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Culture Science Technology

16 Black Innovators Who Changed Food Forever

Macaroni and cheese. Ice cream. French fries. Jack Daniel’s whisky. Frozen foods in general.

We wouldn’t have any of the above foods, plus many others, were it not for Black food innovators and figureheads that have made significant contributions and altered the way we eat and make food today.

Below are just some of the stories of these incredibly talented and inspiring individuals. Some of these names came from research via the New York Times and Food and Wine, but we’ve also included historical sourcing and context for each person as well. You can click on their names to view those original pieces.

Nathan “Nearest” Green

Known as “Uncle Nearest,” Nathan Green was a skilled distiller who mastered the “Lincoln County” process. This method of distilling is thought by food historians and whiskey experts alike to have been brought in by slaves, and uses charcoal to filter and purify foods. The “Lincoln County” process, in particular, uses sugar maple charcoal to filter bourbon.

Green trained hired hand Jasper Newton Daniel (known to the world as “Jack Daniel”) while working on a priest’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Daniel eventually made him the first master distiller of Jack Daniel’s, the famous Tennessee whisky many people drink today.

While Jack Daniel’s shares the story of Green on their website, an all minority-led whisky brand named “Uncle Nearest” continues to build upon his legacy with spirits that use the same distilling technique, but feature Green’s name on the bottle.

James Hemings

While Thomas Jefferson is sometimes credited with bringing foods like mac & cheese and ice cream to the United States, Hemings was the one who actually learned to make them. A slave in the ownership of Jefferson prior to his presidency, Hemings traveled with him to France in 1784 specifically to learn the art of French cuisine.

Hemings became the first American trained as a French chef in history as a result, bringing back several dishes to the United States. French fries, ice cream, macaroni and cheese, creme brulee, French meringues, and French whipped cream are just a few examples. These dishes and others would be incorporated in Hemings’ signature half-French, half-Virginian style of cooking he became renowned for.

Hemings would later also cook one of the most famous dinners in American history: the one between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton that settled who would pay for the Revolutionary War and established Washington, D.C. as the United States’ capital. He eventually was freed by Jefferson in 1796.

Zephyr Wright

Zephyr Wright was the personal chef for President Lyndon B. Johnson and his family for over twenty years. It was her cooking that made the Johnson household a popular one for D.C. dinner parties.

Wright would follow Johnson to the White House during his tenure, and was in charge of the home cooking in the White House kitchen. She would also temporarily cook all meals, including VIP ones, in between the tenures of two White House Executive Chefs.

Wright is thought to have heavily influenced Johnson’s support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964,. Wright was known to have spoken up to the President during his time in Congress about the injustices she faced road tripping between Texas and D.C. during congressional recesses, saying that she was not allowed to use the bathroom in areas she was driving through, and couldn’t stop off and eat at restaurants. President Johnson reportedly used some of her stories to convince Congress to sign the bill. He would also give her a White House pen when the act was signed into law.

Leah Chase

The Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase was the heart and soul of Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans across seven decades. Known for her fried chicken, red beans and rice, gumbo, and other classics, Chase started out in the 1940s when she got a job as a server at a restaurant. She eventually took over the helm and made it a safe haven for anyone to come and eat at.

Dooky Chase’s was known as one of the few places that it was publicly okay for races to mix at, since the cops wouldn’t bother activists inside the restaurant. Thus, leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including local leaders and national ones like Martin Luther King Jr., would often strategize while eating there.

Chase would go on to serve presidents like Barack Obama and George W. Bush, along with Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and other influential figures. Disney has even made a movie with a character inspired by her: Princess Tiana of Princess and the Frog.

Abby Fisher

Around the early 1880s, Abby Fisher was known for her award-winning pickles and the Mrs. Abby Fisher Pickle Company in San Francisco. She had at least 35 years of cooking experience, some estimates had it, and the awards she won for her food reflected that.

However, Fisher is probably best known for publishing one of the first cookbooks ever authored by an African-American woman. The book, called What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, contains over 160 recipes and uses the dictated words of Fisher herself.

The cookbook surged in popularity in the late 20th century when a publisher began reprinting it in 1995. Today, it offers a window into these early recipes that places like museums try to recreate for guests to sample.

Edna Lewis

Edna Lewis became a legend while she cooked at Cafe Nicholson in Midtown Manhattan starting in 1949. Her fame and Southern recipes led to guests like Marlon Brando, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Salvador Dali showing up for dinner. After stepping away from the chef’s role (as an active partner) in 1952, she would lecture at the American Museum of Natural History while working as a chef and private caterer.

Lewis would later become inspired to write her first cookbook as demand for them grew in 1972. She was one of the first African-American women from the South that would publish a cookbook that did not hide her name, gender, or race. She would go on to publish more in the future, eventually becoming known as the Grand Dame and Grand Doyenne of Southern cooking.

Larry James and Jereline Bethune

The Bethune family, to this day, runs Brenda’s Bar-Be-Que Pit in Montgomery, Alabama. Open since 1942, the restaurant would become an important hub for those in the Civil Rights Movement.

After Rosa Parks infamously refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, Larry James and Jereline Bethune were instrumental in using their restaurant to organize bus boycott efforts around the city. As the movement continued and literacy test laws (meant to curtail the Black vote) were introduced, Jereline would also quietly hold lessons teaching other African-Americans how to read. They were then able to pass these literacy tests and go out and vote.

Alfred L. Cralle

Ice cream today would not be the same without the work of Alfred Cralle. Born just after the Civil War, he had an affinity for mechanics as a young age, and would go study at Wayland Seminary, a school set up after the Civil War to educate newly freed African-Americans.

Cralle would go on to work as a porter at a drugstore and a hotel in Philadelphia, and developed the idea of the ice cream scoop while watching people struggle using two different spoons to get the ice cream into cones. Cralle’s mechanical inventional, which is the basis of how ice cream scoops work to this day, was invented in 1897.

Cralle would also become a successful promoter of businesses in Philly, and was the assistant manager of the Afro-American Financial, Accumulating, Merchandise, and Business Association in Pittsburgh.

George Crum

Ever heard the story of how potato chips were invented to spite a customer at a restaurant? George Crum was the chef at said restaurant, the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs. A customer came in around the summer of 1853 wanting extra-thin French Fries, frustrating Crum to the point he sliced them as thin as possible, fried them in grease, and sent them out.

The chips became a big hit, eventually becoming known as “Saratoga Chips.” While Crum never patented the dish, he did open his own restaurant, “Crumbs House,” that served a basket of them at every table.

Chips wouldn’t become a grocery product until 1895, and the concept of bagged chips didn’t show up until 1926.

Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee was one of the most influential people when it came to industrializing the way we make bread.

Having worked in a bakery from a young age, Lee eventually became the owner of two restaurants in Boston, as well as a hotel and a catering company. Looking to find a way to minimize bread waste, he eventually invented a machine that would convert day-old bread into breadcrumbs. Patented in 1895, he later sold the rights and the breadcrumb maker would spread across the world.

That wasn’t Lee’s only invention, however. He would later patent the idea for an automatic bread maker that mixed and kneaded the dough, the basis to the same devices (think, stand mixers) that we still use in our kitchens today.

Lloyd Hall

Lloyd Hall is considered to be one of the pioneers in the world of food chemistry. A pharmaceutical chemist for Griffith Laboratories in Chicago who completed graduate school, Hall would be awarded over 100 patents and received multiple honorary doctorate degrees for his work.

Hall’s main area of work came around the development of techniques to preserve food. Some of his most revolutionary patents included using  “flash-dried” salt crystals that revolutionized meatpacking. He also introduced the use of antioxidants to prevent the spoilage of fats and oils in baked goods, and developed a process known as “Ethylene Oxide Vacugas,” which could control the growth of bacteria and molds in food.

John Standard

John Standard was an inventor instrumental in modernizing two pieces of kitchen equipment that virtually every household has today: stoves and refrigerators.

Refrigeration was a concept that was being researched as early as the 1830s, but mainly focused on using some sort of power. Standard’s improvement to the fridge, patented in 1891, was an unpowered design that used a manually filled ice chamber as the central cooling unit.

Standard also made significant upgrades to the oil-powered stove, patenting one with a space-saving design in 1889 that could be used in applications like buffet-style meals on trains.

Frederick McKinley Jones

If you’ve worked in the food industry or any commercial transportation that required keeping stuff cold, you’ve likely seen the Thermo King brand somewhere in your lifetime. Frederick McKinley Jones was the founder of that company, and inventor of the first automated refrigerated system for trucks.

A skilled and gifted electrician and mechanic, Jones had patents for sixty different inventions across a wide variety of fields, including the portable X-ray machine, motion picture devices, and even medical storage units.

He’s most known for the Thermo King, the refrigerated system he invented, because it allowed for fresh goods from around the world to be transported and sold in stores. Jones is essentially responsible for not just all refrigerated transport globally, but also the entire frozen food industry.

Thomas Downing

Known as the “Oyster King of New York,” Downing was most known for his 19th-century restaurant, Thomas Downing’s Oyster House. His oyster hall was legendary, with prominent figures like Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens having dined there.

Downing was born a free man, as his parents were freed by plantation owner John Downing. He grew up and was educated on Chincoteague Island in Virginia, and eventually made his way up to New York following the war of 1812. Like many other African-Americans in New York, Downing eventually went into the oyster business, opening his own oyster cellar in the 1820s.

Oyster cellars were the universal food of New York at the time (similar to hot dogs today), but many establishments weren’t as trusted as Downing’s. That’s because he specifically catering it towards the fine dining clientele, with a large dining area, carpet, and chandeliers gracing the hall. Elaborate dishes like oyster-stuffed turkeys and a pan roast made with wine and chili graced the menu.

This, at the time, meant that African-Americans couldn’t eat Downing’s restaurant, but few were aware of the double life he led. Downing’s basement was a key stop in the Underground Railroad, and as an abolitionist, he helped many that were escaping the South in search of freedom. He also led political efforts, funding schools for African-American children and leading the fight in desegregating New York’s trolley system.

Downing was so regarded in New York that when he passed away in 1866, the New York City Chamber of Commerce closed so that its members could attend his funeral.

Norbert Rillieux

The sugar industry in the United States has Norbert Rillieux to thank for allowing them to become so powerful. Were it not for his inventions, making sugar would still be a time-consuming and dangerous process.

Originally, the sugar refinement process, known as “The Jamaica Train,” was dangerous and expensive. Laborers (usually slaves) would transfer ladles of scalding hot sugar case juice between open boiling kettles, often resulting in scalding and terrible burns (anyone who’s worked with sugar knows how painful it can be). The result was a dark syrup that was molded into cones and dried before being sold.

From  1834-1843, Rillieux developed a system for refining and crystallizing sugar using a much safer and controlled method, allowing the United States to eventually dominate the sugar market. His process is still used today for freeze-drying food, pigments, and other food products.

George Washington Carver

Many people know George Washington Carver for the myriad of products he invented that utilized peanuts or sweet potatoes. As an agricultural scientist working in the South, he was also a man responsible for helping revitalize much of the economy in that region.

Working out of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Carver was a teacher and a researcher from the late 1890s until his passing in 1943. An early pioneer of crop rotation, he encouraged farmers to plant peanuts in the soil after harvest to replenish lost nutrients, helping farmers improve not just their livelihoods, but their diets as well.

Carver’s research and work focused on revitalizing soil and maximizing plant production while keeping costs to a minimum. Outside of agriculture, he was a massive promoter of racial equality, and massive advocate of peanut oil as a potential treatment for polio. While never proven, the claim was widely circulated in media, and eventually turned into a “Peanuts for Polio” fundraising effort that helped raise money for medical care and benefits for children affected with the disease.

Following Carver’s passing, then-Senator Harry S. Truman sponsored legislation that would lead to the construction of the George Washington Carver National Monument. It was the first-ever national memorial to an African-American.

Illustrations in this piece provided by Sam Brosnan.

Categories
Recipes

Step Up Your Culinary Game With These 8 Creative Peanut Recipes

Photo: So Delicious

You probably have them as a snack frequently (or at least if you don’t have a severe allergy, we’re sorry if you do). Hopefully, not roasted in oil and salted, because those are very unhealthy. But how about using them more in cooking? Here are some peanut recipes to try. 

Peanuts are amazing because they go really well in both sweet and savory dishes and they’re quite versatile to boot. If you don’t believe us, we aim to prove it. Here are some amazing peanut recipes you can try making at home.

8 peanut recipes you should be making at home

1. Cranberry, peanut, and kale salad

You can add almost anything to a kale salad to make it more interesting and bursting with flavor. You can choose to make it crunchier by adding the peanuts, dried cranberries, and black olives. Not to mention salads are so easy to prepare and, don’t forget, so healthy.

2. Thai chicken with cashew and peanuts

Do you like Asian food? Well, this Thai chicken with cashew and peanuts is full of flavors and really saucy. Serve it with a bowl of boiled rice and eat with chopsticks, if you can!

3. Turkey peanut stew

This one originates from Western Africa and depending on its thickness it wavers between thick soup and stew. If you like peanut butter, you’ll love this creamy stew. Make it meaty, too, with turkey mince, and spike it with curry powder and chili.

4. Lemongrass and peanut chicken legs

For all of you lovers of the Far East flavors, welcome to another Asian cuisine-inspired dish. Cook the chicken legs with lemongrass, coconut milk, fish sauce, and rice wine vinegar to give the meat an acidic kick. Also, let the snow peas and peanut butter play their mildly sweet part.

5. Chicken with rice noodles and peanuts

Want something fast, full of flavor, but not too much of an effort? In this case, this recipe is just the thing for you. You just need to stir-fry some chicken thighs with onion and garam masala. Add some rice noodles and peanuts alongside the chicken, flavor everything with soy sauce and you can spend the rest of the evening having fun out of the kitchen!

6. Creamy zucchini soup with toasted peanuts

If you want to reduce calories, this creamy zucchini soup sure is a viable option. It works great topped with a few crunchy roasted peanuts, and it has a fresh flavor thanks to the mint leaves. You can serve it with some feta cheese on top!

7. Peanut chocolate cheesecake with meringues

If you have a weakness for chocolate this cheesecake might be the right choice for you. Because this cake is heavy on chocolate both in the filling and the glaze. You can even enrich the chocolatey goodness with crunchy peanuts and biscuit base. Did we mention the crumbled Snickers and meringue topping? It’s the icing on the cake (pun intended).

8. Chocolate-glazed peanut date balls

An easy and quick to make dessert, these chocolate-glazed peanut date balls are like small bites of heaven. Plus, there’s no sugar or gluten in the recipe, so it’s perfect for when you’re on a diet. And they taste fabulous too!

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Article by Ruxandra Grecu from So Delicious. View the original article here.

Categories
Health Science

Food Allergies Are Getting Increasingly Common, This Might Be Why

Photo: So Delicious

Children are far more likely to develop food allergies around the world, and researchers are trying to find out why this is happening and how it can be prevented.

So, is the world becoming more allergic to food? Statistically, it would appear so. Food allergy affects about 7 percent of children in the UK and 9 percent of Australian children. 2 percent of European adults have food allergies, according to BBC News. They commissioned and published an analysis piece on the topic, written by an expert in the field of food allergies, Dr. Alexandra Santos, a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the Department of Pediatric Allergy, King’s College London.

The topic is pretty serious. A few teenagers died because of peanut, sesame and dairy allergies. And for people who suffer from allergies and their care-takers, life is very stressful. Dietary restrictions can become huge burdens for people in those situations.

The reason why food allergy rates are increasing is still not 100 percent clear, but researchers are working on it.

Food Allergies – Why Are They Increasing?
Some of the most common allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, and shellfish.

The causes of food allergies

But why do food allergies happen? They are a way for your immune system to fight allergens, substances in the environment that it should see as harmless. Among the symptoms are skin redness, breaking out into hives, swelling, but even diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing and in the worst case, anaphylactic shock. Some of the most common allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, and shellfish.

The frequency of allergies has gone up in the past three decades, especially in industrialized societies.  In the UK, between 1995 and 2016, peanut allergies increased fivefold. Research on 1,300 3-year-olds at King’s College London suggested that 2.5 percent have peanut allergies.

According to Dr. Santos, this increase is not just the effect of society becoming better at diagnosing the allergies. But some of the causes scientists bet on are environmental and related to Western lifestyles, because they occur more frequently in urban areas, for one. These factors are under extensive review: pollution, dietary changes, and less exposure to microbes. Another theory is that urban populations live in environments that are too clean and so the immune system has no parasites to fight. And also that urban populations don’t get enough vitamin D because they don’t spend enough time in the sun.

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Article by Ruxandra Grecu from So Delicious. View the original article here.

Categories
News Products Sweets What's New

After 22 Years, Hershey’s Will Release A Brand New Candy Bar Flavor

You probably didn’t realize it before this, but Hershey’s doesn’t release new chocolate bar flavors too often, so when they do, it’s a pretty big deal.

Meet the new Hershey’s Gold Caramelized Creme, the first new flavor since Cookies ‘n Creme in 1995.

Hershey’s Gold will consist of peanuts, pretzels, and a caramelized creme, providing its rich, golden color. That means that not only will it have a buttery, sweet taste, but you’ll also get a bit of saltiness and crunch from the pretzels and peanuts.

With a Dec. 1, nationwide release, Hershey’s Gold will be available in stores in a standard 1.4-ounce bar, and a 2.5-ounce King-Size bar.

This is only Hershey’s fourth flavor, ever, as it got things rolling in 1900 with milk chocolate, introduced dark chocolate in 1939, waited 56 years to mix things up with its Cookies ‘n Creme, and now is trying to entice a younger audience with a shiny Gold flavor.

The combination of salty and sweet should be pleasing, and we know Hershey’s won’t release anything new unless they feel it’ll be absolutely good. I mean, this bar was 22 years in the making, and should be worth the wait.

This Dec 1st, diversify your taste portfolio. Creamy and crunchy; salty and sweet. #TasteTheGold

A post shared by HERSHEY’S Chocolate (@hersheys) on

Categories
Culture Video

Watch Irish People React To Trying American Peanut Butter For The First Time

Late-night hunger pangs can be a cruel mistress. You’re stuck in the twilight between nuking something in the microwave, or just going back to sleep. More often than not, sleep loses that battle and we end up making ourselves a sandwich. The quickest and quietest solution: a good old fashioned sandwich made with American peanut butter.

Facts, the YouTube channel behind Irish People trying American BBQ, is at it again.

The panel try the most popular peanut butter brands like Jif, Smuckers, Creamy Reese’s, and Skippy.

Check out the video below to see their different stances on American peanut butter brands and which ones they enjoyed the most. Personally, we were always partial to Skippy.

Watching these lads and lasses try all the American peanut butter we have at our disposal really makes us curious about the differences between them all. Perhaps on our next grocery run, we’ll pick up a few. Can’t hurt to grab some jelly either.

 

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss Packaged Food Video

Watch How Peanut Butter Is Made

In the darkest, most depressing days, we can always turn to comfort foods to keep us grounded. One thing that always cheers us up is peanut butter.

We can’t speak for those with peanut allergies, but the feeling of biting into a toasted peanut butter  sandwich is indescribable. The combination of melted peanut butter and the crunch from a toasted slice of bread adds an overwhelmingly joyous texture in our mouths.

Let’s take a look at one of How It’s Made’s earlier segments on the creation of the beloved nut spread. The Discovery Channel’s series shows us how peanut butter is made en masse, chronicling the journey from nut to jar.

Check out the fascinating video while we raid the office kitchenette for some peanut butter. Pretty sure Isai has some hidden around somewhere.

Categories
Health Opinion Products What's New

The USDA Tried to Make Milk Chocolate Healthy, May Trigger Your Peanut Allergies Instead

As a food scientist myself, it’s clear that food needs to be redeveloped around what consumers want and what is necessary for the future of food. So when research is done to help make foods healthier and utilizes something like food waste to put food back into our system, it’s a double-plus. Sometimes, that research leads to amazing results, like when carrot pulp was discovered as a healthy way to make puffy chips/Cheetos.

Sometimes, however, that research goes a little too far.

That clearly is the case with what happened on this joint study between the USDA and North Carolina State University. As reported by Quartz, the research was an effort to make milk chocolate perceived by consumers as healthier.

Researchers decided to make their chocolate healthier by putting antioxidants into milk chocolate and had consumers taste it to see if they could tell the difference. Sounds tame enough on its own, but wait until you hear where it’s coming from.

They’re extracting these compounds out of the skins of peanuts, encapsulating them with maltodextrin (which is basically converted cornstarch) to hide their flavor, and then adding that to the milk chocolate.

1-biofiltermad

Photo: Phys

Don’t get caught up on the maltodextrin part, it’s the peanut concern that we’re bringing up here. Immediate concerns come from the fact that peanuts are being used as the source of antioxidants. Let’s not forget how serious peanut allergies are, like the USDA did when they performed this study. None of the tasters had peanut allergies.

Basically, the research was conducted on this new antioxidant source without even taking a look at allergenic concerns. From a food safety standpoint, allergies need to be one of the first things looked at when considering a new source for a food ingredient. What if that skin extract contains the compounds that trigger peanut allergies? That has to be considered as a first step.

Additionally, while the new milk chocolate has more antioxidants than dark chocolate does, that raises the question of how the antioxidants are lost from the milk chocolate. Milk chocolate does have a lot more milk and sugar than dark chocolate, so the antioxidant content is much lower by default. Milk chocolate is also unhealthier in that regard, since it contains a higher sugar and fat content thanks to the milk and sugar added into it.

So does adding these antioxidants suddenly make the milk chocolate healthier? The USDA was banking on that for this research, since antioxidant-rich foods are currently trending. But adding these simple compounds doesn’t change any of the caloric content, fat, or sugar in the food. We also don’t know how much this peanut skin extraction process costs, or if the antioxidant-added chocolate will be allergenic.

In simpler words, if this does become a product, dark chocolate is a healthier, natural alternative with no potential peanut allergies and much less sugar and milk. Eat that instead.

Categories
Packaged Food

Planters Releases Dessert Peanuts Including BANANA SUNDAE

Planters-Dessert-Nuts

Planters Peanuts has launched a line of peanuts based on some of America’s most popular desserts. The four flavors are Turtle Sundae, Banana Sundae, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie.

Y’know, in case we wanted to deviate from salty peanuts.

The Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Mix is made with peanut butter candy covered peanuts, cocoa peanuts, milk chocolate covered brownie flavor bits, peanuts and peanut butter candy pieces

The Turtle Sundae Mix features Chocolate candy covered caramel bits, vanilla yogurt covered peanuts, pecans, salted caramel flavored peanuts and chocolate candy covered peanuts

The Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Mix has Oatmeal flavored covered raisins, yogurt and graham covered raisins, cinnamon-toasted almonds, pecans and raisins

Finally, the Banana Sundae Mix boasts honey-roasted peanuts, chocolate candy covered peanuts, vanilla yogurt covered peanuts, strawberry flavored yogurt covered peanuts and banana chips.

Imagine throwing all of them into one communal bowl. Now that’s a party.

Those with a nutty sweet tooth can find 6-oz bags of Planters’ dessert or in a 3 oz for limited flavors.