10 Fascinating Food Facts
Fascinating Fact: Coined by 7-11, the term ‘brain freeze’ explains the pain that one feels if Slurpee is consumed too fast
It may be hard to believe, but there does exist a real scientific name for ‘brain freeze’ – it is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Try repeating it fast for atleast 5 times and you’ll know how nerve wracking it can be. As for the pain, it occurs when the top palate of the mouth comes in contact with anything that’s extremely cold, for instance ice cream. This leads to constriction of the blood vessels, prompting nerves to send signal to the brain to re-open them. The re-opening of the vessels in quick succession causes fluid to be accumulated in the tissues, causing a slight swelling in the forehead. This is the reason for the pain to occur which normally lasts for 30 – 60 seconds, the time it takes for the fluid to drain.
Fascinating Fact: Ketchup was originally a fish sauce that originated in the orient
The two words from the Fujian region of China that describes a fish brine/sauce and a tomato sauce are ke-tsap and kio-chiap, both of which bears a striking similarity in sound to the word ‘ketchup’. In the past, ketchups used to be made in the west from fish and spices or mushrooms. In fact, mushroom ketchup still continues to be available in the United Kingdom where it is prized by many modern chefs for its natural content of monosodium glutamate – the only substance that is known to stimulate the fifth human taste sense umami or savoury.
Fascinating Fact: A common drink in Tibet is butter tea – made from yak butter, salt, and tea
And an average Tibetan can drink as much as 50 to 60 cups of it on any given day. The process begins by drying Chinese tea on the road for several days, which imparts a strong flavor to it. Next, the tea is boiled for up to half a day followed by churning it in bamboo churns, to which salt, a pinch of soda, and rancid butter is added. The scum from the butter often settles along the edge of the cup, which you can blow off as you sip your tea. Some Tibetans will add flour and ‘tsu’, which is a mixture of hardened cheese, butter, and sugar to their tea, just as we add milk and sugar. Tradition dictates that a cup of Tibetan Butter Tea should always be full, so as you go along sipping the tea, your host will refill your cup each time.
Fascinating Fact: A floating egg is an indication of it being no more fit for consumption
With age, gases tend to build up inside egg-shells that increases its buoyancy. This makes it the surest sign to make out whether an egg has gone rotten, without having to break open the shell and risking foul odor from escaping. In contrast, an egg, when extremely fresh will sink at the bottom of the container and lie on its side. As it ages, eggs tend to point upwards so that when it becomes completely rotten, it begins to float in water. Also, eggs when fresh have a very firm white while the same for old eggs becomes watery. That’s the reason why eggs in its freshest state are best suited for poaching and frying while older eggs are perfect for omelets and scrambling.
Fascinating Fact: No one knows when or how donuts were invented
Donuts (doughnuts as per UK English) were actually made as a long twist of dough, though not in the form of a ring that has become characteristic of donuts now. It used to be prepared in the shape of a ball in England that was later injected with Jam after they are cooked, which is still followed. Also, both the methods of cooking require no human intervention since the ball and twist will turn itself over when the underside is cooked. Not much is known as to how it got introduced in America, where its more common for donuts to be in the ring form, though one Hansen Gregory, an American, laid the claim of having invented it in 1847 while traveling on a steam boat. He wasn’t too satisfied with the texture of the center of the donut, which led him to press a hole in the center with the ship’s pepperbox.
Fascinating Fact: What we know as the banana trees are actually giant herbs
The large stem of the banana tree is actually a ‘pseudostem’ or ‘fake stem’ and not a trunk, as we may believe it to be. From each pseudostem arises a single bunch of yellow, green, or red bananas. This then dies, only to be replaced by another pseudostem. Smaller bunches of bananas, the ones that we get to buy in shops are actually called ‘hands’ and not ‘bunches’, which can weigh up to 50 kilograms. The bananas means for human consumption are specially cultivated to exclude seeds, thus preventing us from planting a banana tree using a commercially grown banana. However, wild varieties of bananas have many seeds that are often large and hard.
Fascinating Fact: 7-Up – invented in 1920 contained Lithium – a drug that is commonly used for treating bi-polar disorder
It is the presence of lithium citrate that led to the drink being marketed as a hangover cure and was released just a few years before the Wall Street crash of the 1920s. It used to be marketed under the name Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda, a name that eventually got shortened to 7-Up shortly afterwards, though lithium content remained unchanged until 1950. There are several myths surrounding the name, with one being that there are a total of 7 ingredients that goes in the making of the drink while ‘Up’ referring to the lithium. Another theory to explain the name is that lithium has an atomic mass of 7, and hence the name.
Apple, Potato, or Onion?
Fascinating Fact: Apples, potatoes, or onions – all taste the same if eaten with your nose plugged
A popular experiment performed in science classes is to blindfold students, plug their noses and provide them with an apple or an onion to eat, without letting them know what they are being fed with. The usual outcome is that none of them are able to distinguish what they have been eating, thereby proving the so very important role that nose plays in the sense of taste. It is the similar consistency of the three items that makes it almost impossible to differentiate one from the rest, without active help of your nasal abilities. There’s a word of caution though for those who are keen to carry out the experiment, that you would very much be able to state what you have eaten the moment you unblock your nose.
Fascinating Fact: The ancient Mayans made truly hot chocolate by adding chilies and corn to it
Residue found in ancient Mayan pots that date back to 5th century AD is the earliest recorded instance of chocolate being used for drinking. The drink used to be prepared by pounding chocolate beans in to a paste, to which were added chili peppers, cornmeal, and assorted spices along with water. The drink would then be poured back and forth between a cup and a pot so that it acquired a foamy head. No wonder, the drink tasted spicy and bitter, which is much unlike today’s hot chocolate. It used to be drunk cold with people of all classes drinking it regularly. When the West finally got to have a taste Chocolate, it was quite expensive, costing anything between $50 to $70 per pound in equivalent modern US dollars. Also, if you wish to have the best hot chocolate in the world, you got to be at the Angelina in Paris, and it is the Chocolat l’Africain that it is best known for, the recipe of which is mentioned below.
To ¾ cup whole milk, add ¼ cup heavy cream and 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar and heat over medium-flame till bubbles begin to appear around edges. At this point, remove from heat and add 4 oz of the best bittersweet chocolate (72%) you can find (chopped). Stir till all of it has melted, for which, you may have to return it to low heat. Serve with whipped cream.
Fascinating Fact: Natural vanilla causes the body to release catecholamines, including adrenalin – this explains why consuming it can be considered to be mildly addictive
Attempts to export vanilla plants – a special species of orchid, from Mexico to other tropical countries were initially marred by failure of the plants to produce vanilla pods, this in spite of them flowering as usual. This led to the discovery of a bee native to Mexico that was the only creature that could pollinate vanilla flowers. Attempts to relocate the bee to other countries failed too, until a slave boy discovered an artificial means of inducing pollination. This led to Mexico losing its domination on vanilla. Also, apart from being mildly addictive, vanilla has been found to have anti-bacterial properties as well.