Thursday, March 13, 2014

Breakfast in America: circa 1491

(Sorry, for some reason, I can not get the hyperlink to embed the stupid EweToob video like normal; you will just have to click on it or cut and paste it to another tab to listen to it.

Holy Guacamole! You just know that you will be humming this song all day long now. I don't know if the "A.V.O.C.A.D.O." dance will quite catch on in the clubs like the "Y.M.C.A." dance did, though.)

Did you ever wonder what was eaten for breakfast (I am pretty sure they didn't serve anything stupid called "Brunch" in the Halls of Moctezuma) in the New World before the invasion (♪ "You say discovery, I say invasion; potato, tomato; let's call the whole thing off…" ♪) by the Europeans? I suppose that this 'blog-entry really isn't as much about breakfast as it is more of a PSA[1] on what foods were indigenous to the Americas before the onslaught of the White Devils.

The following is just a partial list of what was available to eat (either breakfastarily or for other meals) to the natives of the northern and southern American continents:

Acorns or Oak Nuts ~ botanically this is an actual nut (but not really a form of maize); while acorns were indigenous and served as a source of food to both the New and Old Worlds, it was a very important food staple to the Californian Native Americans[2].

Agave[3] ~ there are four major parts of the agave that are edible: the flowers, the leaves, the stalks, and the sap; and need I say more than Tequila (the best of which should be made from 100% Blue Agave plants)?

Avocado ~ which is botanically a berry/fruit, but is generally treated more as a vegetable; however, it does make a very interesting flavour of Ice Cream.

Blueberries ~ this is also an actual botanical berry; the closely related bilberry is indigenous to the Old World, though.

Cashews[4] ~ these are not actually a botanical nuts; what we eat as the "nut" is actually the dried seed of the drupe of the cashew fruit.

Cassava[5]/Manioc[6]/Yuca[7] ~ in addition to being eaten whole as a tuberous root, the starch can be extracted to make tapioca[8].
Chayote ~ originally native to Mexico or Central America; it makes an excellent relleno dish, too.

Chestnuts ~ another actual botanical nut ~ whether ♪ "roasting on an open fire…" ♪ or not; there is also a related species of trees that is indigenous to the Old World, including Asia.

Chillies and Bell Peppers ~ all of which are botanical berries; this fruit (along with corn/maize, tomatoes, potatoes, and chocolate) may very well be one of the most adapted foods that was adopted from the New World into almost every Old World cuisine.

Chocolate ~ (see 'blog-entry from October 10th, 2013 for more information)

Common beans/String beans ~ here's a little known Cliff Clavin-esque fact: the very first green bean casserole ever invented was served at the First Thanksgiving dinner by a woman named Mrs. Campbell.

Corn/Maize ~ not to be confused with boiled and buttered mice.

Cranberries ~ which is another actual botanical berry.

Guava[9] ~ native to Mexico, Central America, and northwestern South America.

Jícama[10] ~ also called Mexican yam or Mexican turnip; I like this tuberous root best just cut up fresh into a salad for a refreshing, crisp crunch.

Lima beans ~ are of Andean and Mesoamerican origin.

Maple syrup ~ usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees; maple syrup was first collected and used by the indigenous peoples of North America.

Papaya ~ native to the tropics of the Americas, from southern Mexico to Central America.

Passion fruit ~ native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina.

Peanuts ~ not a botanical nut, it is actually a legume; here's another little known Cliff Clavin-esque fact: the term "goober" as another name for peanut was actually named after the great-grandfather of George Lindsey who owned a large peanut plantation in Georgia before the Civil War.[11]

Pecans[12] ~ also not a botanical nut, what we eat is the seed of the pecan tree; it is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America (from Mexico to Iowa).

Pineapple ~ indigenous to South America (originating between southern Brazil and Paraguay); I would also like to point out (for those of you that have no grasp of the completely obvious) that this fruit is neither related to pine cones, nor apples.

Potato ~ species occur throughout the Americas, from the United States to southern Chile; originally domesticated in southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia 7,000-10,000 years ago; and this is also another edible member of the deadly nightshade family (see 'blog-entry from February 8th, 2012 for more information).

Pumpkin ~ like other squash, it is thought to have originated in North America; pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7,000 and 5,500 B.C. were found in Mexico; and as hard as it may be to believe, this is another botanical berry.

Squash ~ a genus of the gourd family; native to and originally cultivated in the Andes and Mesoamerica; this includes varieties such as: summer squash, zucchini, acorn squash (but not really related to the oak nut or maize in any way), butternut squash; winter squash, and others.

Sunflowers (and their edible seeds) ~ there is evidence that it was first domesticated in Mexico around 2,600 B.C.

Sweet potato ~ in South America, Peruvian sweet potato remnants have been found dating as far back as 8,000 B.C.; it is only distantly related to the common potato and does not belong to the nightshade family.

Tomatillo ~ originating in Mexico, the plant is another member of the nightshade family.

Tomato ~ despite what they would have you believe in the finest Pizzerias in Napoli, this botanical berry/fruit also originated in Mexico.

Vanilla ~ first cultivated along the east coast of Mexico, it is a member of the orchid family (I have mentioned here before the word origin of "vanilla"; however, if you would like a nice little cunning linguist chuckle, I suggest looking it up yourself on

If you were wondering (and even if you weren't wondering) why I typed some of the above foods in the plural form and others in the singular form, mind your own business! Besides, when was the last time you ever ate more than two Pumpkins or Vanillas ~ or even one single blueberry or peanut?

Beans, squash, and corn/maize all made up the "Three Sisters" that provided the foundation of Native American agriculture. (see: succotash[13])

The natives of the New World also ate their share of meats and poultry, e.g. Bison, Turkey, and Guinea Pig (yes, Guinea Pig ~ that is not a typo, nor a joke). 

I would just like to point out again, that prior to Cristoforo Colombo stumbling upon "the New World", Neapolitan Ice Cream would have been just called "gelato alla fragola".

Lastly, the saying "as 'merican as Apple Pie…” is a huge misnomer. Apples were brought to the New World by the Europeans. If you want to describe something as truly 'merican, try "Pecan Pie" or "Pumpkin Pie".

1. PSA in this instance stands for "Particularly Stupid Assessment", of course.

2. Neither of which names (California, nor America) would have been known to the indigenous populace before 1492. Why they are referred to as such is a mystery to me, but I suppose it beats being called "Indians" or "Redskins"… unless you happen to be from the Land of Cleves or the Nation's Capital.

3. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number one:

I always assumed that the word "agave" was of Mesoamerican origin; however, it is actually New Latin taken from the Greek word "agauē", which is the feminine of "agauós", meaning "noble, brilliant".

4. "Cashew!" is the Portuguese equivalent to the German word "Gesundheit!" and is what someone would say when another person sneezes. Apparently, the pollen produced from the flowers of this tree usually has an extreme allergy reaction.*

*(Okay, even I wouldn't have bought that one. 

Actual stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number two:

The English name for "cashew" derives from the Portuguese word "caju", which itself is derived from the indigenous Tupi word "acajú", meaning "nut that produces itself".)

5. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number three:

"Cassava" is from the Spanish word "cazabe" (meaning "cassava bread") and comes from the Taino word "caçábi".

6. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number four:

"Manioc" is from the Tupi word "mandioca".

7. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number five:

"Yuca" (not to be confused with "yucca" or that ex-Boston Red Sox First Basemen in any way) is from Spanish, said to be from the Carib word for the same cassava root.

8. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number six:

"Tapioca" is derived from the Tupi word "tipi'óka" (again not to be confused with the ex-Boston Red Sox Japanese pitcher from 1999-2001), which is the name for the starch from the cassava root.

9. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number seven:

"Guava" comes from the Spanish word "guayaba" and derives from the Arawak word "guayabo".

10. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number eight:

"Jícama" is a Mexican Spanish word from the Nahuatl word "xicama".

11. Seriously? Did anyone buy that one? This is where you need to go by the adage that "You can't believe anything you read on the Intro-Net…" ~ especially if I wrote it.

Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number nine:

The actual term "goober" is of African origin, it is related to Kikongo and Kimbundu "nguba", meaning "Charlie Brown".

12. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number ten:

"Pecan" comes from the French "pacane", which is from  Algonquian "paccan" (meaning "nut with a hard shell"); related to Ojibwa "pagân" or Cree "pakan".

13. Stupid, useless cunning linguist/pseudo-etymological pointer of the day, number eleven:

"Succotash" comes from Narraganset "msiquatash", meaning "broken pieces of corn".

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