Thursday, February 5, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Feb 5 2015

National Chocolate Fondue Day


It’s National Chocolate Fondue Day! The origins of this holiday are quite mysterious, no one knows who created Chocolate Fondue Day, where it was first celebrated, or why it is celebrated every year. It is one of those bizarre yet funny days that has appeared unannounced on our calendar, inviting us to enjoy a chocolatey celebration: dipping our favorite fruit, cakes, cookies and marshmallows into a pot of melted chocolate.

The word fondue is the feminine passive past participle of the French verb fondre ("to melt") used as a noun. It is first attested in French in 1735, in Vincent la Chapelle's Cuisinier moderne, and in English in 1878.

The earliest known recipe for cheese fondue as we know it today comes from a 1699 book published in Zurich, under the name "Käss mit Wein zu kochen" "to cook cheese with wine". It calls for grated or cut-up cheese to be melted with wine, and for bread to be dipped in it.

However, the name "cheese fondue", until the late 19th century, referred to a preparation including eggs and cheese, as in la Chapelle's 1735 Fonduë de Fromage, aux Truffes Fraiches it was something between scrambled eggs with cheese and a cheese soufflé. Brillat-Savarin in 1834 says it is "nothing other than scrambled eggs with cheese". Variations included cream ("à la genevoise") and truffles ("à la piémontaise") in addition to eggs; and also what we now call "raclette" ("fondue valaisanne").

The first known recipe for the modern cheese fondue under that name, with cheese and wine but no eggs, was published in 1875, and was already presented as a Swiss national dish. Despite its modern associations with rustic mountain life, it was a town-dweller's dish from the lowlands of western, French-speaking, Switzerland: rich cheese like Gruyère was a valuable export item which peasants could not afford to eat.

The introduction of cornstarch ("Maïzena") to Switzerland in 1905 made it easier to make a smooth and stable emulsion of the wine and cheese, and probably contributed to the success of fondue.

Fondue was popularized as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s as a way of increasing cheese consumption. The Swiss Cheese Union also created pseudo-regional recipes as part of the "spiritual defense of Switzerland". After World War II rationing ended, the Swiss Cheese Union continued its marketing campaign, sending fondue sets to military regiments and event organizers across Switzerland. Fondue is now a symbol of Swiss unity.

In the meantime, fondue continued to be promoted aggressively in Switzerland, with slogans like "La fondue crée la bonne humeur" "fondue creates a good mood" and (1981) "Fondue isch guet und git e gueti Luune" "fondue is good and creates a good mood" – abbreviated as "figugegl".

Fondue was promoted to Americans at the Swiss Pavilion's Alpine restaurant at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

The extension of the name "fondue" to other dishes served in a communal hot pot dates to 1950s New York. Konrad Egli, a Swiss restaurateur, introduced fondue bourguignonne at his Chalet Suisse restaurant in 1956. Then in the mid 1960s, he invented chocolate fondue as part of a promotion for Toblerone Chocolate. A sort of chocolate mousse or chocolate cake had also sometimes been called "chocolate fondue" starting in the 1930s.
Chocolate fondue is a dessert that was created in the 1960s, probably in New York City. The story goes that Konrad Egli, chef at Chalet Swiss, came up with the idea as a part of a campaign to promote Swiss chocolate products in the United States. However, chocolate fondue was quickly adopted worldwide, as one of the most decadent and sensual desserts.

Get yourself a fondue pot, a bar of quality chocolate and some delicious dipping ingredients, and satisfy your sweet-tooth on Chocolate Fondue Day!

National Frozen Yogurt Day


Celebrate National Frozen Yogurt Day! Originally, the health-conscious trend of the 1970s spurred the creation of this frozen treat. However, it didn’t gain widespread popularity until the 1980s, when recipes improved to the frozen yogurt we know and love.

People have been eating plain yogurt for over four millennia, particularly in the Middle East and India. Yogurt was brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s and steadily increased in popularity as a health food item over the next several decades. In the 1930s Dannon began selling prepackaged yogurt for the first time in the U.S. By the 1970s, with the popularity of ice cream surging, freezing and production technology was transferred to the production of frozen yogurt. Many consumers, however, complained about the yogurt taste.

Capitalizing on consumer demand for a sweet product that tasted like ice cream but was healthier, TCBY opened its first store in 1981. Unlike previous pre-packaged versions introduced earlier, TCBY's yogurt was soft-serve dispensed at the point of sale through a machine. TCBY became the largest frozen yogurt franchise in the world at that time. As others saw the success of TCBY, frozen yogurt took off in the 1980s, reaching sales of $25 million in 1986. Brands such as Colombo, Nanci's, and Miss Karen's came to prominence around that time in the United States and frozen yogurt was 10% of the frozen dessert market accounting for over $300 million in sales by the mid 1990s. Demand for frozen yogurt slowed considerably in the late 1990s as Americans turned their attention to high-protein, high-fat diets. Low-fat foods such as frozen yogurt fell out of favor as food trends favored higher fat and lower cost ice cream at the turn of the millennium.

Trends changed back to frozen yogurt in the mid 2000s with the advent of live probiotic powder-based mixes invented by John Wudel, pioneer of alternative sweeteners in the frozen dessert industry. Dry base mix made frozen yogurt accessible in many countries outside the United States for the first time. In 2005, a small retail shop in California named Pinkberry introduced a new extra tart variety of soft-serve frozen yogurt to the market. This new euro tart flavor along with the opening of numerous other self-serve yogurt stores all over the western United States led to a resurgence of interest and demand for frozen yogurt all over the world. Consumer demand for tart frozen yogurt reached unprecedented levels by 2013 all over the United States and many other countries marking a stark contrast to tart frozen yogurt's initial reception in the 1970s.
Frozen yogurt has come to be eaten almost as much as ice cream, and is served in just as many flavors and styles. Frozen yogurt is a great source of calcium and potassium, but remember to still enjoy in moderation.

 A healthier alternative to ice cream, frozen yogurt is also slightly more tart.  Eat it plain, or add toppings such as fresh fruit, fruit sauce, nuts, coconut, whipped cream – whatever you like! With a vast variety of flavors, there’s sure to be one out there for you. Happy National Frozen Yogurt Day!

National Weatherman's Day


February 5 is National Weatherperson's Day, commemorating the birth of John Jeffries in 1744. Jeffries, one of America's first weather observers, began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774 and he took the first balloon observation in 1784. This is a day to recognize the men and women who collectively provide Americans with the best weather, water, and climate forecasts and warning services of any nation.

Many of us take weather information for granted. Turn on a light switch, you get light. Turn on your television or radio, or check a web site and you get the weather forecast. It’s easy to forget that around the clock, dedicated meteorologists and weather-casters are vigilantly creating forecasts to help you plan your day, and issuing warnings to help keep you safe.

National Weather Service
The men and women at your local National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office gather the raw weather data, analyze the data, and study numerical computer models in order to issue the weather and river forecasts and warnings to protect life and property. Specialized marine and aviation forecasts help enhance the Nation’s economy. Spot forecasts help firefighters control wildfires and emergency management officials contain hazardous chemical spills. Extensive climate records help engineers, architects, researchers, insurance companies and utilities.

The primary mission of the NWS is to provide the American public with the best possible warning service to save lives. Recent severe weather statistics show that we continue to improve our capability to warn the public of impending hazardous weather. Nationally, lead time for flash flood warnings improved from 22 minutes in 1993 to 78 minutes in 2008. Accuracy over the same time period increased from 71 percent to 91 percent. Lead time for tornado warnings has increased from 6 minutes in 1993 to 13 minutes today. Tornado warning accuracy increased from 43 percent to 72 percent. Winter storm accuracy in 2008 was 89 percent with an average lead time of 17 hours. Since 1990, the Tropical Prediction Center’s 24 to 72 hour tropical storm forecast track errors have been reduced by more than 50%. These more accurate and longer lead time warnings help communities stay safe.

The St. Louis, Missouri NWS forecast office, which serves 46 counties from central Missouri to central Illinois, had an accuracy of 82 percent for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings in 2008 with an average lead time of 17 minutes. 

Western Monarch Day


February 5 is Western Monarch Day.  No, it is not a day to celebrate the King or Queen of any Western European nation, but to celebrate the monarch butterflies that grace much of North America.  These flying insects are quite prolific in my neck of the woods and are clearly the most common butterfly around.  They are certainly amazing in that they travel to just a few places where they winter.  This makes them worthy of a day to celebrate this wonderful animal.

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae) in the family Nymphalidae. It is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. Since the 19th century, it has been found in New Zealand, and in Australia since 1871, where it is called the wanderer. It is resident in the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira, and is found as an occasional migrant in Western Europe and a rare migrant in the United Kingdom. Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9–10.2 cm (3½–4 in). (The viceroy butterfly is similar in color and pattern, but is markedly smaller, and has an extra black stripe across the hind wing.) Female monarchs have darker veins on their wings, and the males have a spot called the androconium in the center of each hind wing. Males are also slightly larger than female monarchs. The Queen is a close relative.

The monarch is famous for its southward late summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico and coastal California, and northward return in spring, which occurs over the lifespans of three to four generations of the butterfly. The migration route was fully determined by Canadian entomologists Fred and Norah Urquhart after a 38-year search, aided by naturalists Kenneth C. Brugger and Catalina Trail who solved the final piece of the puzzle by identifying the butterflies' overwintering sites in Mexico. The discovery has been called the "entomological discovery of the 20th century". An IMAX film, Flight of the Butterflies, tells the story of the long search by the Urquharts, Brugger and Trail to unlock the secret of the butterflies' migration. There is evidence that eastern North American populations of the monarch butterfly migrate to south Florida and Cuba.

World Nutella Day


Chocoholics know that there is chocolate and then there is Nutella. The creamy and delicious chocolate and hazelnut spread has been around since the 1940's, and despite the many imitations that have appeared in the market, Nutella continues to be the favorite guilty pleasure of chocoholics around the world. It is not surprising that die-hard Nutella fans decided to start the Nutella Day tradition back in 2007. This sweet celebration was launched through social networks by a blogger and Nutella fan, and soon tens of thousands of like-minded Nutella devotees showed their appreciation for the chocolaty delight online.

Nutella spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing.

So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply.

The original version of Nutella spread was called "pasta gianduja," pasta which means paste, and "gianduja" which is the name of a carnival character famous to the region, a character that can be found in the first advertisements for the product.

Pasta gianduja was actually made in loaves and wrapped in tinfoil, so it could be sliced and placed on bread for mothers to make sandwiches for their children. But many children, as you could imagine, would throw away the bread and only eat the pasta gianduja!

So Mr. Ferrero altered the product into a paste that came in a jar, so it could be spread on the bread. This then became known as "supercrema gianduja," because it was a spreadable version of the gianduja. "Supercrema gianduja" was eventually renamed "Nutella" in 1964, with the origin of the word being "nut" and the "ella" giving it a soft ending.

From the start, Nutella spread was well received, since it was a less expensive way for people to enjoy something that tasted so good... a kilo of chocolate at the time was 6 times the cost of a kilo of pasta gianduja. So Nutella was a product that everyone could, and did, enjoy. The product became so popular that Italian food stores started a service called "The Smearing". Children could go to their local food store with a slice of bread for a "smear" of "supercrema gianduja."

Since European families and visitors have enjoyed Nutella as a breakfast staple on bread and toast for more than 40 years, the Ferrero Company wanted to introduce this traditional Italian breakfast item to the U.S. market in order to share the enjoyment of such a unique, convenient and tasty product.  Nutella was first imported from Italy to the U.S. over 25 years ago in 1983 and was initially distributed in the Northeastern part of the country.  The popularity of Nutella has grown steadily over the years and it is now available across the United States. In addition, Nutella is also marketed and sold all over the world.

The unique formula of Nutella hazelnut spread continues to be made from the combination of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa.  In addition, Nutella has no artificial colors or preservatives.  It can be found in grocery stores, warehouse clubs and mass merchandisers and is generally found near the peanut butter and sweet spreads section.

When used in moderation with complementary foods, Nutella can form a part of a balanced breakfast.  It can be a quick and easy way to encourage kids to eat whole grains, such as whole wheat toast, English muffins, toaster waffles and bagels.  With the unique taste of Nutella, kids may think they are eating a treat for breakfast while moms are helping to nourish their children with whole grains!

So, Nutella fans of the world unite! Celebrate the existence of this delicious chocolate spread by grabbing a spoon and getting creative with hundreds of Nutella recipes. Start your Nutella Day with a classic Nutella-on-pancakes breakfast and follow with a shaken espresso with a dash of Nutella. On this day, add Nutella to your cupcakes, ice cream, mousse, or even to savory dishes. Your imagination is the limit!