Your average, ordinary rhubarb has been around since 2700 BC, and for a time it was widely sought on account of its supposedly magical healing abilities. When someone started growing it in England in the 1500s, though, it tanked almost immediately thanks to a noticeable lack of magical healing powers, improperly planted strains, and just general non-tastiness. Basically, it was the 16th century version of Crystal Pepsi.
Imagine this, but a vegetable and somehow worse-tasting.
By the time the 1800s rolled around, the rhubarb was totally unpopular and on its way out. One of the few places in Britain where they were still being grown was the Chelsea Physic Garden. One day a bunch of laborers were digging an irrigation trench to water the plants; unfortunately, the direction of the planned ditch crossed paths with the rhubarb patch. Since they were sensible workman who didn't want to destroy the gardens, they checked with their supervisor and then altered the trench so it went around the rhubarbs. Nah, just kidding. They plowed right through the fuckers.
Even if they thought initially that the rhubarb leaves were just weeds, they must have realized at some point that they were digging up vegetables instead of daffodils. This didn't stop them from completely covering the entire rhubarb patch with dirt and leaves.
What's more, they didn't even get called out on it since the head gardener only noticed weeks later that part of his garden had been totally obliterated. When he brushed off the rubble, he noticed that the rhubarbs looked way more tender and delicious; when he tasted one, he found that its flavor had improved tenfold. This process of "forcing" rhubarbs by covering them from sunlight also allowed them to be grown out of season; the combination of tasty food and the ability to eat it whenever you wanted created a popularity explosion for the rhubarb.
Prairie Home Companion is just an arm of the powerful Rhubarb Cartel.
#2. French Dip Sandwich
The French Dip Sandwich sprung into existence in Los Angeles somewhere in the early 1900s. However, there are two mutually independent stories of exactly where, when, and how it came about; fortunately (well, fortunately for this article), they both deal with dick moves.
The first story is that in 1918, a chef in popular LA diner "Philippe the Original" was making a sandwich for one of his regular customers. He somehow managed to drop the entire thing into a vat of beef broth, an impressive feat of butterfingery considering that the sandwich he was making involved no broth whatsoever.
Next, on Cooking with Quaaludes.
After he fished it out, the sandwich had gotten incredibly soggy and was ruined, and clearly the only reasonable option was to apologize to the customer and make a new sandwich. But since you've read this far, you've probably already figured out that he just served it up anyway.
What you almost definitely didn't know was that the customer in question was a cop (who presumably could have called in a whole bunch of health inspectors), making this the equivalent of sending a computer virus to your IT guy: it could have intentionally pissed off the one guy who could shut you down for good. Thankfully the cop liked extra beef sauce with his beef sandwich, no one got shut down and the dish became a regular on the menu.
The second origin story takes place in 1908 in competing LA eatery "Cole's Diner." Cole's mainly served (surprise!) sandwiches, but the main difference between Cole's and Philippe was that the bread at Cole's was about as soft as a diamond-studded brick. The older patrons of Cole's simply couldn't chew the bread-shaped rocks, and eventually one of them complained to the head chef that his bread was pretty much inedible.
"Seriously, you can kill a man with it."
Now, he could have gone back to the kitchen and learned how to make sandwiches that didn't break your teeth if you even looked at them the wrong way, but that would simply involve too much effort. So he dunked the sandwich in some beef broth and handed the soggy mess back to the whiny old man in order to make him shut up for a bit. Not only did he shut up, he scarfed the entire thing down and asked for more, and a tradition was (possibly) born.
And what a wonderful looking tradition it was.
Regardless of who's right, this proves what we've said for years: there's no problem that can't be solved with the addition of beef.
#1. Worcestershire Sauce
Back in 1835, the British still ruled India and had started to realize that Indian cuisine was a damn sight better than spotted dick, toad-in-the-hole, or any of Britain's other terrible, terrible, native dishes.
What the hell, guys?
So when the ex-Governor of Bengal, Lord Marcus Sandys, returned home to Worcestershire, he started missing good food almost immediately. In order to fill the curry-shaped hole in his soul, he commissioned two pharmacists by the names of John Lea and William Perrins to make a recipe he had acquired in his two-year stay. Lea and Perrins gamely tried to figure out the weird foreign concoction Sandys wanted, and eventually wound up with an odd-looking, strange-smelling sauce.
It's a good idea to view any addition to British cuisine with extreme suspicion.
They looked at each other, shrugged, held their noses, and tasted a couple drops...and yeah, it tasted about as good as it smelled-namely, awful. They couldn't possibly give the sauce to Lord Sandys (unless they wanted to be arrested for intentional food poisoning) and there was really only one possible course of action: throw out the evil-tasting slime.
But we don't want to belabor the whole "British cooking" bit.
But apparently the walk from the pharmacy to the garbage can was simply too far, because Lea and Perrins decided to just chuck the jars in their cellar and employ the tried-and-true "we'll deal with it later" method of problem solving. In this case, later turned out to be two years, when they stumbled upon the sauce again. And since they were apparently in a 19th century version of Jackass, they decided to taste it again... and this time, it was delicious. Lea and Perrins quickly set up a company, unimaginatively titled Lea & Perrins, to sell their new Worcestershire Sauce.
Are you noticing a theme in this article? If you find an unknown and possibly dangerous substance, don't throw it out without shoving a little in your mouth first. If you survive, riches could await!
If not? Eh.