I understand how nourishments like lettuce, meat and grains have made their way into our food chain, as they are readily visible and available. What baffles my mind is, who first looked at a chicken and decided to eat what it left behind, or who was the first person to study a cow and say to his friends, “I’m going to try drinking that”?
The creation of certain foods has unique beginnings and, surprisingly, not always where you thought they might have originated.
Take mayonnaise, for example, which originated in the city of Mahon, on the island of Minorca (the Mediterranean, off the coast of Spain). It was brought to France in the early 1600s and was a delicacy for the rich and famous. Known as Mahon-naise for centuries, it was not until German immigrant Richard Hellman started making and selling it from his New York deli that the name changed to Hellman’s Mayonnaise.
Just before the stock market crash of 1929, St. Louis businessperson, Charles L Grigg began marketing a beverage under the name of ‘Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon Lime Soda. His slogan was, ‘Takes the Ouch out of Grouch.’ The drink was a huge success during the depression because it contained the powerful drug Lithium, now prescribed for manic depressives. The name was too long and the bottle too large. After creating a seven-ounce bottle, which was easy to hold and easy to tilt to your mouth, the name was changed to 7 Up for the size of the bottle and ‘bottoms up.
With summer just around the corner, albeit a lengthy corner, I am once again ready to venture forth to my favourite food, ice cream. There are few experiences more satisfying than walking along Queen Street licking a chocolate cone. That opportunity was not always available, as it was not until 1904 when the ice cream cone was invented. It happened at the World’s Fair in St. Louis (where the hot dog and the hamburger were also invented) when an ice cream vendor, selling cups of the frozen dessert, sold so many he ran out of cups. Panicking, he looked around to see if there was another merchant who might have some spare cups, but all he could find was a waffle seller. He quickly rushed over and purchased as many as he could and wrapped them around a scoop of ice cream. The substitute became more popular than the original cup, and word spread quickly.
Some foods have interesting origins, and digging into their roots is fascinating, as it leaves you hungry for more information. It also helps you take the bite out of winter, ohhhh.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.