Have you ever wondered who was the first to invent your favorite dessert or food? We at Vermont Shortbread Company often ponder such questions. So, we decided to do some research on shortbread in order to discover what old secrets the internet may have!
Like many foods we now consider delicacies like shortbread, it was once considered believe-it or not by royalty. Shortbread was made with butter which was considered a waste product of milk. Can you imagine a time before butter-rich foods were considered pure decadence? We can’t.
Yes, in medieval Europe, dairy farmers sold most of their milk directly to landlords. The surplus would then be made into butter and cheese.
Poor families in the Middle Ages discovered a wonderful way to use the tons of “scorned butter” that was left over: add sugar, oat, or wheat flour, and you get a rich, sweet-tasting cookie that later became known as shortbread. We don’t know the identity of the first person to make shortbread. But we do know that shortbread and other butter-based cookies were a popular treat at Queen Mum’s afternoon tea.
The rags to riches badge of culinary honour is not only worn by shortbread. It is likely that most gourmet desserts and foods, even those prepared by the best chefs in the world, are actually just ordinary recipes. Although a rare taste, dandelion greens are still very popular in fine restaurants. They were first consumed in America during the Depression, when food was scarce and people had to survive on what they could find. The avocado, also known as “the poor man’s butter” in Mexico, is a famous edible. If you think about any of the wild game specialties that high-end restaurants offer (rabbits, wild boars, venison and quail), then you might recall the “uncivilized” men who first tried these foods. These were hungry men who were on the edge of their lives and had to venture out to catch their dinner.
After our brief foray into epicurean history, we can see that shortbread is one of many foods that originated from a need. It was created by the love, care, and creativity of some of the most talented chefs in the world, many of whom will never be given the credit they deserve for the amazing culinary contributions. It’s clear that shortbread has been around for centuries, with very little modification to the original recipe. This is a tradition that will never be lost.