Cooking and Entertaining

History of Modern Cooking

During the 1700s to 1800s, the cooking methods that have become prevalent in the Renaissance started to evolve into modern styles that are still being used today. Along with these cooking methods, several dishes or recipes have been invented during those periods and the 1900s, as utensils and kitchen appliances were able to handle experimentations when it comes to food.

Here are the stories of how some of the most popular cooking methods and dishes that have come out from the 1700s to the 1990s were created.

Refrigeration

William Cullen refrigeration

In 1748, a Scottish physician named William Cullen had researched ways to preserve food by freezing out of the ice created out of air. However, the methods that he used during that time were not enough to freeze food products properly inside a container.

But in 1756, he was able to demonstrate to the public his successful refrigerating method in Edinburgh. During this demonstration, he utilized a pump that created a partial vacuum over a diethyl ether container. The container then boiled and was able to absorb heat from the air at its area of placement, thus creating a small amount of ice. Due to the tedious task of refrigerating items using diethyl ether and only producing little ice, Cullen’s artificial refrigeration method was never mass-produced.

Many professors and researchers attempted to create the first successful refrigeration machine, including John Hadley, Benjamin Franklin, and Michael Faraday, but it was only in 1842 when a man named John Gorrie was able to invent a refrigerating system for commercial use.

Gorrie’s machine was able to produce ice by refrigerating water, but his invention did not receive commercial success, mainly due to how expensive the machine is. His refrigerating machine, however, was able to inspire other inventors, scientists, and researchers to improve upon his methods and create a machine that can produce ice with lesser production cost.

Among those who were inspired by Gorrie’s invention was Ferdinand Carre, who was able to produce a machine that is smaller and much simpler than Gorre’s contraption. Carre’s refrigerator became a massive hit during the American Civil War when cities like New Orleans weren’t able to get ice from colder regions due to the conflict between the north and the south.

Pizza Margherita

pizza Margherita in Naples

The pizza Margherita, which was invented in Naples, Italy, is considered as the predecessor for all the modern pizzas that we currently have. It is believed that the original pizza was invented by either the ancient Greeks or Persians in the 6th century BC, but it was only in the 18th or 19th century in Naples where the tomato was first used as an ingredient on top of the flatbread.

According to popular belief amongst the people of Naples, pizza Margherita was invented in 1889 by Raffaele Esposito, a renowned pizzaiolo in the city. The pizza expert named his invention after Margherita of Savoy, the queen of Italy during that time. The ingredients used for the pizza, which are mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes, are said to represent the colors of the national flag of Italy since they are white, green, and red in color.

However, this belief is proven to be false, as pizza with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese as toppings already existed since 1796, but the term “Margherita” was not used for the pizza before 1889. Esposito is the only one who popularized the name and got the pizza its recognition not only to the people living in Naples but other countries as well, which prompted the chefs or bakers from these countries to make their own pizzas topped with tomato sauce.

It is also interesting to note that pizzas in Naples were made using a special brick oven that is circular in shape and has a small mouth to allow the heat inside to circulate around the oven and prevent it from escaping, thus creating an evenly cooked pizza.

Sandwich

sandwich with meat and vegetables

The sandwich, like the pizza, is another popular food staple that is eaten by millions of people around the world, and hundreds or even thousands are eating sandwiches right now while you are reading this.

However, the sandwich that we know today was not invented until the 1700s, and it is all thanks to an earl of Sandwich, England that the term and the recipe were created and subsequently became a popular food product in England.

Putting multiple ingredients between pieces of bread was already done during the Middle Ages, but it is only in the 1700s when bits of cold meat were used as fillings. The first use of the term “sandwich” is found in the journal of Edward Gibbon, an English historian who referred to bits of cold meat” as a sandwich. Gibbon named the food product after John Montagu, who is the 4th Earl of Sandwich during that period.

John Montagu 4th Earl of Sandwich

Historians suggest that Montagu would always order his valet to prepare for him two pieces of bread with meat put between them. Other people began to notice that Montagu would always eat this food, and believing that it tastes good since the earl always eats it, they began putting orders for the Montagu’s food while shouting “the same as Sandwich!”

It is believed that Montagu kept ordering the sandwich since it is perfect for consuming while playing cards because he didn’t have to use a fork or a knife to eat it, and he only has to hold it in one hand while the other hand holds the cards. In addition, instead of grabbing meat with his bare hands, which could make his fingers and the cards he’s holding greasy, Montagu would rather hold two pieces of bread to prevent the grease from getting to his hands.

Fast-Food Restaurant

the first fast-food restaurant in New York

The first fast-food restaurant is said to be the Automat, which was a cafeteria built on July 7, 1912, that sold quick-serve meals in New York City. At the Automat, customers will immediately be given foods in front of small glass windows, but they would have to pay on the coin-operated slots before receiving their meal.

Business partners Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart had already opened up the first Automat restaurant in 1902, but only the New York branch had the popular quick-serve meals. After the success of the Automat in New York, Horn and Hardart started to open branches in many locations around the United States of America, and the brand remained well-known to Americans until the 1930s. One of the most famous slogans that the Automat launched is “Less work for Mother,” which basically means that customers don’t have to let their mothers cook food for them since they have already taken a meal home from the Automat. The slogan then popularized the term “take-out” as it implies that you can order a meal at the restaurant and eat it at home.

On the other hand, a restaurant called White Castle implemented the first fast-food supply chain in the world, which revolutionized how fast-food restaurants function today. Founded as a food stand in 1916 in Wichita, Kansas, White Castle became a successful fast food restaurant in 1921 after selling hamburgers for five cents each.

Wanting to make cooking burgers much quicker, the founders Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson created a fast-food supply chain that enables the company to mass-produce wrappings, meats, buns, and other food supplies and send them to their many branches. By creating the supply chain, branches will be able to cook foods faster since the ingredients are already formed or made, and they just have to cook them.

The supply chain system in White Castle inspired other businessmen to apply the effective method to their restaurants, and one of these businessmen was Ray Kroc, who joined the McDonald’s company in 1954 and transformed the brand into one of the biggest names in the world.

Crock-Pot

ham and pineapples inside a Crock-Pot

Before it was called the “Crock-Pot,” the kitchenware used to boil food under the right temperature to keep it heated is called a slow cooker.

The inventor of the first modern slow cooker, Irving Naxon, was inspired to invent the kitchenware when he remembered how her mother used to tell him stories about a Lithuanian village where she was raised. The people in that village had a favorite food, and it was a bean-based stew called the cholent.

According to the story told by Naxon’s mother, the Jewish women in that village would often put beans, potatoes, meat, and vegetables during Friday evenings and bring them to a local bakery. In the bakery, Naxon’s mother said that she would place the pot on the oven, which is supposed to be turned off at the beginning of the Sabbath, and cook the ingredients inside using the oven’s residual heat.

After remembering his mother’s interesting story in the 1930s, Naxon then invented a portable heating device that has built-in pot where you can put the ingredients. He filed for a patent for his invention in 1936, but it would take four years before the patent was officially granted. Naxon began manufacturing his slow cooker, named the “Naxon Beanery,” in large volumes and sold it to the public during the 1950s.

Naxon eventually sold the design of the Naxon Beanery to Rival Manufacturing in the early 1970s, and the slow cooker was renamed as the “Crock-Pot.” To boost its sales, the company also produced cookbooks for the Crock-Pot and made it available in different colors, such as harvest gold, copper, and avocado. The marketing strategies for the Crock-Pot were a success, as the company received $2 million in sales in 1971, and their sales reached up to $93 million four years after.

Today, the Crock-Pot brand is no longer owned by Rival Manufacturing because it is currently owned by Jarden Corporation, who bought the Holmes Group in 2005, which is the company that acquired the rights for the Crock-Pot brand in 1999.

Microwave

microwave oven with metal shelf

The Crock-Pot’s success will not last, as the microwave oven slowly became the trendiest kitchen appliance in the late 1970s and the 1980s because of how quick it can heat food compared to a slow cooker.

The heating power of the microwave oven was discovered accidentally by a self-taught engineer named Percy Spencer, who noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket was melting while he was working on the microwaves produced by an active radar set. Spencer, with the help of Raytheon, the company where he worked during that time, began experimenting on other types of food and see if it could be cooked using microwaves. The first food that he tried to cook was popcorn, and after that experiment was successful, he moved on to cooking an egg. That egg exploded in the face of one of the experimenters that accompanied Spencer in his tests.

To prevent food explosions from occurring, Spencer created a metal box that could contain microwave power produced by a high-density electromagnetic field. Once it is filled with microwaves, the metal box began heating up and, in turn, cooked the food inside.

After proving that Spencer’s invention can be applied for restaurant use, Raytheon applied for a patent on October 8, 1945. A restaurant in Boston then began using the microwave box created by Spencer to test its capabilities.

The first commercially available microwave oven was manufactured in 1947 and was named the “Radarange” after an employee suggested it during a naming contest in Raytheon. The oven was 1.8 meters tall and weighed 340 kilograms. The Radarange consumed three kilowatts, which is three times higher than today’s standard microwave. During that time, the Radarange was priced at $5,000, which is about $57,000 today. Interestingly, a working Radarange still exists today, and it is being used in the galley of the NS Savannah, a nuclear-powered cargo ship.

The price for microwave ovens started to go down during the 1960s when Japanese companies like Sharp manufactured smaller ovens that can be used on the countertop. A company called Litton further reduced the price for microwave ovens when they introduced two ovens that were priced at $349 and $399. Sharp continued to produce less expensive microwave ovens, which allowed them to dominate the market since many homeowners would rather buy their affordable ovens instead of choosing others.

Because of Sharp and Litton’s efforts to boost their sales and supplying almost every home with a microwave oven, it was reported that in 1985, about 25% of families in the United States has a microwave oven in their home, and in 1997, the percentage increased to 90%.

However, the microwave oven slowly became unpopular in the 2000s, when several rumors began circulating that the microwaves produced by the appliance can cause cancer. During that period, slow cookers like the Crock-Pot experienced a reemergence in the market, as many suggest that a slow cooker is a much safer option for heating food than a microwave oven.

The rumors about the microwave oven were eventually proven to be false in the late 2000s, and the sales for the oven started to normalize, though the Crock-Pot and other slow cookers are still being used today because they are better at heating stews and soups.

All of these methods for preserving, preparing, and cooking food are essential to how the food culture around the world is shaped at the present time. Refrigeration helped us preserve food for longer periods of time, microwave ovens allowed us to heat foods faster, pizza became everyone’s favorite food since there are a lot of options to suit anyone’s preference when it comes to ingredients and flavors, the sandwich has become the de facto food for those who are always on the go, and fast-food restaurants are now found in almost every corner of the world.

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