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Food History, Recipe Origins

Researching the history of a dish can be very interesting. Many dishes have very colorful origins and traditions.

I get a lot of requests from students. Some are cooking school students and some are regular Junior High and High School students. They've usually been assigned to find the history of a certain food by their teacher. In the case of the latter, I suppose that the real intent is to teach the students how to use the Internet. For the former, it might be to teach the cooking school student how serendipitous events can result in the creation of a popular new dish.

There are some dishes that have colorful recorded histories, such as Caesar Salad or Green Goddess salad dressing or potato chips.

The Food History items that I have on the site are these:

However, the majority of dishes have no recorded history, or none that can be found on the Internet. For the dishes that do have a recorded history, books are a much more likely resource than the Internet, at least currently. Even then, searching for the origin of a particular dish can be extremely tedious and ultimately unrewarding. My point is that that teachers should be aware that it may not be very productive to assign a student to research the history of applesauce cake or Swedish meatballs on the Internet. The teacher might first want to make sure that there is a recorded history to be found before making such an assignment. I can't imagine anything more discouraging to a student than to spend a week looking for the history of pecan pie only to find that there is nothing to be found, that pecan pie's origin has been lost in the mists of time. And students should be aware that, although in some cases the Internet is a great timesaver, often you're going to have to fall back on the old library to find what you need.

I do have a few food history references. John Mariani's "Dictionary of American Food and Drink" is great, as is "The Food Chronology" by William Trager and "The Penguin Companion to Food" by Alan Davidson. For the history of basic foods (like the history of sugar, etc), rather than of dishes or products, "History of Food" by Magualonne Toussaint-Samat is good.

There are a few food history sites listed below:

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