Photos by Jay Ducote

Like all of the great foodways of the world, modern-day barbecue is riddled in history and culture. While the Spanish introduced the term barbacoa to Europe after discovering the technique during Columbian exploration in the Caribbean, the method of cooking meat over fire or indirect heat is as old as cavemen. Barbacoa, which ended up being synonymous with traditional Mexican barbecue, derived itself from the term barabicu which the Taino people of the Carribean used prior to Spanish conquest of the New World — or so one story says. Many other folktales exist about the history of the term barbecue. According to one tale, French visitors of the Caribbean described the process of cooking a whole pig as barbe à queue, which translates to “from beard to tail.” I might start using that terminology instead of the trendy “nose-to-tail” method of cooking! Regardless of stories passed down through generations, barbecue is undoubtedly one of the most popular cooking methods in the United States, varying from region to region with the people who cook it. (more…)

Posted by on March 1st, 2012

Peek into different cuisines, comparing their spices, ingredients, and flavor profiles. This infographic by RecipeFinder offers a comparison of national dishes, accompanying drinks, and how different countries consume chocolate, coffee, and ice cream. (more…)

Posted by on January 13th, 2012

When it comes to pie, it’s considered an American dessert icon and in fact, a well-known quote can end with “…as American as Apple Pie.”  However, there’s more to the humble pie than you may think, so I present to you 10 Things to Know About Pie.

The  Romans Have It: The first pie recipe was published by the Romans and was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.

Let It All Hang Out “Coffyn-Style”: The crust of the pies in England use to be referred to as ‘coffyn’. There was actually more crust than filling. Often these pies were made using fowl and the legs were left to hang over the side of the dish and used as handles.

Mince Me Out: In 1644, Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of mince pie on Christmas, declaring it a pagan form of pleasure. The ban remained in effect for 16 years.

Can I Have Eggs with my Pie?: Pie as a dessert is a relatively recent development – in the 19th century fruit pies were more commonly a breakfast food.

No Glory for Ice Cream: At one time it was against the law to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas.

The Great Pretender: Libby’s canned pumpkin was introduced to America in 1929. Libby’s is not actually pumpkin but another kind of squash called a Dickinson that also has orange flesh.

Rumor Has It: It is rumored that the Apple Marketing Board of New York used slogans such as “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “as American as apple pie”, and thus “was able to successfully ‘rehabilitate’ the apple as a popular comestible” in the early 20th century when prohibition outlawed cider production.

A Pie By Any Other Name: Boston Cream Pie is actually a cake; cheesecake is actually a pie (a tart, technically).

That’s a Lot of Pie: If you lined up the number of pies sold at U.S. grocery stores during Thanksgiving, they would span more than half the globe.

Apple Pie is Top Dog: One out of four Americans prefer apple pie, followed by pumpkin or sweet potato (17%), anything chocolate (14%), lemon meringue (11%) and cherry (10%)

Posted by on November 8th, 2009

The interesting thing about pasta is that it’s truly an international dish, whether it’s made into chow mein, raviolis, ramen, pansit, pierogis and that’s just tipping the ice berg, so I thought it’d be fun to learn more about this very versatile food. I present to you 10 Things to Know About Pasta.

An Oldie, but a Goodie: The Chinese are on record as having eaten pasta as early as 5,000 B.C.

Make Mine a Heart Shape: There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide.

Pasta Pretender: Gnocchi is almost always listed with pasta dishes on a menu but it’s not really pasta. Gnocchi is made from potatoes or even bread crumbs, unlike pasta which is mainly made from wheat and water. Gnocchi is even cooked differently than pasta.

The Deadly Tomato: Pasta existed for thousands of years before anyone ever thought to put tomato sauce on it. The Spanish explorer Cortez brought tomatoes back to Europe from Mexico in 1519. Even then, almost 200 years passed before spaghetti with tomato sauce made its way into Italian kitchens and that was because tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous.

Italian National Food? According to the National Pasta Association, Americans consume about 20 pounds of pasta per person each year. Italians eat more than 3 times that amount.

April’s Fools Joke: The British Broadcasting Corporation made everyone believe that spaghetti grown on trees in 1957…On April Fools Day!

The Eggs Have It: Egg noodles contain egg; almost all other dry pasta shapes do not. By federal law, a noodle must contain 5.5 percent egg solids to be called a noodle. So without egg, a noodle really isn’t a noodle.

Mind Your Manners: According to Miss Manners (a.k.a. Judith Martin), a fork is the only utensil that may be used to eat spaghetti while anyone is looking.

The Long and Winding  Roads: Spaghetti junction is a term used to refer to roads or on/off ramps that are twisted and intertwined, like a plate of spaghetti.

Pasta By Horse and Sunshine: The first American pasta factory was opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 1848, by a Frenchman named Antoine Zerega. Mr. Zerega managed the entire operation with just one horse in his basement to power the machinery. To dry his spaghetti, he placed strands of the pasta on the roof in the sunshine.

Posted by on October 11th, 2009

calories-in-wine-1Having a glass of wine with dinner is a treat for some while others prefer pairing a wine with each course of their meal.  Still more will pay hundreds, even thousands for one bottle of wine and happily store it for years to save for a special occasion.  With all this adulation, I thought it would be fun to round up some fun facts about wine, so I present to you 10 Things to Know About Wine.

More’s the Merrier, Part 1: Grapes are the most planted fruit on the planet.

The Irony of It All: The word Alcohol is derived from the Arabic language (al kohl or alkuhl), which is interesting considering the fact that a large proportion of the Arabic population is forbidden from consuming alcohol for religious reasons.

Double Duty: Although red wine can only be produced from red grapes, white wine can be produced from both red and white grapes.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: During prohibition, an interesting product called the Grape Brick was sold to thousands of wine-parched households across America. Attached to the brick of dried and pressed winegrape concentrate was a packet of yeast, and the stern warning, “Do not add yeast or fermentation will result.”

Corktastic!:  The largest cork tree in the world is known as The Whistler Tree. This tree is located in the Alentejo region of Portugal and averages over 1 ton of raw cork per harvest. Enough to cork 100,000 bottles of wine.

Toast to the Romans: The word “toast,” meaning a wish of good health, started in ancient Rome, where a piece of toasted bread was dropped into wine.

The Magic Number: The average number of grapes it takes to produce a bottle of wine is 600.

More’s the Merrier, Part 2: Over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes exist on earth.

The Color Tells All: White wine gets darker as it ages while red wine gets lighter.

Happy Diving: The wreck of the Titanic, holds the oldest wine cellar in the world and despite the depth and wreckage, the bottles are still intact.

Posted by on August 27th, 2009

2663549362_4fe73393faWhen it comes to ice cream, whether it’s 100 degrees or the dead of winter (assuming I’m inside of course), ice cream is one of my favorite sweet treats.  Half the time I don’t even need a cone, a scoop or two in a cup or bowl and I’m a happy camper.  With July being National Ice Cream month, it seemed quite appropriate to present to you 10 Things to Know About Ice Cream!

It’s Not Just About the Jelly Beans: In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month, citing the food’s “nutritious and wholesome” qualities. He went on to decree that patriotic Americans should mark the month with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

A Royal Treat: Legend has it that the Roman emperor Nero used to send his slaves scurrying to the mountains to collect snow and ice to make flavored ices, the precursors to ice cream, in the first century.

Quick Thinking: During the stuffy Victorian period, drinking soda water was considered improper, so some towns banned its sale on Sundays. An enterprising druggist in Evanston, IN, reportedly concocted a legal Sunday alternative containing ice cream and syrup, but no soda. To show respect for the Sabbath, he later changed the spelling to “sundae.”

An Ice Cream By Any Other Name: Reuben Mattus and his wife sold ice cream for decades, but it wasn’t until they renamed it Häagen-Dazs that their ice cream became more well-known. Häagen-Dazs was a made-up Danish word that gave this newly titled ice cream company a more European flair.

Size Matters: In 1988, the biggest ice cream sundae was made in Alberta, Canada and was so recorded by the Guinnes Book of World Records. This sundae weighed at 55,000 pounds. The same year, a baking company and a sheet-metal firm in Dubuque, Iowa produced the world’s largest ice cream sandwich and tipped the scales at nearly 2,500 pounds.  11 years later, Baskin-Robbins created an ice cake at a beach hotel in the United Arab Emirates that weighed just under 9,000 pounds.

Five Favorites: Vanilla, chocolate, neapolitan, strawberry and cookies and cream are the top five most popular ice cream flavors with 80% of vanilla bean used for vanilla ice cream coming from Madagascar.

Keep On Lickin’: It takes 50 licks to finish a single scoop of ice cream.

Can I Have Fish in My Ice Cream?: When it comes to ice cream, the Japanese really take the cake when it comes to their ice cream flavors like Fish Ice Cream (made with saltwater fish and brandy), Chicken Wing Ice Cream, Octopus Ice Cream, Soy Sauce Ice Cream and Salad Ice Cream.  Click this link to see more!

Forget the Horseradish: Jackie Gleason enjoyed a scoop of ice cream on his roast beef.

I Scream, You Scream, Americans Scream for More Ice Cream: Each American consumes a yearly average of 23.2 quarts of ice cream, ice milk, sherbet, ices and other commercially produced frozen dairy products with ice cream consumption being the highest during July and August

Posted by on July 30th, 2009

3375202152_69b5b2a111For me, hot dogs and summer go hand-in-hand.  Also called frankfurters, frank, weenie, wienie, wiener, dog, and red hot, the hot dog is basically a fully cooked sausage that consists of a combination of beef and pork or all beef, which is cured, smoked, and cooked and than placed in a bun. So now that the summer season is here, I present to you 10 Things to Know About Hot Dogs.

An Oldie But a Goodie: Sausage is one of the oldest forms of processed food and was actually mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, which is an ancient Greek tale of adventure and heroism.

Would You Like Champagne With Your Hot Dog?: President Franklin Roosevelt served King George VI of England hot dogs & beer during a White House visit in 1939. Mrs. Jimmy Carter served hot dogs at a White House picnic in 1977. Queen Elizabeth II served hot dogs at a royal banquet held for the American Bar Association.

Let’s Be Frank: When shopping for hot dogs, you should know that franks contain 100% meat while frankfurters, hot dogs and weiners can be up to 15% filler.

Forget About Cheese: A little known fact about Mickey Mouse is that his first words were “Hot dogs!” He spoke them in the 1929 short flick titled “The Karnival Kid”.

Size Does Matter: As a 1996 stunt, Sara Lee made the world’s largest dog, specifically a 2,000-foot wiener.

Moon Food: Hot dogs were actually among the first foods that were eaten on the moon.  A meal for Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin Jr when they went on their Apollo 11 space flight in 1969, consisted of hot dogs, bacon, canned peaches and sugar cookies.

A Hot Dog By Any Other Name: Hot Dogs got their name at The Polo Grounds in New York City in 1901. Vendors sold hot dogs from hot water tanks, shouting, “They’re red hot! Get your Dachshund sausages while they are red hot!” Cartoonist Tad Dorgan sketched the vendors but unsure of how to spell dachshund, he simply wrote “Hot Dog!” and that is how the name was given.

Mustard Cuts the Mustard: Mustard is the most popular topping with 87% of hot dog eaters using it, although children favor ketchup.

6 is the Magic Number: The average hot dog, including the bun, is consumed in 6 bites.

The City of Hot Dogs: Los Angeles is the hot-dog capital of the U.S. with Angelinos eating an average of 36.6 million pounds of hot dogs a year.

Posted by on June 26th, 2009

When it comes to Mediterranean cooking, which includes cuisines from Italy, Greece and Spain, olive oil is a staple ingredient that’s also quite versatile.  It can be used to make salad dressings, used as a marinade, used to saute food in and so much more, but there is definitely more than meets the eye.  So I present to you 10 Things to Know About Olive Oil (and Olives).

Old Timer: The olive tree is one of the oldest cultivated trees on the planet, predating the invention of written language!

Takes a Licking, But Keeps on Ticking: Olive trees can live to a ripe old age.  In fact, some trees in the eastern Mediterranean are estimated to be over 1500 years old; however, the average age is a mere 500 years old.

Heart Healthy: The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels. (1-3) No other naturally produced oil has as large an amount of monounsaturated as olive oil -mainly oleic acid.

It’s All in the Pressing: Extra Virgin Olive Oil: comprised from the first pressing of olives and considered the best olive oil. Virgin Olive Oil: from the second pressing. Pure Olive Oil: some processing such as filtering and refining.  Extra Light Olive Oil: considerable processing and retains a mild olive flavor.

Look Ma! No More Greasy Hands: Clean greasy hands by mixing olive oil with salt or sugar and rubbing vigorously. Wash with soap and water and then bye bye grease!

Sacred Oil: Olive oil has long been considered sacred and was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the “eternal flame” of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves.

No More Sticky Stuff: Rub or spray olive oil on your measuring tools for easy clean-up of sticky substances like honey, grain mustards and sugar syrups.

Zit Stopper: Mix 4 parts salt with 3 parts olive oil. Work all around the face and leave on for two to three minutes. Rinse off with warm soapy water. Do this daily for the first week and then two to three times weekly until condition improves sufficiently to stop using.

Keep it Cool and Dark: Olive oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, olive oil can keep for at least two years. It is, however, at its peak within a year of production, and is its most flavorful for the first two months. Olive oil should not be stored in the refrigerator. If chilled, olive oil will become cloudy and eventually solidify or crystallize. Should this happen, the oil is perfectly fine; just leave the oil at room temperature for a time to restore it to its natural state.

Bitter Fruit: Olives are fruits, grown on the olive tree, olea europaea. Plucked from the tree, the olive is extremely bitter, and virtually inedible. Prior to eating, olives are typically cured, either in brine, water or in oil. (Some prefer to cure them further in the bottom of a martini glass!) Freshly picked olives can also be stir-fried to remove some of the bitterness before eating.

Posted by on May 12th, 2009

beerFor many beer is the beverage of choice, whether it be at your local watering hole, at a restaurant or even at home with friends cheering your favorite sports team.  But there’s definitely more to this mug of sudsy goodness, so I present to you 10 Things to Know About Beer.

Oldie But a Goodie: Beer is one of the world’s oldest beverages, with the history of beer dating back to the 6th millennium BC, and being recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

To Hop or Not to Hop: The use of hops in beer was written of in 822 by a Carolingian Abbot. Again in 1067 by Abbess Hildegard of Bingen: “If one intends to make beer from oats, it is prepared with hops.” Flavoring beer with hops was known at least since the 9th century, but was only gradually adopted because of difficulties in establishing the right proportions of ingredients. In 15th century England, an unhopped beer would have been known as an ale, while the use of hops would make it a beer. However, by the 16th century, “ale” had come to refer to any strong beer, and all ales and beers were hopped.

No Beer, No Go: Apparently, running out of beer was the reason that Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock as opposed to heading further on to Virginia, as was their original intention.  As the diary of one Mayflower passenger reads, “We could not now take time for further search or consideration; our victuals being much spent, especially our beere.”

Beer Can Be Healthy. Part 1: Dark beer is better for you than light. It contains more flavanoids which are natural oxidants that help to protect the body from disease.

All Shiny and Bright: Let some beer sit until it goes flat, then, dampen a washcloth with it, and rub your wooden furniture. This will polish it, and give it a more shiny and healthy look.

Mama Mia: In the 1600s and 1700s, midwives in Europe and Colonial America gave delivering mothers “Groaning Ale”, which was fermented for seven or eight months and tapped when contractions began. After the birth it wasn’t uncommon for the child to be bathed in the remaining ale, since it was often more sanitary that readily available water.

Beer Can Be Healthy. Part 2: Up to two beers a day for men (women should only have one), will help to reduce your risk of having strokes, and heart disease. Light drinking appears to reduce the risk by as much as 20% according to research in United States.

Priorities. Priorities: The Finnish epic Kalevala, collected in written form in the 19th century but based on oral traditions many centuries old, devotes more lines to the origin of beer and brewing than it does to the origin of mankind.

No More Brown Grass Blues: Help grass grow easier.  Pour beer on those irritating brown spots on your lawns to help your grass grow. The grass absorbs the nutrients, sugar and energy it needs to be able to grow.

Stealing the Thunder: The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 devastated the local beer industry, allowing nearby Milwaukee brewers to swoop in and snatch up market share. After establishing a foothold there, breweries like Schlitz took advantage of Chicago’s extensive railroad hub to begin shipping across the country.

Beer definitely has a long, fun and even quirky history and you may even want to share a tidbit or two with the friends, the next time you’re knocking off a cold one (or two).

Posted by on April 13th, 2009

fpx11791For many, tea has become the drink of choice, whether it’s having a cup at home, as a part of anafternoon or high tea experience at a tea room or as a replacement for coffee at the end of your meal when dining out.    With thousands of varieties, there’s something for everyone and apparently, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, right after water.  Take that coffee!  So I present to you 10 Things You Might Like to Know About Tea.

Chinese Legend Says…: The story of tea began in ancient China over 5,000 years ago, but there’s actually a legend  behind it.  Apparently, an emperor by the name of Shen Nung was also a creative scientist and patron of the arts. Ahead of his time, he required that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. While visiting a distant region of his realm, he and the court stopped to rest. As a protocol, the servants began to boil water for the court to drink. Dried leaves from the near by bush fell into the boiling water and infused it.  As a scientist, the Emperor decided to take a sip,  found it very refreshing and according to legend, tea was created.

A Tea By Any Other Name: Black, oolong (sometimes called wu long), green and white tea are all the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences in these various teas are due to the amount of oxidation and processing that the teas have been allowed to undergo.  The word “tea” can also be used to describe a liquid infusion of any herb. Hence the term “herbal tea”. But “herbal teas” are not true teas, and in the tea industry they are known as tisanes.

A Cup of Tea (or two)  a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: A growing body of research indicates that the tannins in tea are naturally-occurring flavonoids which have strong antioxidant properties and which may play a role in reducing the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and stroke.  While black and green tea have similar health benefits, about three times as many antioxidant polyphenois is found in white tea then green tea due to white tea being dried in sun, which helps preserves more of its antioxidant properties.

Sometimes It Pays To Keep It Cool(er): Not all teas have to be prepared with boiling water. In fact, green and white teas require special instruction.  After the water is boiled, it should be cooled down 150-180 degrees Fahrenheit before infusing with the tea. Water that is hotter than this can cause the green tea and white tea to be bitter and unpalatable.

Need a Break from Water?: To keep hydrated, we are told to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. For a change of pace, squeeze in 2 to 3 cups of tea daily and that along with water, is good enough to satisfy your body’s water requirement.

Don’t Call Me Puffy: Late Nights?  Allergies?  Had a crying jag?  If so, you may wake up to puffy eyes.  What’s the solution?  Tea Bags.  Steep 2 bags of teas in hot water for 4-5 minutes. Caffeine is a natural diuretic, meaning that it pulls fluid out of your system. Caffeinated tea bags can be used to help alleviate the puffy eye syndrome because it helps by constricting blood vessels to reduce swelling. It’s great if your use herbal teas such as chamomile, hibiscus as well. Herbal teas contain important anti-irritants that soothe and reduce eye puffiness.  Be sure to cool the tea bags before using  them.  Now lie down, close your eyes, and place a tea bag over each eye; then cover with a soft cloth. Relax for about five to ten minutes. Remove the tea bags and examine your eyes. The puffiness should diminish. If the result is not to your liking, re-cool the tea bags and apply to your eyes again.

“Orange Pekoe” Tea is not Orange Flavored: Orange Pekoe is a grade of black tea that describes the size of the tea leaf pieces. It has nothing to do with the color of the tea or any added flavorings.

Mosquito Bites Begone: Use a tea bag as emergency itch relief for mosquito bites. Place a warm tea bag over a bite until the bag cools, reheating it if necessary to fully relieve the itch. In one sitting, the tea bag will help to draw out the poison, reduce the swelling and prevent painful itch.

Tea-Strengthener: Tea contributes to a healthy bone because flavanoids in tea help increase mineral densities and strong bones.  Strong teeth can also come as a result of drinking tea because of the fluoride that tea contains.  Fluoride slows down the tooth decay process and helps to prevent cavities. Tannins in tea also inhibit the growth of certain plaque-forming bacteria and even helps lessen bad breath.

No Jitters Here: When it comes to tea vs. coffee in regards to caffeine, it can be said that in it’s dry form, tea has actually more caffeine by weight than coffee. However, when you compare a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, there is only 40 mg of caffeine in a cup of black tea (less in green, white and oolong tea) compared to at least 80 mg in a similar size of coffee.  The added bonus of drinking tea is that caffeine in tea dissolves more readily and dissipates than caffeine in coffee, which means less jitters for tea drinkers versus coffee drinkers.

So now that you know a lot more about tea, be sure to enjoy a cup or two at your next meal and you may even want to bring home the tea bags for possible home remedy use when needed.

Posted by on March 7th, 2009

Dave Jensen

Dave Jensen
Craft Beer

David R. Chan

David R. Chan
Chinese Restaurant

Nevin Barich

Nevin Barich
Fast Food

Justin Chen

Justin Chen
Menuism Co-Founder

John Li

John Li
Menuism Co-Founder

Kim Kohatsu

Kim Kohatsu
Managing Editor