Our favorite summer foods, explained

Slide show: From potato salad to ice cream sundaes, a look at the surprising histories of 9 American staples

By Ann Treistman
Published July 9, 2011 8:01PM (EDT)

Thinking about American cookery from its very roots reveals how nearly everything we eat came from Europe with settlers. It also makes very clear the elaborate -- and sometimes random -- updates and changes that have been made to these dishes. Brownies were once prepared without chocolate (is a brownie without chocolate really a brownie? you might ask). Pumpkin pie was made with rosemary, thyme and apples. Granula, a precursor to today's granola, was as hard as a rock and had to be soaked in milk before it was eaten. Biscuits went from twice-cooked pucks taken on ship journeys because they never became stale (they started out that way) to the flaky, buttery mounds we enjoy today. Peanuts for peanut butter were once boiled, not roasted. And there are dozens of variations on meatloaf; we added the ketchup and the cheese.

Here is a slide show that explains the origins of some of our most American summer dishes. I hope you will enjoy the roundabout journey.

Ann Treistman is the author of "73 Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep," and now "Who Put the Devil in Deviled Eggs." She has also worked extensively as a cookbook editor. She lives with her family in New York City.

This slide show is excerpted with permission from Skyhorse Publishing.

Ann Treistman

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Eatymology Food History