11 Exotic Origins of Everyday Things
So THAT’s where poker came from.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/bonetta
Consider the heritage of one American icon: blue jeans. When you track them back, denim’s roots go a good deal deeper than the cowboy plains, stretching in some shape or form back to the looms of 16th-century French weavers in Nîmes (Get it? De Nîmes = denim). And, today, making these denim mistakes could ruin your outfit.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/Mark Fairey
Before the loafer became the shoe of choice for American teens in the ’50s, Norwegian dairy farmers wore leather slip-ons in cattle enclosures called loafing areas. A cobbler then took the lace-free footwear to market, basing his model on the local style. Bass introduced its version of the Norwegian classic to Americans in 1936. Today, loafers can be found on the feet of leisure lovers everywhere. Try these genius tips to make your shoes last longer.
The Panama hat
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/JensGade
The Panama hat is from Ecuador. Woven from the straw of the toquilla plant, this lightweight, wide-brimmed piece of headgear provided an ideal shield from the tropical sun. Why Panama, then? After the hat made its way up from South America to be shipped to Europe and North America, it took its name from the Panamanian ports from which it sailed. Panama hats received a fashion boost when President Teddy Roosevelt donned one on a visit to the Panama Canal.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/Andrey Eremin
Though it claims many fore-bears, including the German pochen, the French poque, and possibly the Iranian game of as nas, poker as we know it was born in the U.S.A. From the formerly French city of New Orleans, it traveled north aboard the legendary riverboats of the Mississippi in the early 19th century and caught on across the country. By the 1830s, the 20-card deck had grown to 52 to include more players and eventually caused more people to lose their shirts than did the Great Depression.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/nikitos77
Stone Age vintners squashed grapes in the region of Turkey and Armenia in 6000 BC, and the Sumerians and Egyptians were brewing beer in large quantities by 3500 BC. But an eighth-century alchemist in what we now know as Iraq is credited with inventing the process of distillation-heating fermented liquids from which pure alcohol is siphoned off. Hence, the cocktail, causing happiness and havoc the world over. Unfortunately, his cure for the common hangover has been lost to history.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/rimglow
Limes originated in Indonesia and Malaysia and were first cultivated in Southeast Asia and India. Arab traders scattered the citrus, which finally rolled into Europe during the Crusades. Then Spanish colonizers brought limes to the New World, where they flourished with zest.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/Skystorm
While the ancient Greeks wielded large, two-pronged tools to carve and serve meat, seventh-century Middle Eastern potentates were the first to bring a fork to their lips. Around the 11th century, the first fork reached a Venetian table in the hand of a Byzantine princess, to the horror of local priests, who maintained that God had invented fingers for eating. It took more than 500 years for Italians to adopt the utensil, which raises the question, How did they twirl pasta before? Here’s why you should eat pizza with a knife and fork.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/agrobactor
As far back as 1000 AD, Ethiopians chewed the seeds and berries of the coffee plant for its stimulant effects. Nearby Yemen was the first to cultivate and roast the beans for brewing-Sufi mystics there used it to enhance their spiritual experience. Coffee was shipped throughout the Arab world from the Yemeni port of Mocha and made its way to Europe in the 17th century.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/kgfoto
The Afghans ate purple carrots some 5,000 years ago. Since then, carrots have been cultivated in a wide variety of colors and sizes-small, medium, and large (one Asian variety is three feet long). The modern vegetable, the stuff of Peter Rabbit, was likely developed by the Dutch in the 17th century and has been adding crunch to party trays and turning carrot acolytes orange ever since. Here’s the deal with purple carrots.
Jackson Abatemarco/rd.com, iStock/clubfoto
The Mayans of Honduras first cultivated cacao beans to make chocolate. They ground the beans and mixed in water, maize, and sometimes even chilies to create a bitter beverage they found delightful. European settlers were considerably less enthusiastic when they arrived in the New World. But when Spanish explorers brought the chocolate drink back to Europe and sugar was blended in-ahí está! Europeans couldn’t get enough. The U.K. company J. S. Fry & Sons produced the first chocolate bars in the mid-19th century.