Grab your family or friends and make reservations at that restaurant you've been meaning to try,” Hobart suggested.
“It's a great excuse to go out and experience something new. Not only will you get a chance to savor the flavor, you'll be supporting the vibrant local independent restaurant scene in our own backyards.”
Here are some quick nibbles about this spring edition:
What’s new? Many Restaurants offering Vegetarian LRW Menu options
Restaurants have to offer at least one Menu item for $20.16 OR $30.16. But no one offers just one
Includes more than 200 participating restaurants from casual, fine dining, ethnic and eclectic
16 first time participants
$8 million annual local economic impact
Encourages participating restaurants to support local vendors
Do you eat the ears first on a chocolate bunny?
It is ears first, say 89% of Americans, according to the infoplease website.
Nearly $3 billion worth of candy is enjoyed during the Easter holiday in the U.S., which ranks as the second most important candy-eating occasion of the year for Americans, who consumed $2.26 billion worth of candy in 2014. Adults prefer milk chocolate (65%), to dark chocolate (27%), but not me.
I will always opt for the robust dark flavor, which happens to contain antioxidants as an added bonus.
If you think you’re seeing Peeps everywhere, it’s no illusion. As many as five million peeps are made each day in preparation for the holiday. Some 63 years ago, the process took 27 hours to create that marshmallow treat, now it takes six minutes!
Yellow Peeps are the most popular flavor; pink, lavender, blue, and white follow.
This season is a big consumption time for jelly beans, but they did not become an Easter tradition until the 1930s. They were probably first made in America by Boston candy maker William Schrafft, who ran advertisements urging people to send jellybeans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War.
Very Cherry remained the most popular flavor of Jelly Belly beans for two decades until 1998, when Buttered Popcorn moved into first place. In 2003 Very Cherry moved back into top position by a mere 8 million beans.
It takes 7 to 21 days to make a single Jelly Belly jelly bean. Who knew!
The first jelly bean was created by an unknown American candy maker in the 1800s. An 1861 advertisement recommended sending jelly beans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War.
And would you believe that enough Jelly Belly beans were eaten in the last year to circle the globe more than five times!
Additional sources: National Confectioner's Association, jellybelly.com
When it comes to fun food facts, Valentine’s Day is filled with sweet talk of every variety, dating back centuries.
Here are a few to keep you warm as you enjoy V. Day on a frigid Sunday this year:
In America, the pilgrims sent confections, such as sugar wafers, marzipan, sweetmeats and sugar plums, to their betrothed. Great value was placed on these gifts because they included what was then a rare commodity, sugar. Chocolate manufacturers currently use 40 percent of the world's almonds and 20 percent of the world's peanuts.
During the 17th century, a hopeful maiden ate a hard-boiled egg and pinned fivebay leaves to her pillow before going to sleep on Valentine's eve. It was believed this would make her dream of her future husband.
According to legend, lentils, honey, oysters, bananas, and chocolate are culinary aphrodisiacs. Both Hippocrates and ancient Egyptians thought lentils would aid in male potency. No wonder those little legumes are still popular.
Along the same lines, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, popped out of the water on an oyster shell. Oysters also rank high in zinc, a key element in testosterone production. Even nutrient-rich bananas are among the foods offered to fertility gods in India.
Montezuma is said to have imbibed in 50 cups of chocolate a day so he could take care of his harem.
Does the name “Cadbury” ring a chocolate bell? Richard Cadbury invented the first Valentine’s Day candy box in the late 1800s.
In Japan, women are expected to give chocolate and other gifts to men on Valentine's Day. This tradition was started as a marketing campaign by Japanese chocolate companies. Men are expected to return the favor on March 14th, commonly known as White Day.
When it comes to the restaurant industry, many capitalize on one of the biggest annual dining-out occasions in the U.S. Industry analysts say this year should be particularly beneficial since V- Day falls on a Sunday and President’s Day follows on Monday.
The Taste of the NFL is a strolling food and wine event held on the eve of Super Bowl. This year chefs from each NFL city will host the extravaganza in the San Francisco Cow Palace. There is also an NFL player (either current or alumni) seated at each food station. Famed local chef and restauranteur Mike Andrzejewski is preparing Pork Shiu Mai with Soy Ginger Dip and Napa Salad, pairing it with a Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.
Speaking of pairings, Hall of Famer and former Bills lineman Joe DeLamielleure will join Mike as the Bills representatives. Money raised from the event supports food banks throughout the U.S., including here in Western New York.
There’s more than a kernel of truth in this statement: I love movies almost as I much as I love food.
As with a good meal, a movie can take you to another place. For my husband, Dan, and me, the cinematic experience wouldn’t be the same without a jumbo bucket of popcorn, sans the butter.
From the moment you walk in the theater lobby, the aroma of freshly popped goodness and warm butter wafting through the air draws me in and all my willpower melts away.
Every day could include this crunchy goodness for me, but did you know today is National Popcorn Day?
Here’s a little history to chew on, according to the folks at National Day Calendar.com:
The word “corn” in Old English meant “grain” or more specifically the most prominent grain grown in a region. Maize being the most common grain in early America, the word “corn” was aptly applied.
As early as the 16th century, popcorn was used in headdresses worn during Aztec ceremonies honoring Tlaloc, their god of maize and fertility. Early Spanish explorers were fascinated by the corn that burst into what looked like a white flower.
Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.
Today, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn a year, more than any other country in the world. A majority of the popcorn produced in the world is grown in the United States with Nebraska in the production lead.
And who better to weigh in than WBEN’s Cinema Bob Stilson, an authority not just on the silver screen, but popcorn too:
“Historically, serving popcorn at the movies was inspired by one simple thing -- it was cheap. But when done right, it's a delightful snack that adds warmth and charm to any cinema. Personally, I've never been a "with lots of butter" type of guy. My fingers get too greasy and I worry about dripping butter on my clothes in the dark. The Dipson chain offers the best popcorn I've ever had,” Bob said. “Fresh, delicious, and light. To add any extra toppings or flavorings would be a sin. It's perfect ‘as is’.”
Bob was a film buyer for the Video Factory rental chain in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“When we opened our first location, we wanted to achieve a ‘classic Hollywood’ look. We framed classic posters, dressed our employees in tux shirts and bow ties -- we even had a red carpet. But the ‘cherry on top’ was a popcorn machine with free popcorn for customers. The aroma filled the store. We didn't just look like the movies, we smelled like the movies. That's the power of popcorn,” Bob recalled.
The Bills win over New York Sunday was more than sweet revenge for former jets coach Rex Ryan. The game affected several other teams too. With Buffalo’s victory over Gang Green and Pittsburgh’s win over Cleveland, the Steelers made it into the playoffs.
Steeler fans were understandably ecstatic. One well-known Pittsburgh eatery decided to show their gratitude in a unique way.
Primanti Bros., known for its mile-high slaw and fry-stacked sandwich, thought it would be a no-brainer to send a thank you to the Bills. So, the restaurant packed up 20 boxes – enough for 100 sandwiches-- threw in some Terrible Towels and T-shirts and shuffled them off to Buffalo.
I talked with Primanti Bros operations director Mike Mitcham, who has all the meaty details.
So, you thought December 23rd was just 48 hours from Christmas?
It’s also Festivus, made famous by Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld.” The “festival for the rest of us” has its own traditions, one of which includes the Airing of Grievances occurs during Festivus dinner. Each person takes turns describing how the others have disappointed him or her in the past year.
Nothing says the holidays like family discord!
On a brighter note, did you know that today is National Pfeffernusse Day?
December 23rd is reserved for this German spice cookie, made with ground nuts and spices and covered in powdered sugar.
Speaking of cookies, I recently discovered that Animal Crackers were introduced at Christmastime in 1902. The string on the box was designed so it could be hung on a Christmas Tree.
Here are a few other fun food facts as you ponder your Festivus family fun:
Early New Englanders gave carrot cookies as Christmas gifts.
In 1806, American explorer Zebulon Pike celebrated Christmas by allowing 'two pounds extra of meat, two pounds extra of flour, one gill of whiskey, and some tobacco, to each man, in order to distinguish Christmas Day.'
Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy turkey, although Edward VII made eating turkey fashionable at Christmas.
More than 1.75 million candy canes are currently made each year for the Christmas season. Candy canes, it’s been said, originated in 1670 when the choirmaster of Cologne Cathedral had candies made in the shape of a shepherd's crook. He distributed them to youngsters who were attending the church's crèche scene to encourage them to stay quiet.
Bizochito is a small anise flavored sugar cookie or shortbread cookie. The sweet is traditionally served at Christmas and special occasions such as weddings and baptisms. It is the official state cookie of New Mexico.
The Christmas mushroom is the enoki.
A custom originating in Germany says good fortune or an extra present goes to the first person to find a glass pickle ornament hidden on a Christmas tree.
Mince pies date back to medieval times originating from a huge pie baked on Christmas Eve with chopped beef, suet, nuts, spices and fruit. A crust was added later, on top of which a pastry effigy of baby Jesus was laid to represent him lying in his cradle.
Source: Food Reference.com
As the year winds down, thank you for reading and listening to “Brenda’s Bites,” and for the feedback on food and the other gustatory pleasures in life.
Wishing you all the best for a Merry Christmas, a healthy and prosperous 2016 and many good meals to come!
What a difference a year makes when it comes to WNY weather at Thanksgiving time. Does it even seem possible that much of our region last year was in the frosty and relentless grip of “Snovember,” which probably bumped up the birth rate nine months later in these parts? I’m so glad the weather gods are not doing a repeat performance in 2015.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, repetition is not a bad thing: the traditional tasty fare of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie will still be prominently featured on most tables.
Here are some nibbles for you to ponder as you digest course after course this holiday: 90% of American homes eat Turkey on Thanksgiving
Abraham Lincoln chose the last Thursday in November for Thanksgiving
More than 45 million turkeys are eaten on thanksgiving, over 675 million pounds (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
The average Thanksgiving dinner has 4,575 calories
Wild turkeys can run up to 20 mph and fly for short distances up to 55 mph
Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird, one of his biggest arguments being that it is native to America.
Yams and Sweet Potatoes are NOT in the same family, they are in separate botanical families.
Sweet potatoes have been around since prehistoric time
The potato produces more food per acre than any other crop.
Potatoes are grown in every state in the United States.
Potatoes, contrary to popular belief, were not part of the original Thanksgiving. They had not been introduced to North America at that time.
About 50% of Americans stuff their birds with stuffing (or “dressing”)
There are regional differences with stuffing- in the South cornbread stuffing is popular, and white bread is common is most other parts of the country. Although, there are many variations to ingredients added with the bread.
Stuffing dates back to the Roman Empire, where the ancient cookbook “Apicius de re Coquinaria” had recipes that called for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pork and more.
Stove Top, introduced in 1972, now sells around 60 million boxes of their stuffing around Thanksgiving.
There is no evidence to support that stuffing was served at the first Thanksgiving.
An estimated 40 million green bean casseroles are served on Thanksgiving
Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole recipe (using their cream of mushroom soup) was developed in 1955.
There is only around 40 calories in one cup of green beans.
The first to put green beans on their menu were the French.
China is the largest producer of fresh green beans.
An estimated 20% of cranberries eaten in the year are eaten on Thanksgiving
Native Americans not only ate cranberries, they also used them for their fabrics, pottery and medicinal purposes.
There was approximately 709 million pounds of cranberry produced in the United States in 2009.
The top cranberry growing states are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
A cranberry is most ripe when it is able to bounce.
Only 5% of cranberries grown are sold fresh, the remaining percent are sold as cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, etc.
A cup of fresh cranberries is about 50 calories whereas a cup of cranberry sauce is around 400.