Have you ever wondered about the history of some of your favorite foods?
Occasionally, the origin stories of popular foods are far different than what you might think. For example, did you know that Philadelphia Cream Cheese isn’t from Pennsylvania at all? Or that it’s possible the California roll was actually invented in Canada?
Prepare to have your mind blown (or at the very least, to work up an appetite) with these true tales of the origins of 4 popular foods.
4. California Roll
Was the California roll invented in the Golden State? That’s up for debate. As it turns out, there’s a strong argument that the roll may have originated in Canada.
According to some accounts, the California roll was concocted by a Japanese chef named Hidekazu Tojo who was living in Vancouver, Canada, at the time.
Tojo claims he created the “inside-out” style of sushi, and that it was dubbed the “California roll” because of its popularity with tourists from California.
However, there’s another California roll camp that believes the roll was actually developed in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles when a chef was running low on fatty fish and replaced it with avocado in his roll. Grab a roll and some soy sauce, and ponder this one for a bit.
3. German Chocolate Cake
This chocolate cake, with its sweet, caramel-coconut topping, is absolutely delicious. What it is not, however, is German. The cake, instead, gets its moniker from an American baker named Samuel German.
Samuel German developed a specific type of sweetened baking chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company in the 1850s, which was subsequently named after him.
It wasn’t until about 100 years later that the cake that was named after him became a hit. In 1957, a recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake” was published in a Texas newspaper. In today’s parlance we’d say it “went viral” and was shared widely. Eventually, the possessive “s” in the recipe title was dropped, adding to the confusion about where the cake came from.
2. Tortilla Chips
It’s hard to imagine a Mexican food outing without tortilla chips. But while these heavenly triangles of fried tortilla are standard in restaurants, they were actually dreamed up and developed in the U.S., not Mexico.
In the 1940s, an enterprising woman named Rebecca Webb Carranza wanted to make use of misshapen tortillas that were being discarded at her family’s deli in Los Angeles.
She originally cut portions of tortilla and then fried them for a family get-together. They proved so popular that the family business began to sell them by the bagful for a nominal fee. Little did she know she was starting an international sensation.
1. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
Where did Philadelphia Cream Cheese come from? Not Pennsylvania. The famous spread was actually concocted in the state of New York. And no, it wasn’t in Philadelphia, New York, though yes, there is such a city.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese was developed in 1872 by William Lawrence of Chester, New York. He was trying to replicate a French cheese called neufchâtel (which is today sometimes sold as “low fat cream cheese” in the U.S.).
Originally marketed by the Empire Cheese Company, the product was sold in a signature foil wrapper. In the 1880s, the product was renamed Philadelphia Cream Cheese. This was, perhaps, to cash in on the cachet of the city of Philadelphia, which at the time was seen as a leader in innovation and technology.