It’s National Olive Day. The olive, one of the world’s oldest fruits, is part of a traditional meze/tapas culinary experience. The olive branch is a symbol of peace, hope, love and friendship. It is also one of the most versatile fruits as it is used in breads, drinks, salads, stews and as a snack. (I’m not sure I knew it was a fruit.)
Growing up, Thanksgiving dinner was always at our house. The cousins would come down from the city to our country house 50 miles away. One year, I must have been around seven or eight, the dishes of black and green olives had been put on the adults table before dinner. Our big old house was designed so you could walk from room to room in a full circle, the bathroom having a door on both sides. I walked the circle enough times to be able to sneakily consume the whole dish of black olives before people were called to the table. It was the one and only time my mother sent me to my room. I remember being really scared because she had never done that before. She came upstairs to scold me about being selfish and let me go down for dinner, but you can bet I never did that again.
We often serve a dish of black olives when my grandchildren are here. Usually it is available before dinner to snack on. If the little ones don’t finish them by the time the meal is over, their uncle empties the bowl so none have to be put back in the fridge. My husband has green olives on his daily lunch salad, and I eat a few while I make it. We also have them on our pizzas. Wegman’s is our local grocery store and they have an olive bar so you can easily get all different kinds of olives, prepared antipasto fashion, or just plain. They sure make it easy.
Olives have good health benefits. They are an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cancer preventive food. They also provide copper, iron, fiber and vitamin E. The bottom line, eat your olives, but make sure you share.
It’s National Strawberry Day. I’m a bit confused why this day falls in February, when strawberries ripen in the summer, but hey, it’s summer someplace. There are “tricks” to buying all sorts of fresh vegetables. The strawberry trick is, if it smells good, it will taste good. Try it next time you are at the grocery store or market.
Have you ever picked fresh strawberries? The plants are flush with the ground and one must squat to accomplish the task. When I was a child, it wasn’t so difficult. I wouldn’t even consider it now, as I carry a few extra pounds and have a bad back. We have some wonderful local strawberry farms where you can pick your own. We go when the berries are ripe to have an ice cream sundae, buy berries, and admire the people coming out of the fields with their filled flats and baskets. They always seem to be having a good time.
My grandchildren love strawberries as a snack. If I can find ripe ones, there is a bowl on the table to eat before the main family meal is ready. For my husband, at least one strawberry-rhubarb pie a summer is a requirement. Our only regret is the strawberry picking season doesn’t last long enough.
Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.
About the same time, Louise Ruckheim added peanuts and molasses to popcorn to bring Cracker Jack to the world. The national anthem of baseball was born in 1908 when Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote Take Me out to the Ballgame. From that point onward, popcorn, specifically Cracker Jack, became forever married to the game.
I included the above from the National Day of Calendar because I didn’t know popcorn had such a history or how long Cracker Jacks have been popular. I can’t imagine popcorn being sold out of horse-drawn wagons. I mean I can see it, but it seems the popcorn would be stale. Perhaps I am wrong.
I love popcorn. Whenever my husband isn’t home for supper, that is what I usually have. I watch a movie I know he wouldn’t care for, and eat a big bowl of popcorn. It makes the evening all my own. The cat even has to have a piece to lick the salt off of.
Years back my son had a yellow lab and a French Mastiff. He and his girl would babysit for two Bull Mastiffs. When there was a bowl of popcorn made, the dogs would sit in a line, like dutiful students, and wait their turn for one piece of popcorn as it was thrown to them. The dogs were as big as his girlfriend, so it was comical to see them be so well-behaved and patient. We all wanted a turn at being the thrower.
A string of popcorn used to be an adornment for our Christmas tree when I was little. When we took all the other decorations off, the popcorn stayed. We would then stand the tree up in the back yard and the birds would eat the popcorn. They never seemed to mind if it was stale.
I just spent a whole lot of time with my sister and her husband helping out after she had a knee replacement. It was a pleasure to be able to do it. During one breakfast we talked about our Christmas Stockings when we were kids. The toe usually held an orange or an apple. We looked forward to that piece of fruit almost more than the other small gifts from Santa.
When I was in grade school, I got a box of apples in the mail at Christmas time. They were from the man who was the postmaster in our little one block town. They were each nestled in fake straw in a cardboard thing that looked like a huge egg carton. My sisters and parents shared the apples and the shiny red ones were always eaten first.
Currently, I make a salad each morning for my husband’s lunch. When we can get fresh Empire apples he gets one of those for his afternoon snack. There’s nothing else like the first bite into a juicy red apple.
Back to my sister; her doctor’s name is David Grimm. My friend, Mary, always makes about ten different types of cookies at Christmas time and she passes out tins of them as gifts. When she delivers to Dr. Grimm’s office, because he did her knee too, she includes an apple for Dr. Grimm because he prefers it. Me, I’ll take the cookies.
Today is also National Pie Day. I recommend Apple, that way, no matter what, you can eat an apple today. Enjoy!