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You Are What You Eat

The holiday season brings a hodgepodge of delicious foods passed around the table. However, the cultural origins behind today’s traditional foods may surprise you.  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy!

1) The turkey

The turkey is based off the harvest from New England, where the first Thanksgiving was declared in 1777 by the Continental Convention. Different cultures eat the turkey in different ways. For example, New Mexico adds chili and southwestern flavors to their turkey, while in the Chesapeake area, crab is served as an ingredient in the holiday dressing. In Minnesota, they even stuff the turkey with wild rice!

2) The candy cane

If your family is like mine, we use a lot of candy cane flavoring in our holiday foods. In 1670, there was a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral that became frustrated with the fidgeting children in the Living Nativity. He then gave the children white curved sugar sticks representing a shepherd’s staff to keep the children quiet, and as a result candy canes became popular in European living nativities.

Then, in 1847,  German-Swedish immigrant August Imgard put candy cane on his Christmas tree in Ohio. These candy canes look like our modern perception of the candy cane, white with red stripes. Because of this, candy canes became more and more popular throughout the States.

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack made the candy canes as a special holiday treat for his friends and family, but it was difficult to mass produce. Following his legacy, Gregory Keller, his brother in law, worked on mass producing the canes and Bob’s Candies became the largest candy cane producer.

3) The Fruitcake

 The fruitcake dates all the way back to Roman times. The cake was tantalizing to them, and spread to the Middle Ages in which the recipe was altered to add more fruit. In the 1400s, the British began to develop an affinity for fruitcake when dried fruits from the Mediterrean arrived on British soil.  Then, in the 1700s, fruitcakes were baked at the end of a successful harvest and saved, to be eaten next year in hopes of another successful harvest. Finally, fruitcakes became immensely popular , but outlawed entirely throughout Continental Europe, calling it a “sinfully rich” cake.  It was custom in England for unmarried wedding guests to put a piece of fruitcake in their pillow so that they will dream of the person they will marry someday.

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