All posts tagged: History

The Kaiser of all rolls and the Austrian bakers’ victory

Just like the rest of central Europe, in Austria there’s a long tradition of home baking that has been influenced by Bohemian, Swiss, Italian, Czech and of course German bread and pastries. But a shared passion for dainty rolled buns dates way back to the lavish 18th century empires. The fine Austrian baking and patisserie productions have been a source of pride for rofessional bakers but things weren’t always easy for them. The Kaiser in question. Once upon a time in the 19th century, the baker’s guild of Austria faced severe obstacles when the prices of bread were fixed by the state, after much negotiation and soft power politics, the guild manged to convince the Kaiser Franz Joseph I to abolish fix prices and let the free market self-regulate, after granting the petition, the gild named the popular semmeln or bread rolls after him and the Kaiser rolls rose to fame. Franz Joseph Emperor of Austria and was also responsible for taking the Habsburg Monarchy to a whole new level of power and after the …

Ploughman’s Sandwich: The best of Britain in every bite

From humble ingredients come the best soul feeding, tummy filling feasts. It is often the case that hard working peasants and farmers who have made it possible for civilizations to thrive live hard lives, working from dawn to dusk their dedication and efforts have indeed contributed to shape our diets. But what do they eat?  what has their culinary heritage been, and how has their food made it to become cultural gastronomic staples? Britain’s evangelistic passion for sandwiches tells the story of its own culinary evolution and to illustrate this let’s explore the history of the ploughman’s sandwich. First things first, a ploughman is just another name for farmer, especially those who plough the earth to prepare the fields to be planted. It’s easy to imagine they have: little time to eat, need to refuel good and can’t spare the time to do complicated lunch prep. A ploughman’s lunch is a simple picnic consisting largely of: bread, cheese, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and a sharp and either sweet or savoury of pickled vegetables, this humble meal …

The emperor’s favourite: Pasanda Curry

Pasanda is thick, creamy, aromatic and velvety looking and by far one of favourite curries ever. The history of this dish dates back to the 16th century and became a staple at the courts of Moghul Emperors of turco-mongol origin that ruled India under a Muslim Persianate dynasty. In Urdu, thw word pasande means “favourite” and was prepared with the fines cuts of meat, but nowadays it is equally prepared with lamb, chicken or sea food. It is considered a mild curry because of the use of coconut milk, ground almonds and shredded coconut that give it a thick granular texture yet creamy and rich. Now, I have seen several versions of this dish, some with more or less coconut milk and some with more or less tomato puree. I prefer my Pasanda milkier and creamier yet spicy, also it gives it a great look from the more common red, green or orange-golden curries. This makes a great dish for a special occasion a dinner party or birthday lunch. To prepare this luscious curry -chicken …

A 19th century British soldier’s diet

Many thanks to Dr. Aoife Bhreatnach for her guest post, this amazing piece gives us a very round idea of the politics, economics and little known facts about Army Food during the Crimean war. Follow Aoife on twitter @GarrisonTowns  and visit her very interesting website. And now, enjoy the post! Rough and unpalatable, often unwholesome: a 19th century British soldier’s diet. Recruiting sergeants, while plying potential soldiers with drink, waxed lyrical about the comforts of army life. Regular, daily meals and a bed to himself would have seemed luxurious to many men who joined the army, because most recruits were among the poorest in society. But the quality and quantity of food served to the British soldier during the nineteenth century was poor and inadequate. Even worse, the unlucky recruit soon discovered that he had to pay for that food out of his meagre daily wage of 1 shilling as part of a ‘stoppages’ system, whereby soldiers paid for their own clothing, boots, food and equipment. While the Treasury and War Office slowly, reluctantly improved …

Weeknight Roast and the Chickens that came from China

A few days ago an article on the Smithsonian Magazine got me thinking about the domestication of chickens and how often we take this docile birds for granted when we really ought to place them on a high pedestal since they’ve fueled an alimentary empire. Although chicken was widely eaten in ancient Greece, there’s evidence that shows traces of its domestication in China circa 5400 BC -but- other sources claim it happened around 8000 BC, be as it may chicken turns out to be the very first domesticated bird ever. We can find references to both hens and cocks in many religious rituals -in may of them like the Jewish Kaparot the poor birds don’t live to tell it. Here in Britain a domestic ritual celebrating togetherness and meat as an everlasting symbol of triumph over life’s vicissitudesis is: the Roast. Cooked in one of the most ancient ways by roasting and garnishing with simple vegetables. Roasts are typically made with lamb, beef or chicken. We know I’m neither British nor I eat meat but …

Let’s Got to a Bakery

By Naomi Buchheimer 1956 The evolution of bread production has had roughly four major stages: First the invention itself of roughly coarse grains soaked in water and cooked on open fires over hot rocks. The eventual discovery of fermentation and improvement of grinding techniques allowed bakers to produce softer and palatable breads. Then came the widespread consumption of bread and consequent economic and social organization of the process. Specialized equipment and installations required the work of skilled personnel. And this remained pretty much the same from ancient times until right before the industrial revolution. The addition to all sorts of machinery allowed to increase the production of baked goods both sweet and savoury. But the biggest change yet to occur came during the 1950s when the need to feed large populations saw the perfect answer in the industrial mass production of food including bread. Convenience of price, size, quantity and flavour not always came hand in hand with quality in terms of nutritional value. One can also say that a post-industrialization contra revolution in baking …

Bake your pie and eat it

For the unaware visitor, Pie & Mash is a picturesque, stereotypical, generic British dish, however it is neither generic not ubiquitous. But Pie & Mash are indeed a most beloved institution in east London where this working-class staple was both a weeknight meal and also a weekend treat. In victorian London, eels and other river animals were fished for food, many ended in pies served with a generous portion of “mash” that is mashed potatoes with a pool of either beef gravy or green sauce called liquor, made with parsley and the flavoured with eel stock.  Other classic fillings include minced beef or pork. Pie & Mash shops became a social hub where friends and families would meet and socialise over a pint of ale and a hearty and affordable meal. Then again fried chicken, kebabs and pizza shops have displaced many “Chippies” (Fish & chips shops) and Pie & Mash shops, but there are still some that are very much alive but will only continue to do so as long as they’re still relevant …