The origins of some of our most popular food and drink is often fuzzy, since so many have only been transmitted orally throughout history. Many dishes or ingredients are so closely tied to our history that they were simply taken for granted. There are, however, a few fun stories on the origins of some of our favorite fare. Here are five unique culinary histories.
India Pale Ale
By the 18th century, England was already exporting beer to India, which was under control of the British East India Company. It is said that, in order for the ale to withstand the arduous journey, more hops and more alcohol were added, as these ingredients helped to preserve it. The idea was that when it reached its destination it would be diluted for consumption, but apparently people liked it just the way it was – heavily hopped and sticky. Today, IPAs have become the cornerstone of the craft beer movement.
Thinly sliced pieces of raw meat seasoned with lemon, olive oil, white truffle, Parmesan, salt and pepper is a beloved delicacy around the world, and one with a relatively recent history. In 1963, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Giuseppe Cipriani, prepared it for Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, who was advised by her doctors to eat raw meat. Cipriani decided to call his new creation carpaccio in honor of 15th century Italian painter Vittore Carpaccio, whose work was characterized by red and white tones, just like the new dish.
This world-famous salad is attributed to Cesare Cardini, who invented it in his restaurant, Caesar’s, in Tijuana on July 4, 1924 from what remained in his depleted kitchen pantry. With romaine lettuce, croutons, lemon, olive oil, egg, garlic, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce, so began the tradition of preparing and serving this salad directly at the table. Although the modern version features anchovies, this was not originally the case, as the fishy flavor came from the Worcestershire sauce. This salad became so famous that Caesar dressing is now a staple sold in grocery stores worldwide.
Speaking of Worcestershire sauce (or not, due to its nearly unpronounceable name for non-British English speakers), it originated from circumstances of fate, neglect, and fermentation. A British army officer posted in Bengal fell in love with a local fish sauce. His appetite for it was so rapturous that he took a sample back to England in 1835, where he asked two chemists, John Wheeler Lea and William Henry Perrins, to analyze and recreate it. They identified the ingredients as anchovies, tamarind paste, onions, garlic, and other spices. The attempt to recreate it, however, resulted in something so unpleasant that it was banished to the cellar, where, forgotten about for so long, it began to ferment. When they tasted it years later, the flavor was incredible, and to this day, the same fermentation process is still used.
Legend has it that this cheese was discovered by chance. A young shepherd who sat down to eat his bread and sheep’s milk cheese near the Combalou caves in the south of France became distracted by a pretty girl passing by and went to make her acquaintance, leaving his lunch in the shade of the caves. A few weeks later, he returned to find stale bread and the cheese covered with blue mold (Penicillium roqueforti). For whatever reason, he decided to taste it, and when he did, he liked it so much that he began to leave his cheeses lying in the same spot to mature with mold. Today, Roquefort cheese is one of the most well known blue cheeses and its designation of controlled origin means it can only be aged in those same caves to develop its famous intense flavor.