Folks generally look to France for its wines. You'll want to wash down your weinerschnittzel with German beer. Italy offers us pasta and Spain is proud of its paella. Of course, the U.S. is known for its hamburger, fried chicken and apple pie. From England, we can expect...uh, let's move on.
I'm not sure at all that burgers, fried chicken and apple pie should crowd out other American foods that not only are great tasting but have a creative American story behind them. I have a unique delicacy in mind that should enjoy the national limelight, too.
My fellow Americans, at this time and with great pride, I would like to nominate the Popsicle as a first-tier representative of our gastronomic culture. Come on, growing up, you all enjoyed a Popsicle before you even knew what a burger was, right? Admit it! Popsicles have to be healthier than all that fried chicken fat and apple pie sugar. And what else can give you instant multi-colored lips, tongue and a goofy clown smile all at the same time?
All right, let's get down to the facts. I'll bet you never heard of Frank Epperson, right? Unfortunately, ol' Frankie has been relegated to the dustbin of history. Well, let me tell you, that one evening in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson unintentionally left a mixture of powdered soda, water and a stirring stick in a cup on his back porch. It was cold in San Francisco that night. Next morning he discovered the world's first frozen pop. Did the New York Times pick up on this stunning story? Of course not. Ticker tapes of the day completely ignored what was to become a major frozen confection thrust forward in this country.
Twelve years later, Epperson introduced his "Epsicle" at an Alameda, California, park. His children, who loved the treat, persuaded him to change its name to "Pop's sicle." Are you still with me? In 1923, Epperson applied for a patent and in 1925 sold the rights to the name, "Popsicle," to the Joe Lowe Company in New York. Today, Unilever Corporation sells two billion of these critters every year.
Ok, now we know the story of the Popsicle, but who knows the real skinny about the hamburger? It came from Germany in the late 1800s, and reportedly gained popularity at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis when it was dressed up with a bun. Rival claims for making the hamburger a staple were lodged by a number of people from around the country. So who knows the real story?
Next, just try to nail down the history of fried chicken. Fritters date from the Middle Ages. Scottish immigrants brought the tradition of deep frying chicken in fat to the Southern states. Some West African cuisines also included a form of fried chicken. So again, we're left with historical vagaries and unsubstantiated claims.
Some early apple pie recipes date back to Chaucer in the 1300s. But we don't have a clear record of the courtship and marriage of apple and crust.
I think I've provided more than enough substantive data to place the Popsicle at the top of the national food list. Hey listen, during World War II, an Eighth Air Force Unit even chose Popsicle® Ice Pops as a symbol of American life. Give it up for a story of true American heritage.
When one thinks of America, they should think of the American Popsicle.
To comment on this column, please email Wil Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.