Food Firsts

February 1, 2016

The first thing Uncle John consumes in the morning: a handful of wasabi peas, washed down with black coffee. Here are some other landmark moments in the history of food.

First Indian Restaurant in the West

In 1810 Sake Dean Mahomed, a captain in the British East India Company, opened a restaurant in London that served authentic food from his native India. He called it the Hindoostanee Coffee House. The restaurant closed within the year…but by the mid- 20th century, “curry houses” were the most popular form of ethnic food and fast food in England.
First Indian Restaurant in the West

First Food Eaten in Space

On his orbit around the Earth in 1962, astronaut John Glenn ate applesauce.

First Food Magazine in the U.S.

Gourmet, which began publishing in 1941 and closed down in 2009. The first issue contained a recipe for wild bear.

First American Culinary School

When American restaurants faced a labor shortage during and after World War II, the New Haven Restaurant Institute was founded in Connecticut to train new chefs. It’s now the Culinary Institute of America.
First American Culinary School

First Genetically Engineered Food

The Flavr Savr, a breed of tomato bioengineered by food scientists, who altered and combined the genes of several different tomato varieties to make one that was more resistant to spoilage. It was approved for sale by the FDA in 1994.

First Branded FoodFirst Branded Food

Quaker Oats became the first trademarked breakfast cereal in 1877 and uses essentially the same label today.

First “Weird Al” Yankovic Song about Food

The comedy singer is best known for food-related parodies such as “Eat It” and “Fat.” His first food song was the second song he ever released: “My Bologna,” a 1980 parody of the Knack’s “My Sharona.” The original version featured Weird Al—solo—on vocal and accordion. He recorded it in his bathroom.

First Diet Soda

Kirsch Bottling, a Brooklyn company that catered primarily to hospitals, launched a locally distributed sugar-free ginger ale in 1952. Called No-Cal, it was marketed to diabetics and dieters. The first nationally available diet soda: Royal Crown’s Diet Rite Cola (1958).

First Bananas in the United States

The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition featured a tropical plant exhibit, where vendors sold bananas for 10 cents each (about $2 today).
Banana plants at 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition

First Weight-Loss Program

Jean Nidetch had a private weight-loss club for fellow New York City housewives. It did so well when she started it in 1963 that she formed Weight Watchers later that year.

First Foods Introduced to the New World

Christopher Columbus introduced Native Americans to the onions, garlic, wheat, barley, olives, and lettuce he brought from Spain. In return, he took back to Europe tomatos, potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and avocados.

First Pizza Delivery

In 1889 Naples, Italy, pizzeria owner Raffaele Esposito hand delivered a pie to a private home where the king and queen of Italy were staying on a visit to the city.

First Commercially Available Canned FoodFirst Commercially Available Canned Food

Condensed milk. Gail Borden started condensing and canning milk in 1856. The business took off when he got a government contract to supply canned milk to the Union Army during the Civil War.

First Chinese Restaurant in the United States

An influx of workers from China poured into northern California immediately after the Gold Rush of 1848. Chinese immigrant Norman Asing opened a restaurant serving Chinese food in San Francisco a year later—Macao and Woosung, an all-you-can-eat buffet. Cost: $1.

First Commercially Available Microwave Oven

The Radarange, produced by Amana, went on sale in 1947. Cost: $3,000 (about $29,000 today)
Uncle John's Fully Loaded Bathroom Reader