NEW YORK (AP) – Caption: Genghis Khan came up with an early concept for burgers that involved tenderizing leftover meat under horse saddles as his Golden Horde made its way to China in the 13th century.
Reality: No one knows for sure who is the first to put beef patties between the bread.
Such bite-size anecdotes are part of the truths and folklore included in “There’s No Ham in Burgers,” a new book that features the history, science and geography behind a myriad of foods loved by children. Burgers and fries are featured, along with chocolate, peanut butter, chicken, ice cream, and all those sugary cereals that many parents love to hate.
History enthusiast and promoter of reading for fun in schools, author Kim Zachman of Roswell, Georgia has written fun and informative food diving for ages 8 to 12.
“I wanted to write the story for the kids and I wanted it to be really fun,” she told The Associated Press. “I was trying to think of ideas and I was walking my dog one day, and I was like, why isn’t there any ham in the burgers? I’ve always wondered this. This is when I found so many great origin stories. “
Some, she said, are false or unprovable. She also gathered information on nutrition and health, and included simple recipes and a single science experiment on how to extract iron from cold fortified cereals. The latter consists of driving the grain into the dust, then making a powerful magnet hover over the mess.
Zachman, mom of two daughters in college, does not fear the murky origins or the multiple claims of innovation in her book, published by Running Press Kids. No one knows, for example, the meaning of the name Oreo, but one thing is certain: Nabisco treats were a copy of the Hydrox sandwich cookie, which hit the market four years earlier, in 1908.
“I was surprised at how little we know about the origins of some of these foods,” she said. “We really don’t know for sure who made the first burger. Several people claim to have done so. “
In the 1500s, German sailors on merchant ships crossing the Baltic Sea discovered raw meat patties in Russia. Back home, they tweaked the idea by frying the beef patties with sautéed onions. Sailors from other countries came ashore in Hamburg, the country’s most important port city at the time, and discovered “Hamburg steak”. In the 1800s, millions of Germans traveled to America and brought the idea of Hamburg steak for the ride.
Among those who claim to have invented the modern hamburger: “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen, who in 1885, at age 15, sold meatballs at the Outagamy County Fair in Seymour, Wisconsin. To make them easier to carry, he crushed them between two slices of bread and called it a “hamburger”. It was a success.
“I thought it was interesting for the kids to know that some things don’t just happen. This is how the human species evolves. It is not just a person who thinks of fire. It happens everywhere, ”Zachman said.
A big advantage for Zachman was the length and complexity of the production process for vanilla, the second most expensive spice behind saffron. The journey often begins in the vanilla bean plantations of Madagascar, the world‘s largest producer, and could end five years later in a pint of ice cream in America.
It takes four years for a young vanilla to produce a flower, and the flower only lasts a day. Workers must pollinate and harvest by hand to produce the long pods, and the pods are dried through a complex process that takes six months.
“It blew me away,” Zachman said.
Another mind-blowing cocoa tree was the insightful cocoa tree. Tropical trees, where chocolate is sourced from, cannot stand direct sunlight, need rain all year round, and take three to four years to produce flowers that can only be pollinated by tiny flies called midges. Out of 1,000 flowers, only three or four will be pollinated and become pods, which take about six months to mature. Chocolate is possible after the seeds are fermented in a dark, warm place, sun-dried and roasted.
Who has it all figured out? The ancient civilizations of Central America over 3,000 years ago. Cocoa beans were so valuable that the Aztecs used them like money.
Zachman isn’t ignoring some of the big personalities behind popular children’s food, like the Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek, Michigan. Younger brother Will Keith added sugar to their wheat flakes (later corn) to make them last longer and taste better. Older brother John Harvey, physician, health enthusiast and devout Seventh-day Adventist, was furious, and the two ended their 25-year partnership bitterly in 1906, exchanging lawsuits for years after that.
The popularity of cold cereals coincided with the mass pasteurization of milk. In the beginning, many grains were fortified with vitamins to fight rickets and other health problems in children. Zachman is in dispute over the mass of sugar cereal become.
“I was talking to my mom about it and she said, ‘Yeah, there wasn’t a lot of sugar in it so we would always sprinkle sugar on it,’ laughed Zachman, 58. the competition got worse and they started telling the kids that the sugar was getting higher and higher. “
Processed chicken nuggets – boneless, breaded and fried – have only been around for about 40 years, Zachman discovered. The trick, she said, was figuring out how to get the dough to adhere throughout freezing and frying.
A Robert Baker invented Chicken Crispie in 1959 in his Cornell University lab. But it’s Fred Turner, chairman of the board of directors of McDonald’s Corp. in 1979, which made a difference when he assembled the Chicken McNugget SWAT team after the U.S. government warned Americans to stop eating so much beef. In 1980, the McNugget was market tested at 15 McDonald’s locations in Knoxville, Tennessee. Like Hamburger Charlie’s mashed meatballs, they too were a hit.
Zachman, taking into account the impressionable ages of his readers, notes that fried chicken nuggets can be high in cholesterol and saturated fat, and highly recommends moderation. She offers similar health warnings to other foods, while also emphasizing the health benefits.
“I had a lot of fun doing research,” Zachman said. “I hope this will inspire the kids to go out and learn more about other things in their day to day life.”
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