Another week has come and gone, and we at the Guide know that this means another food holiday. While last week we celebrated the culinary masterpiece that is the Taco, this week we decided to celebrate a food holiday that encapsulates so many other food holidays, your mind will be blown. Or maybe just my mind blew up. I can never quite tell. Regardless, we have celebrated this food holiday, in some ways, with honey, banana splits, ice cream cones, ice cream floats, and even jelly filled donuts. This holiday blows every other holiday out of the water when it comes to variety and imagination you can have with it. How can this happen? How is it even possible? Because on October 14th the Guide celebrates National Dessert Day. Mic dropped.
When I was doing research on the food holidays that came out this week, there were some mild temptations. Especially as I saw Pumpkin Pie day appear on the calendar. The downside of that day came in that different food sites disputed the different days on the calendar which celebrated that auspicious occasion. And we all know how National Hot Dog Day came out. The National Hot Dog Counsel made up their own day that was like Mother’s Day. It rotated depending on the time of the year. Third Wednesday in July, or some such nonsense they told me. And I resolved not to have another food holiday fiasco on my hands where I tried to write about the holiday after it occurred. I resolved it would never happen again.
So when it came down to holidays that we can all enjoy, and all agree on (at least until the national dessert counsel overrules me), National Dessert Day stood out above the pack. Why do I say that? As my daughter would say, “Duh daddy. Desserts are the best.” Whether this is true or not, desserts have such a stranglehold on our imaginations that the minute we think about them, we salivate.
What other types of food have so many different facsimiles because people who are on diets refuse to give them up? (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar-Free Cupcakes. Need I say more?) Speaking of which, what food pops into your mind, the moment you think of cheat days on your diet? I am betting it has some kind of a sweetener in it. Why? Because we love desserts. We cannot get enough of them. That may be the fault of the dreaded drug that John Oliver wants to eliminate from our diets. But desserts light something off in the pleasure centers of our brains we cannot deny. They stimulate us to crazy imaginative heights as our culinary confectionary masterpieces grow ever more elaborate. And it brings smiles to the faces of every child we come across.
Therefore I say desserts are here to stay. And so what? I think we all deserve some pleasure in our lives. And if something as simple as a culinary confection can lighten the face of the poorest individual with no upward prospects, why do we begrudge them that right? So live on desserts! Live on in our hearts and minds! Live on in the hearts of the creative chefs who design ever more elaborate and delicious delights to send our taste buds into before unreached heights of ecstasy. I celebrate you this October 14th. Because you have brought beauty to my life.
At this point, I usually discuss some personal connection to the food itself. But as Dessert is such a broad category, I did not know where to begin with my connection to the food. Desserts, while amazing, are not specific enough a food for me to talk about my personal experience. I just can say that I loved desserts as long as I understood what that term meant. I have had different favorite desserts from time to time. There was my lifelong love affair with ice cream. And of course who can forget my year’s long flirtation with donuts. And then when I had grown older cheesecake touched my heart in a way no other dessert could. I love desserts. Wait . . . did I say I loved desserts? Because I do.
But beyond my personal experiences, the Guide dedicates itself to the proposition that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. And that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of desserts. So with so firm a foundation, and that belief, the Guide has dedicated itself to the fake historical pursuit of all culinary masterpieces. For this we headed to the wild wilderness of the 6th Century to determine the culinary origins of all things dessert. Oh that’s right. I meant the 6th Century . . . B.C. (Cue dark and stormy Halloween music here. Lightning Flashes. Thunder Rumbles.) And with that silly intro, we bring you the best Fake Food History there is as the Guide Presents: the fake history of the dessert.
The Fake History Of The Dessert
We all know the story of Honey of the Cave People who tricked her fellow cave men into taking the syrup produced by bees without smoking the bees out first. Poor Ugh! And if you haven’t read about the history of this delicious sweetener, definitely check it out here. Most food historians believe that the first sweets were made from this honey prior to the 6th century B.C. Unfortunately, as most people did not know how to steal the honey from the bees, they were unable to take it to use. And it became cost prohibitive. No one could afford it
So along came Alexis Sucar and his amazing plants. He had these short little trees the elderly had used to walk with that they called canes. Alexis was very concerned about the elderly of his community and had felt like these canes could help. Why they were called canes is a mystery the Guide still is working on and we will get back to you when we find out. Nevertheless, Alexis grew tons of canes out in the field to help the elders in his tribe.
One summer, after a poor rainy season, he had a short crop of canes that he handed out. These canes lasted three weeks before they started breaking. As they broke, a substance oozed out of the cane and was sticky and gross to the touch. The villagers were very mad at Alexis. They were so angry that Alexis ran away out into the field of canes to take a look at the defective crop. He got so angry and beat on them until the oozy liquid would get stuck all over his hands and shirt.
Alexis, after he calmed down, decided to wash off the liquid in the nearby river. Unfortunately, due to the rain shortage that year, had a dried up riverbed to work with. He couldn’t imagine having this sticky substance on his body for days, so he began to spit on and lick up the sticky stuff on his hands. All of a sudden he noticed the sticky substance was amazingly sweet. He licked it all off both hands as if he was savoring the wine made after they harvested and pressed the grapes every year. He knew he had a gold mine.
Alexis tried different ways of collecting the sap but breaking it down and boiling the stalks worked the best. And it reduced to a nice sugary liquid that he added to other drinks and items them made in the village. Before long Alexis syrup excited the whole village. And what did they call this substance? Sucar of course. The word Sucar would eventually transform into the sugar that we know of today.
As for where this sugar would get used, originally this amazing treat was made for the Gods. Both ancient India and Mesopotamia served sacrifices to their idols with sugary treats. Of course given that it was sugar it burnt easily and charred everything in black. By 500 B.C. India and China had come up with ways of refining the process and started making it for mass production in those countries. Sugar has found it’s ways into the tables of everyone in the East. But sugar and all things beautiful didn’t make their way into the west until nearly the 12th Century A.D. Those sugar hoarders!!!Of course, they seemed content
Of course, they would be content to keep their sugar until foreign invaders would be making their way across to the East during the Crusades. As the war for whose religion was right raged across the whole of the known world, crusaders found this mysterious white out seeking help from the villagers they had run across. Some woman was baking sweet bread in her kitchen when David Coke, Julius Killjoy, and Earnest Desservir saw the ingredients and the sugar all pilled up ready to be put together. They agreed they would help the woman if they could get some meat to take with them on the journey.
As these men did not seem as dangerous and as violent as some, the woman hesitantly agreed. But as they were combining the ingredients, David looked at the white crystalline substance on the table. He wasn’t all that bright and began to stick one of the crystals up his nose. Julius knocked the crystal out of David’s hand and told him not to do that. Earnest grabbed the crystal and tested it first with his mouth and noticed how sweet it was. He asked the woman what they should do with it for the bread. She motioned for them to crush it and then add it to the dough mixture. That night after baking, each of them agreed they had the most delicious bread in their lives. They bartered to bring back a crystal with them instead of taking the beef.
The three crazy knights bartered to bring back a crystal with them instead of taking the beef. To the woman, this was so much easier as it was plentiful in her country. She was astounded how little she had to give up to get the men to go. So David, Julius, and Earnest returned from the east about 10 years later with the crystal they brought back with them. David shortly thereafter died of wounds he had received in battle. And Julius had some mysterious ailment that took him. Earnest, the last holder of the crystal decided that he would start a little sweet bread shop in the south of France.
He broke the crystals up and served it in the bread made at his shop. Quickly these pieces of bread gained so much fame that the king demanded that he come to the palace and be his royal baker. Back then, when a king asked, it was an offer you couldn’t refuse. And so Earnest packed up his life and went to the palace with family in tow. He would make these special sweetbreads until eventually, he would run out of the sweet crystal substance. Earnest did not realize how dangerous running out of the sweet bread was. The king was furious when one day Earnest baked up a bread to him that was salty and dry. He would not stand for being insulted by eating foul tasting bread.The king was about to execute him and his family for making foul ta
Hence, the king ordered the execution of Earnest and his family for making foul tasting bread. But before the sentence was carried out, Earnest pleaded and let the king know that he could get the crystals. He just needed to travel east to get them. After long pleadings and because the king had developed a bit of a sweet tooth, he ordered his fastest ships to head east to get more of this amazing crystal that Earnest used for his bread. You can see why this sweet bread was only given to kings and queens given the expense it would cost to get it.
Eventually, Earnest would leave the palace of France and take his baking specialties on the road throughout Europe. He would tell people to clear the table after the final course and before his bread because it was really flaky bread and he knew how much of a mess it would make. Hence the name Desservir, which he would give to his bread, would mean cleaning the table throughout Europe. Because you only got this Desservir after the table was cleaned. Eventually the name would transform from it’s original term. And the dessert, which was merely a bit of sweet bread, began
Now we have thousands of different desserts throughout the world. And almost all of them occur at the end of a meal. So you can thank the flakyness of Earnest’s breads for when. you are actually served the wonderfully tasting food. Because if it weren’t for that man, we all might be eating our dessert first. And then we would be getting our just desserts.
So as far as we can tell, between Earnest and Alexis, we would not have the thing we call dessert today. Or it’s a bunch of malarkey. We will let you be the judge. But as for us, we praise today both Earnest and Alexis, or whatever their real names were, for the creation we know as the dessert. Because without them, our lives would be a little less sweet.
Our Favorite Dessert – Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake
As we are with all food holidays, we wish to bring something a little extra special to you. Some times we bring you a list of our favorite establishments that make the food the best way we know. And sometimes we bring you recipes. I would have thought about listing dessert establishments, but I think I would be left with a top 100 list and far too many subjective qualities to compare to one another. I might list best doughnut but ice cream is more my style so that might get ranked higher on the list. You can see how difficult this would be.
As a result, we decided to go with one of our favorite recipes, brought to us by my friend Steve Atkins. Now he may have stolen it from other things and other recipes, but he is one of the most gifted cooks I know. And this recipe is melt in your mouth deliciousness. Every time I go to his house, I think about eating this dessert. As a result, I figured I needed to share this recipe beyond the other ones I may have thought of. So without further ado, I bring to you my friends Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake recipe.
- 2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (about 32 wafers)
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4 ounces baking chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 jar (10 ounces) maraschino cherries, drained, rinsed and quartered
- 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1-1/2 teaspoons shortening, divided
- 1 can of cherry pie filling
In a small bowl, combine chocolate crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 10-in. springform pan.
Bake at 350° for 8 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.
Beat on low speed just until combined.
Add melted chocolate and vanilla.
Fold in cherries. Do it lightly and do not overmix.
Pour on top of baked, cooled crust.
Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until center is almost set.
Cool for 10 minutes.
Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
In a microwave, melt the chocolate, butter and 1 teaspoon shortening; stir until smooth.
Let cool for 2 minutes.
Pour over cheesecake. Spread over the top and let it drizzle down the sides. Cool.
Spread one can of cherry pie filling over the top. Store in the refrigerator.
Continue The Conversation
So what did you think of the history of desserts? Have you ever had chocolate cherry cheesecake before? What kind of cheesecake is your favorite? And if you don’t like cheesecake, what is your favorite dessert? I’m excited to hear back from you.
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life