For Cake Eaters

2 May

The Blizzard of the Month (or BoM) is German Chocolate Brownie.  My first reaction was “get into my belly!” and my second reaction was “did you just quote an Austin Powers movie?”.  Then after all that was settled I started thinking about the origin of German chocolate cake.  It’s my favorite kind of cake.  The Mister even bought a sheet cake for me on my 30th birthday.  It was about as heavy as a newborn giraffe but much tastier.

Anyway, German chocolate cake is not all that German.  Baker’s chocolate, the company that has displeased my taste buds by masquerading their products as look-alike candy bars, is responsible.  They had a dedicated employee with the last name of German.  In 1852 he created a dark, semi-sweet bar and they named it after him.  Then in 1957 a housewife from Dallas made a recipe with it but as time wore on the apostrophe and the “s” fell off the name.  So the pecan, coconut and sweet chocolate cake became known as something that belonged to Deutschland. 

Today's hot cup of cocoa is brought you by... the children of the corn.

It’s no surprise to learn that this isn’t the last of the fauxreign foods.  A big one is Italian dressing.  In Italy, most people put olive oil and some kind of vinegar on their salads.  So Wishbone can tell us that we’re kicking it Mediterranean-style but Italians have been eating salads for thousands of years without a hint of high fructose corn syrup.  They wouldn’t recognize our dressing even with the helpful label.

Then there is French silk pie.  The origin of this dessert is debatable.  Some say it came from the South.  That makes sense as there is shoo-fly pie and all manner of ice box delicacies that call the lower 48 home.  Then there is the tale that a French restaurant in sunny California has the ownership of this Baker’s Square staple.  The result is still the same: tasty but not French.  I think that the French might applaud the number of calories and the high fat factor involved.  They would, however, take offense that anything touted as simple to make could really be identified with the country that has brought many a beginning chef to her knees.  I think the French don’t mind making it look easy but for actually being easy?  Mon dieu!   French fries aren’t French either but they are European.  That’s a story for another day though.

Now for the tale of Swiss Miss.  I don’t think that anyone was fooled by this moniker.  Of course the Swiss make fantastic chocolate.  I could go on and on about the history of chocolate, and I probably will, but this too will wait for another day.  Today it’s time for talking about a Sicilian imigrant who started up a Wisconsin company that made pudding and cocoa.  Then this company was bought by a small Nebraska group that turned into the very Swiss… um … ConAgra.  Perhpas the Swiss contribution is those rainbow-colored marshmallows?

Why do companies and recipe-makers pop European names onto their food?  I’d guess it’s for the same reason that bartenders name their drinks something that sounds like it comes from a scary tool shed.  It’s because without saying much more you get the gist.  Swedish and Italian meatballs are completely different animals (no pun intended, vegans), even though you can get both in the frozen food sections.  Companies are using national identities as a kind of shorthand for their shopping public.  For example, if you were in the mood for a decadent chocolate treat would you rather hear that it’s from France or from, say, Milwaukee?   Case closed.  Now where is my High Life?

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