• Hinton

Food historian Tasha Marks debunks myths around the origins of certain foods and dishes

If French Fries are from Belgium, Swedish meatballs from Turkey, and NY cheesecake from Greece, what other food origins are we getting wrong?


National dishes are always a source of pride and nostalgia, infused with both personal memories and communal identity. However, once we dive deeper into the histories of our favourite foods, we soon realise not all is as it seems…

Food historian Tasha Marks has teamed up with Hine Cognac to uncover the top food myths and fun facts on some of the world’s most recognised dishes.

New York Cheesecake is from Ancient Greece – the dish of the first Olympic Games!

While the Big Apple takes credit for the New York cheesecake, the origins are found in Ancient Greece, nearly 5,000 miles away. It’s argued that the first cheesecake was created on the Greek island of Samos, around 2000 BC. Although the first recorded cheesecake recipe was only written down by Athenaeus in 230 AD, there are multiple sources that claim that cheesecakes were served to athletes at the first Olympic games in 776 BC, making the dish at least 2,800 years old.

Ketchup, Kê-tsiap or Catchup?

While ketchup is arguably the UK’s most popular condiment, it has its roots in Southeast Asia, as far back as 300 BC.

Tomato ketchup was introduced much later, around 1812, and that for the first chapter in ketchup’s European history, other flavours were far more popular - mushroom ketchup was apparently Jane

Austen's favourite.

The Great Grandparent of the Croissant

Do send our apologies to the French embassy, because it turns out that croissants aren’t originally from France. While croissants are definitely an icon of French cuisine, they didn't start out that way. Croissants are believed to be inspired by an Austrian treat called a Kipferl.

Fish, Chips & Judaism

For generations, fish and chips have fed millions of memories: a pay-day treat, at the end of the working week; a light lunch, fiercely defended from seagulls on a seaside holiday; or a late-night saviour, on the way home from the pub. Though the humble fish supper is a British institution, fish and chips actually has origins in Spain and Portugal. In particular, it was Jewish immigrants from Portugal who first brought this dish over to the UK when they were fleeing persecution.

How American is apple pie?

Recent DNA analysis indicates that apples originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan, where the wild Malus sieversii - the many-times great-grandparent of the modern domesticated apple - still flourishes.

As English as a Shepherd’s Pie

But what is Shepherd’s Pie without mashed potatoes? And did you know that potatoes are originally from Peru? The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C. In 1536, Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Peru, discovered the flavours of the potato, and

carried them back to Europe, where they were sold as… an aphrodisiac, amongst other things.

‘Asian’ onion soup doesn’t quite have the same ring…

However, many archaeologists, botanists, and food historians believe onions originated in central Asia, not France. Other research suggests onions were first grown in Iran and West Pakistan. So to Europeans, the humble onion should be considered exotic!


Nothing more French than Cognac…

…except a certain kind – Hine Cognac’s Founder originates from Dorset. Thomas Hine moved to France in 1791 to learn the secrets of how cognac, his father’s favourite tipple, is produced. He settles in France, marrying a French woman and in 1817 gives his name to the Cognac House.

Hine is renowned for a unique style of Cognac called ‘Early landed’ – a part of the liquid is aged in barrel in the UK before final blending and bottling in France. This is a specificity of the House and an homage to its British roots.

Since 1962, the House of Hine holds a Royal Warrant by Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and remains the only official supplier of cognac to the Royal household.

Tasha Marks, award-winning food historian and writer says: “Once we delve a little further into the histories of our favourite foods, we soon realise that whether it’s traditional British fare, or classic French gastronomy, these cuisines are not the product of one place, they have taken inspiration and ideas from around the world. Food doesn’t have borders –ingredients, recipes and techniques travel the globe. As Gertrude Stein famously wrote, "a rose is a rose is a rose", but so to, a Cornish Pasty is a Spanish Empanada is a Jamaican Patty!”

For further information and comments from Tasha please contact: Alexandra Gerolami, PR Manager alexandra@specialitybrands.com 020 8838 9367 / 07 444 232 037

Latest Articles