This Day in History (3-Feb-1815) – World’s 1st commercial cheese factory established, in Switzerland

On this day in 1815, the world’s first commercial cheese factory began operating in Switzerland, ushering in the mass industrialisation of one our most popular and ancient foods. With the introduction of industrial production, types of cheeses, like so many other foods over the past two centuries, were standardised and rolled out on a global scale—the intricacies of local characteristics often left behind.

Cheese is mentioned in ancient Greek mythology and evidence of cheese making has been found on Egyptian tomb murals dating back over 4000 years. It is interesting to note though, that many of the popular cheeses we eat today (such as Cheddar, Parmesan and Gouda) are relatively new to the cheese story, having only appeared in the last 500 years or so. One legend has it that a merchant crossing the Arabian desert poured milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach. The combination of the strong sun and the rennin from the stomach lining caused the milk to congeal, and as the merchant journeyed the milk separated into curds and whey. That evening, or so the story goes, the hungry merchant was the first human to eat cheese (i.e. the curd).

Cheese is produced from a variety of animals, most commonly cows, ewes and goats, but also water buffalo, yaks, horses and llamas. Beyond the source of the milk, the taste of cheese is altered by a variety of variables, including the treatment and temperature of the milk, along with added ingredients. Over the centuries, especially in the cool climate of Europe, certain regions became well known for their singular tasting cheeses.

Popular European cheeses today—like French Brie, Dutch Gouda, English Cheddar and Italian Parmesan—all originate in the mid to late middle ages, and many, like Parmesan, remain very close to their original form. However, with industrial processing, some of these cheeses were stripped of their defining local traits and delivered to the mass market. As a result, cheeses were standardised and thus introduced to a number of regions in Asia, Africa, and South America where cheese had not been seen before, or were at least not part of the normal diet.


This Day in History (13-Dec-1903) – Italo Marcioni patents ice cream cone mould

The saga began in 1895 when Italo Marcioni arrived in USA from Italy. He sold lemon ices and ice cream from a push cart on Wall Street, serving small liquor glasses containing his confections to stockbrokers and Wall Street runners. But too many glasses broke or were taken, and washing them was a chore. That’s when Marcioni had his inspiration: serve the ice cream in a cup that could be eaten along with the ice cream! There would be no washing, no waste. So he baked waffles, and while they were still warm, folded them into the shape of a cup. His customers loved the cups – they were convenient, sanitary and tasty.  So popular was Marcioni’s waffle cup, that there was a Wall Street boom in his ice cream sales. Soon he had a chain of 45 carts operated by men he hired. Ice cream in his cup became known as a “toot,” possibly derived from the Italian tutti or “all,” since customers were urged to “eat it all.”

But hand-made cups couldn’t keep up with the demand. Marcioni had a good head for mechanics as well as for business, so he adapted the design of the waffle iron to create a device into which batter could be poured, baked and so mass-produce ice cream cups. It was difficult to take the fragile cups out of the mold without their breaking. He solved the problem by dividing the bottom half of the mold, to separate it from the baked cups. And instead of one mold for each cup, he arranged two rows of five in each mould to produce 10 cups at a time.

Marcioni applied for a patent on his device in 1902 and it was awarded in 1903. In 1904, he established a wholesale ice cream and candy business in Hoboken, operating a fleet of horse-drawn wagons to supply retailers all over the metropolitan area. Not wanting to get into the machinery business, Marcioni made no effort to sell his molding machines to other manufacturers. Instead, he built up an extensive trade in bulk orders for the fragile, delicious cones themselves. Marchiony’s advertising proudly and properly identified him as “the oldest manufacturer of ice cream cones and wafers.” And Italo Marchiony (He Americanized the spelling of his name to “Marchiony”) of Hoboken, an immigrant, became the founder of a great American institution: the ice cream cone.

This Day in History (16-May-1866) – Charles Elmer Hires invents root beer

Root beer has its origins in what is referred to as small beers. Small beers are a collection of local beverages (some alcoholic, some not) made during colonial times in America from a variety of herbs, barks, and roots that commonly included: birch beer, sarsparilla beer, ginger beer and root beer. Charles Hires was a Philadelphia pharmacist. While on his honeymoon in New Jersey , he had some herbal tea that he really liked (the honeymoon was probably just on his parent’s farm in Roadstown). When he was back in Philadelphia, he experimented until he had something similar like herbal tea.

Charles began selling a dry version of the tea mixture. It was a dry extract in a packet, that you mixed at home with sugar, yeast and water to make up a gallonful of root beer yourself. You boiled the extract in water, strained it, then added sugar and yeast, let it ferment, then bottled it. At the same time Charles also began working on a liquid version of the same tea. The result of was a combination of over twenty-five herbs, berries and roots that Charles Hires used to flavor a carbonated soda water drink. Charles realized the word “beer” would appeal more to men than “tea.”  The Charles Hires’ version of a root beer beverage was first introduced to the public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial exhibition.

Charles had taken out a patent for the term “root beer” in 1879, but lost it the same year when Congress ruled that generic terms in the dictionary couldn’t be patented. Charles decided sales would be ever better if it were sold already brewed, so he started selling it that way, as a concentrated liquid extract that you then made it from at home; you still had to boil it, but it was less messy. It was sold as Root Beer Extract in glass bottles, on which the wording “Makes Five Gallons of a Delicious Drink” was embossed in raised glass letters. The Charles E Hires Company was established in 1890. In 1893 Charles first sold and distributed bottled root beer. Charles Hires and his family certainly contributed greatly to the popularity of modern root beer. The Hires Root Beer Company is now owned by Cadbury-Schweppes.


This Day in History (20-Apr-1862) – Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard Begin Tests of Pasteurization

Louis Pasteur received a commission from a maker of beet root alcohol in 1856 while working at the University of Lille. The owner had grown tired of seeing entire batches of his product poured out before they could be sold. Pasteur dove into the research, carefully examining beet root juice at each stage of fermentation. As he observed the shift, he noticed a number of spherical organisms floating in the liquid — yeast, the microbe that consumes sugar to transform it into alcohol. Days later, as the juice soured and became unusable, Pasteur looked again and found something quite different: rod-shaped organisms — a bacteria. He came to the conclusion “germs” caused the change, a far-reaching discovery with implications in medicine.

With his research proved, Pasteur received an appointment from Emperor Napoleon III to apply his knowledge to French wine. Working in conjunction with his research assistant Bernard beginning on April 20, 1862, Pasteur came up with exact measurements for temperature and the amount of time necessary for preservation. The results were a revelation: wine could last much longer so long as it was not contaminated after being pasteurized. Within months, beer and vinegar were added to the list of materials subject to the process, literally saving vast portions of French agricultural products for export. Years later, Pasteur’s method would be turned to milk.

If there’s one food science breakthrough that stands apart from the rest, it’s pasteurization, milk pasteurization to be specific. Its very adoption changed the health of world. During the 1850s, fewer than half of all children born lived to see their 5th birthday, with tainted milk being the biggest cause of illness. Through separate approaches of low- and high-heat, pasteurization eliminated tuberculosis bacteria and drastically reduced the number of infections suffered during the early 20th century. Because of Pasteur and Bernard’s work, tens of thousands of life-threatening illnesses are avoided every year.


This Day in History (8-Apr-1879) – Milk is Sold in Glass Bottles for the First Time

Until 1879, people bought milk as a bulk item, with the seller dispensing milk out of a keg or bucket into whatever jugs, pails or other containers the customers brought. That practice left a lot to be desired on the cleanliness front. Some dairies tried offering milk in fruit jars, perhaps because customers had started bringing the resealable containers to them to be filled. On April 8, 1879, Echo Farms Dairy introduced the first purpose-made milk bottles in New York City, delivering the milk from Litchfield, Connecticut.

Other dealers initially feared the expense of breakage, and some customers didn’t like the drugstore look of the containers. The new method of delivery eventually caught on. By the first decade of the 20th century, some cities were legally requiring that milk be delivered in glass bottles. Because of better sanitation and a lower bacteria count, thousands of children who otherwise may have died instead grew up to be healthy adults. Childhood diseases and deaths decreased after 1879 for a variety of reasons. Sanitary delivery of milk certainly was a contributing factor.

Because milk has a short shelf life, consumers used the contents quickly and returned them when they went to the market or when fresh milk was delivered to their doors by milkmen. The typical milk bottle made 22.5 round trips in the early 1900s before getting broken, lost or diverted by consumers to other purposes. The loss of bottles — as well as the expense of returning them to the bottling plant, washing and sterilizing them — contributed to the eventual abandonment of the glass bottle. Producers and consumers were also concerned about the health implications of transporting fresh milk in the same trucks right next to empty, unwashed bottles. All this led to the development of single-use containers. The earliest wax containers appeared in the 1890s. Shapes ranged from simple boxes to cylinders to cones to truncated pyramids, even ones that imitated the shape of a typical round glass bottle. What finally prevailed, in the 1940s, was a rectangular column design, with a small, round pull-up cap on a flat top piece. They were lightweight and compact, wasting little space in milk trucks.



This Day in History (12-Mar-1894) – Coca-Cola is bottled and sold for the first time

Coca-Cola history began in 1886 when the curiosity of an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, led him to create a distinctive tasting soft drink that could be sold at soda fountains. He created a flavored syrup, took it to his neighborhood pharmacy, where it was mixed with carbonated water and deemed “excellent” by those who sampled it. Dr. Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, is credited with naming the beverage “Coca‑Cola” as well as designing the trademarked, distinct script, still used today.

Prior to his death in 1888, just two years after creating, Dr. Pemberton sold majority of his business interest to Atlanta businessman, Asa G. Candler. Under Mr. Candler’s leadership, distribution of Coca‑Cola expanded to soda fountains beyond Atlanta. In a candy store in Vicksburg, Mississippi, brisk sales of the new fountain beverage called Coca-Cola impressed the store’s owner, Joseph A. Biedenharn. In 1894, due to the growing demand for Coca‑Cola and the desire to make the beverage portable, Joseph Biedenharn installed bottling machinery in the rear of his Mississippi soda fountain, becoming the first to put Coca‑Cola in bottles. He began bottling Coca-Colato sell, using a common glass bottle called a Hutchinson. Biedenharn sent a case to Asa Griggs Candler, who owned the Company. Candler thanked him but took no action.

Two young attorneys from Chattanooga, Tennessee believed they could build a business around bottling Coca-Cola. In a meeting with Candler, Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead obtained exclusive rights to bottle Coca-Cola across most of the United States — for the sum of one dollar. A third Chattanooga lawyer, John T. Lupton, soon joined their venture. The three pioneer bottlers divided the country into territories and sold bottling rights to local entrepreneurs. By 1909, nearly 400 Coca-Cola bottling plants were operating, most of them family-owned businesses.

The first servings of Coca‑Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta. Today, daily servings of Coca‑Cola beverages are estimated at 1.9 billion globally.