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The First American Meatball Recipe Appears In The 1889 “Aunt Babette’s Cook Book”

On March 9th, we recognize one of the great American food holidays, National Meatball Day.

  • There is a restaurant in New York, The Meatball Shop, that has 54 different kinds of meatballs.
  • In China, there is a record of a recipe that can date back to 221 BC!
  • Ancient Rome can add a claim to meatballs as there is a surviving cookbook that holds a variety of recipes with balls of meat.
  • The first American meatball recipe appears in “Aunt Babette’s Cook Book” in 1889.
  • The Italian word for meatball is polpette. Although many countries around the world have their own take, like the Vietnamese and banh mi or the  Middle East.
  • No one knows for sure where the first meatball came from, however, recipes for meatballs from the time of the Romans exist as evidence in an ancient recipe book written by Marcus Gavius Apicus (aka Apicius), who was born in 25 AD. His book is called “De re coquinaria libri decem (Cuisine in Ten Books)”. Book II is devoted to “minces”, or mixtures of meat and other ingredients.
  • Have you ever had a Swedish meatball at IKEA? The furniture company began selling food more than 30 years ago when founder Ingvar Kamprad became afraid that shoppers were feeling hungry during their long trips to IKEA. The result? In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that IKEA’s Food division earns $2 billion in annual revenue. That same year, the company sold a staggering 150 million meatballs!
  • 2 million meatballs are eaten daily between IKEA’s 340 worldwide stores.
  • Every Culture Has a Meatball.  Swedish köttbullar,  Spanish albondigas,  Dutch bitterballen, Greek keftedes, South African skilpedjies, and from India through the Middle East, kofta.
  • Swedish meatballs are not from Sweden. They are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century.
  • Japan makes a hamburger steak, called hanbâgu, which is basically a larger, flatter, meatball.
  • Grecian meatballs are fried, and usually include finely diced onion and mint leaf within the meat.
  • Indonesian meatballs are served in a bowl, with noodles, beancurd, eggs, and possibly fried meat to boot.
  • In Albania, meatballs often come as a mixture of feta cheese and meat.
  • Polish meatballs (golabki) are huge, about the size of large oranges, and include rice. They are served in steamed cabbage leaves, usually in a tomato sauce.
  • Turkey boasts over 80 types of meatballs, each type made just a bit differently according to its region of origin.


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