Category Archives: Food

Food: Pizza Delivery

For a good while, the ads said Delivered in 30 minutes or it's free. But they experienced too many accidents trying to make the deadline, so now we wait a bit longer. Uploaded by unhipcheck.com.

America certainly didn’t invent the pizza, but you can definitely make the argument that we – I don’t know if “improved” it is what I mean, more like we made it our own. And we didn’t invent the car, though no country in the world is more auto-centric (probably both ways that can be taken) than America.

Uploaded by staytondailyphoto.com.

So it’s only natural that we brought together the pizza and the automobile, and home delivery was born. My apologies to readers in rural areas who don’t enjoy this perk of modern life, but if civilization ever reached its true zenith, it happened when someone said, “Hey, we could put this here pizza in an insulated bag and take it to the customer’s home!”

The service used to be free, but expensive gasoline has led most pizza companies to tack on a service charge. And they used to guarantee “30 minutes or it’s free,” but a rash of accidents involving speeding delivery cars trying to beat the deadline brought that feature to a halt. Even so, let’s celebrate the driver who negotiates city streets with hot pizzas beside him, and exercises the self-restraint not to reach in and pull a couple of slices of pepperoni off the top…

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Food: M&M’S

Milk chocolate M&M'S (nee plain) were created in 1941, but because of their slow-melting nature, were only sold to the military. The world became a better place when peanut M&M'S came along in 1954. Uploaded by just-for-jack.com.

I couldn’t decide whether to make this post about plain or peanut M&M’S. I love them both. I vacillated. Plain. Peanut. So, what the heck. They’re both great.

Uploaded by candyflorist.com.

Named for the company’s founders (Mars and Murrie), M&M’S are made by Mars, and have been around since 1941. Back then, however, you couldn’t purchase them across the counter – because they resisted melting, they were sold only to the U.S. military. Peanut M&M’S made their debut a little later, in 1954, and were only available in tan at first. Speaking of color, there’s been a lot of mythology surrounding this candy’s colors, and they’ve changed over the years.

M&M’S can now be personalized with your own message. And they’re available in a bunch of different flavors, like peanut butter and pretzel. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. They can make them in caviar and truffles, but they won’t improve the originals. And if you’re beyond a certain age, you probably will never forget their former advertising slogan: “M&MS milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands!”

Food: Jell-O

Jell-O debuted with four flavors back in 1897 - strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon. Today the product line includes more than 150 flavors of gelatin, pudding, cups, pops, and more. Uploaded by wehearit.com.

Is there anyone who doesn’t like at least some of Jell-O’s products? It’s something we grew to love as kids, made for us by parents because it was cheap, relatively easy to make, and if not healthy, then certainly not harmful. One of the first “cooking” I ever did was to make chocolate Jell-O pudding, stirring in the milk and continuing to stir until it thickened. Chef Robin, whose repertoire in the kitchen never advanced much.

Uploaded by onefrugalchick.com.

Rather than go on about Jell-O, here are some interesting facts about this wiggly stuff:

  • The first patent for gelatin dessert was held by Peter Cooper. Who he? He invented the Tom Thumb steam engine. Logical connection?
  • In 1897, the first flavors of Jell-O were strawberry, orange, raspberry, and lemon. Chocolate and cherry came along in 1904, peach in 1907.
  • Early Jell-O ads were created by artists such as Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell (Great American Things, June 12, 2009)
  • Chocolate pudding debuted in 1934.
  • Bill Cosby began advertising for Jell-O in 1974, and continued to represent the company for almost 30 years.
  • Today, all 150+ Jell-O products belong to Kraft Foods

Jell-O advertising has been part of the culture for 100 years. Even though it hasn’t been used in decades, I bet you can sing the five rising notes of the jingle “J-E-L-L-O.” And “There’s always room for Jell-O” is one of the enduring tag lines of modern advertising.

Food: Nathan’s Famous

Starting in the 1950s, the Handwerker family, owners of Nathan's Famous, saw the money to be made through expansion and franchising. But the original at Coney Island in Brooklyn is the real deal. Uploaded by nileguide.com.

Nathan Handwerker made his way from Poland to Brooklyn in 1912, and soon found a job at the popular Coney Island called Feltman’s German Gardens. Two waiters you’ve probably heard of worked at Feltman’s at that time – Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante – and legend has it that they encouraged Nathan to set up his own hot dog stand to compete with Feltman’s. He did, and Nathan’s Famous began selling dogs for a nickel (Feltman’s charged a dime) in 1916.

Uploaded by nycfoodguy.com.

It wasn’t long before anyone who was anyone wanted to be seen at Nathan’s Famous. Perhaps the zenith of this famous hot dog came in 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt served them to King George VI (of The King’s Speech fame) when George VI became the first British monarch ever to visit the United States. FDR also had Nathan’s sent to Yalta for his famous meeting with Stalin and Churchill.

After having just the one location for 43 years, the Handwerker family realized there was money to be made by expansion and franchising. So now there are 1,400 stores in 41 states and 17 countries. But there’s still only one place to get a real Nathan’s Famous hot dog. At Coney Island. In Brooklyn. New York, New York.

Food: Dairy Queen

The first Dairy Queen restaurant opened in Joliet, Illinois in 1941, shortly after the process of soft serve ice cream was invented. The chain now has more than 5,000 locations. Uploaded by s.fatwallet.com.

I apologize to those currently on a diet for the pictures in this post. Dairy Queen makes the best milkshakes of any chain I’m aware of, created a product called the Blizzard that’s probably successful beyond their wildest dreams, and has a number of food items that are probably higher in calories and fat than most of their competitors. But, if you can handle it, they taste great.

Uploaded by fastfoodaddict.wordpress.com.

DQ has been around since 1940, when it opened its first store in Joliet, Illinois. The company capitalized on a new invention – soft serve ice cream. By injecting air into the product at time of freezing, soft serve has that unique texture and flavor. Today, Dairy Queen operates more than 5,700 locations in 19 countries, though most are in the U.S. and Canada.

I submit that there’s not much better in life on a warm summer evening than making a pilgrimage to the nearest Dairy Queen for a chocolate shake, a dipped cone, or a Blizzard. No, it’s not diet-friendly food, but it’s taste bud friendly food. And that’s important, too. Here’s a funny DQ commercial:

Food: Best Hamburgers (2)

What makes a burger great? The quality of the meat? The perfect toppings? A delicious bun? Good chargrilled flavor? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Uploaded to photobucket by carlapryor.

Several months back I did an overview of five of America’s best hamburger joints. At the time, I labeled the post as “Best Hamburgers (1)” because there are just way too many great hamburger places in the country to cover in just one post. So, here’s the second installment. I doubt if this will be the last one, either. If you live near any of these places, you probably already know about them. If you don’t? Consider a pilgrimage to one of these shrines to America’s favorite sandwich.

Pie ‘n Burger, Pasadena

“The burger is a thing of beauty; the bun is toasted on the griddle, the layers of iceberg lettuce and pickle chips accentuate the sear of the patty, and the dab of cool Thousand Island dressing brings the preparation into the realm of perfection.” Patric Kuh, selected by epicurious.com.

Pie 'n Burger, uploaded by aht.seriouseats.com.


Ray’s Hell Burger, Arlington, Va.

“There’s no sign, yet dedicated fans — a certain president included — come here for the freshly ground burgers and complimentary toppings like grilled onions and mushrooms sautéed in sherry and Cognac.” – Selected by delish.com.

Ray's Hell Burger, uploaded by budgetfab.com.


Buckhorn Burger, San Antonio

“(The Buckhorn Burger is) the ultimate in a burger with a burn. The too strong onions, hot-pungent chilies, and potent mustard all battle to a spectacular draw. The cheese is the binder and the pickle the crunchy refresher, while the lettuce and tomato hang on for dear life and the coarsely ground beef acts as a solid, sensible underpinning.” – Alan Richman, selected by GQ.com.

Buckhorn Burger, uploaded by roadfood.com.

Roaring Fork, Scottsdale
Order up the Big-Ass Burger—12 ounces of ground beef marinated in green-chili sauce and then grilled and covered with bacon, Colby longhorn cheese, and a pile of caramelized onions. Selected by MensFitness.com.

Roaring Fork, uploaded to Photobucket by foodhoe.


Blanc Burgers + Bottles, Kansas City

Their fresh spin on the basic hamburger, the Classic, is a standout: a grilled beef patty topped with aged New York white cheddar and homemade pickles on a soft brioche — with made-from-scratch ketchup. Selected by dailyfork.com

Blanc Burgers + Bottles, uploaded to yelp.com by Tiger W.

Food: Apple Pie a la mode

 

To me, the best apple pie has a flaky crust, soft apples, and a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream. Uploaded to Flickr by photographer S.C. Asher.

On this, the second birthday of Great American Things, it’s time to ask this question: How did it take me two years to get around to featuring apple pie, the dessert that finishes the eternal phrase “As American as…”

Photo uploaded to Flickr by photographer xetark.

My wife makes a terrific apple pie. I hope you know someone who makes one like hers that makes your mouth water. And there’s only one thing that can make a great apple pie even better — and that’s a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream. No, not cinnamon ice cream. Don’t go making this some kind of fancy-schmancy dessert. It needs to be simple. Warm pie, cold ice cream. Maybe a glass of milk.

There are variations on apple pies; some people like cheese on them (never understood that), some like raisins (freaks). What you don’t want, is what I saw on a recipe at allrecipes.com. It started, “Tired of ordinary old apple pie?” NO! I’M NOT! And if it’s prepared right (cook those apples so they’re soft, people) I NEVER WILL BE!

Food: Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts is headquartered in New England. Krispy Kreme calls North Carolina home. Is the rivalry between the two a matter of taste, or of cultures? Uploaded by free.pages.at.

Let the record show that I selected my hometown brand, Krispy Kreme, for this list back on May 15, 2009. And that there’s nothing better in the entire donut universe than a warm original Krispy Kreme glazed donut. That being established, however, it’s undeniable that some people prefer Dunkin’ Donuts. And that DD makes some wonderful varieties – my favorite by far is Boston cream filled. And that if one were in front of me now, I would have eaten it before I finished typing this sentence.

Uploaded by amomsimpression.com.

Dunkin’ Donuts originated in Quincy, Massachusetts, and is still headquartered in that state. One of the things that distinguishes the company from its competitors is the baked goods it offers beyond donuts. It offers a full line of breakfast sandwiches, and is especially recognized for the quality of its coffee. Many people who aren’t “donut people” will still go to the store for coffee. DD brand coffee is also sold in supermarkets.

Dunkin’ Donuts also owns Baskin-Robbins, which explains why you often see c0-branded stores. You can visit any of its 6,400 or so stores in the U.S., and enjoy any of its dozens of varieties of donuts.

(But leave some Boston cream-filled for me, please.)

Americana: Girl Scout Cookies

 

Look at the wide variety of cookies available. Let's see, there's Thin Mints and...and...oh heck, I like them all but I dream about Thin Mints. Photo by Ebba Ligouri.

They’re inescapable. Your niece sells them. They’re outside the local Kroger. Your coworker is selling them for her kid. So you buy a box.

From everyone. And before you know it, you have a caloriepalooza in your pantry. But, oh, are they good.

Uploaded by littlebrowniebakers.com.

Local Girl Scout groups started baking them at home as a fundraiser as early as 1917. They were sold for all of $.30 a dozen. It wasn’t until 1936 that the national Girl Scouts organization licensed cookies for production by a commercial baker. I remember going on a field trip to Richmond in elementary school to the FFV bakery, where Girl Scout cookies were produced. I thought they were all made there, but I learned later (okay, today) that they were actually prepared by 14 bakeries way back then.

Now there are two authorized bakeries, and up to eight varieties of cookies. But let’s face it, there’s really one. Thin Mints.

‘Scuse me, I’m going to go see if we have any in the pantry. Or even better, in the freezer.

Originally posted April 19, 2009

Americana: Culinary Institute of America

 

You can appreciate the quality of the training provided by the Culinary Institute by looking at its graduates, including many celebrity chefs, Top Chef winners, and executive chefs at leading restaurants. Uploaded by independnt.co.uk.

No cloak-and-dagger stuff for this CIA. Unless the cloak is a chef’s coat, and the dagger is a chef’s knife. The Culinary Institute of America is the country’s leading school for training serious chefs, with four campuses – Hyde Park, NY (main), St. Helena, CA, San Antonio, and Singapore. Yeah, I don’t get Singapore, either.

Uploaded by sherriallen.com.

The school was founded in 1946 to provide vocational education for returning war veterans. It’s an accredited college, offering Bachelor of Professional Studies and Associate of Occupational Studies degrees. It also provides continuing education courses for culinary professionals that lead to certification, with the highest level being Certified Executive Chef. And if you’re ever near Hyde Park (about 80 miles north of NYC, near Poughkeepsie), you can enjoy the students’ work at one of the Institute’s five restaurants.

The quality of the CIA is easily seen by the reputation of its graduates. Among those who’ve attended CIA are: Anthony Bourdain (Travel Channel), Richard Blais (Top Chef), Anne Burrell (Food Network), Marcel Desaulniers (Death By Chocolate), Harold Dieterle (Top Chef), Rocco DiSpirito (Rocco’s), Steve Ells (founder, Chipotle Mexican Grill), Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes), Ilan Hall (Top Chef), Hung Huynh (Top Chef), Christina Machamer (Hell’s Kitchen), Sara Moulton (Good Morning America), Walter Scheib (White House Executive Chef), and Sherry Yard (Spago).

Food: Faidley Seafood, Baltimore

 

Looking for atmosphere? A romantic evening out enjoying delicious seafood? You'll have to go somewhere else for the ambiance, but you'll definitely fall in love -- with the crab cakes at Faidley's. Uploaded by adamfriedberg.com.

Here’s a simple test: The reason to go to Faidley’s is: A) Atmosphere  B) Location  C) Crab cakes. I guess the fact that this is in Baltimore pretty much answers this question, huh? First of all, Faidley’s has no atmosphere, unless you’re a big fan of eating while standing at a counter. And it’s neighborhood can be generously described as “interesting.”

Photo by roadfood.com.

But boy, those crab cakes. When the subject comes to local restaurants, you can turn to Yelp, or Chowhound, or Trip Advisor. But to me, the real authority is Michael Stern, the guru of Roadfood.com. Here’s an excerpt from his review (you can read the whole thing here):

Forget all the spongy, bready, fishy blobs that pass as crab cakes elsewhere. To know the paradigm, you must eat in Maryland, at Faidley’s in particular. In this eat-in-the-rough market on one side of the boisterous, centuries-old food emporium known as the Lexington Market, a crab cake is a baseball-sized sphere of jumbo lump crab meat held together with minimal crushed-Saltine filler and a whisper of mayo and mustard that is just enough to be a foil for the marine sweetness of the meat.


Food: Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin, which specializes in a French presentation of seafood, is ranked the number one restaurant in NYC by New York Magazine, and number one in America by the reader-reviewers of Zagat. Uploaded by boston.com.

This elegant restaurant, located in midtown Manhattan, is consistently ranked as one of America’s finest restaurants. Since its opening in 1986, it has consistently received raved reviews from the food press – and from satisfied diners.

I’ll admit right off that Le Bernardin is above my pay grade. I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting its gourmet fare, so I’ll let the food and wine press speak to its merits:

Chef Eric Ripert. Uploaded by nytimes.com.

From Gourmet: “There is a reason why Le Bernardin is constantly rated at the top of every New York restaurant poll: It may be the most perfect combination of France and America that can possibly be achieved in a restaurant.”

From New York: “The city is full of ornate restaurants, but none of them manages to exude the glamour and class of Manhattan the way this one does, without any overweening glitz.”

From Zagat: “Everything in (Chef Eric Ripert’s) elegant French seafood-based cuisine – from the bouillabaisse to the raw/almost raw fish and seafood selections, to the extensive wine list and dreamy desserts – conspires to ensure an unforgettable experience.”

From Forbes: Le Bernardin remains the gold standard of seafood restaurants.”

Food: Tabasco Sauce

 

Tabasco Sauce is sold in 160 countries around the world. Not bad for a business that's been in the same family now for six generations. Uploaded by indianapublicmedia.org.

This is the third hot sauce to make this list (Texas Pete, April 16, 2009, and Blind Betty’s, February 27, 2010), so you can tell our family likes spicy foods. Apparently, we’re not alone; the McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana produces more than 700,000 bottles of the palate pleaser every day.

Uploaded by gba.com.

It’s not unusual for a business to begin as a family enterprise, and this one started from the garden of Edmund McIlhenny after he was given some tabasco pepper seeds from Latin America. He grew the plants, created the sauce, and gave some to family and friends. They loved it. “Got to have more of that famous sauce Mr. McIlhenny makes,” they said. So Edmund ordered some cologne bottles, used them for his product, and started selling to local retail stores.

That was in the late 1860s. What’s remarkable is that the McIlhenny’s never sold out to a bigger firm. Today, Paul McIlhenny is the sixth family member to run the company which still operates on Avery Island. In fact, about half the company’s employees live on the island, and many are the descendants of people who’ve work for the McIlhenny clan for generations. The company has made one major accommodation to changing times — they’ve dodged hurricanes so long that they’ve finally moved some of their growing fields for peppers to Central America. But the seeds are all still grown on Avery Island.

Food: Clam Chowder

 

Most Americans know about New England Clam Chowder (with cream) and Manhattan Clam Chowder (with tomatoes), but there's also Rhode Island style, made with a clear broth. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Let’s not fight the battle of clam chowders here. Most Americans outside of New England know of basically two variations on this dish – New England style (made with milk or cream) and Manhattan style (with tomatoes). I like them both, though they’re very different flavors.

New England style. Uploaded by trufflemutt.com.

But in researching this post I find that there’s a third kind of clam chowder, call it Rhode Island style. It’s made with a clear broth. One source said that tourists prefer the white chowder, while locals choose the clear.

Many of the ingredients of clam chowder remain the same, regardless of color. Clams, of course; usually diced potatoes and onions; butter; corn and celery, sometimes; and occasionally a little salt pork or bacon for flavor.

 

Rhode Island style. Uploaded by foodgps.com.

Clam chowder is a hearty beginning to any seafood dinner, or can be a main course by itself. But let’s agree on one thing together, right now. It’s pronounced the New England way. Not “chow-der,” but “chow-dah.” It’s also more fun to say it that way.

 

Food: McDonald’s French Fries

Anything eaten to excess can be bad for you, including french fries. But once in a while, nothing is better than properly cooked McDonald's fries. Uploaded to Flickr by roboppy.

(Originally posted March 31, 2009)

So I decided to start a new blog devoted to chronicling the little things that are special about America, and I choose McDonald’s fries as my first entry. Am I nuts?

Uploaded to Flickr by complexify.

Fact is, whether you like fast food or not, whether you think it’s a quick and tasty way to eat or a curse on humanity, you have to appreciate this amazing product. When freshly cooked and lightly salted, there’s almost nothing you can eat that compares.

I can still remember enjoying them at the first McDonald’s where I grew up, on W. Mercury Blvd. in Hampton, Virginia. They were, I think, fifteen cents. They’re a bit more now, but they still retain that great flavor, and how many things can you say that for after several decades?

Food: Pumpkin Pie

 

Pumpkin is native to North America, so it's only natural that pumpkin pie is the official dessert of Thanksgiving - probably Christmas, too. Uploaded by files.list.co.uk.

It’s the official dessert of Thanksgiving. You could say the same for Christmas. And while we may not think of it at other seasons of the year, it’s good any time.

Pumpkin pie is a natural for this list, since pumpkins are native to America. There are lots of recipes for pumpkin pie, ranging from the simplest (pour pumpkin pie filling in a pre-made pie shell) to Martha Stewart-like complex. One famous chef who knows her desserts is Paula Deen, so let’s take a look at her recipe for pumpkin pie, courtesy of the Food Network:

Uploaded by blogs.creativeloafing.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
  • 1 piece pre-made pie dough
  • Whipped cream, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place 1 piece of pre-made pie dough down into a (9-inch) pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Pinch and crimp the edges together to make a pretty pattern. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to cover the inside of the shell completely. Fill the shell up to the edges with pie weights or dried beans (about 2 pounds) and place it in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color.

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated.

Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

I couldn’t find a video of Paula making her pumpkin pie, so here’s a completely different pumpkin pie video:

Food: Best Hamburgers (1)

 

Where can you find America's best hamburger? There are as many opinions as there are hamburger lovers. But these five restaurants are a start. Uploaded by mobilekitchencompany.com.

As much as I’d like to, I can’t get to every restaurant in the country and make this evaluation myself. But if you go to other countries in the world and ask them what’s the quintessential American food, chances are they’ll say, “Hamburger.” So here’s the first installment of The Best Burger Restaurants in America, with comments by the reviewers. (These are not in order of quality or preference.)

Rouge, Philadelphia

“This 12-ounce hunk of well-seasoned beef comes with nutty Gruyère, caramelized onions, and a haystack of pommes frites. (Rouge is) a bona-fide Parisian café whose signature dish has become that perfectly proportioned combo of juicy beef, cheese, and bun.” Selected by epicurious.com.

Rouge Restaurant, uploaded by philadelphia.grubstreet.com.

Kincaid’s Hamburgers, Fort Worth
“Place your order at the counter for a half-pound, lean-but-juicy grilled chuck burger with all the traditional fixings, plus bacon or chili if you desire. Once your name is called, make sure you use two hands to eat your massive burger.” Selected by wherethelocalseat.com.

Kincaid's Hamburgers. Uploaded by media-cdn.tripadvisor.com.

Dyer’s Burger, Memphis
“Grease is the word at Dyer’s Burger, a Memphis institution since 1912. The pounded-thin, all-beef patties at this café are dunked in a cast-iron skillet of boiling hot vegetable oil. The meat turns crunchy as the fry cook flips it onto a squishy Wonder Bread bun. Selected by travelandleisure.com.

Dyer's Burger. Uploaded by roadfooddigest.com.

Le Tub, Hollywood, Florida

“The Sirloin Burger… is magnificent. It’s slowly seared on an indoor grill, crusty on the outside, juicy inside, always perfectly cooked. At eight to ten ounces, it’s ideal big-burger size, and it’s shaped like a pincushion, with sloping sides, which means you get a nice gradient of doneness.” Selected by GQ.com.

Le Tub. Uploaded by roadfood.com.

Bill’s Hamburgers, Amory, Mississippi
The burgers at Bill’s are unbelievably tasty, beefy, and rich with grease flavor. The mustard, onion, beef, and bun combination is heaven. Cheese is unnecessary, though available and tomato and lettuce are nowhere to be found. If you really need ketchup or mayo, Amy hides packets behind the counter.”
Selected by planeteye.com.

Bill's Hamburgers. Uploaded by media-cdn.tripadvisor.com.

Kid Stuff: Animal Crackers

 

Nabisco animal crackers, or Barnum's Animals, come with a signature string on top. Nabisco uses 8,000 miles of that string each year. Uploaded by ireference.ca.

The first cookies baked in the shape of animals came from the kitchens of Stauffer’s Biscuit Company in York, Pennsylvania back in 1871. The National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) began marketing them as “Barnum’s Animals” in 1902. They have a long history, and since they have something of a retro feel to them, you’d think these animals might become extinct.

 

Uploaded by wikipedia.org.

But you’d think wrong. Even though they’re not as sweet as other cookies, kids still love ’em. And though they’re not exactly the height of nutritional excellence, parents know that lots of other treats their kids might otherwise enjoy are a lot worse.

The animals used to be somewhat hard to identify. The details were lacking, and a bear looked a lot like a lion, for example. But techniques have improved, and the animals are much more distinct today. It’s said that there have been 37 different animals represented since 1902, though today that number is 19 (in Nabisco’s product). Of course, animal crackers wouldn’t be the same without the characteristic string on top. Some say it was added so the box could be a Christmas ornament; others think it’s simply a convenient handle. Either way, Nabisco now uses 8,000 miles of string on its boxes each year…

 

Food: Bucket of Chicken

 

Why sell folks two or three pieces of chicken when you can sell them a dozen or two? Uploaded by jennysnoodle.blogspot.com.

Here’s a fascinating bit of trivia. The famous Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket was invented (if that’s the right word) by Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. Seems Thomas originally had a KFC franchise, and came up with the idea of the paper bucket as a way to keep the chicken crispy. Thomas also developed the rotating bucket sign that became a KFC icon.

Uploaded by scrapetv.com.

As I write this, it’s election day. The bucket of chicken holds a special association with elections for me. As a senior in high school, my best friend and I skipped school on election day and worked at the polls. After a chilly day outside, we stopped by Kentucky Fried Chicken and bought a bucket of chicken. We ate heaven only knows how many pieces (we were eighteen years old, remember) and watched our man win the presidency.

I’ve kept that tradition for every presidential election since. And since this off-year election promised to be unusually interesting, I made a trek to KFC for my fix. Of course, it’s not a bucket anymore; I don’t think I could eat that much chicken in a month…

 

Food: Chili

 

Some people add strange things to a chili recipe, but you don't have to preen to create a hearty, satisfying dish. Uploaded by canadianwineguy.com.

When the calendar gets deep into fall and winter, almost nothing tastes better than a steaming hot bowl of chili. Now, what goes in that chili varies from individual to individual, but many of the best recipes have quality chuck beef, some variety of chiles, cumin, and probably some beer. What most chili purists won’t have, however is beans. (I’m not a purist, though; I like beans in my chili.)

Uploaded by prismnet.com.

Now that any city worth its salt has a chili cook-off, and there are national competitions that showcase this hearty soup, we’ve learned the unconventional ingredients sometimes include in winning recipes. Some include: pineapple, honey, vanilla (sounds pretty sweet so far), bacon, grape jam, Peppermint Patties, pumpkin, peanut butter. And anything that will make your mouth blister.

To each his own. One personal observation — there’s no reason I can think of why good chili has to be blistering hot. Spicy hot, I mean. The tongue needs to savor the richness of the flavors, not be hanging out of the mouth looking for an icy drink to plunge into. There are lots of excellent chili recipes available online, but here’s a page that has the recipes of the Chili Appreciation Society International’s Terlingua Championship winners all the way back to 1988. Enjoy.