Living History Lectures ~ Tames Alan

Historical, educational, hysterical. One costumed woman tells you like it WAS.

Random Historical Facts: Food History

The ancient Greeks invented the hibatchi, thus holding the first barbecue.

Posted 07/15/2010

The natives of the Caribbean Islands use allspice along with salt to preserve meat.  They call this preserved meat “boucan.”  Pirates who plied the waters of the Caribbean ate a lot of this preserved meat, hence they came to be called “boucaneers.”

Posted 08/01/2010

Roman soldiers were paid partly in salt, giving rise to the saying, “He’s not worth his salt.”

Posted 09/01/2010

The saffron crocus only blooms for 2 weeks in September when the stamen, which is also known as filaments or threads, is harvested.

Posted 09/15/2010

During the Elizabethan era the lower classes shifted their drinking habits from beer to ale.

Posted 10/01/2010

During the Middle Ages you could buy 7 oxen with 1 pound of nutmeg.

Posted 11/15/2010

One tablespoon of paprika equals four lemons’ worth of vitamin C.

Posted 01/15/2011

Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, brought the Spanish fashion of eating salads with the main meal to England.

Posted 02/15/2011

In England the Elizabethan nobility drank over forty million gallons of wine per year.

Posted 04/01/2011

The ancient Greeks invented the frying pan and so gave the world the first fried foods.

Posted 08/01/2011

Vodka wasn’t drunk much outside of Russia until the 1950s, when it caught on as a mixer for cocktails.

Posted 08/15/2011

On September 25, 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary the first mention in English of anyone drinking a cup of tea.

Posted 09/15/2011

Gingerbread was first made on the ancient Greek island of Rhodes and was spread throughout Europe by Roman soldiers.

Posted 11/15/2011

In London in 1652, the first coffeehouse opened in a shed in St. Michael Cornhill courtyard.

Posted 01/15/2012

Kellogg introduced Rice Krispies in 1928.

Posted 02/01/2012

During the Middle Ages, one lb. of pepper could pay an English laborer for 2 weeks of work, bribe an official, or secure a bride. It was a very good dowry.

Posted 04/01/2012

Saffron, cinnamon, and coriander were major components in ancient Greek medicine.

Posted 05/01/2012

During the Middle Ages anyone caught adulterating saffron was burned at the stake.

Posted 09/01/2012

General Mills introduced Cheerios in 1941.

Posted 04/15/2013

The term “milkshake” was first used in print in 1885, and referred to an alcoholic whiskey drink that has been described as a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat.”

Posted 07/15/2013

Up until the mid-1800s, marshmallow candy was used medicinally. Doctors extracted juice from the roots of the marsh-mallow plant and cooked it with egg whites and sugar, then whipped it into a foamy meringue. This hardened, and the resulting candy soothed children’s sore throats. Eventually, advanced manufacturing processes replaced the root juice with gelatin, which eliminated any healing properties.

Posted 01/15/2014

The first James Bond novel, Casino Royal, came out in 1953. It contained more descriptions of food than of killing people. For the British reading public still on food ration coupons, this was a great fantasy escape.

Posted 04/15/2014

Ginger was the 1st Oriental spice to be transplanted in the New World, and ginger cookies had become so much a part of American food that by the time of the American Revolution, they formed part of the Continental Army’s rations.

Posted 07/01/2014

In ancient Greece, students wore sprigs of rosemary in their hair while they studied, because they believed rosemary stimulated cerebral circulation, thereby improving concentration and memory.

Posted 09/01/2014

The Chinese were the first to import cloves, and no one could approach the Chinese emperor without first chewing cloves to clear his breath.

Posted 01/01/2015

The Aztecs had something like chili powder, but the modern mixture was invented in the U.S., in the 1860s by an immigrant Englishman trying to create a substitute for curry powder.

Posted 02/15/2015

In ancient times mustard seeds symbolized fiery potential. In 330 BC, Darius, king of Persia, challenged Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia to battle. Darius presented Alexander with a sack of countless sesame seeds, each seed representing a Persian soldier. Alexander’s response was a much-smaller sack of mustard seed. His soldiers, though fewer in number, were too hot to tangle with.

Posted 08/01/2015

Brewing was the only profession in Mesopotamia that was protected by a female deity.

Posted 10/01/2015

Turkeys were first introduced to England in the 1520s and were rare specimens until the reign of Elizabeth I, when their value as a roasting bird was widely recognized and their popularity suddenly increased.

Posted 11/15/2015

Frozen fish fingers, called fish sticks in America, first went on sale in Britain in 1955. They were originally going to be called “frozen cod pieces."

Posted 02/01/2016

Frying was the most common way to prepare tomatoes before it was discovered in the early 19th century that tomatoes were good for sauces, soups, salads, and “ketchups.”

Posted 08/01/2016

Wild rice is the only native North American grain. It is native to the lake regions of the upper Midwest and is not really a rice. It is more closely related to wheat, even though it is grown in the water. Wild rice was originally used by the settlers for the stuffing of wild game and as a substitute for regular rice.

Posted 11/15/2016

Edwardian butlers were advised that Champagne should be cooled in the following manner: Lay the bottle down in a basin and cover with a handful of broken-up ice. Sprinkle it with a little salt and cover it with a piece of damp flannel. Always begin chilling at least two hours before you intend to serve.

Posted 01/01/2017

In the U.S., smoothies first became popular in the 1920s and ’30s after the advent of the electric countertop blender.

Posted 07/15/2017

The Pharisees, of the Holy Lands, paid their tithes in mint, dill, and cumin seeds.


Tabasco sauce, which is made with red, ripe peppers that are ground and soaked in vinegar and left to ferment in oak casks for 3 years, was first made in Louisiana by a bankrupt Confederate banker as a way to make money.

Posted 07/15/2018

The Aztecs and the Incas raised the ancestors of modern bronze turkeys as well as Muscovy ducks, the only native waterfowl that was domestically raised.

Posted 11/15/2018

The first record of coriander is on an Egyptian medical papyrus from 1552 B.C.E.

Posted 08/15/2019