Last week I wrote some fun and weird food facts from Matt Siegel’s new book, “The Secret History of Food”.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce). There are so many fun and weird food facts in the book that I feel compelled to share a few more.
Like this one: When in space, astronauts tend to crave spicy food. Part of their desire may be due to the effects of microgravity; very low gravity causes the tongue and nasal passages to swell, which means that much of the food does not reach the taste receptors on the tongue – and as a result, astronauts may seek stronger flavors.
But part of the reason, Siegel hypothesizes, is that spicy foods can also help, to a lesser extent, lift astronauts out of the monotony of their routines and cramped surroundings.
Or there’s this juicy fact: During WWII, some soldiers used spam to lubricate their guns or waterproof their boots. Other members of the US Army Air Forces used the tin cans as an emergency patch to repair holes in airplane wings.
It turns out that containers for food have been used in combat since the Stone Age.
I’m talking about beehives here. Our first ancestors covered the beehives with mud and threw them into enemy caves. The Romans put them in catapults and hurled them at their enemies.
And before there were cannonballs, sailors would throw beehives on the decks of other ships. The word “bombarde” even comes from the ancient Greek word “bombos”, which means “bee”.
Nowadays, of course, people are more interested in honey than in beehives. Honey is so popular that an entire industry has grown to obtain it fraudulently.
The United States increased tariffs on Chinese honey in 2001. Since then, Chinese honey producers have shipped their product to other countries in order to illegally hide their true source. It is estimated that nearly 100 million pounds of honey each year, or about one sixth of all honey sold in this country, is in violation of the law.
Meanwhile, even domestic honey is often mislabeled. The problem is that the bees fly wherever they want, and although the grower can assume that the bees spend all their time among the orange blossoms, only scientific analyzes such as DNA tests can confirm the amount of nectar actually coming from the tree. clover, or even poison. ivy.
Sometimes the honey on the shelves isn’t even honey at all. It’s just corn syrup with yellow food coloring.
Fortunately, the book has happier news regarding vanilla.
Vanilla only grows about 1,700 miles from the equator, and flowers only bloom for a few hours. The two types of bees known to pollinate them are nearly extinct, so vanilla in the wild has only about a 1% chance of being pollinated.
But in 1841 a 12 year old slave named Edmond Albius figured out how to pollinate vanilla by hand, which is why we have vanilla today. Albius was released seven years later when France banned slavery, but was jailed again five years later for stealing jewelry.
Albius regained his freedom when his former owner sought clemency for him, citing his irreplaceable contribution to the vanilla industry.
Siegel devotes a chapter to breakfast cereals, which brings us to some tasty nuggets: In 2014, cereals marketed for adults contained, on average, 18% sugar by weight; cereals marketed for children contained, on average, 34% sugar by weight.
The worst offender, apparently, was Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, which contained over 55% sugar by weight. Kellogg’s has since changed the recipe so that the cereal is now only 50% sugar.
Finally, I want to conclude with a notion which is less a strange fact than a philosophy, as it was conceived by the wise Greek Epicurus.
Epicurus preferred bland food to dishes with a strong flavor, as he believed that true pleasure could be found in the absence of pain. Simple foods put an end to the pain of hunger, while luxurious foods made the rest of the world bland in comparison.
If the food is good enough, who cares if the rest of the world is tasteless?