We enjoy the vast array of coffees and teas each day, indulge in shortbread cakes, and try to hold back from eating that last bit of chocolate because sugar isn’t really that good for us. The world we live in gives us access to an abundance of goods, which makes it easy to forget that there was a time when these things didn’t exist. How did they come about? Who found or created them? Interestingly, some of our favorite products just happen to come from unexpected places.
Related: Top 10 Misconceptions About Historical Clothing And Fashion
10 Yogurt Is Not Greek
How often do you go to the supermarket to pick up a delicious container of Greek-style yogurt? My guess would be quite often. Contrary to what the name suggests, the product is not actually Greek. Its origins go back to Mesopotamia, dating around the year 5000 BC.
The fermented milk product remained popular in the Middle East and the Balkans throughout the centuries. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that a Bulgarian medical student, Stamen Grigorov, isolated the bacterium that causes the milk fermentation process that gives yogurt its distinctive sour taste. In honor of its roots, the bacterium was named Lactobacillus bulgarius. The Greek yogurt name is the result of a marketing campaign in the United States, after which it somehow stuck.
9 Coffee is not Brazilian
Studies show that, worldwide, more than a billion people drink coffee daily. Even in the UK, the land of hardcore tea drinkers, industry reports reveal that coffee shops sell an estimated 98 million cups of coffee a day. Although many commercials emphasize the aroma and flavor of Brazilian coffee, the drink does not originate there. This advertising campaign is a consequence of the fact that Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world.
The effects of consuming the plant were first discovered in Ethiopia. The story goes that an abbot noticed his goats feasting on the fruit of the coffee plants and then displaying spikes of energy. After informing the other monks, they all decided to taste the fruits themselves. Word spread around the world and the first coffee culture began in Arabia, slowly spreading across the globe and becoming the sensation it is now.
8 croissants are not French
When someone says “croissant”, the image that immediately comes to mind is France, the land of pastry. But the truth is that croissants originated in Vienna and were originally known as kipfel, a word that translates as crescent from German. The kipfel is first mentioned in a 13th century poem. The text suggests that the gift was served to King Leopold for Christmas. However, this is not the most popular origin story of the famous moon-shaped cake.
One of the famous Austrian legends reveals that it arose as a celebratory dish of Austria’s victory over the Ottoman Empire in 1683. It was filled with almonds and butter, and the crescent shape was meant to imitate the crescent on the Turkish flag. . . However, it’s worth noting that the French added the signature puff pastry and elevated the dish to what we know it now.
7 Chocolate is not Swiss
As we all probably know, chocolate is made from cacao beans that grow on cacao trees.
It is believed that the first people to harvest the fruit of the cacao tree were the Olmec tribes of southern Mexico. However, the Mayans were the first to use chocolate in a similar way to how we do today. They made an indulgent chocolate drink and added chili peppers and sometimes cornmeal to thicken or honey to sweeten. The drink is believed to have been consumed daily and enjoyed as much for its delicious taste as for its hint of caffeine.
Later, the Spanish were the ones who brought chocolate to Europe. The madness quickly spread throughout the continent. Over time, more uses for the product were invented, leading to the myriad of drinks and desserts we know and love today.
Another fun fact about chocolate is that the cocoa tree is officially called Theobroma cacao and means “food of the gods” in Greek. Well I believe that!
6 pancakes are not French or American
The word “pancakes” evokes a number of powerful metal images. There are the thick and fluffy American pancakes that one enjoys with maple syrup and bacon, or alternatively, the large and deliciously thin French crepes. In England, people even have a holiday dedicated to the beloved food – Pancake Day, officially called Shrove Tuesday, which falls in February. (That’s Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras if you didn’t know.)
Interestingly, the pancakes do not originate from any of the above places. The first recorded mention of pancakes is in the writing of a Greek poet, dating to 600 B.C. However, historians believe that they existed much earlier. There are theories that pancakes date back to the Stone Age! Scientists also found pancakes in the stomach of Otzi the Iceman, the famous mummy frozen in the Copper Age glacier.
5 Apple Pie is not American
Get ready, this is big! One of the most popular American signature dishes is actually… English!
The dish originated in England, but the recipe is believed to be influenced by French, Dutch and Ottoman cuisines. One of the first written recipes is found in the curry form Samuel Pegge’s Cookbook. The text dates from the 14th century.
The dish made it to the United States. It was featured in the first American cookbook, American kitchen by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796. Eventually, the phrase “apple pie” became iconic in America. We can find references in various songs, books and articles from the last three centuries, which describe the American nation’s love of fruit dessert.
4 The Cyrillic alphabet is not Russian
The Cyrillic alphabet is largely associated with Russian culture. This is not surprising since the Soviet Union occupied most of Eastern Europe, and many of the modern countries in the region speak languages closely related to Russian and use the same alphabet, or at least a very similar one. However, the inventors of the script are two brothers: Cyril and Methodius, who were born in the First Bulgarian Empire.
The script was developed at the prominent Preslav Literary School, where both academics worked. This was actually the first literary school, established around 885 in Pliska by Boris I. In 893, it was transferred to the Empire’s capital Preslav by Boris’s son Simeon the Great. The script, probably from the brothers’ earlier Glagolitic script, was popularized by the students and followers of Cyril and Methodius. To this day, Bulgarians celebrate Slavic writing, Bulgarian writing, literature and culture on May 24. The day is a national holiday marked by various festivities and parades across the country.
3 Pasta is not Italian
Pasta has become almost synonymous with Italian food. However, the product does not actually originate there. One theory suggests that Marco Polo brought an early version of pasta to Italy from China. However, reports reveal that the product Marco Polo brought back isn’t exactly pasta; it’s a different Chinese dish.
It seems that pasta was introduced to Italy by the Arabs. There is a written reference that the pasta was produced and dried in the area of Libya around the 5th century. So it seems we can thank the Middle East for one of our most beloved dishes today!
2 fortune cookies are not Chinese
I never wondered where fortune cookies came from before. We get them as a side dessert in Chinese restaurants and they appear in supermarket windows as part of Chinese New Year sales. But the folded cookies are actually Japanese!
A Kanagawa University graduate in folklore and history was determined to discover the origin of the beloved snack after eating it at a New York restaurant in 1980. It wasn’t until the 1990s that she managed to locate a family bakery on the outskirts of Kyoto. who sold a sandwich that shared an uncanny resemblance to a fortune cookie.
Today, pictures of folded cookies can be found in the windows of confectionery shops near Kyoto. The images date back to 1870. The snack was called “tsujiura senbei” or “a fortune cookie” and was brought to the United States by Japanese immigrants in the early 19th century. However, it seemed that instead of vanilla flavored dough, the original Japanese fortune cookie was seasoned with black sesame and miso. However, the shape of the signature remained the same and the message of fortune inside was also present.
1 Bagpipes Are Not Scottish
The Scottish national instrument has its roots in Ancient Egypt. The first versions of the bagpipe were quite similar to what we know today. However, it seemed that the instrument was a little more… eerie. The bag was predominantly made of dog skin rather than sheepskin, and the tubes were made of bone rather than wood. Records of the use of the instrument in Egypt date back to 400 BC. C. by the pipers of Thebes. Bagpipes later became popular in Ancient Rome, and this is probably how they came to Europe. The Scots developed the instrument and turned it into what we know today.
Extra fun fact: the bagpipe is also the national instrument of another European country: Bulgaria. It is the main component of traditional folk music.
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