Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hamburger Day or Buffalo Soldier Day

The all-American hamburger is the subject of today's gustatory observance.

Interestingly, the "Hamburg Steak" was a dish created by the poorer classes in Hamburg, Germany: Poor people couldn't afford better cuts of meat, so they ground up what they could afford and mixed it with whatever spices they could to make the dish more palatable.

Nature's most perfect food -- pizza -- was once strictly a peasant dish as well. Sophia Loren was shocked by all the pizza parlors when first touring the United States -- to her, pizza meant poverty -- and all the pizza joints she saw seemed to contradict what she'd been told about America's wealth.

Today is also Buffalo Soldier Day. Although there is some disagreement on the specifics, the appellation "Buffalo Soldier" seems to have been bestowed by American Indians who faced the African-American 10th Calvary in battle in the 1870s. The term Buffalo Soldier has come to apply to any African-American unit that could trace its lineage to the 9th or 10th U.S. Calvary Units. Then-Chief of Staff General Colin Powell presided at what may have been the first Buffalo Soldier Day observance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1992 (the culmination of an idea he'd pushed from the time he'd served at that post while only a Brigadier General, many years before).

Here's a trivia point for you: General "Black Jack" Pershing -- the commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I -- got his famous nickname because of his early service as a lieutenant in the 10th Calvary. According to the Wikipedia article on Buffalo Soldiers, the nickname was anything but complimentary. Pershing was apparently not sufficiently racist enough to suit his brother officers; the actual name by which Pershing was called had to be cleaned up for the newspapers when Pershing became famous.

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