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Some Food Origins

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You may have heard that pizza is an American invention, ice cream is Italian, and The Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich. Not so! Here's a look at the origins of some foods you enjoy every day. Some are a lot older than you may think!

The sandwich was named after John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was a prominent citizen of 18th century England and who did, indeed, eat meat between two slices of bread. But he was far from the first. The earliest recorded account of what became known as a sandwich was a Passover dish. The ancient sage Hillel was known to put meat from the Passover lamb, along with the ceremonial bitter herbs, inside matzo (unleavened bread). Montague was also not the first sandwich-eater in Britain, as bread was often used as plates during the Middle Ages. Even today, one of the best things about a sandwich is the lack of dishwashing involved.
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Pasta is an Italian word, and Italy probably has the highest usage of pasta in the world, as well as the most shapes. But the food that is unleavened dough, extruded and dried, then boiled before eating, is definately Chinese. The oldest known noodles (pictured above) were found in 2005 in northwest China, supposedly 4,000 years old. I've occasionally put off cleaning out my refrigerator for a long time, but that's ridiculous.

More food history, after the jump.

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Is ice cream really an Italian invention? That depends on how you define ice cream. Frozen desserts were made in ancient times by mixing various ingredients with snow or ice. In warmer climates, this was a delicacy reserved for the wealthy, as ice had to be brought down from the highest mountains. The Arabs were the first to make ice cream using sugar, and the first to sell such treats from commercial factories. The first ice cream using milk was created in Italy in the Middle Ages. Ice cream was served in the courts of Charles I and Charles II of England in the mid-1600s. Several ice cream recipes appeared in the a French cookbook in 1700. Recipes with actual cream didn't appear until the 18th century. The earliest known recipe with cream was published in 1751 by a London cookbook author named Hannah Glasse.

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You've probably been told that pizza is an American invention. Not so, it is quite Italian, but pizza would never be if it weren't for the Americas. If you define pizza as Mediterranian flatbread cooked with tomatos, then you have your American connection. The tomato is a native American plant, introduced to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish travelers to America. Many Europeans considered the tomato to be poison, but they got over that eventually. By the 18th century, poor people in Italy were making tomato-based pizza, which led to street vendors, then finally the first pizzaria, Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba in Naples.

Update: For a much more detailed history of pizza, see David's Tuesday Turnip!

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There's an old saying, If you love sausage and you love the law, you don't want to watch either being made. The word sausage covers a lot of different foods, but is usually defined as ground meat packed in casings, often with salt and spices for both flavor and preservation. Traditionally, the casings were the intestines of butchered animals, but now are often made of cellulose or plastic. Almost all populated areas of the world have their own forms of sausage. It was developed to efficiently use all the available meat from an animal, even if it were in parts too small to serve on their own... or too ugly to appear appetizing. The origins of sausage date back to at least 3000 BC, when Sumerians in what is now Iraq invented the technique.
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Coffee consumption goes back to Ethiopia in the nineth century. The legend says that shepherds noticed the strange energetic way their goats danced after eating the berries of the wild coffee plant. Whether the story is true or not, it brings up a nice picture. By the 15th century, the beverage was popular all over the Middle East. It spread to Italy and the rest of Europe, and became fashionable after Pope Clement VIII pronounced the "Muslim drink" acceptable to Christians in 1600. Coffee consumption in America rested upon the availability of tea. During the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, coffee gained a significant hold in the US due to trade problems with Britain. Today, the majority of caffeine consumed worldwide comes from coffee.
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Hamburgers are indeed named after Hamburg, Germany, where they put pork roast on a bun. However, the sandwich we know as a hamburger, with grilled ground beef, was first recorded in 1885 in the United States. The delicacy seemed to arise in several locations, with Seymour, Wisconsin, Athens, Texas, and Hamburg, New York all claiming the first hamburger. On the other hand, the hot dog has a European origin. Frankfurt maintains the Frankfurter wurst was developed in the city in the 1480s. Vienna claims the hot dog decended from its wienerwurst. The city of Coburg in Bavaria says that a butcher there invented the "dachshund" or "little-dog" sausage. In any event, you have to wonder why people say "as American as hot dogs," when the hamburger has a better claim.

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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