Take out traditions

by Andy Bryenton

This is definitely the weather for taking a hot lunch back to work, or grabbing an easy hot dinner where all of the hard work has been done by somebody else in the kitchen! Takeaways and even ‘fast’ food doesn’t mean unhealthy any more, and you’ll find here some tasty and quick options for the whole family.

Many of our favourite quick bites to eat come from the traditions of street food and marketplace vendors, adapted to become modern classics. Take the pizza, which has come down in history from a flatbread cooked on battle shields by the Persian armies who fought the 300 Spartans.

It’s a concept mentioned in ancient epic story the Aeneid, but it only really took off when Italian immigrants to New York added tomato paste and stringy cheese to make street food.

It’s a similar story with the hot dog, which was inspired by just this trend. Charles Feltman, a New Yorker of German ancestry, saw his Italian neighbours enjoying financial success with pizza, and thought of his own country’s favourite snack — spicy sausages. Initially, his idea was to offer customers gloves with which to eat the piping hot snacks, but too many pairs were stolen.

So he struck on putting the sausage in a bun, and by 1870 his ‘dachshunds’ (named for the long, low little German dog) were a hit. The name got shortened to ‘hot dogs’ by vendors yelling this easier term to potential customers on the street.

Perhaps the biggest development in fast food has been deep frying, which has brought us many treats over the years — the origins of this method far outdated the arrival of potatoes to make chips. Apocryphally, deep frying was invented by mistake by Greek soldiers during a siege.

Having boiled a cauldron of olive oil to drive away invaders, the soldiers would not allow the fortress cook to let it cool down while he used the fireplace for a pot of stew. So the cook threw vegetables into the oil, and history was made. For the record, it was a Roman chef, Apicius, who invented the fried chicken, about 400 years later.