Oyster pails and Greek helmets

I must confess that the idea for this article came from the ‘food network’ which we watch once in a while when the many serials on TV have run their course and there are no more channels to surf. This one was very interesting, talking about the connections between oyster pails, fast food and Greek helmets. Aha! Wonder what they have in common? Read on..

Let’s start with a statistic. Did you know that Chinese take away alone outnumbers the total purchases of MacDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger king and such the in the USA? Unbelievable, eh? Well that is a fact. US spend about 170 billion dollars on fast food annually!! The first of the lot was a food chain called White Castle from Kansas that’s served steamed burgers (called Slyders) since 1916 with fries and cola for 5 cents. Since people had a pretty poor opinion on the meat used in the burgers, white castle opened up the manufacturing process of the burger to the public and that has how it has been since then – open kitchens. 27 years later, Macdonald’s came on, to be followed by many others. White castle could not handle a large number of patrons in the dining hall, so in order to ensure that they lost no business, they started the concept of drive through, to multiply the customers served. Thus started western takeaway rage and White castle used a rectangular burger box, creating the first takeaway container.

However Chinese takeaway existed before that but were consumed only by the Chinese laborers that flocked in following the California gold rush. What is Chinese food takeaway contained in? A nice looking self insulated pail made of stiff wax paper with a wire handle. It is all so common and famous, ever figured out where it came from? It has its origin early in the 20th century (oysters were plentiful then) when fresh opened oysters were taken away packed with ice in such containers. Today oysters are not so plentiful, Chinese food is and it quickly adapted itself as the container for Chinese takeaway!!!

Well what has all this got to do with the Greek soldier and his helmet? In earlier days, the helmet served as a soup carrier for the Greek soldier buying fast food from the Athens bazaar (typically hot soup made with lentils - chorba). Now can you imagine what the earliest soup’s (dating back 6000 years were made of ? Hippopotamus!! At least so sayeth Wikipedia.

More on drive through fast-food takeaway and how today’s economy have hit them, in an upcoming blog.


Nanditha Prabhu said…
this was an interesting read indeed! the greek soldiers carrying hot soups in their helmets....and " hippopotamus"...all this is news to me! thank you for this post.. looking forward to the next!
Vidhya said…
Maddy, This one is an interesting piece. Its good to get more information on the "most happening" fast food industry...Hmm.. my grandma would have become a millionaire with her recipies.. if only she could convert them to easy take aways!!

Looking forward for the next post.
harimohan said…
dear maddy
that is great and intresting info ,trivia i love to read
Ajith said…
Hi , can u give me your REC passout year as well as Full name ..Along with another batchmate of mine, I've built an application to keep in touch with students / alumni of an institution.. The details are in my blog..Also visit www.blogpane.com..
Red Soul said…
haha cool stuff! :D
Maddy said…
Hi nanditha - thanks, but just imagine, Hippo soup, well they were the terror of the nile for Egyptians.

Vidhya, thanks for dropping by, Maybe you can start by documenting your granny's recipes.Much of our food can actually be migrated to 'takeaways'

Thanks Hari & Ajith I think i put up all the data on your site..

redsoul - thanks a lot...