Fun St. Patrick’s Day Trivia and Gifts – Part 1

St Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin OhioÉirinn go Brách! Yes, another favorite holiday is fast approaching: St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th!  It’s a holiday commonly associated with the coming of springtime (hurry up, please!); rainbows and pots of gold (yes, I’ve tried to find a rainbows’ end a time or two); leprechauns; shamrocks (and for my son…shamrock shakes); dressing in green; festive parades; drinking green beer; and perhaps getting into a wee bit o’ mischief.  Seems to me like a perfect holiday to blog about and so I will :)

Erin Go Bragh

I chose to open this post with “Éirinn go Brách!” which is often spelled Erin go Bragh.  However, I have a confession: I’ve seen that phrase associated with this holiday countless times…and had no idea what it meant.  I figured, “it must be Irish for something.”  Does it mean “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”…or maybe it means “Kiss me, I’m Irish?”  Well, after a little research, I solved the mystery of  “Éirinn go Brách!” and managed gathered a few more interesting St. Patty’s Day facts to share with you.

But first, if you’re looking for some festive and fun St. Patrick’s Day gifts, we have them! Any of these gifts would be great for an office party, St. Patty’s Day celebrations at home or as a gift for your Irish (and Irish at heart) friends and family.  After all, everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Click here to shop the gifts seen below; at time of publishing this post, many of these gifts were on sale! We’ve got Irish-themed cookies, candy and other snacks, plus party supplies as seen below.

Figi's St. Patrick's Day Gifts

Most people know that according to legend, Saint Patrick was known for banishing dangerous animals from Ireland (particularly snakes).  But did you know he did this by beating a drum?  Did you know Saint Patrick’s true given name was Maewyn Succat and he wasn’t Irish by birth (he was born in England)?  I also learned St. Patrick’s Day marks Maewyn’s passing not his birthday.

Here are some more trivia for you:

  • The color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue; the color green became associated to St. Patrick’s Day in the 19th century.
  • As of 2008, there were more Americans of Irish decent (est. 36 million) than there were Irish living in Ireland (est. 4.4 million).
  • There are four U.S. municipalities named “Shamrock.” You can find them in West Virginia, Texas, Indiana and Oklahoma.
  • There are nine U.S. municipalities named “Dublin.” Dublin, California and Dublin, Ohio are generally the best known.  And speaking of towns named Dublin…

New London, Wisconsin becomes “New Dublin” 

New Dublin, WisconsinA week-long St. Patrick’s festival kicks off when members of the “Shamrock Club” in New London, Wisconsin dress up as leprechauns, then change New London’s highway signs to read “New Dublin.”  The town’s population numbers about 7,000, but “New Dublin” draws around 30,000 people on St. Patrick’s Day. Residents and visitors are treated to bagpipe players, a Finnegan’s Wake complete with a green hearse and Irish Fest complete with Celtic bands, Irish foods (especially corn beef and cabbage) and more.

Dye me a River

Chicago River Dyed GreenA few municipalities are known for this practice, but perhaps Chicago is most famous for it. For more than 40 years, the Chicago River has been dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.  The river is colored with an eco-friendly powdered vegetable dye.  It usually takes several days for the green coloration to disappear.

The World’s Biggest Shamrock

World's Biggest ShamrockO’Neill, Nebraska is known as Nebraska’s “Irish capital.”  O’neill has a four-leaf clover painted in the middle of the intersection of Route 281 and Highway 20. This symbol is a reminder of the town’s deep Irish roots. St. Patrick’s Day events in O’Neill include include a parade, the Shamrock Fun Run and a dodge ball tournament.

Oh yes…I forgot to explain what “Éirinn go Brách” means, didn’t I?  I’ll revisit that in the next post: “Fun St. Patrick’s Day Trivia Part 2.”  Do you have any fun St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Please tell us about them in the comments field below.

Also, if you love Pinterest, St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish, be sure to check out our St. Patty’s Day Pinterest board here.

Thanks again for reading Gourmetmarket.com!

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Figi’s History Part 3: World’s Largest Cheese and the 1964-1965 World’s Fair

We hope you have enjoyed Figi’s History Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven’t read, or would like to re-read those posts, you can access Part 1 (it all started at a kitchen table and and how to pronounce “Figi’s”) HERE.  You can access Part 2 (the fascinating connection between Figi’s and Mount Everest) HERE. With that, we’re on to the connection Figi’s had with the world’s largest cheese and the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.

Figi’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

On a Saturday evening in 1964, 800 guests attended Figi’s 20th Anniversary Celebration in rural Marshfield, Wisconsin. The grand affair consisted of a tour of the Figi’s facilities, cheese and wine tasting, and the opportunity to view, get this…a 34,951-pound cheddar cheese created for the Wisconsin Exhibit at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. That’s over 17 tons of cheddar! This mammoth cheddar, known as “The Golden Giant,” was made for the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation for the express purposes of promoting Wisconsin cheese around the world.  Pictured below, Figi’s had the honor of housing this renowned cheese for the weekend. That’s one big block of cheese!

World's Largest Cheese

The Golden Giant

The Golden Giant was manufactured by Steve’s Cheese near Denmark, Wisconsin (not far from Green Bay). The process took 43 ½ hours of continuous work by a crew of 25. The crew included four Wisconsin cheese makers who had won the famed “World’s Champion Cheddar Cheesemaking” award. Approximately 170,000 quarts of milk was used to make this mammoth cheese; it was the largest single piece of cheese ever made!  The Golden Giant’s dimensions were 6 ½ feet wide,  5 ½ feet tall and 14 ½ feet long. The Golden Giant was made rectangular rather cylindrical (as most mammoth cheese are shaped) so it could be transported by truck or train.

Largest Cheese Production Shots

In April of 1964, the Golden Giant was loaded into a special glass sided trailer and transported by diesel tractor to the New York World’s Fair – Wisconsin exhibition area. Interesting trivia: the semi trailer and a replica of the Golden Giant cheese are still on display in Neillsville, WI – just a few miles from the Figi’s corporate office. Here’s a photo:

World's Largest Cheese

Touring with the Cheesemobile

It is estimated that the Golden Giant , was seen by 12 million people during the two years of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.  After appearing at the Fair, the “Cheesemobile” toured the United States, stopping at major cities, various expositions, fairs and shopping centers, carrying the story of Wisconsin cheese to the nations. And to think:, the Golden Giant debuted right here in little Marshfield, Wisconsin at a Figi’s 20th Anniversary Celebration!

2014 marks our 70th year and we thank all of our customers for supporting us through the years. Thanks for reading gourmetmarket.com; we’ll be back soon with more fun stories to share with you soon. Oh, and if all this ‘cheese talk’ has made you hungry, like our mouse friend below, check out our fantastic selection of cheese gifts and gift baskets here.

Largest Cheese Cartoon

World’s Fair Image Credits: www.nywf64.com

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King Cake from Figi’s: a Mardi Gras Tradition

King Cake from Figi'sWhat’s a King Cake?

File this under “I never knew (insert topic) until I got a job at Figi’s.”  I never heard of  “King Cake” until…you got it…I got a job at Figi’s. I recently saw King Cake on our website; I included the website image of this gift at the top of this blog.  I think you would agree this cake looks very colorful and delicious! I also noticed this cake was pictured with two rather interesting items. The first item was obvious; it is hard to miss the Mardis Gras beads in the photo above.  By the way, Mardis Gras is coming up in a couple weeks.  The second item is more conspicuous; did you find it? Our King Cake comes with…a miniature plastic baby…? What in the world?! I just had to learn more about this gift!

My initial ignorance is probably the product of being born and raised in the upper Midwest and not knowing a whole lot about Mardi Gras. However, after a little research, I have learned King Cakes are a big part of Mardis Gras celebrations especially in New Orleans, but also all around the globe. I found out hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are consumed during the Mardi Gras season every year.  That makes sense to me: where there’s a party, there’s usually some sort of cake.

King Cake History and Tradition

I’ll spare you a big Mardi Gras history lesson, but in summary: January 6th is the twelfth night after Christmas and is also the day the Mardi Gras season begins. Mardi Gras Day is always 47 days prior to Easter Sunday and Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday.  I also discovered how “Fat Tuesday” got its name, but I digress.  On the Twelfth night after Christmas, it is common in New Orleans to celebrate the Wise Men’s (a.k.a. the Three Kings) pilgrimage to worship and bring gifts to Baby Jesus. This is usually referred to “Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night” or the “Feast of the Epiphany.”  At this celebration, people enjoy a hearty meal, exchanging gifts and in many cases, bake (or buy) a special cake in honor of the Three Kings…a King Cake.

King Cake from Figi'sThere’s a Baby in my Cake!

Traditionally, a tiny representation of the Baby Jesus is hidden inside the King Cake. The baby is usually plastic, but sometimes is made of other materials such as porcelain or even gold.  Figi’s King Cake includes a plastic baby and is NOT hidden in the cake; you can add the baby into the cake, but you should tell everyone eating the cake about the ‘surprise’  and its purpose.  Nothing spoils a party like a mouthful of unannounced plastic baby.  Traditionally, the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby inside is supposed to host next year’s party and supply the King Cake.

King Cake from Figi's What About the Colors?

King Cakes were originally a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s King Cakes are much more festive and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some bakeries stuff their cakes with different flavors of cream cheese and fruit fillings.  Our version is a Danish Kringle containing luscious cream cheese filling; its topped with confectioner’s sugar glaze and purple, green, and yellow granulated sugar in true Mardi Gras style.  The traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold have special meaning as follows: Justice = Purple, Power = Gold and Faith = Green.

And there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about King Cake. For more terrific Bakery items from Figi’s, including Spring Cookie Variety, Gourmet Easter Petits Fours, Almond Custard Coffee Cake , click here and thanks for reading Gourmetmarket.com!

Spring Cookie Variety from Figi'sGourmet Easter Petits Fours from Figi'sAlmond Custard Coffee Cake from Figi's

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Chocolate Lovers Rejoice!

Did you know…February is “Chocolate Lovers Month”

It is definitely fitting February is Chocolate Lovers Month, especially since Valentine’s Day generates over a billion dollars in sales for chocolate alone. What makes chocolate so popular? Is it the delicious taste; the smooth texture; how it melts in your mouth; or the multiple chocolate candies and recipes? Well, it’s all of that…and more!

Chocolate has been around for over 3,000 years and is produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree. But it is a combination of the cocoa solids, butter, sugar and milk that give chocolate its infamous taste. Typically, other ingredients are added to make the wide variety of dark, milk and white chocolate flavors and candies we enjoy today.

Fun Facts About Chocolate

  1. Dark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate and white chocolate, however, dark chocolate should be eaten in moderation. According to a study published in Women’s Health magazine, “a long-term study in Germany found that about a square of dark chocolate a day lowered blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attack and stroke by 39 percent. Most of the credit goes to “flavonoids” which are antioxidant compounds which increase the flexibility of veins and arteries (Domonell, n.d.)”
  2. Chocolate milk can boost your workout! “A study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism compared the effects of a recovery drink and chocolate milk on endurance athletes’ ability to recover after a series of bike sprints followed by an endurance ride the next day. They found that chocolate milk was just as effective at relieving muscle soreness after the sprints, and preparing the athletes to perform in the endurance test the next day. Better yet, everyone preferred the taste of chocolate milk (Domonell, n.d.)”
  3. The smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation (Facts Slides, n.d.)
  4. The inventor of the chocolate chip cookies sold the idea to Nestle Toll House in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate (Facts Slides, n.d.)
  5. Every second, Americans collectively eat 100 pounds of chocolate (Facts Slides, n.d.)
  6. Did you know there are potato chips dipped in milk chocolate?! They’re actually very tasty! Check out Figi’s Chocolate Potato Chips to try them out for yourself
  7. Cacao beans were used as currency by the Mayans and also in religious rituals. The Mayans only prepared chocolate for drinking; solid chocolate wasn’t created until the 1850s (Facts About Chocolate, n.d.)

Whatever your reason for loving chocolate, Figi’s Gifts in Good Taste offers a variety of sweet chocolaty treats to satisfy your craving or to share with someone you love. Learn more about Chocolate here and be sure to check out our most popular chocolate gifts below!

Chocolate Lover's Dream from Figi'sChocolate Lover’s Dream
Over two pounds of exquisite chocolates will make all your dreams come true. This melt-in-your-mouth assortment includes lavish, luscious creams, chewy caramels and crisp, crunchy nuts drenched in creamy milk or dark chocolate.

Creamy Country Fudge Wheel from Figi'sCreamy Country Fudge Wheel
This incredibly creamy fudge wheel blends rich ingredients for luxurious flavors that include double chocolate, maple nut, peanut butter swirl and chocolate walnut to satisfy your chocolate craving.

Caramel Pecan Clusters from Figi'sCaramel Pecan Clusters
This customer favorite includes large chunks of pecans in smooth, buttery-rich copper kettle caramel, dipped in velvety smooth chocolate. It is over one pound of deliciousness and you can choose from yummy milk chocolate or deep dark chocolate.

References

Domonell, K. (n.d.). 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Chocolate. Women’s Health Magazine. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.womenshealthmag.com/nutrition/chocolate-facts?page=5

(n.d.). 11 Things You Did Not know About Chocolate. I. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.factslides.com/s-Chocolate

(n.d.). Chocolate History: Who Invented Chocolate? Facts About Chocolate. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.facts-about-chocolate.com/chocolate-history/

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The Symbols of The Olympic Games

Opening CeremonyThe Winter Olympic Games are under way in Sochi. The opening ceremonies were stunning; the competitions have been entertaining. The Sochi games, as with Olympics past, have some very familiar symbols; easy recognizable to most people around the globe. You’re probably already thinking of a few symbols as you read this. I thought I’d explore some of the common symbols of the Olympic Games. Hopefully, you’ll learn something new and interesting along the way; I hope you enjoy this review and “go Team USA!” (opening ceremonies photo: NBC News)

Tourch lightThe Olympic Torch: few Olympic symbols are more recognizable than the Olympic torch. The flame itself is said to represent, among other things, purity and the pursuit of perfection.  In ancient Greece, the flame was ignited and kept burning until the closing of the Olympic Games, as is true in modern Olympics. The flame first appeared in modern Olympics in 1928.

Tourch lightThe journey of the Olympic torch from Greece to the host city is a long-standing tradition dating back to 1936. The Olympic flame is lit at the ancient site of Olympia, Greece by women wearing robes similar to what was common in ancient Greece. The torch is lit using a curved mirror that reflects sunlight. The Olympic torch is then passed from runner to runner, from the ancient site of Olympia, to the Olympic stadium in the hosting city.  The torch is passed along on to various athletes, celebrities, public officials and other citizens of the host country to the location of the latest Olympic Games. When the Olympic torch arrives at its destination, the final torch bearer lights the Olympic flame to signal the start of the Olympic Games.

Tourch RunIt has been reported about 14,000 torchbearers were involved with the Sochi torch replay in Russia, and and estimated 130 million Russians were able to see the torch. A map of the Sochi 2014 torch relay, with car journeys marked with white, plane journeys with blue and train journeys with red,  is shown above (Picture: The Siberian Times). That’s a whole lot of relay!

RingsThe Olympic Rings: perhaps the most recognizable symbols of the Olympic Games is the five interlocking colored rings, most commonly seen on the white Olympic flag. Each of the five rings has a unique color: blue, black, red, yellow and green. Every nation’s flag has at least one of these colors present. Pierre de Coubertin created this symbol in 1912; it represents our world’s five major contents from which Olympic athletes compete. The rings interlock as a sign of the friendships created between the competitors. The official Olympic flag, featuring this symbol on a white background, first flew in 1920.

MedalsThe Olympic Medals: we’re all aware athletes compete for medals; there are gold, silver, and bronze medals for athletes (or teams) who finish their event in first, second, and third place position.  The reverse side of an Olympic medal typically bears a design commemorative  to the city hosting the Olympic Games.  The Sochi medals are pictured above. Here’s an interesting fact: the last gold medals, made entirely of gold, were awarded in 1912. Visit the Today Show’s website, today.com, here for more fun Sochi Olympic medal facts.

Thanks for reading gourmetmarket.com!

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And the Award Goes to…Part 2

Welcome back to our fun-filled play on the Oscars! If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. It’s time to reveal the nominees for more exciting Best Valentine Gift categories!  

Here are the three nominees for Best Valentine Gift for Kids”: 

Mane Squeeze from Figi'sYou’re My Mane Squeeze: Our adorable plush lion won his nomination, hands down. I guess we could have included him in an awards blog based on the Grammys – maybe next year! He sings “Love You More Than I Can Say” and his performance will easily find its way into the heart of a special little one. Your Valentine will love this plush lion and the rich, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate truffle heart candies he brings.  Check out his video on our YouTube Channel here.

Personalized Valentine Bears from Figi'sPersonalized Valentine Bears: Kids feel like VIPs when they receive this cute, cuddly bear personalized with their own name! These Valentine pals are a Figi’s Exclusive – you won’t find them anywhere else! They’re also on of our best selling Valentine Gifts; it’s easy to see why: so adorable…and so huggable in those cute Valentine outfits!

Personalized Valentine Mailbox from Figi'sPersonalized Valentine Mailbox: Special Delivery! This personalized mailbox tin filled with Valentine candy always gets good reviews from the little ones who receive it.This dazzling delivery includes foiled chocolate crisp hearts, Tootsie Rolls,® chocolate conversation hearts, marshmallow bears, and more. The reusable mailbox can be personalized with your Valentine’s name!  

All very deserving gifts – and now, it’s your chance to pick the winner! Please use the poll below to cast your vote.

Next up are our three nominees for “Best Romantic Gift”: 

Personalized Everlasting Bouquet from Figi'sPersonalized Everlasting Bouquet: This gift is a classic. We nominated the Everlasting Bouquet of roses because the sentiment and beauty last forever. Tell your Valentine that your love for him or her is ‘forever’ with the splendor of rosebuds, accented by glossy greenery and lacy white baby’s breath. Your personalized greeting card nestles among red roses in an acrylic vase. But that’s not all – this gift Includes delicious Peanut Caramel Clusters for your sweetheart! 

Chocolate Covered Cherries from Figi'sChocolate Covered Cherries: Combining creamy milk chocolate and lush cherry centers, chocolate covered cherries steal the show for candy lovers!  Your sweetie with absolutely love the luscious sweetness of cherries and the creaminess of milk chocolate. These delicious treats arrive individually red foil wrapped, all nestled inside a heart shaped tin – perfect for the holiday!      

Heart Cookie Bouquet from Figi'sHeart Cookie Bouquet: This bouquet evokes all the romance and joy of a bouquet of flowers and then becomes a delicious treat…what a perfect ending! This gift is new this year: it’s a combination of heart-shaped sugar cookies; some are half dipped with a layer of white or chocolate icing. Then, drizzled with icing or candy-sprinkled. This 12 count bouquet comes wrapped in tissue, all tied up with a red satin bow.

All very deserving gifts – and now, it’s your chance to pick the winner. Please use the poll below to cast your vote today!

And be sure to check back soon for “And the Award Goes to – Part 3” for our final two Best Valentine Gifts categories and help us select the winners!

There are many more great gifts to enjoy for Valentine’s Day. Check out our entire Valentine Collection today and see the many deserving gifts you can ‘award’ to your Valentine!

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And The Award Goes To…Part 1

The Perfect Man at The Academy Awards

Yes, that’s international superstar Tom Hanks – with the Perfect Man gift from Figi’s. We took a some liberties with one of Tom’s Oscar-winning moments to help introduce our three part series on Valentine gifts. The series is entitled “And The Award Goes To…” and is based loosely on the Academy Awards. Tom sure does look good with his ‘award’, doesn’t he? (photo: oscartoday.com)

It’s that time of year again! The night all movie fans await – The Oscars are coming March 2nd! As you may already know, Oscar nominations have been announced, and is the case every year, many applauded the wonderful films and performances being honored, while others are in disbelief over the films and performances ‘snubbed’ by the Academy. For example, many agree that “Captain Phillips” deserves its nomination for “Best Picture”, yet wonder how Tom Hanks is not a nominee for “Best Actor in a Leading Role” for his work in “Captain Phillips”.  Oh well, such is the nature of show business.

With the spirit of the Oscars in mind, we’ve nominated some of our best Valentine gifts for her, him and kids and here’s your opportunity to cast your vote! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our nominees.

Here are the nominees for…Best Valentine Gift for Her:

Red Velvet Petits Fours from Figi'sRed Velvet Petits Fours: Celebrations of chocolate and heartwarming baked goods, Red Velvet Petits Fours are a feel-good treat! Savor the layers of red velvet cake and creamy white filling, enrobed in white icing with red icing accents!

Gourmet Chocolate Covered Strawberries from Figi'sGourmet Chocolate Dipped Strawberries: Luscious, alluring, and a little bit luxurious. Our Gourmet Chocolate Dipped Strawberries are everything a girl looks for in a Valentine’s Day gift! Fresh strawberries are dipped in chocolate and white icing, then enrobed in coconut, peanut bits and dark chocolate chips!

Boundless Love Necklace from Figi'sBoundless Love Necklace:  These stunning, stylized hearts intertwine for a gift that says, “I love you” with a sparkling personality! We nominated this gift because the lovely open-heart design will allow a special lady to feel the love it symbolizes.

Again, all very deserving gifts, but only one can win and we need your help! Please use the poll below to cast your vote.

Here are the nominees for…Best Valentine Gift for Him: 

North American Nature Tees from Figi'sNorth American Eagle Tees: Soaring high above the landscape, the eagle is a strong symbol of America that brings joy to the hearts of nature lovers. Delightful detail and striking color add to the enjoyment of this comfortable eagle tee. The outdoorsman will appreciate a gift that shows his love for the wild life! Also available in North American Deer.

Smokehouse Beef Sticks and More from Figi'sSmokehouse Beef Sticks & More: It has been said, the easiest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…and you’ll get there with these deliciously smoked, hearty meat sticks! Our seasoned smoked meat sticks are available in Beef, Pepperoni, Hot & Spicy and Honey Ham.

Valentine Super Snack from Figi'sValentine Super Snack: We LOVE this collection of classic cheese, sausage and Creamy Country Fudge and your special guy will love it, too! The fudge is festively formed into a heart to make a sweet symbol of your love this Valentine’s Day! 

All very deserving gifts – and now, it’s your chance to pick the winner! Please use the poll below to cast your vote.

As is true with the Oscars, there are many deserving gifts but we simply have to limit our nominees. To see all of our great gifts to enjoy for Valentine’s Day, check out our Valentine Collection today and see the many gifts you can ‘award’ to your Valentine! 

Be sure to check back soon for “And the Winner is – Part 2” where we’ll reveal the nominees for “Best Gift for Kids” and “Best Romantic Gift”. 

Thanks again for reading gourmetmarket.com!

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National Carrot Cake Day

Carrot Cake
February 3rd is National Carrot Cake Day – and I say “fantastic!”  Well, it’s “‘fantastic!”  if you like carrot cake; and at Figi’s, we do:) It turns out carrot cake has been around since the Middle Ages. That’s almost as long as some fruitcakes that have been re-gifted over the years.  Back then, sugar and other sweet ingredients were both rare and expensive, thus it  most people turned to sweet vegetables, such as carrots, for sweet flavoring. In time, this practice became less common as sugar became more accessible to the masses.

However, this practice resurfaced during World War II as the war resulted in scarcities of many items: including sugar. The British Ministry of Food actively promoted recipes for carrot-filled pies,  carrot cakes and carrot puddings. In fact, many families in the United Kingdom still serve carrot cake on Christmas Day.Carrot Cake Petits Fours from Figi'sFigi’s has had several varieties of Carrot-themed gifts; here is one of our customer-favorites: Carrot Cake Petits Fours.  Yes, your favorite moist and delicious carrot cake is layered with fluffy-rich cream cheese filling and covered in confectioner’s coating. We then hand decorate these Petits Fours with yummy carrots and stripes. These Petits Fours are very popular in springtime, especially around Easter, but are enjoyable any time their available! Order some for yourself today!

Fun Carrot Facts (from healthdiaries.com):

  • The longest carrot ever recorded was nearly 17 feet long.
  • The heaviest carrot weighed 18.985 pounds.
  • Carrots are around 87% water.China is the world’s top carrot producer.
  • The inspiration for Bugs Bunny’s nonchalant, carrot-eating demeanor is a scene from the movie It Happened One Night in which Clark Gable leans nonchalantly against a fence eating carrots while talking to Claudette Colbert .
  • Carrots are a root vegetable believed to have originated in Afghanistan.
  • Carrots were commonly found in the hues purple, white, and yellow – but not orange. Read more how carrots became orange here.

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Happy Hedgehog Day! Part 2

In Part 1, we discovered the origins of Groundhog Day; an interesting and informative trip through time and western civilization to learned how Candlemas Day influenced Groundhog Day.  If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.

Gobblers KnobWith that foundation laid, I’ll let you research how all of that evolved into Punxsutawney Phil, Gobbler’s Knob and the advent of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. However, I will share that “The Punxsutawney Spirit” newspaper is credited with printing the news of the first observance of Groundhog Day in 1886: “Today is groundhog day, and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow.”

Groundhog Day MoviePhil had humble beginnings, but has grown into a cultural icon, thanks to making appearances in movies, television, political rallies and sporting events. In fact, early observances of Phil’s predictions were conducted privately, in the wooded areas that neighbor Punxsutawney, PA; a far cry from the modern spectacle and experience that is Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA. In fact, Punxsutawney is a town of about 10,000 residents, but tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world descend on Punxsutawney / Gobbler’s Knob to see Phil’s prognostication.

And now: here are some interesting facts regarding Phil and Punxsutawney, including Phil’s diverse appearances over the decades as well as his accuracy in prognostication.

Groundhog Day in PA

  • Groundhogs are also known as ‘woodchucks’ (how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?).
  • The name ‘Punxsutawney’ comes from the Native American phrase “ponksad-uteney” which translates “town of the sand flies.” The location was originally settled by Delaware Indians in 1723. The town is located about 2 hours northwest of Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Most of Phil’s time is spent relaxing in a climate-controlled home in the Punxsutawney, PA Library, with his wife, Phyllis. On Groundhog Day, Phil waits in his heated burrow until 7:25 am; at that time, Phil comes out to deliver his prediction.
  • 1886 is the first recorded Groundhog Day, celebrated on February 2nd in Punxsutawney, PA. The following year, an official ceremony was held at Gobbler’s Knob and “Phil” was named. Phil was also proclaimed the one and only official weather predicting groundhog. Phil’s been doing his job for over 120 years. Phil’s longevity is apparently the result of a secret elixir he drinks during the summer Groundhog Picnic; it adds seven additional years to his life.
  • Many sources site Phil predictions are accurate about 39% of the time; so he’s probably as accurate as your local weather person (I’m joking).
  • It’s rumored that during Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn’t allowed a drink.
  • In 1981 Phil wore a yellow ribbon in support of the American hostages being held in Iran.
  • In 1986, Phil traveled to Washington DC and met President Reagan. Phil doesn’t eat Jelly Belly jelly beans…
  • In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. (It’s six AM…again. I got you, babe!)
  • In the years following the release of that movie, record crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney.
  • In 1995, Phil made a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • In 2001, Phil’s prediction was shown ‘live’ on the JumboTron in Times Square.

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Happy Hedgehog Day! Part 1

Groundhog DayGroundhog Day is a popular annual tradition held February 2nd.  But it could easily have been called Hedgehog Day, had it not been for, well…we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Many of us await world-famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast for an early or late spring, based on whether or not Phil sees his shadow. Tens of thousands of people flock to Punxsutawney, PA to witness this tradition every year.  Phil’s shadow is regarded as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather; no shadow is heralded as sign that spring is on the way. Everyone knows that…

But I got to thinking about it: how did that tradition get started? I didn’t have a clue and I wondered if anyone I knew had a clue. So, I asked a dozen people to tell me what Groundhog Day is about and I essentially got the answer in paragraph one…because ‘everyone knows that!’.  However, I asked the same dozen people if they knew the origin of Groundhog Day…and not one person knew. I’m assuming many of our readers don’t know, either and with that, today’s blog will help resolve the question.  We’re going shed some light on the origin of Groundhog Day (oops: light = shadow = six more weeks of winter?!) and share some interesting trivia about Punxsutawney Phil.

candelmas day windowGroundhog Day as we know it evolved from traditions associated with Candlemas Day. In early Christian Europe, it was customary to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the masses. Candles where placed in windows and lit. This practice marked a winter milestone (it falls between the middle of Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox) and, as is true with Groundhog Day, the weather that day was significant, as noted below:

An old Scotch couplet:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be twa (two) winters in the year.

It is believed Germany developed the tradition that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, the hedgehog would cast a shadow, scurry back to its burrow and slumber for six more weeks, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather. This was termed the “Second Winter.”

Let’s fast forward to the 1700’s. Many of Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were from Germany. Recall that Punxsutawney is in Pennsylvania? Anyway, as immigrants do, these German settlers brought their traditions with them. The settlers found groundhogs to be abundant (not hedgehogs), and deciding the groundhog resembled the hedgehog from their homeland, adopted the groundhog into their Candlemas Day tradition.  Thus, if the sun appeared on February 2nd, the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home and slumber for another six weeks of winter.

A German saying:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.

We’ll share some more Groundhog Day tradition…and the trivia in our next post: Happy Hedgehog Day! Part 2. We hope you’ve enjoyed Part 1 and thanks for reading Gourmetmarket.com!

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