Food tells our history. Here’s some about dessert from the Chicago Tribune:
Desserts are the sweet stuff of which memories are made, particularly in a holiday season, a time typically so rich with recollections. Salute that spirit with a historic dessert rooted in the North American past. For while tastes, trends and technology come and go, the country’s sweet tooth has remained ever keen.
“Add those two things up and it sort of represents the culture,” Krondl says. “We don’t like to change our culture too much. We give lip service to change but we don’t like it too much. So foods stick around.”
Traditional desserts are a particularly delectable way of connecting vividly with that culture. One may not be able to literally step into the shoes of one’s forefathers and foremothers but one can sup pretty much as they did.
But today’s cooks need to remember that desserts — like much of everything else — were different then.
“These recipes were not designed to match anybody’s modern diet plan,” says Frank Clark, supervisor of historic foodways at Colonial Williamsburg, the living history museum in Williamsburg, Va. “There was lots of butter, lots of cream, lots of eggs.”
But that was — and is — part of the charm of historic desserts. Sweets so epitomized hospitality that they were distributed throughout the menu. (“Dessert” as such was defined in the French sense back in Colonial America, as a small palate-cleanser to be enjoyed before leaving the table.)
“Most of the 18th-century upscale entertaining was done with sweets,” says chef Walter Staib of Philadelphia’s City Tavern, host of television’s “A Taste of History” and author of a new cookbook, “A Sweet Taste of History” (Lyons, $29.95). “It was a way to show up the Joneses.”
“Today, we don’t go in much for these celebratory everybody-eats-the-cake desserts,” says Krondl. “They used to make election cakes that served 150 people. The tendency now is that everyone gets their own cupcake.”