Anthropology of squash


Anthropology of squash brought to you by:

To Dine for Catering, serving Portland’s catering needs.

            All of the wonderful squash varieties that we are most familiar with come from the Cucurbita genus. Their ancestors are native to the Americas and were growing here long before the arrival of humans. It is believed that their originated somewhere in southern Mexico, then variations made their way further south into southern South America as well as north into what is now known as the southwestern US. Even though the Cucurbita hybridizations started early, no species of Cucurbita is genetically isolated from any of the other members of the genus; this means that they can cross breed making for the almost endless varieties that we see in the fall.

According to some anthropologists, human use of these species dates between 8,000-10,000 years ago. These dates are based on evidence found in a series of excavations at Oaxaca, Mexico in the 1960’s and 1970’s where cashes of seeds were found is association with human dwellings. The process of the domestication and agricultural pursuit of the squashes took place between 5,000 and 6,500 years ago in Mesoamerica with the advent of cultivated corn and beans shortly after that. This trifecta of crops became known as the three sister’s agricultural system of companion planting. The three crops benefit from being grown with each other; corn giving beans something to climb up while the squash leaves blocked sunlight from the ground inhibiting weed growth. The many forms of squash have had a culinary place in almost every native group from South America to southern Canada and the three crops were depicted together in artwork of the Native Peoples of this continent for at least 2,000 years. In the Narragansett language, used by the Native Peoples of Rhode Island, called them askutasquash while similar words for squash exist in the Algonquin family of languages as well.

We can attribute the global proliferation of squash to Christopher Columbus’s contact with the Americas in 1492. Shortly after that the first depiction of squashes appeared in Rome originating somewhere between 1515 and 1518. Current production of squash world wide is dominated by China where they produce over six million metric tons per year. India is a close second at over 4 million metric tons of squash while the third producer, Russia, and fourth producer America produce under a million metric tons per year respectively. The US likes squash so much that they are the world’s largest importer of this delicacy with over 250,000 metric tons coming from Mexico annually.    

For your next event in Portland, call To Dine for Catering and remember to order some zucchini, acorn squash or butternut squash and celebrate a multifaceted food source that was one of the first domesticated food stuffs in our continent.

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Anthropology of Asparagus


Anthropology of Asparagus brought to you by:

To Dine For Catering, serving Portland’s catering needs.

               The oldest representation of Asparagus comes from Egypt and was found on what is known as a Frieze, which is basically a column with crown molding at the top; the asparagus is shown as an offering to the gods and it dates 3,000 years B.C. This perennial plant is thought to be native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia and its Latin name is Asparagus officinalis. The later part of its name, officinalis, is a Medieval Latin epithet that is used when an organism is used in herbalism as medicine.

            In previous taxonomy asparagus, onions and garlic were all classified in the lily family but now, like a vegetative broken home, the family has been split up and their last names have changed. The Greeks and Romans enjoyed this spring vegetable both fresh and dried but the Romans may have loved it most of all. They were so fond of asparagus that they would freeze it in the high Alpine snow and then fetch it again for the feast of Epicurus which happened once a month and was dedicated to the belief that peace and freedom from fear can be attained by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends and, seemingly, asparagus. The first Emperor of Rome, Augustus (who ruled from 27 B.C. till his death in 14 A.D) enjoyed the vegetable so much that he had a specific fleet of asparagus movers and coined the much used expression “Faster than cooking asparagus” when he wanted something done quickly. In the oldest known cook book dates to the 5th century A.D. and is called the Apicius or De re coquinaria, which means “On the Subject of Cooking”. With its pages we find the first written recipe for an asparagus dish.

Throughout most of Europe asparagus is white and is known as “the Royal Vegetable”, “white gold” or “edible ivory” and must be peeled before it can be eaten. This white variety is accomplished by depriving the young shoots from light so that no photosynthesis occurs. In Germany it is common for local cities to have an annual Spargelfest which translated means asparagus festival to celebrate the harvest of asparagus. The Germanic town of Schwetzingen holds the title of “Asparagus capital of the World” and at their festival they crown the Asparagus Queen and most likely also have the most fragrant restrooms known to man.

Next time you are going to have a celebration that needs catering in Portland remember to call To Dine for Catering and remember to ask for the 6,000 year old delicacy asparagus in one of your dishes!

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Anthropology of Pasta


Anthropology of Pasta brought to you by:

To Dine for Catering, serving Portland’s catering needs.

 

Arguably pasta has been around since before Christ; it was written about by the Roman poet Horace who lived from 65 B.C to 8 B.C. These early pastas may not have resembled what we think of as pasta today because ancient pasta was thin sheets of dough that was cooked by frying in oil not boiling in water. They show up again in writings from the 1st century and in the early 5th century when early forms of lasagna start to appear in Italy; but during this time the dough was till fried, which may account for its popularity. During this same early time, in Jerusalem, the Talmud mentions boiled dough. Boiled pasta was probably not invented by the Italians but by the Palestinians some where in the 4th or 5th century.

According to some historians, the first written record of “dried” pasta was in the 9th century when Arabian travelers utilized it as a staple on their notoriously long journeys. The pasta they used was thought to be produced in what is now known as Sicily, Italy. Pasta finally became really successful as a foodstuff around the 14th century probably due to the fact that it could be stored for a long time. Pasta was an important foodstuff whose long shelf life allowed people to explore the world. This idea is supported by the fact that pasta had world wide distribution by the 15th century which correlated with the voyages of discovery. It seems that pasta was a hit unlike the European domination the brought it.

Technically there are 310 forms of pasta but they go by over 1300 names globally. For lack of the ability to go in depth into each verity, I will define them by category.

The long pasta: are made by rolling and cutting pasta dough or by forcing the dough through a plate with an opening in it known as a pasta die. This method is called extrusion and is how they make: Spaghetti, Capellini and Fusilli pastas. There are also short cut extruded pastas like: Cannelloni, Manicotti and macaroni which are made the same way but the end product come out as a shorter noodle.

Next we have the ribbon cut pastas like: Lasagna, Fettuccine and Linguini which come from dough that has been rolled flat and cut into strips either by hand or machine.

Then there are the decorative cut pastas which take any form that the pasta maker chooses and are easily the prettiest looking of all the pasta varieties. Within this group there are also the less visually appealing, but still delicious, irregular shaped pastas like: Gnocchi and Spatzle.

Last but not least are the stuffed pastas which include: Ravioli, Tortellini and Pierogi; there common names sometimes translate as dumplings or little pies or bellybuttons.

For your next event in Portland, call To Dine for Catering and remember to order some pasta and celebrate a noodle that spanned the globe!

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Cassius Clay Cocktail


2 parts Rye Whiskey

1 part Cassis Liquor

2 squeezes Agave Syrup

juice from 1/2 a lime and 1/2 a lemon

Stir with ice and pour over a giant ice cube in a separate glass.

Makes one cocktail that will make you float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

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Instant Manhattan – fig infused bourbon


Super easy recipe.

Fill a quart jar 3/4′s of the way full with dried black mission figs.

Add Maker Mark bourbon to the top.

Let it sit for about 3 weeks.

Pour over ice and enjoy.

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Anthropology of Grape Wine


Anthropology of Grape Wine

brought to you by:

To Dine For Catering, serving Portland’s catering needs.

             Historically fermented drinks were a far better option than water because the alcohol content and fermentation process meant that they were safer to drink when the quality of water was a bit uncertain. Some have even suggested that the addition of alcohol to the human diet was a keystone in the advancement of societies because it limited the occurrence of water born disease. The history of grape wine is deeply intertwined with the advent of agriculture but its beginnings surely started with wild fruit of many kinds that were often mixed with honey and sometimes grains.

            The first archaeological evidence of wine production comes from China where wine residues (tartaric acid) were found on pottery shards at the Jiahu site. The shards have been radiocarbon dated to around 7,000 B.C. In Iran an archaeological site called Hajji Firuz has been associated with wine production and storage because clay jars found at the site have tannin and tartaric acid sediments that date to around 5,000 years B.C. Soon after this we start to see wine production all around the area with the oldest known winery found in Armenia; it dates to around 4,100 B.C. Archaeologists found a wine press, fermentation vats, grape seeds and grape vines at this location. By 3,200 B.C. there is evidence that domesticated grapes were starting to be farmed in western Asia and Egypt.

Wine was an influential component in early globalization because it was used as a trade product and a social lubricant that fostered communication between cultures and paved the way for these cultures to come together to share ideas and technologies. The Phoenicians were the first to employ this strategy in 1,500 B.C. when they distribute wine throughout the Mediterranean. Around 0 A.D there is a record of Jesus turning water into wine at the marriage at Cana. He reluctantly does this when his mother tells him that the party has run out of wine and she wants him to do something about it. It is noted in the bible that one person at the wedding said that Jesus’ wine was the best wine served at the marriage. This event where Jesus makes wine is his first recorded miracle and also noted as the moment when his disciples started to believe in him (John 2:11). Wine has a deep connection to Greek and Roman religions too with gods like Dionysus and Bacchus showing reverence for the intoxication brought on by wine consumption with reverent if not fully religious tone. A thousand years after Jesus Chateau de Goulaine was built; it is the oldest known still operating winery.

At To Dine For Catering, in junction with Drink – Bar and Events, we are more than happy to include wine, beer or full service bars at your next event. Contact us with inquiries and we will fulfill all your Portland catering needs. Cheers!

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Anthropology of Cheese


Anthropology of Cheese

brought to you by:

To Dine For Catering, serving Portland’s catering needs.

             Cheese is formed by denaturing the protein casein in milk which causes the proteins to then stick together; this is called coagulation. The name casein is derived from a Latin word caseus which is also where we derive the word cheese. The denaturing is usually done by an enzyme called Rennet that acidifies the milk causing the curds to separate from the rest of the liquid. This liquid is also knows as whey. These curds separated from the whey and are further processed into cheese by methods specific to the kind of cheese being produced. Depending on the animal milk, the molds or other ingredients introduced and the artisanal nature of the cheese maker hundreds of different cheeses are produced around the world.

Archaeologically cheese shows up first in the record in Poland where cheese strainers with milk fat on them have been recovered and dated to 5,500 year ago. It has also been proposed that cheese making coincided with sheep domestication which may have started as much as 8,000 years ago. It is thought by some that cheese may have been discovered by traders who were storing milk in animal stomachs (a common container in the years before zip lock bags); the rennet in the stomach caused the proteins to denature and separated the curds from the whey. There are many legends of an Arabian trader who stored milk in stomachs; he is credited by some with discovering cheese but it is likely that cheese could have also been discovered many times independently due to a desire to store milk for long periods. Egyptian tomb paintings have representations of cheese that date back 2,000 years. Homer has a Cyclops making cheese in his Odyssey and Pliny the Elder devotes a chapter in his Natural History describing the diversity of cheeses in the early Roman Empire. Because house and monastery cheese making became popular, local characteristics (due to local molds) became regionally prevalent in cheeses. Brittan claims to have 700 distinct cheese varieties while France and Italy have 400 different cheeses attributed to each of their countries. The cheeses we know as Cheddar, Gouda, Camembert, and Parmesan are all cheeses that came about after about 1,500 A.D. Today The International Dairy Association only acknowledges around 500 different cheeses worldwide. This year Swiss Emmentaler has been named the best cheese in the world scoring 97.85 out of 100 points at the international cheese competition held in Wisconsin.

Cheese is not just delicious; it has been shown to have positive effects on sleep as well. In 2005 the British Cheese Board released a study in which the majority of people who consumed cheese claimed to have better sleep. This is due to the amino acid in cheese called tryptophan which is the same amino acid in Turkey that makes you fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, this study showed that different cheeses produce different types of dreams. This makes me wonder if there is a cheese that makes you dream of cheese and if so where can I get some? So, the next time you are having an event catered around Portland don’t forget to call us at To Dine For Catering and we will make sure to add the cheese!

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Bacon – A Portland favorite, especially in catering.


Anthropology of Bacon brought to you by:
To Dine For Catering, serving Portland’s catering needs.

​The earliest known record of pig meat dates from 8000 B.C. in southeastern Turkey which makes it the oldest known domesticated animal next to the dog. There seems to have been a boom in pig farming around 5000 B.C. in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East because the archeological record fills up with more than 20 subspecies of pig bones. Carvings that were found at the Iberian Peninsula called verracos were carved by Celt and date from between 5000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. They suggest that swine had some sort of religious role in their culture. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese sacrificed pigs to ward off bad spirits and it is though that the sacrificial needs of these cultures drove the process of pig domestication. Currently there is one pig for every person in China and they have 40% of the world’s pork. Denmark is the only country that actually has more pigs per capita than it has people. Good for them, it sounds like a nice place.
Cured pig meet is the product known so fondly as bacon and some of its earliest fans were the Romans who ate bacon boiled with figs which they called petaso. Bacon means meat from the “back of an animal” and comes from the Germanic base word bak. This is the same derivative that the English use to get their word for back. The average American eats 18 pounds of bacon every year with 70% of the bacon eaten in America being served for breakfast.
Bacon seems to have curious effects on people; the fact of the matter is that bacon is actually addictive! Studies show that bacon has six different types of umami. Umami is the term for savory and is one of the five basic taste profiles, the others being: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. A recent article on CNN’s health website says that these umami ingredients in bacon actually have neurochemical responses in the brain that are linked with addiction. By overloading our brain with delicious bacon we flood our pleasure centers creating an inflated pleasure threshold that needs more and more bacon to achieve the same “bacon high.” According to Arun Gupta of The Indypendent the chain lards on bacon that give bacon its flavor cannot be substituted by any other product. I could have told her that.
​Bacon is a $4 billion dollar business in America and is seeing an explosion in popularity which has been dubbed “bacon mania”. This surge of interest is seen as an American cultural characteristic and suggests that this love for bacon is in part a rebellion from a modern health-conscious social environment. Next time you think of catering something in Portland, remember to get something with bacon in it and think of To Dine For Catering to bring it to you. Viva la Bacon!

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To~ma~toe


Anthropology of Tomato;

With the tomato being such an important part of the To Dine For kitchen, one of Portland’s many great caterers.  We thought we would give you a little incite on this wonderful fruit of the Gods.

The tomato is a relative of the deadly nightshade and its name first appeared in the historic record in 1595. Before it was called the tomato it was called the golden apple in Spain for a while. Some botanists thought it was a type of eggplant. It was native to South America and it shows up in our around 500 BC archaeological record. The seeds were found in southern Mexico; the Pueblo people believed that by ingesting tomato seeds they were given the power of divination.

Most tomatoes probably started small and yellow. It was H. Cortes who may have brought the little yellow tomato to Europe. If it was Cortes then he did it right after he crushed the Aztecs and sacked their main city Tenochtitlan. If this is the case then the tomato is a war trophy.

Another possibility would be that Christopher Columbus could have brought them back with him as early as 1493. The distribution of the tomato was a quick one with tomatoes showing up in Italy and Britain between 1550 and 1590. Tomatoes were a hit and with that came hybrids. Today there are approximately 7500 varieties and probably more recipes than that on how to make the tomato into the fruit of the Gods.

This publication brought to you by Portland Catering blog expert,

Shawn Duncan

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Love is in the air…Valentine’s Day Catering


Are you wondering what to get that special someone or even more importantly, where to go eat?!  Maybe you waited too long to make a reservation to get into that hot new restaurant that is all the rave in Portland.

Why not consider catering.  An intimate dinner party for two, who wouldn’t want that.  Just think of the possibilities.

Create your own menu with a your partners favorite dishes.  No shopping to do, no cooking, no clean up.  Sounds like a win win situation to me.  You can even have us drop off the whole meal early so you can put it on your own serving ware.  Or maybe not, a relationship does have to based on trust first and foremost.  Besides, getting served in your own home is quite the decadent experience.

Will it be expensive?  Let’s be honest, it will be more than a restaurant. So if you plan on spending no more than a hundred dollars then this will not work.  But, if you are planning on going to one of Portland’s top restaurants, you WILL spend at least $300 for a party of two.  So why not grab a bottle of wine from the cellar (no corkage fee) and call Portland’s top catering company, To Dine For, a get a romantic evening set up that your loved one will remember for the rest of his or her life.  And just think, you can get drunk at home at not have to drive, no sitter for the baby and / or puppy, the next step in Valentine’s Day is right up stairs or wherever your little love nest might be.

If you have already made plans for a great dinner out, then make a note to remind yourself for next year.  Personalized catering for your intimate dinner for two is as easy as an email or phone call to Portland’s five star rated catering company, To Dine For Catering.

Lots of love,

Cupid

Valentine's Day For Two

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