Holiday Food Trivia

By Sherril Steele-Carlin

We celebrate holidays because we love to celebrate, and because many of our holidays represent special and meaningful times in our lives. Here's some holiday food trivia to make those dinners or barbecues with family members more bearable...at least until the football game comes on.

New Year's Day

New Year's Day wasn't originally celebrated on the first day of the year in the middle of winter's chill, but on the first day of spring. Today, we make resolutions and celebrate the beginning of a new calendar year, but ancient Babylonians and Romans celebrated the beginning of a new gardening season that would give them food for another year. The Babylonians made resolutions too, like to return any gardening equipment they might have borrowed from their neighbors. Today, our lives revolve around different cycles, but it's nice to know the cycles of our lives are still being celebrated.

The 4th of July

The hot dog is all-American 4th of July fare, right? Wrong!  The hot dog is really a relative of German sausages, which came to this country by German immigrants. Originally called dachshund sausages, these convenient wieners in a bun were sold in the New York area as early as the 1860s, but really came into their own during the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago, where hundreds of the "hot dogs" in buns eased the hunger pangs of visitors. Today, hot dogs are a mainstay of barbecues, baseball games, and Coney Island, but we have German immigrants to thank for our national obsession with a dog in a bun.

Labor Day

Labor Day celebrates the American worker, but to most people it means the last barbecue of summer. The word barbecue comes from the West Indian word "barbacoa," but barbecue (cooking meat over hot coals) has been popular for centuries. Today, barbecuing is all the rage, with some outdoor grills costing more than the family sedan. Barbecuing is probably so darned stylish in America today because barbecued food tastes delicious, and cooking it doesn't heat up the kitchen on hot summer day. So, enjoy the last days of summer with a Labor Day barbecue, and enjoy some down home cooking that's hard to beat!

Thanksgiving

Why do we stuff turkeys?  Some foodies believe stuffing was developed on the "because it was there" principle. Chickens, turkeys, and other fowl have a cavity after they are cleaned, and something yummy could be stuffed inside and cooked along with the bird, saving time and dirty dishes. Stuffings have been used as far back as 4000 B.C., but stodgy Victorians preferred the word "dressing" to the more vulgar "stuffing." Today the two words mean the same thing, a bread or starch-based mixture stuffed inside the cavity of a bird or other meat or vegetable. Stuffing is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as the turkey, and now you know why! 

Christmas

Did you know the pilgrims imbibed eggnog at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607?  In England, the word "nog" means a type of "strong ale," and originally, the English created the thick and creamy egg concoction with ale and served it warm.  Today, eggnog is a holiday tradition, and is made with a variety of liquors, such as rum, whiskey, or hard cider.  Eggnog wasn't always just a holiday drink.  Many old cookbooks offer recipes for eggnog as a strengthening mixture for the ill or frail. However you enjoy it, eggnog has a long history of perking up a cold winter evening.