Thursday, July 03, 2008

Old School Thursday: The Good and the Complicated Edition

It’s National Chocolate Wafer Day. Obviously, right?

Today is a mixed day in food history. Complicated. On the purely good side, it’s MFK Fisher’s birthday. Countless food writers and bloggers owe a debt to Fisher. Her writing style is a little more sensuous than mine, but it certainly is artful and beautiful.

Also in the good news column: today marks the anniversary of the end of rationing in Great Britain – in 1954. Nine years after the war ended. That’s a lot of time spent rationing.

However, today is also the anniversary of a couple of food-related events that are a little less pure. In 1806, Michael Keens presented to the Royal Horticultural Society the first cultivated strawberry. On one hand, thanks to Keens, we have a history of breeding higher quality foods. And we have him to thank for the groundwork that led to scientific advances that could potentially end hunger and food shortages on a global scale. On the other hand, there are a lot of downsides to genetic engineering, both in terms of taste and nutrients. So, like I said, complicated.

Similarly, today in 1924, Clarence Birdseye founded the General Seafood Corporation, thus starting the frozen food industry. Again, great in so many ways, but also a potential sacrifice to quality.

One final note: I missed National Chocolate Pudding Day last week while we were at the beach. I wanted to point out a couple of interesting things that happened on June 26th: JFK gave his “I am a jelly donut” speech in Germany (1963) and Wrigley’s chewing gum printed the first bar code ever on a product (1974). The last is interesting to me both in terms of business – it’s easy to forget that UPC codes weren’t standard everywhere always – and also because the logo on Wrigley’s gum, the arrow, is a tribute to my very own sorority, Pi Beta Phi (Wrigley’s daughters were Pi Phis). Talk about true dedication to your sisters.

I may take tomorrow off from blogging – we’re going to the Towson 4th of July parade in the morning, then cooking out in the afternoon. Happy 4th, everyone!

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