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The history of the chefs hat

History, Myths, Legends and Remedies

One of the things I really get into about food is the history, myths, legends and remedies…

History

One of my favourites is why chefs wear white hats.

Allegedly, back in time, the predominant cooking method was roasting, usually over a fire. One of the countries that became very important to food history, Greece, was at the centre of the world in a culinary sense. They had ingredients coming through their trade routes with Asia, Northern Europe, The Middle East, Africa, Russia and Southern Europe. They also had access to a wide range of cooking equipment
So, consequently the cooks in rich Greek houses had a vast array of ingredients, spices and herbs given to them to play with. The cooks were also slaves at the time and some of them became quite well-known for the food they were producing at their masters homes for special occasions etc. As a result of many years of good service, some of these Slave/Cooks would receive liberation. This was great, however once released other Greek Masters would try to capture them to re-enslave them for the culinary benefits they would bring. The Slave/Cooks would seek refuge in monasteries where the monks would require these people to dress appropriately whilst at the monastery, usually in clothing similar to the monks. The Slave/Cooks didn’t want to fully succumb to all of the monks habits (pardon the pun!), so they did one thing differently, They wore a white skull cap instead of the grey ones that the monks wore. And that’s why we wear white caps today, they set the trend.

Myths

We have two types of Rosemary, that we can use for cooking purposes. Both of them are good to use, however, one of them has a distinctly blue flower and is good to use as a garnish when presenting food.
The story goes that when Mary and Joseph were fleeing from Bethlehem with the baby Jesus, Mary’s blue cape/shawl was laid over a wild rosemary bush at a stopover in the middle of the desert. Its flowers instantly turned blue and this is believed to be the original ancestor plant of all the blue-flowered Rosemary bushes everywhere. The plant is easy to spread because all you have to do is break a bit off, strip the lower leaves and plonk it in the ground, very easy to grow.

Legends

Bay Leaves were worn as headdresses for Roman Emperors.

Margherita Pizza received its name and recipe from a local pizza maker in Savoy Italy. He made the pizza in honour of Italian Queen Margherita of Savoy, using the colors red (tomato), white (mozzarella cheese) and green (Basil) of the Italian national Flag.

Puttanesca sauce was the leftovers that the restaurant and café owners would mix together at the end of the night and give to the street girls/prostitutes, Puttana is the Italian word for this. Pasta Al Fredo was invented by Alfred Di Lelio to give to his wife as a strength restorer after the birth of their son. Primavera (Spring Vegetable) pasta sauce was invented in America, not Italy.

Caesar Salad was not invented in Rome. It was in fact invented by Cardini Caeser at a restaurant in Tijuana he purchased with his brother in 1896. In 1924, he concocted the salad out of the ingredients he had on hand at the time and the customers loved it. As with most great recipes a little imagination, trial and error lead to great things.
It was originally called the Aviators Salad because it was served a lot to American Pilots at the time. They would go to Caesars to have” …that salad “, so the phrase got shortened and thus “Caesar Salad” was named. The original version is made with the coz lettuce leaves whole, not cut, fanned out in a large bowl and was made and served at the table.

Attila the Huns warriors had an ingenious way of preserving their fresh meat. They would put it under their saddles and cure it as they rode along. As they rode the friction of the saddle against the meat and saltiness that would come from the horse sweating combined to cure the fresh meat removing all the moisture content. So when the rider pulled up for a stop, there you go, fresh meat jerky.

Sausages are nick-named bangers because during World War I when rations were short across many countries, the English soldiers in the trenches would receive rations of sausages that were bulked up with things like sawdust because times were tough. The soldiers would get shovels over a fire and then cook the sausages on top like a hot plate. The sausages contained all these mystery ingredients that would bubble and hiss on the shovel while cooking, the sound resembled a firecracker going off. “It sounds like a penny banger”, a phrase used for firecrackers by the English at the time was shortened to, “it sounds like a banger.” Hence the term banger.

Remedies

If you ever cut yourself, and I am talking small cuts not that emo habit, here are two great herbal remedies:
If the cut is still bleeding, grind some fresh black pepper onto a plate and apply to cut. The coarseness of the pepper will help the blood congeal and form a clot and pepper is the 2nd best natural antiseptic.
Once the cut has stopped bleeding use Honey. Honey is THE BEST NATURAL ANTISEPTIC!! It will help the cut heal a lot faster. Then apply a band-aid.

The Brunetti's cake displayOne of my favourite real stories is the history behind the awesome food institution in Carlton, Melbourne known as Brunetti’s. The founder of the business, Giorgio Angele, came out to Australia with the Italian Olympic team in 1956 for the Olympics as their personal pastry chef. As far as I understand it, the team didn’t trust that Australia would have sufficiently nice pastry items so they brought their own chef. He then stayed here and worked to obtain his permanent residency. The family started an iconic café/ bakery institution in Faraday St Carlton in 1985. He is still involved with the business and can be seen baking at the Carlton site today. This is one of the most fantastic and delicious places to take visitors to Melbourne, who have a sweet tooth and enjoy their coffee. They have an amazing cake/dessert display fridge/counter that runs the length of the shop and display fridges on the other side of the shop filled with delicacies to delight and amaze.

Chef Jeremy O'Connor

Chef Jeremy O’Connor

(aka Chef Merlyn)