Dietribes: Raisin d'Etre

From the 1812 battle cry "Remember the Raisin!" to the groundbreaking (and Tony award winning) "Raisin in the Sun" to baseball (Fresno's first professional baseball team was founded in 1908, with the team's official name being the Fresno State League Club. They were, however, nicknamed the "Raisin Eaters"), the raisin is a staple of our culture and our trail mixes. Regarding the raisin, here is what I've heard through the grapevine ...

"¢ 1873 brought about a happy accident for raisin lovers. Though grapes, prunes and currants had been rattling around since Roman times, the commercialization of the seedless raisin started with William Thompson of California. In Fresno County, a sundry of his grape bunches dried by accident, creating the first raisin crop. It was transported to San Francisco and sold as a "Peruvian delicacy."

"¢ Thompson can also be credited with taking the seeds out of his grapes, and therefore his raisins. Now the Thompson Seedless Grape is used to make 95% of California raisins, which are sorted by lasers at the plant.

"¢Â Speaking of the California Raisins, whoever thought a Claymation commercial for raisins would be so popular should be knighted. Those singing raisins certainly made dried fruit hip. And how many of you out there owned the toys and remember the Christmas Special?

"¢Â Besides the California Raisins, the most iconic raisin image is probably that of the Sun Maid raisin girl. The original model, Lorraine Collett, was spotted while in her backyard in Fresno, CA. A watercolor portrait of her was later trademarked, and the original red bonnet worn has faded to pink and is now on display at the Smithsonian.

"¢Â According to the History of Raisins, during World War I "war cakes" regained popularity, along with mock mince "meat" pies made with raisins. The dried grape also found favor as a portable and durable foodstuff for the Allied soldiers. With the demand for high-energy foods and sugar substitutes escalating during World War II, the War Production Board ordered California's entire wine grape crop be made into raisins.

"¢ Raisins are of course also a healthy snack. Children living in the postwar city of Berlin delighted in packets of raisins dropped for their benefit by planes participating in the Berlin Airlift. These planes become known as the "raisin bombers." The farthest a raisin has traveled? Space! Robert E. Peary has taken raisins to the North Pole and astronaut Scott Carpenter also packed them as a snack in space.

"¢ There are plenty of ways to enjoy raisins, and you can start by enjoying some raisin wine. What other ways do you consume this tasty dried fruit, or what traditional dishes do you add it to?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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