Foodie Facts: A Food Lover's Guide to America's Favorite Dishes from Apple Pie to Corn on the Cob

Foodie Facts: A Food Lover's Guide to America's Favorite Dishes from Apple Pie to Corn on the Cob

by Ann Treistman


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Consider this The Food Lover’s Companion lite—short and sweet trivia about retro American food.

Who pitted the first cherries and nestled them into pie crust? Was a meatloaf sandwich the result of a late-night refrigerator run? And does anyone really crave green bean casserole, complete with fried onions on top?

In this time of hyperawareness of locality—when every roast chicken needs a pedigree of a free-range home and antibiotic-free past—it’s time to celebrate the very basics of American cooking, the joy of Velveeta and pleasures of Jell-O.

In this fun collection, author Ann Treistman takes readers on a journey through a 1950s kitchen, sometimes with surprising results. For example, deviled eggs were first prepared in ancient Rome, in a slightly different form and without the familiar moniker. The practice of removing the yolks from hard-boiled eggs, mixing it with spices and refilling the shells was fairly common by the 1600s. Why the devil? Well, it’s hot in hell, and by the eighteenth century, it was all the rage to devil any food with a good dose of spice. Adding mustard or a signature sprinkle of hot paprika turned these eggs into devils.

The perfect gift for those who love to make, bake, and eat food, Foodie Facts promises to be a wickedly good read with recipes to boot.

Skyhorse Publishing, along with our Good Books and Arcade imprints, is proud to publish a broad range of cookbooks, including books on juicing, grilling, baking, frying, home brewing and winemaking, slow cookers, and cast iron cooking. We’ve been successful with books on gluten-free cooking, vegetarian and vegan cooking, paleo, raw foods, and more. Our list includes French cooking, Swedish cooking, Austrian and German cooking, Cajun cooking, as well as books on jerky, canning and preserving, peanut butter, meatballs, oil and vinegar, bone broth, and more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629145822
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 11/11/2014
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ann Treistman is the author of 73 Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep and Foodie Facts. She has worked as a cookbook editor at a number of publishing houses. She resides in New York City.

Read an Excerpt



* * *


— Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

MACARONI AND CHEESE is the easiest comfort food you'll ever make. Hot pasta tossed with cheese and butter at its base, the combination appeals to children and adults alike. Yet for such a simple recipe, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where this dish was first created.

Oh, mysterious macaroni. Historians and archaeologists have yet to answer the question: who invented pasta? The two major theories claim that fresh noodles were first crafted either by ancient Etruscans in Italy or by peasants in ancient China. Other evidence suggests that dried noodles were being sold and consumed by Arab peoples as early as the fifth century CE.

Pasta had made its way north through Europe sometime after the fifteenth century, when the art of drying noodles was perfected in Italy. Americans were slow to warm to the dish, but the English of the industrial age quickly embraced the time-saving staple. Historical rumor states that macaroni first migrated to the United States when Thomas Jefferson returned from France with the first pasta makers in 1789.

Mary Randolph, a cookbook writer close to Jefferson's family, published an early recipe for macaroni and cheese in her cookbook The Virginia Housewife in 1838. This early support by Jefferson and his family might explain why homemade macaroni and cheese has become a Southern "soul food" specialty in the United States.


* * *

There are entire cookbooks devoted to macaroni and cheese. Additions to the genre include shaved truffles, bacon, buttered bread crumbs, diced ham, broccoli, peas, lobster, caramelized onions, pesto, and every kid's favorite addition: hot dogs!

In 1918, another discovery made traditional American macaroni and cheese even easier to make: Velveeta. This "cheese product" was created by a Swiss immigrant named Emil Frey, for the Monroe Cheese Company in Monroe, New York. What makes this different from regular cheese, is how the whey and curd are bound together so they don't separate at all when heated. This makes for a pretty creamy mac and cheese. Perhaps that's why the Velveeta Cheese Company was made its own company in 1923, and then sold to Kraft Foods in 1927.

Outside the South, macaroni and cheese may be thought of as more blue than yellow. In 1937, the Kraft Cheese Company introduced the first boxed version of macaroni and cheese in blue-and-yellow packaging with the slogan, "A meal for 4 ... in 9 minutes." The timing was perfect. Not only was the boxed dinner a hit on its own, but when World War II ignited just a few years later, Kraft became a great resource for riveting Rosies who were expected to cook after a full day of work.


from The Book of Household Management by Isabella Mary Beeton (1861)

½ pound of pipe macaroni
¼ pound of butter
6 ounces of Parmesan or Cheshire cheese pepper and salt to taste
1 pint of milk
2 pints of water bread crumbs

Put the milk and water into a saucepan with sufficient salt to flavour it; place it on the fire, and, when it boils quickly, drop in the macaroni. Keep the water boiling until it is quite tender; drain the macaroni, and put it into a deep dish. Have ready the grated cheese, either Parmesan or Cheshire; sprinkle it amongst the macaroni and some of the butter cut into small pieces, reserving some of the cheese for the top layer. Season with a little pepper, and cover the top layer of cheese with some very fine bread crumbs. Warm, without oiling, the remainder of the butter, and pour it gently over the bread crumbs. Place the dish before a bright fire to brown the crumbs; turn it once or twice, that it may be equally coloured, and serve very hot. The top of the macaroni may be browned with a salamander, which is even better than placing it before the fire, as the process is more expeditious; but it should never be browned in the oven, as the butter would oil, and so impart a very disagreeable flavour to the dish. In boiling the macaroni, let it be perfectly tender but firm, no part beginning to melt, and the form entirely preserved. It may be boiled in plain water, with a little salt instead of using milk, but should then have a small piece of butter mixed with it.

Time: 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hour to boil the macaroni, 5 minutes to brown it before the fire.

Sufficient for 6 or 7 persons.

Seasonable at any time.

Note: Riband macaroni may be dressed in the same manner, but does not require boiling so long a time.


* * *


— William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor

IT'S A FACT: Americans love the spud. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume almost 130 pounds of potato a year — over 50 percent of which is consumed as french fries, chips, and other potato products. While the stats are impressive, it's not the consumption rate, but the unlikely rise from detested edible to beloved icon that makes this a truly American snack.

The potato is a native of the Andes mountains and has been cultivated by humans for over seven thousand years. Spanish conquistadores first brought the nutrient-packed tuber (any fleshy root capable of reproducing without pollination) back to Europe in the mid-sixteenth century, where it enjoyed a less-than-glorious welcome.

Peasants and the general masses or Europe were initially distrustful of the dirt-covered (and none-too-attractive) vegetable. After all, how could you trust a food that was never mentioned in the Bible? The aristocracy, however, was less concerned about the religious validity of their palates. As a result, the spud began appearing as a superficial addition to royal gardens across Europe. Royals and other government officials recognized the potential in cultivating the nutritious staple (potato spuds require a minimal amount of land to yield a full crop). Yet it wasn't until the wars and famines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that farmers across Europe began to rely heavily on the potato as a staple crop.

The French royal family was one of the first in Europe to take an active role in promoting potato planting. (Marie Antoinette even wore the purple potato flower as a decoration in her hair on more than one occasion.) In 1802, Thomas Jefferson served a dinner with "potatoes served in the French manner," though it is highly unlikely that this refers specifically to what we now call french fries. Various recipes for cooking, carving, cutting, and crafting potatoes spread across Europe and America in the nineteenth century. Though no one is exactly sure, most historians agree that it is in this murky period of potato acceptance that the "french fry" was first invented ... in Belgium.

* * *


* * *

Ketchup is the ubiquitous topping to french fries — so much so that sales of restaurant fries actually boost sales of ketchup. But there are many ways to enjoy your pomme frites, including with mayonnaise, mustard, or malt vinegar (very European), melted cheese with or without chili (oh so American) or brown gravy and cheese curds (Canadians call it poutine). You can dip them in blue cheese or Thousand Island dressing, guacamole, or carne asada.

According to popular legend, the french fry became popular in the United States after American soldiers returned home from fighting in WWI. The servicemen first encountered the tasty treat while liberating small towns in Northern Europe from German occupation. The citizens were speaking French, the crispy spuds were delicious — and the fact that the Americans were actually in Belgium didn't seem to bother anyone. (Belgian journalist Jo Gérard claims that his countrymen were frying potato strips as early as 1680 while Spain was in control of the area.) This linguistic fumble accounts for the fact that Americans are the only ones who refer to strips of deep-fried potato as "french." In England, fries are called "chips" (chips are "crisps" in case you were wondering); in France they are called frites or pomme frites.

In 1923, fourteen-year-old John Richard Simplot left school and began working on a farm just outside of Delco, Idaho. Shortly thereafter, Simplot became a potato man. Simplot began processing and selling his spuds across the United States. By World War II he had become the biggest shipper of fresh potatoes and was selling millions of pounds of product to the military. Spurred by wartime shortages and the need for storage, Simplot's company scientists began perfecting dehydration techniques while trying to find a way to freeze potatoes effectively. In 1953, Simplot patented the first frozen french fry and began marketing in the United States. By the late 1960s, Simplot had perfected his frozen fries and he approached McDonald's with an idea. Up to that point, all McDonald chains had been cutting and frying fresh potatoes, which led to quality control issues during the summer months. The McDonald's company struck a deal in which Simplot would supply all frozen fries to the fast-food chain franchises. And the rest, as they say, is history. Delicious, golden history.


from Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook book (1884)

Bacon fat or salt pork Potatoes

Cut cold-boiled potatoes into slices about a quarter of an inch thick. Have a frying-pan hot and well greased with bacon fat or salt pork. Cook the potatoes in the fat until brown, then turn, and brown the other side.


* * *


— Augustus Saint-Gaudens

IT CAME, THEY saw it, and, man oh man, the Caesar salad conquered. There are two major conflicting stories that describe the origin of the Caesar salad. The most widely accepted tale begins in the 1920s in Tijuana, Mexico, with an empty kitchen, a few fireworks, and a man doing his best to fight the temperance movement.

According to legend, Italian immigrant and restaurateur Caesar Cardini first moved to Mexico to avoid Prohibition enforcement in the United States. While there, he opened a successful restaurant with his brother Alessandro (Alex), and they began catering to the wealthy, young Hollywood crowd.

The restaurant was particularly busy on the Fourth of July in 1924. After an unexpected lunch rush and influx of hungry patrons, it became obvious that the kitchen was running out of traditional salad ingredients. However, rather than disappoint his discerning customers, Cardini took the opportunity to provide a little dramatic flair for his restaurant. He gathered together a few unique ingredients, rolled out a cart, and tossed the first "Caesar salad" at the table to keep the customer's entertained. Patrons loved the table-side entertainment, and Cardini himself reportedly tossed the greens whenever he could find the time.

* * *


* * *

Julia Child went to Cardini's restaurant as a child and recalls, "Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remembered his every move, but I don't. The only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break two eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute-coddled eggs?"

In the twenties, Tijuana was a playground for the rich and famous of the West Coast (the newly emerging Hollywood crowd was particularly influential in trendsetting). With starlets and celebrities embracing this new salad craze, demand for Caesar's unique taste soon spread across the United States and the globe.

According to legend, Wallis Simpson first brought Caesar salad to Europe. After tasting the dish while on vacation in Tijuana, Simpson demanded that her chefs learn to make the distinctive dressing — often criticizing those who failed to capture the unique taste.

By 1938, Cardini moved to Los Angeles and began marketing his unique dressing as a grocery product available in stores around the country. The same Cardini Original Caesar Dressing that was trademarked in 1948 can still be purchased today in specialty stores and through the Internet.

With a name like "Caesar," it's not surprising this salad is at the center of a controversy. Most food historians accept Cardini as the father of the salad. However, according to George Herter, the Caesar salad was first created in 1903 in Illinois. In his book Bull Cook, Herter claims that Italian immigrant Giacomo Junia tossed the first Caesar salad while working in the New York Café in Chicago. According to Herter, this salad was named after Julius Caesar — "the greatest Italian hero of all time."


1 head romaine lettuce
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, peeled
8 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard juice of 1 lemon salt and black pepper
2 whole eggs
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese croutons

1. Set a pot of water, large enough to hold the two eggs, to boil.

2. Meanwhile, wash and drain the lettuce, and cut the leaves into 1½ inch pieces.

3. Mash the cloves against the sides of a large wooden salad bowl with the back of a wooden spoon until they begin to disintegrate. Scrape out most of the garlic, leaving behind the oil to flavor the salad.

4. Repeat the process with the anchovy, but leave the pieces in the bowl.

5. Add the dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and blend well.

6. Once the water is boiling, gently slide the two eggs into it. Turn off heat and cover pot. Leave for one minute, then remove eggs and cool in bowl of cold water.

7. Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil into dressing, whisking until dressing is emulsified and creamy.

8. To the bowl, add the lettuce, croutons, and Parmesan cheese and toss.

9. Carefully break open the eggs and release them onto the salad. Toss them together with the lettuce and dressing until everything is blended.

10. Serve immediately.


* * *


— Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm

IF YOU'RE RUMMAGING through your refrigerator, you might pull together a salad just as Robert H. Cobb of the Brown Derby restaurant did on that fateful night of 1937, when his namesake salad was born. According to the restaurant, he was looking for a midnight snack and "pulled out this and that: a head of lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, some cold breast of chicken, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese and some old-fashioned French dressing. He started chopping. Added some crisp bacon — swiped from a busy chef."

The flavors worked beautifully, the mild chicken and creamy avocado offering a welcome counterpoint to the sharp cheese — blue or Roquefort — and the salty bacon.

The celery and greens add crunch and balance the richness of the other ingredients. Each piece of the salad adds its own texture and flavor to the mix; because they are chopped into small cubes, they mingle on the tongue.

One story goes that Cobb made the dish for Sid Grauman, who ran Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The next day Grauman asked for it again, dubbing it "Cobb's Salad." Another version credits Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as the muse who inspired Cobb. In either case, it became very popular in the restaurant, eventually finding a steady spot on the menu.

* * *


* * *

More than four million Cobb salads have reportedly been served at Brown Derby restaurants. You'll know it's the real thing if it includes watercress.

The Brown Derby drew a Hollywood crowd, including Jack Warner, who allegedly sent his driver to pick up cartons of the salad. Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart supposedly enjoyed it. It was even featured in an episode of I Love Lucy, ordered by actor William Holden.

The salad is not commonly tossed before it is served. The chopped ingredients are laid side by side or placed in quadrants by color. Or try stacking the ingredients in individual cylinders, as pictured here.

Cobb Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup red wine vinegar, mixed with 2 tablespoons water
½ cup olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil salt black pepper

Whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Continue to whisk as you slowly add the vinegar mixture, then the two oils. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.


Excerpted from "Foodie Facts"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Ann Treistman.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Macaroni and Cheese 3

French Fries 7

Caesar Salad 11

Cobb Salad 15

Deviled Eggs 18

Chocolate Chip Cookies 21

Ice Cream Sundae 24

Cupcake 27

Hamburger 31

Baked Alaska 35

Lobster Roll 38

Corn Dog 41

Clams Casino 44

Popcorn 47

Blueberry Muffin 51

Corn on the Cob 54

Mashed Potatoes 56

Jell-0 59

Apple Pie 63

Steak 67

Potato Salad 70

Pumpkin Pie 73

Peanut Butter 77

Key Lime Pie 81

Soft Pretzels 85

Brownies 89

Doughnuts 93

Cereal 97

Bagel 101

Iced Tea 105

Pancakes 109

Chicken-Fried Steak 112

Gumbo 115

Meat Loaf 119

Reuben Sandwich 123

Tuna Fish Salad 127

Mayonnaise 131

Fried Chicken 134

Biscuits 137

Cheesecake 141

Fish Sticks 145

Waffle 149

Pizza 153

Hot Dog 157

Maple Syrup 161

Cotton Candy 165

Twinkie 169

Bubble Gum 171

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