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New tricks teach an old dog…

Comments Off on New tricks teach an old dog… 23 January 2012

Todd Fisher Dishing it Out!
Posted: 01/11/2012 02:16:55 AM PST
Updated: 01/11/2012 08:46:44 AM PST


 As seen in the Monterey County Herald

I was doing a little gluten-free menu planning and research the other day when I read something that I felt I should have known. I mean, I have been doing what I do for quite some time now, and not that I know it all by any means, but this was kind of a head-scratcher. So I thought I would share some of the senseless food trivia that rattles around upstairs.

It never fails to amaze me when I learn something new about such a very old craft, when you consider that the profession of chef has been around since the early 1700s, and only then was the term “chef” applied to set apart a cooks-maid from a cook-master.

The craft of cooking and creating has been around much longer than that. The very first evidence for the consumption of soup dates back to 6,000 B.C., and that was said to have been made of hippopotamus. Delicious, I’m sure, and I’m thinking they may have had leftovers.

The most popular Campbell’s Soup in Hong Kong is watercress and duck gizzard. Yum, yum, getcha some. Oh yeah, it’s not sold here in the U.S. The oldest recipe on record is one for brewing beer. As we all know, beer is a very important ingredient in good cooking. In fact, the more beer a cook has the better the stew. Seven percent of the entire Irish barley crop goes into to the production of Guinness beer.

Worcestershire sauce, pronounced “What’s-this-here” sauce, the popular English sauce, is made from anchovies that are soaked in vinegar until they have completely melted, bones and

all. The first batch was created by a pair of pharmacist by the names John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, and so was born the Lea & Perrins brand. Bloody Marys, Caesar salads and plenty of other zesty recipes are the better because of it.Honorable No. 1 son, who turns 13 tomorrow (Happy Birthday P-Fish) and is currently reading over my shoulder, wanted me to mention that a human tooth will also dissolve in a can of coke. Yikes!America’s No. 1 sauce, ketchup, was first invented to be a medical tonic because many believed tomatoes to be poisonous in their raw state. Tomatoes are considered a fruit by many because the seeds are actually a nightshade, and in the same family as the eggplant. Two-thirds of the world’s eggplant is grown in New Jersey. The Jersey tomato was once considered the most tomatoey, tomato available on the market, with the classic look of a tomato; the sweet, tart and tang, must be something in the water.You can’t talk about tasty creations and not discuss the brilliant creation of the Popsicle, developed complete by accident by a young boy in San Francisco by the name of Frank Epperson. In 1905, Franky, to all his friends, left a mixture of powdered soda and water out on the porch, which contained a stir stick. That night, temperatures in San Francisco reached a record low. When he woke the next morning, he found the mixture had frozen to the stir stick, creating a fruit flavored ice treat that he named the epsicle. Took him another few years to share the discovery with everyone, which he then called the Popsicle.

When you talk military grub scuttlebutt, you may have heard the saying “Any army travels on its stomach.” But did you know the U.S. army packs Tabasco pepper sauce in every ration kit that it gives to soldiers? This has long been a practice of military forces. In 1898, Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener’s troops brought Tabasco pepper sauce on their invasion of Khartoum in the Sudan. It really does add a kick. Tabasco pepper sauce was named after the Tabasco River in southern Mexico by creator Edmund McIlhenny because he liked the sound of the word. I like his style and sauce.

Coffee beans aren’t really beans at all — they’re fruit pits. Kopi Luwak are coffee beans that come from civet poop. These animals gorge on only the finest ripe berries, and excrete the partially digested beans, which are then harvested for sale. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for between $120 and $600 per pound! I want to know who the hell figured that out!

By the way, a civet is a large cat-sized mammal also known as a “toddycat.” Smirk — don’t even go there! Studies show that coffee drinkers have sex more frequently than non-coffee drinkers. Cappuccino please!

All this minutiae almost made me forget the new tidbit of food knowledge just downloaded to the CT hard Drive. Did you know that Black Forest ham was once dipped in beef blood? And in fact, some producers still do this to get the deep-red, almost crimson-black exterior. I know!

Here is your food history for the week. Black Forest ham is a very particular variety of ham that is produced in the Black Forest region of Germany. Use to be much like Champagne, in that if it did not come from Champagne it was not Champagne, but sparkling wine. Well, Black Forest-style ham comes from everywhere nowadays. Production of Black Forest ham can take as long as three months. Using the hind leg of the pig, the raw ham is salted and then seasoned with garlic, coriander, pepper, juniper berries and other seasonings. The ham is dry-cured for two weeks. After the initial curing, the salt is scraped off the ham and then the ham dry cured for another two weeks. The ham is then cold smoked for several weeks. The ham is generally smoked by burning fir or other pine brush. It is during the smoking process that the ham acquires its deep-red color and the black coloring of the skin.

Traditionally, this black coloring was acquired by dipping the ham in beef blood, but this is no longer the case — with the exception of premium processors. I, for one, have no problem with this process. If bacon can make everything better, than beef blood can make swine better. But read your labels closely if you are not one for beefy pork. Make sure you know what you’re eating! Till next time … drink more coffee!


Celebrity chef Todd Fisher is a Herald columnist, chef de cuisine at Stick’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay and a brand consultant. E-mail him at

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