In addition to the immense bounty that nature has offered up since the dawn of time, there have been countless food products created over the centuries and, though we rarely stop to think about it, every single one of them was invented by someone. Some of those edibles were happy accidents, others took years of trial and error. The exact origins of the vast majority of foods have been lost, but we’ve tracked down 10, and their stories are all pretty cool.
The Invention of Nachos and 9 Other Juicy Origin Stories (Slideshow)
Just about every food on earth has an interesting story behind it. Even modern-day apples developed through millennia of cross-planting and engineering to make them big and sweet instead of small and bitter. The humble hamburger was imported from Germany as a spiced patty of ground beef, and it took years for it to catch on as a sandwich. Hot dogs have their origins in centuries-old sausage recipes, pizza started as an ancient Roman flatbread, stews started as ways for peasants to tenderize cheap cuts of meat, and so on. Every dish has a story to tell.
While the exact moment when a dish came into the world is usually lost to history, sometimes we’re fortunate enough to know exactly when and how it was invented. Usually this is because something in the name of the dish gives it away, like the person or place it’s named for. Oftentimes we don’t even give second thought to why, for example, a Parker House roll is called a Parker House roll (they’re named after Boston’s Parker House Hotel), or who Melba was in peach Melba and Melba toast (It was popular Victorian-era singer Dame Nellie Melba). But everything was named for a reason, and it usually has something to do with its inventor.
So read on to learn about the origins of 10 famous foods. And the next time you order nachos, you can call them by the inventor’s proper name, Ignacio.
This popular salad actually had nothing to do with Julius Caesar; it was invented by chef Caesar Cardini in the restaurant at his Tijuana hotel, Hotel Caesar.
So who exactly was Benedict, anyway? There are two theories: One, a stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict claimed to have thought up the dish while nursing a hangover at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in 1894. Two, Delmonico’s head chef Charles Ranhofer claimed that he invented it for the stockbroker LeGrand Benedict. Either way, Benedict had an awesome first name.
Click here for 8 more food origin stories.
Born in San Carlos, Manuel Benavides, Chihuahua, Mexico  on 15 August 1895,  he worked at the Victory Club restaurant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, and later owned his own restaurant, Nacho's Restaurant, in Piedras Negras.   Anaya created nachos at the Victory Club in 1940    when Mamie Finan, a regular customer, asked if Anaya could bring her and three other women a different snack than usual.  Anaya went to the kitchen and spotted freshly fried pieces of corn tortillas.   In a moment of culinary inspiration, he added melted cheese and pickled jalapeño strips.   After tasting the snack Anaya created, Finan asked what it was called.   Anaya responded, "Well, I guess we can just call them Nacho's Special."   The dish was so popular, the owner of the Victory Club, Roberto de los Santos, put Nacho's Special on the menu.  When the Victory Club closed in 1961, Anaya opened his own restaurant, Nacho's. 
Anaya married Marie Antoinette Salinas, with whom he had 9 children. 
Anaya died on 9 November 1975,  leaving a son Ignacio Anaya, Jr who went into banking,  and 5 other surviving children.  Posthumously, he was honored with a bronze plaque in Piedras Negras.  To celebrate Anaya's invention, the city of Piedras Negras holds a three-day Nacho Fest every year around October 21, the International Day of the Nacho. 
Smithsonian Magazine ranked nachos as a sports stadium favorite in 1976, following the invention of a processed cheese sauce by Frank Liberto.  Howard Cosell added to the popularity of nachos during a September 4, 1978 NFL game by weaving "nachos" into his commentary.  Although the original nachos contained only three ingredients, nachos can now be found with a wide variety of toppings, reflecting the enduring popularity of Anaya's contribution.  
On 15 August 2019, Google honored Anaya with a Doodle celebrating what would have been his 124th birthday.  
It is fair to say that some foods are associated with certain seasons more than others, and when it comes to popsicles, it is safe to assume that they are mostly consumed during the hot summer months. The popsicle is a frozen snack that we hold with a stick, and nowadays, the treat comes with all kinds of flavors, but it would have never existed if Frank Epperson did not try making a soda. In 1905, Epperson was making lemonade soda on his porch, and accidentally left it out all night in the cold. The following day, he found the frozen liquid, as well as the stirring stick frozen upright in the mixture, and a few years later, he patented the famous dessert.
Popcorn: A “Pop” History
On her website ToriAvey.com, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterdays recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about Tori and The History Kitchen.
First, the sound hits you — “pop, pop, pop — slow at first, then a firestorm of kernels as they magically transform into billows of crunchy white deliciousness. Next the smell wafts throughout the room, tantalizing your nose and your taste buds. By the time your teeth crunch down on that first bite, youre completely hooked. Popcorn is an irresistible treat. Try keeping a bowl to yourself during family movie night, or buying a small bucket at the movie theater. Before you know it, everyone is grabbing a handful. Popcorn is a simple, tasty treat on its own, but it also lends itself to a variety of toppings butter, sugar, cinnamon, caramel, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, even chocolate! Popcorn provides a perfect canvas for your sweet and salty cravings.
So what makes popcorn pop? The secret is in the kernel. Popcorn comes from a certain variety of maize that produces small kernels with a hard outer shell. These kernels cannot be chewed without a good chance of cracking your tooth. To get to the fluffy edible part, you must heat the kernel, which turns the moisture within into steam. When the outer shell has reached its pressure point it bursts, releasing the soft inner flake and creating what we recognize as popcorn.
The popcorn variety of maize was domesticated by Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples by 5000 B.C.E. It is a small and harder form of flint corn, most commonly found in white or yellow kernels. The stalks produce several ears at a time, though they are smaller and yield less corn than other maize varieties. The pop is not limited exclusively to this type of maize, but the flake of other types is smaller by comparison. Popcorn likely arrived in the American Southwest over 2500 years ago, but was not found growing east of the Mississippi until the early 1800s due to botanical and environmental factors. Today the Midwest is famous for its Corn Belt, but prior to the introduction of the steel plow during the 19 th century, soil conditions in that region were not suitable for growing corn.
Evidence of popcorns first pop did not appear until the 1820s, when it was sold throughout the eastern United States under the names Pearl or Nonpareil. Its popularity quickly began to spread throughout the South and by the 1840s popcorn had started to gain a foothold in America. Prestigious literary magazines like New Yorks Knickerbocker and the Yale Literary Magazine began referencing popcorn. By 1848, the word popcorn was included in John Russell Bartletts Dictionary of Americanisms. Bartlett claimed that the name was derived from the noise it makes on bursting open.
One of the earliest recipes for popping corn came from Daniel Browne during the 1840s. His method required one to Take a grill, a half pint, or more of Valparaiso or Pop Corn, and put in a frying-pan, slightly buttered, or rubbed with lard. Hold the pan over a fire so as constantly to stir or shake the corn within, and in a few minutes each kernel will pop, or turn inside out. He adds that salt or sugar can be added while the popcorn is still hot. The problem with this method was that butter tended to burn before reaching a high enough temperature and lard produced popcorn that was soaked with grease. It wasnt until the second half of the nineteenth century that an efficient method for popping corn was developed. These newly invented poppers were made from boxes of tight wire gauze attached to a long handle they were meant to be held over an open flame. Poppers offered several benefits, including the ability to contain the popped kernels while also keeping hands away from an exposed flame. Over the years, many improvements were made to the original popper prototype, which made the snack even more accessible to the masses.
As popcorn grew in popularity, it began to appear in all sorts of variations. Louis Ruckheim came up with the first version of Cracker Jack, made from popcorn, peanuts and molasses, during the late 1890s. There are several different stories surrounding how the snack first got its name, but it undoubtedly derived from a popular slang term during the era, meaning excellent or first rate.
Popcorns mass appeal was brought to new heights thanks to movie theaters. Surprisingly, theater owners were not on board with popcorn sales in the beginning. They thought it might create an unnecessary nuisance in addition to requiring expensive changes, like installing outside vents to rid the building of smoky popcorn odors. Hawkers, seeing the potential in popcorn sales, took matters into their own hands and began selling popcorn and Cracker Jack while walking up and down the theater aisles. The Depression eventually changed the minds of theater owners, and they began to view it as a small luxury that patrons could afford. Unlike most treats, popcorn sales actually rose during the Depression. Instead of installing indoor concession areas, theaters charged outside vendors a dollar a day to sell popcorn from outdoor stands. In 1938 Glen W. Dickson, the owner of several theaters throughout the Midwest, began installing popcorn machines in the lobbies of his theaters. The construction changes were costly, but he recovered his investment quickly and his profits skyrocketed. The trend spread quickly. Can you imagine walking into a movie theater today without the scent of popcorn welcoming you inside? I sure cant.
Recently the GMO debate has gained steam here in the U.S., particularly when it comes to corn. The majority of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. According to Jeffrey Smith, a GMO expert, the popcorn variety of corn has not yet been genetically modified. This means there is no genetically modified popcorn currently available on the market. Interesting that after all of these years, were still enjoying popcorn grown from the same seeds our ancestors used.
Here are some tasty and seasonal popcorn recipe ideas from around the web!
Napoleon Bonaparte had offered to pay 12,000 francs (the equivalent of today’s $250,000) to the person who could come up with the best way to pickle and preserve food for his troops. In 1809, French chef and confectioner Nicolas Appert, won the competition with a key insight: If he placed food in a bottle and removed all the air before sealing it, he could boil the bottle and preserve its contents. Using glass containers sealed with cork and wax, Appert was able to preserve not only vegetables and fruits, but also jellies, syrups, soups and dairy products.
Early in the 1850s, the Scottish chemist James Young patented paraffin wax, which created a better seal in jars used to preserve food. Then in 1858, John Mason of Philadelphia patented the first Mason jar, made from a heavyweight glass that could withstand high temperatures during the canning process. Mason’s patent expired in 1879, but manufacturers of similar jars continued to use the Mason name.
At the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, “Pickle King” H.J. Heinz dispatched a few local boys to tempt fairgoers with a 𠇏ree gift” if they visited Heinz’s out-of-the-way booth and tasted his wares. By the end of the fair, Heinz had given out some 1 million “pickle pins,” launching one of the most successful marketing gambits in U.S. history. H.J. Heinz Company, Inc. repeated the pickle pin promotion at the World’s Fairs of 1896, 1898 and 1939. Heinz’s dark-green pickle pins can still be bought today, joined by spin-offs like the ketchup pin and the golden pickle pin.
Did you know? Henry Heinz lobbied for new food safety regulations so his competitors could no longer sell similar products with dangerous additives, even sending his son to meet lawmakers in Washington, D.C. His efforts were instrumental in the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act which passed on June 23, 1906, and eventually the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.
Women bottling pickles at the H.J. Heinz Company factory in the 19th century.
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images
Who Invented Pizza?
Pizza has a long history.ਏlatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy&aposs Campania region, home to the city of Naples.
Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global Historyਊnd associate professor of history at the University of Denver.
These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza𠅏latbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits 𠆍isgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.
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Italy unified in 1861, and King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the traveling pair became bored with their steady diet of French haute cuisine and asked for an assortment of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, the successor to Da Pietro pizzeria, founded in 1760. The variety the queen enjoyed most was called pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with the soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil. (Perhaps it was no coincidence that her favorite pie featured the colors of the Italian flag.) From then on, the story goes, that particular topping combination was dubbed pizza Margherita.
Queen Margherita’s blessing could have been the start of an Italy-wide pizza craze. But pizza would remain little known in Italy beyond Naples’ borders until the 1940s.
An ocean away, though, immigrants to the United States from Naples were replicating their trusty, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities, including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and St. Louis. The Neapolitans were coming for factory jobs, as did millions of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they weren’t seeking to make a culinary statement. But relatively quickly, the flavors and aromas of pizza began to intrigue non-Neapolitans and non-Italians.
One of the first documented United States pizzerias was G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. (Prior to that, the dish was homemade or purveyed by unlicensed vendors.) Lombardi’s, still in operation today though no longer at its 1905 location, “has the same oven as it did originally,” notes food critic John Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World.
Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924) Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919) and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).
As Italian-Americans, and their food, migrated from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II, pizza’s popularity in the United States boomed. No longer seen as an 𠇎thnic” treat, it was increasingly identified as a fast, fun food. Regional, decidedly non-Neapolitan variations emerged, eventually including California-gourmet pizzas topped with anything from barbecued chicken to smoked salmon.
Postwar pizza finally reached Italy and beyond. “Like blue jeans and rock and roll, the rest of the world, including the Italians, picked up on pizza just because it was American,” explains Mariani.
Today international outposts of American chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut thrive in about 60 different countries. Reflecting local tastes, global pizza toppings can run the gamut from Gouda cheese in Curao to hardboiled eggs in Brazil.
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The golden age of ketchup
The 18th century was a golden age for ketchup. Cookbooks featured recipes for ketchups made of oysters, mussels, mushrooms, walnuts, lemons, celery and even fruits like plums and peaches. Usually, components were either boiled down into a syrup-like consistency or left to sit with salt for extended periods of time. Both these processes led to a highly concentrated end product: a salty, spicy flavor bomb that could last for a long time without going bad.
One oyster ketchup recipe from the 1700s called for 100 oysters, three pints of white wine and lemon peels spiked with mace and cloves. The commemorative “Prince of Wales” ketchup, meanwhile, was made from elderberries and anchovies. Mushroom ketchup was apparently Jane Austen&aposs favorite.
Who Really Invented Sloppy Joes?
Some foods are saddled with unfortunate names. Other foods, though they may be delicious, have the bad luck to look pretty terrible. And then there are those humble underdogs that combine the two misfortunes, chief among them the sloppy Joe. The saucy ground beef sandwich’s name conjures up a disheveled, grease-stained, possibly chain-smoking fry cook with no love for cleanliness. Its appearance could be likened to wet dog food (and that’s if you’re being kind). And yet, not only are sloppy Joes truly tasty, they’re an iconic American dish, right up there with hot dogs and hamburgers. But where did they come from?
Well, as with the origins of so many beloved food and drinks, that’s up for debate. The three institutions that are variously credited with inventing the sloppy Joe are: an obscure café in Sioux City, Iowa Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Fla. and Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havana, Cuba (bet you didn’t see that coming).
Working backwards from that short list, Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havana opened in 1918, helmed by Spanish bartender José Abeal y Otero, who had previously worked at bars in New Orleans and Miami. He didn’t immediately christen his own place Sloppy Joe’s—but the lore goes that his American friends, who already called him Joe, also commented on the rather messy state of his establishment, and the new appellation was born.
Vintage 1932 Sloppy Joe’s Cocktails Manual
Along with cocktails and cigars, the bar offered sandwiches, including one that inspired the creation of the Reuben-meets-club-sandwich-esque sloppy Joe enjoyed in New Jersey—which has no resemblance at all to the more widely known ground meat sandwich by the same name. Some sources say José also served a sandwich that was similar to that more famous sloppy Joe, which is at least possible, since it combines elements of two Cuban classics, ropa vieja (shredded beef in tomato sauce) and picadillo (ground beef with spices). However, there’s no concrete proof of this readily available—a vintage-looking illustration of the place featuring a tray of round-bunned sandwiches in the bottom corner is tantalizingly inconclusive (they’re certainly not sloppy, but that could be due to artistic license…)—so we must go on hearsay alone.
Undated illustration of Sloppy Joe’s in Havana, Cuba Dewolfe and Wood Collection, via Punch
What is certain, though, is that Sloppy Joe’s in Havana became a haven for American drinkers during Prohibition (from 1920 to 1933), and attracted many famous fans, including Ernest Hemingway. He first visited Cuba in 1928 and became enamored of the place, but was perhaps equally fond of Key West, which brings us to origin theory #2.
In Florida, Hemingway frequented a bar run by a man named Joe Russell, who also became a fishing buddy of his, and even served as a model for Freddy, the bar owner and boat captain in the author’s “To Have and Have Not.”
Russell’s bar initially opened—officially—on the very day Prohibition ended: December 5, 1933. (What a coincidence that it was all ready to go at a moment’s notice, eh?) It was originally called the Blind Pig, and then the Silver Slipper, but at Hemingway’s suggestion, it was eventually renamed Sloppy Joe’s after the Havana hot spot. The Key West bar is still around today, and in fact is on the National Register of Historic Places. (Cuba’s Sloppy Joe’s Bar, incidentally, closed down in 1965 under Fidel Castro’s government, but reopened in 2013.)
Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, Fla. in January 1938, by Arthur Rothstein, via Sloppy Joe’s/Facebook
The Florida Sloppy Joe’s serves hundreds of those familiar shirt-staining sandwiches every day, and has served them since early on. In 2015, their brand manager Donna Edwards told Mashable that their version “was born out of what was being served in Havana. We took it and Americanized it by making it the sloppy Joe and not just a loose-meat sandwich. But it’s something that definitely developed from that idea.”
However, speaking of loose meat, we come to the next possible (and perhaps most likely, and most widely accepted) origin of the sloppy Joe as we know it: the loose meat sandwich of the American Midwest.
Loose meat sandwich, via Taylor’s Maid-Rite
Loose Meat Leads
Loose meat sandwiches are made from seasoned but un-sauced ground beef, piled on a bun and topped with pickle chips (and sometimes onions), plus mustard or ketchup for those who desire condiments. It’s kind of like a burger that hasn’t been formed into a patty. These date back to at least 1924, when they were served as “tavern sandwiches” at Ye Old Tavern in Sioux City, Iowa (which at the time was operating under another name, but was rechristened in honor of its signature tavern sandwich in 1934).
The “loose meat” moniker was adopted in subsequent years to refer to the style of sandwich in general, and what may be the most famous example of it was created by Floyd Angell, who debuted the Maid-Rite sandwich in 1926, also in Iowa. He began opening franchises soon after, so there were plenty of places in the area making loose meat sandwiches by the 1930s—which is when a cook allegedly named Joe allegedly added tomato sauce to the meat and thus created the first sloppy Joe.
It seems a natural evolution, yet no one can say with absolute certainty who invented the sandwich that became a staple of school cafeterias and home kitchens (“The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink” posits that there “is probably no Joe after whom it is named–but…Joe is an American name of proletarian character with unassailable genuineness”), or exactly when, or where, it came to be. Sometime in the early 1930s and probably in the United States is a pretty good bet, and as close as we may ever get to the whole truth of the matter.
Sloppy Joe’s Rise to Stardom
What can be proven is that the sloppy Joe’s popularity steadily increased over the ensuing decades. Like other cultural icons ranch dressing and Oreos (among many others), it now has the distinction of having its own “holiday”—National Sloppy Joe Day, observed (or not) on March 18 each year. But before it become so enshrined, sloppy Joe recipes started appearing in cookbooks from 1949 onward, and then in 1969, there was Manwich, the tomato-based sauce to which you just added cooked ground beef.
In early ads, they leaned heavily on the slogan: “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.” In more recent years, they faced backlash for a tone-deaf 2011 ad campaign that Change.org said glorified “violence against gender non-conforming men.” In between, they aired this refreshingly ungendered commercial with the infectious jingle you’ll probably be singing to yourself all day now:
Of course, they’re still going strong (one source says ConAgra sold over 70 million cans of Manwich in 2014). And while the brand has always been Manwich, it’s also always been a shortcut to sloppy Joes—even during the times when their product label has touted it simply (if not a touch disingenuously) as “Sandwich Sauce.”
Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sauce, $1.78 at Walmart
In case you're feeling inspired.
Sloppy Joe Nicknames
Made-from-scratch sloppy Joes are also known by other names—barbecues slush burgers yum yums dynamites or torpedos (differentiated by being served on a hoagie roll, with peppers in the sauce) wimpies and sloppy Janes (these feminized spin-offs seem to use ground turkey instead of ground beef)—but regardless of what you call them, they’re all gloriously saucy and messy and impossible to contain in a bun for long.