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Do you wonder about the history of what you’re eating? I thought I’d start the year off with small bites of information about a few of my favorite traditional “fast” foods. Let’s go!

A Maine summer isn’t complete without a lobster roll. I like mine with very little mayo, but I have many friends who love lots of mayo or even buttery goodness drizzled down the middle. A large roll can cost twenty dollars or more. Lobster wasn’t always expensive. Its low-class history includes not needing a lobstering license to the food of Maine prisoners. It wasn’t until these crustaceans were mistakenly eaten by John D. Rockefeller while summering in Maine that they shot to the top of the upper-class food list. It’s not about class it’s knowing what you like no matter what other people think!

Cotton candy is a fun treat at Maine’s fairs and festivals. This candy is super thin spun strands of sugar that in 2009, a Cornell University student noticed resembled human capillaries, leading to advancements in artificial human organs. While that’s fascinating, I’m fascinated that as if by magic it immediately melts in my mouth! My favorite flavor is maple! Pulling off the fluffs of spun strands is super sticky so be sure to have a wet napkin or washing facilities nearby.

Food competitions began when in 1916, four immigrants challenged each other to have a contest eating Coney Island hot dogs. The winner would be declared the most patriotic. My favorite hot dog is the Coney Island, which has morphed into many versions but the original was developed by Greek immigrants in the early 1900s. My introduction was made on my first visit to the Coney Island Boardwalk on Long Island, although, Michigan is where it originated, not Coney Island. Food history can be complicated. What isn’t complicated is a Nathan’s hot dog in a steamed bun, topped with an all-meat chili, white onions, and yellow mustard. It has to have yellow mustard or fuhgeddaboudit!

The warm version of potato salad was brought to America by German immigrants in the early 1800s. However, by the 19th century, there were new versions. The invention of shelf-stable mayo made it a picnic favorite. Please, though, hold the eggs! The first time I had the egg version was well after I was married. I for sure thought my husband was joking when he told me his mom added eggs. I am not joking when I tell you my famous potato salad is better without eggs.

Next up is the hamburger. While where, who, and how the hamburger was invented is controversial, the fact that it’s an American staple is not. Who doesn’t think of the “Golden Arches” when anyone says hamburger? The McDonald brothers were the brainchild behind progressing from drive-ins and carhops to the “fast food” version we know today where burgers are put together in thirty-six seconds. You see, they realized that Americans were picking up speed as they became more mobile and didn’t want to be slowed down waiting for food. Businessmen, too, were looking for quick bites. The brothers built a fast-food system modeled after Henry Ford’s automation. My favorite burgers are medium-rare with mayo, mustard, ketchup, relish, and cheese. Hold the tomato and onion.

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