Good morning! Finished your morning walk or daily exercise? You must be hungry. Today’s menu is:
Breakfast – Coffee with sandwiches or Choco-chip cookies and cornflakes.
Lunch – Butter chicken, chimichanga and caesar salad. Dessert-popsicles
Tea-time – Tea with potato wafers or nachos or cheese-doodles.
Dinner – Paav-bhaji or vada pav.
Well, well, well. The menu seems lilling but a great mix of various cuisines. True, for it has dishes from the various continents. Even more strange is that all of the dishes were created unintentionally. Some were culinary blunders, some were just concocted due to lack of ingredients, some due to shortage of time or due to a brainwave. Another common factor is they are loved by one and all. Curious? Well, read on, for here are some interesting anecdotes explaining the birth of these delicious dishes. It also means that sometimes a culinary wonder can be created not by planning and measuring but by pure luck or by a blunder. The important part is one has to be adventurous enough to taste the creation.
Let’s start the journey. Fasten your belts, for this not only requires continent-hopping, but some also demand time traveling. Let us state with coffee. The whiff of freshly brewed coffee is rejuvenating. Some can’t do without the early morning cuppa. If that’s the case you have to thank the goats. Right! Goats it is! The story takes us back in time and to the African continent. In Ethiopia there lived a goatherd whose name was Kaldi. His job was to look after the goats and to ensure that they were well-grazed. He took them to a new pasture once the old one was deleted. Once he noticed that since coming to the new grazing area the goats looked perky. Curious Kaldi decided to investigate.
He followed them and saw them munching on leaves and berries of a plant that had not been part of their diet. Kaldi became Sherlock and sampled the leaves and berries. He too felt lively. So he plucked and stuffed some in his pocket. He began to enjoy the perk-up stuff now and then. Once when Kaldi visited the monastery in his city, a young monk complained of feeling sleepy during the sermons. Kaldi passed on some perk-up stuff to him and the monk seconded his theory. The rest is well, coffee! Kaldi’s curiosity made the world happy.
Sandwiches owe their existence to a very hungry earl who refused to leave either his work table or the gambling table and go to the dining table. John Montague alias the Fourth Earl of Sandwich was a rich and busy person. Well, he’s the one who sponsored Captain Cook’s voyage. The Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) were named in his honor. When the earl factor, he refused to leave the table and asked the cook (not the captain one) to bring him something between two slices of bread so he could have his other hand free to hold either the cards or the pen. It is alleged that the Romans used to eat similar types of food-items but it was the earl who popularised the dish that bears his name in modern times.
Choco-chip cookie was born due to last-minute substitution of a vital ingredient by Ruth Wakefield. Must say it was successful! Ruth, a resident of Whitman, Massachusetts, was an enterprising woman. In 1937 she was running the Toll House Inn, called so because it was started in an old Toll House. Ruth was an excellent baker and her Butter Drop Do cookies wee extremely popular. They were paired with ice-cream and served. One day during the baking session she reached for the usual baker’s chocolate put to her horror it was finished. Now what? Her customers would arrive soon and would demand the usual dish. Perhaps there was no neighbor from whom she could borrow baking chocolate. Ruth spotted a bar of Nestle’s chocolate on the shelf and reached for it. She unwrapped it, chopped it to pieces and added to the cookie dough, shaped the cookies and popped them into the oven.
Ah! Saved in the nick of time! But the stubborn pieces of chocolate refused to melt in the oven and what emerged post-baking was Choco pieces-studded cookies. The customers loved them! Ruth got her new recipe. Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies. They became so popular that according to a story, the Nestle Company actually investigated why the sales of chocolate bars had shot up in that particular area and zeroed in on Ruth’s cookies. They decided to cash in on his popularity. They began to include a chopping tool with the chocolate bars. Later they not only prepared Chocopieces but also marketed them. Nestle Toll House Real Semisweet chocolate morsels. They also printed Ruth’s now famous recipe on the pack. Ruth got a free lifetime supply of chocolate. Rival companies marketed a similar product as Choco-chips. The moniker Choco-chips cookies stuck some time in 1941.
Those preferring a light breakfast will reach for a bowl of Cornflakes instead. You know whom to thank for this crunchy breakfast cereal. Yes, Kellogg! The Kellogg brothers John and Will accidently invented the crisp and light cereal. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was a superintendent at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and health spa in Michigan. His brother Will Keith Kellogg was a school drop-out and after several job attempts joined the same spa as a manager. It was a low paying job but Will could not afford to be a chooser. The Kellogg brothers were Seventh-Day Adventists. They were in search of a bland, healthy vegetarian food for their clients. One day they were experimenting with boiled wheat. Before they could proceed they were called for some urgent work and returned quite late. Perhaps the wheat had gone bad. But the Kelloggs couldn’t afford to waste the grains and decided to process it through the dough flattening machine. To their surprise, they didn’t get a sheet but the grains flattered out individually into flakes. Now what?
Will wouldn’t give up easily and put the flakes into the oven. He got nice crisp toasted flakes. The day was August 8, 1804. He served them to the members and they simply loved the flakes. This encouraged. Will to experiment with different grains and he got the best results with corn. Will sensed this as a business opportunity. In 1896 he patented the flakes as granose. In 1906 he started The Battle Creek Toasted Cornflakes company and later renamed it as Kellogg’s. Will finally tasted his bowl of success. He also tried several marketing gimmicks. One such gimmick was ‘A free box of cereal to any woman who winked at her grocer,’ now that’s funny. Another was ‘Funny Jungle had Moving Pictures booklet to anyone purchasing 2 boxes of Cornflakes.
Caesar it is!
Post breakfast it’s time to get ready and start your work.
After working for four hours the stomach rumbles for lunch. Let’s start with caesar salad. Sorry, it has got nothing to do with Julius Caesar as many believe. This tasty, favorite salad was created in sheer desperation out of a random mix-match of remnants in the pantry. Let us cross the border and go to Mexico just like some Americans did in 1924. Caesar Cardini, an Italian-American restaurateur owned a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. In those days prohibition was imposed in America and many residents crossed the border to wine and dine.
One group was particularly late during the 4th of July rush. Caesar was already running very low on supplies. But the customer is king and how can you turn him away? So Caesar scanned the pantry shelves. He put together Romaine lettuce, olive oil, crushed garlic, and salt, Dijon mustard, black pepper, lemon Cheese and croutons and mixed them with great fanfare and served it to the very hungry guests. They loved it! It was named Caesar salad. It soon became the world’s favourite. Caesar’s brother added anchovies to the salad and soon it became a part of the recipe.
Talking of cheese it too was an accidental discovery. To know about this we have to board the time machine and travel back several millennia. The credit of discovering yogurt and cheese goes to the cow and goat herds of Central Asia. After the cows and goats were domesticated people started consuming milk. It wa a great food and a thirst quencher too. So they started to carry it with them during d daily travels. The containers of choice were the stomachs of sheep and cows. These untreated stomachs had traces of milk coagulating enzymes and these created yogurt and cheese initially to people’s chagrin and then delight!
For butter chicken we have to return to the 20th century India and our Capital Delhi. It is here in a restaurant named MotiMahal that KundanlalGujral concocted this dish out of sheer desperation. Kundanlal was from Peshawar and worked in a restaurant where he was instrumental in inventing Tandoori Chicken. Soon he became the owner of the same restaurant and renamed it MotiMahal Deluxe. After Partition.Kundanlal migrated to India and opened MotiMahal in Delhi. After partition, Kundanlal migrated to India and opened MotiMahal in Delhi. One night he had almost closed the restaurant when a VIP visited and demanded some dish made from chicken. It is a difficult to refuse a VIP so Kundanlal welcomed him. He then went to the pantry and found it was almost bare. But he didn’t chicken out for the spotted half a tandoori chicken, tomatoes, spices and butter and some minor ingredients. He accepted the challenge mixed and cooked the ingredients and created the now famous butter chicken. Needless to say the VIP now was a Very Impressed Person too!
Chimichanga is a fried burrito. Those you like it must thank a bunch of noisy teens. Let’s get back to Arizona. Area Tucson, place Monica Flynn’s El Charro Cafe. Monica was a favourite with her nephews and nieces and she often had them hanging around in her kitchen. Their energy and endless blabber were peppy no doubt but sometimes it could be trying too, especially during rush hours. One day during such commotion Monica accidently dropped a burrito in hot oil and cried out Chimichanga! Incidentally, a chimichanga is a softened expletive meaning what-the-thingummy!
Well to cut a long story short, the fried burrito tasted yummy and a new dish was invented. The next time you have noisy teens in your kitchen don’t shoo them away.
If it’s hot, how about serving popsicle to the kids? They love the colourful popsicles and the interesting part is, their inventor was a kid. Oh no! Oh yes! The kid was Frank Epperson and he was just it when he accidently invented this all-time favorite. Frank loved his fruit-sodas. Easy to make and tasty to drink. Just mix the powder in a glass of water, stir well and sip at leisure. One day while playing in the yard. Frank made his fruit-soda and carried it to the yard. Soon he became so engrossed in playing that he forgot all about the drink.
At night the soda stood in the yard braving the cold. Early in the morning when Frank came out to play (it was the year 1905 and no crazy school-rush like today), he found that the soda had frozen around the stirrer. Curiosity got the better of him and he pulled out the stirrer and the frozen soda or ice-candy followed. He tasted it and it was yummy.
But kids will be kids and Frank soon forgot about it. Seventeen years passed uneventfully. Once before a party, the memory of the frozen soda popped into his mind. He made some frozen ice-candies and they sold well, like hotcakes! But that was that a year passed. This time Frank prepared ice-candies and sold them in the amusement park on Neptune Beach. The response was overwhelming and this time the idea of turning it into business flashed in his mind. The year was 1923! He got a patent and started production and sales. He wanted to name the frozen ice-candy as Eppicle but his sons recommended Popsicle and the rest is history.
So the lunch was nice and filling. Time to return to work for another four hours. After slogging one deserves a refreshing cuppa and a light snack. Let the tea brew while we again ride the time machine and travel back to 2737BC and land in China. In that period the ruler was Shen Nung. He was an herbalist and the charge of China. He urged his subjects to boil water before drinking and practised what he preached. Once he was on his herb-gathering mission. His servant was boiling water for him. Just then a whiff of wind blew some leaves into the boiling water. The king saw this and like a true experimenter tasted the concoction. He felt all pepper up. He searched for the parent tree. It was the Camellia sinensis bush. And the star of beverages – tea – was born! In those days it was consumed sans milk and sugar and was considered the panacea of all ills.
Potato on the couch
How about some potato wafers to go with the tea? Yes, they too were created by accident. Or to be more specific, ego problem and anger. The anecdote goes like this. The year was 1853. George Crum was a chef at Saratoga Springs’ Moon Lake House. He was considered a good chef. One day, however, a particularly picky customer sent back a batch of fried potato chips complaining they were thick, soggy and bland. Crum’s ego was hurt. In a fit of rage, he peeled a potato, sliced it real thin and fried the slices really crisp. He sprinkled it liberally with salt and served it with a fork. He eagerly waited for the customer to get angry. But the customer shunned the fork and coolly picked up the crisps with his fingers and ate them with delight. Then he actually asked for one more serving! And the quintessential favorite of kids and adults alike was created! Now that was cool!
Care for some Nachos? Well, we have to cross the border again and step into Mexico’s Victory Club restaurant in Piedras Negras. It seems people regularly crossed the border to sample Mexican cuisine. One fine day in 1943, a group of 10 military wives crossed the border for a fun day of shopping. After shopping the hungry ladies, visited the Victory Club restaurant. Ignacio Nacho Anaya was the maitre’d. He requested the ladies to be seated and began searching for the chef who was nowhere to be seen. Ignacio couldn’t afford to send the ladies away. He decided to try his hand and entered the kitchen. He spotted some tostadas, sprinkled them with grated cheese, and passed them through a hot salamander. To add some zing, he topped them with jalapenos”, the hot green chilies, and served them saying, “Created especially for you, ladies.” The ladies loved the dish and one of them named the dish, “Nacho’s special.” With time the word special was dropped. The dish became so popular that
Nacho opened his own Nacho’s restaurant!
If you don’t care for either of these snacks, he about some cheese curls or Cheese puffs or Cheese doodles or Corn curls? The favorite snack of the kids, it was an incidental creation and was created on – hold your breath – an animal feed-making machine. What wouldn’t do for them, rock for us! Generally, it’s the opposite. Let us cross the border to Wisconsin to know the story. Flakall Corporation of Beloit, Wisconsin, was an animal feed manufacturer. It was their humane outlook while preparing animal feed that led to the fabulous snack. They put the material through the grinder to flake out the grains and avoid any sharp kernels that could harm the cows while chewing. They actually produced a machine that broke the grains by flaking them. To prevent clogging of the grinder, they occasionally put moistened corn into the grinder.
One day, however, the corn went directly into the machine and exited the same as corn doodles. These would be wasted as cows don’t eat such things. One curious employee, Edward Wilson, picked up these ribbons and carried them home. He seasoned them and they tasted yummy. He named them KornKurls. The funny part is, Flakall Corp decided to produce corn curls. Their invention had been incidental, but their production was intentional. Soon they became a rage. The company changed its name from Flakall to Adams Corp. Who would buy a snack manufactured from a company producing animal feed? They wanted to avoid any flak! Today more than 100 companies produce this product under different names. In fact, it is called Snack of the World!
PaavBhaji to the rescue
Post tea it’s time for work for an hour or two and then get back home. Many folks have an early dinner. Some eat quite late and wish for a filling yet light meal. Our own pav-bhaji fits the bill. It tool was a chance invention. It originated on the streets of Mumbai, then Bombay. Blame, or thank the 1860’s Civil War in the USA for this favorite item. “Are you out of your mind?” you’ll surely say. What has the Civil War got to do with Paav-bhaji?” But in a way this is true. The Civil War in the US created a huge demand for Indian cotton. The merchants and workers waited for the cotton rates to be displayed at the Bombay Cotton Exchange before loading cotton. The rate arrived by telegraph and late in the evening or rather at night. The main problem was the workers couldn’t go home for a meal. They could neither eat the regular heavy stuff nor go hungry. One vendor came to their rescue. One fine evening, he heated the leftover vegetables on a thick Tava added dollops of butter and paired it with left-over pav donated by Jesuit missionaries so the story goes). This weird combo clicked! Today this yummy dish has several variations.
If you are not in the mood to eat vegetables you can replace them with batata-vada and a vada-pav or two. This too was created by sheer coincidence in Bombay in 1966 by (late) Shri Ashok Vaidya. He was a snack vendor selling poha and batata-vada outside Dadar Railway station. His vendor-neighbor sold omelet-pav. One fine day Ashokji simply took a plate, grabbed a pav, slit it partially and inserted the batata-vada. He added some spicy chili-garlic chutney and served it to the commuters exiting the station. The hungry commuters loved the filling but cheap dish. It was an ideal on-the-go brunch. A fantastic dish was born! MrVaidya’s son has continued his father’s business and on the same spot too. Go and sample it whenever you can. Do you know that World Vada-pav Day is celebrated on 23 August? Another interesting piece of info. A short film Vada-paav Inc.was made in 2015 in the honor of its creator, Vada-pav has stood the test of time and challenge of the burger. In fact, it has been dubbed Bombay burger. After this culinary journey, why not drink some tea or coffee and revise the fortuitous inventions? Or simply drink a glass or two of cool clear water. It too was accidentally created when the Earth cooled down!
By Malvika Dekhane