Luke Norris

Fascinating Facts About Your Favorite Foods

Luke Norris
Fascinating Facts About Your Favorite Foods
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You are what you eat, is the weird half-truth that is spat out again and again. Luckily, it’s not entirely accurate, because otherwise we’d all be mint fudge chocolate chip ice cream, smokehouse BBQ, and meat lovers pizza. What is true is that what we put into our bodies dramatically effects the way it operates. From our thought processes to our fitness level; even our sex drive is influenced heavily by all we consume. Yet, most of us don’t have the first idea what we’re putting into our bodies. And the truth is, what we don’t know might be hurting us.

Processed foods are known to generally be bad for people, since the further one moves away from nature, the fewer nutrients we receive with every swallow. Then again, even in the natural world there are some strange additives that we might not be too keen on filling our gullets with. 

Oreo Filling

The second best creamy goo in the world – behind Nutella of course – is Oreo’s cream. Smooth and sweet, it makes the otherwise ordinary cookies with the cult symbols imprinted on them a special kind of delicious. That signature milkiness could be attributed to actual milk, and sometimes it has a cream cheese base, but most often, Oreo’s cookie filling is made mostly of Crisco. The popular pan greaser has such a delightful consistency that Nabisco decided to add a load of sugar to the fat and dunk it in milk.

Gummy Candies

Vegetarians and vegans are already hip to this lovely fact: Most anything made with standard gelatin is constructed out of the skin and bones shaved off of slaughtered animals, then rendered into the chewy goodness we all enjoy. Loads of sugar is naturally part of the recipe as well, but what’s really important are the colorful dyes. They make the tub of boiling skin and bone look cheery and edible, to say nothing of utterly hilarious when made into an erotic shape.

Twinkies Taste

The little, yellow, indestructible, undigestable snack cakes are certainly loaded with fat of questionable origins, but that’s not strange. Every fatty sack of deliciousness has a shady backstory. What is interesting is that Twinkies didn’t always taste like Twinkies. Prior to the second world war – WWII: Nazi Boogaloo – they were banana flavored. During the fighting, banana trade was brought almost wholly to a halt, which forced Hostess to change the taste, since it needed to keep making money off heart disease and diabetes. Ultimately, the vague yellow cream cake is what was settled on, based largely around what supplies were available at the time.

Bananas

Speaking of the yellow fruit, it’s good to note that a bushel of bananas is called a “hand.” A single banana is also known as a “finger.”

Olive Oil

It’s easy to believe that olive oil shouldn’t have too many problems behind the scenes. After all, you get some olives, you milk the oil out, bottle, sell, and repeat. But why do that when you can use any kind of oil, so long as you can pass it off as Olive? The entire olive oil industry is only slightly more corrupt than Big Tobacco, and has been described as “comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” by a European Union official. Only about 30% of the “olive oil” on the shelves is actually what it says.

 

Orange Juice

As the world moves toward a more organic future, people are taking stock of what they eat and drink. This has led many to seek out more “honest” 100% juices. Among the most popular is orange juice, the beloved drink of Piko Taro. Names like Tropicana and Simply Orange have been touting their “not from concentrate” juices as superior. While they do actually come from oranges, the flavor doesn’t. All that citrus goodness is completely manufactured and comes from sugars mixed in.

Bread

Anyone who’s ever whipped up a loaf of home-baked bread is likely aware that it tends to turn to mold many times faster than stuff that’s store bought. The reason is preservatives, as anyone could have guessed. But the particular preservative in bread is what’s interesting. It’s an amino acid called “L-cysteine” that is found in hog and human hair, cow horns, and duck feathers. It’s an oily liquid similar to the grease on your scalp, though you can’t taste that when eating a ball of Wonder Bread.

Vanilla

As with olive oil, vanilla should be an easy ride. Get the vanilla beans, crush them up, milk them out, grind them up, or ferment them until you get what you need. In some cases, that’s exactly how it works. In cases of synthetic vanilla, the truth is a little more ick-inspiring. The taste and smell of many vanilla-flavored items comes from the anal glands of beavers. It’s a thick, brown substance called castoreum which melds together urine and secretions from their anal and castor glands. If you doubt, one sniff under a beaver’s tail will reveal the baked-in truth.

Shredded Cheese

Pre-shredded cheese operates differently than cheese you shred at home. A clump of freshly grated Colby is a sticky mass, but when it comes out of a store-bought bag, it pours easily and moves without clotting. That bit of marketable magic is cellulose, known to most of us as wood pulp. That mildly gritty consistency of pre-shredded cheese it flecks of timber mixed in for a more pulpy nacho.

Milt

This is an FYI for travelers who’ve never heard of the delicacy milt. It’s fish sperm, so eat at your own risk.

 

Ranch Dressing

Titanium is a marvelous metal. It can stand up to abuse, patinas beautifully over time, and is light enough for any EDC item in your repertoire. But, titanium dioxide, a molecule with both Ti and O atoms is a white powder that is mixed into ranch dressing – among other white foods – to make it look cleaner and more appetizing. There’s no cause for it other than pure manipulation of human buying practices.

Jelly Beans

While any Jelly Beans made with gelatin suffer from the same issue as gummy candies, they also have another dire ingredient: insect secretions. That shiny shellac on the outside, that makes the beans glimmer enticingly, is pulled from the stuff that oozes out of the Kerria lacca insect.

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Scientists can turn peanut butter into diamonds.

Scientists at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany have discovered that since peanut butter is so rich in carbon, it's possible to turn simple Skippy into diamonds.

All you need is to extract the oxygen from the carbon dioxide found in the peanut spread, and then enact immense pressure on the carbon left behind.

The red food dye used in Skittles is made from boiled beetles.

Carmine, also known as carminic acid, is a common red food dye that can be found in Skittles, maraschino cherries, raspberry and strawberry-flavored junk food, and even lipstick.

Carminic acid also happens to be made from the crushed carcasses of a beetle known as the Dactylopius coccus.

 

Raw oysters are still alive when you eat them.

Chances are, raw oysters are still alive when you eat them. Oysters deteriorate so fast that chefs have to serve them very quickly — while they're still alive, basically. Some varieties of the shellfish can survive out of the water for up to two weeks, which is why oysters are stored under particularly regulated condition. Once they die, they are no longer safe to eat.

So yes: If you have a nice plate of fresh oysters, you're probably chewing on them while they are still alive. Luckily, oysters don't have central nervous systems, so they can't feel pain.

Potatoes can absorb and reflect Wi-fi signals.

When Boeing wanted to test out their wireless signal on new planes in 2012, they placed giant piles of potatoes on seats. Because of their high water content and chemical makeup, potatoes absorb and reflect radio and wireless signals just like humans do.

 

Every banana you eat is a clone.

Even though there are 1,000 varieties of bananas all over the world, the common yellow fruits you see in the supermarket are all genetic clones of the Cavendish variety. The Cavendish was mass-produced, according to the Economist, because it does not have seeds — a desirable trait for consumers — and it survives longer than its banana cousins.

Since the Cavendish does not have any seeds, it must be cloned by farmers in order to continue production. Recently, agricultural scientists have been worried that the lack of genetic diversity could soon leave the banana vulnerable to threats and extinction.

Fruit snacks and cars are coated in the same type of wax.

Did you ever wonder how gummy candies get that glossy sheen? They're coated with carnauba wax, the same stuff that is used on cars to make them shiny.

 

The Aztecs used chocolate as currency.

The Aztecs may be known for their love of chocolate, but according to the International Cocoa Organization, they also used cocoa beans as currency. People under Aztec rule could use cocoa to pay their taxes.

Honey will never ever go bad.

Honey in its natural state is very low in moisture and very acidic: two primary defenses against food spoilage. In a low-moisture and high-acid environment like a sealed jar, bacteria will die almost immediately, according to the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at University of California.

This could explain why archaeologists have found pots of honey from thousands of years ago that still looked fresh.

It is a myth, however, that honey is the only food that will last forever: salt, sugar, and raw rice also have eternal shelf lives.

 

Carrots were originally purple.

According to the National Carrot Museum in the UK, the first carrots looked nothing like they do today.

Originally these vegetables were purple or white with a thin root. The orange carrots we know and eat today are actually the result of a genetic mutation in the late 16th century that won out over the original color.

Ripe cranberries will bounce like rubber balls.

Cranberries are commonly referred to as "bounce berries" because they bounce when they're ripe. In fact, bouncing cranberries is a common ripeness test for farmers and consumers alike.

 

Most wasabi is actually just dyed horseradish.

If you have a habit of smearing spicy wasabi all over your California roll, just know that you are — in all likelihood — just eating dyed horseradish. About 99% of all wasabi sold in the United States is fake, and you'd have to go to a very high-end sushi restaurant in Japan to find the real stuff.

Wasabi costs $80 a pound, so it's much more cost-effective for restaurants to just use an imitation instead.

Farm-raised salmon is naturally white and then dyed pink.

While wild salmon are naturally pink due to the large amount of shrimp in their diet, farm-raised salmon eat differently. In order to achieve that pleasing pink color, salmon farmers add carotenoids (plant pigments) to the fish feed to mimic the natural hue of wild salmon.

 

Apple pie is not American.

"As American as apple pie" isn't actually very American. Pie was invented in Medieval England, while the modern recipe for apple pie with a lattice crust was created and perfected by the Dutch.

People once thought tomatoes were poisonous.

In 18th century Europe, the tomato was nicknamed "the poison apple," because aristocrats would oftentimes get sick and die after eating them. Little did they know that the explanation had to do with their choice of tableware, not the tomatoes.

According to the historical cookbook, "Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs for Today's Cook," the high acidity of tomatoes would cause lead to leach from the pewter plates used by rich aristocrats and cause lead poisoning. The aristocrats mis-attributed the issue to the tomato itself.

To further add to the fruit's poor reputation, the tomato was incorrectly classified as a deadly nightshade before it came to Europe, according to Smithsonian magazine. The 19th century rise in popularity of pizza in Naples, Italy slowly changed the noxious attitude toward tomatoes.

 

Grapes will explode if you put them in the microwave.

Here's a fun (and dangerous) science experiment: If you split a grape almost in half and put it in the microwave, it will create an explosive fireball of plasma and lighting.

Scientists have explained that microwaves work by using microwave radiation to generate heat. If you heat up "nothing" in the microwave — or in this case a very small grape that doesn't absorb enough power — the electromagnetic waves have nothing to work on and become concentrated.

The grape itself then acts like an antenna and conducts the electricity in the microwave, causing small "plasma" fireballs.

Crackers will give you cavities faster than candy.

The phrase "candy will rot your teeth" has probably been drilled into your head since you were a kid. But there are many foods out there that are worse for your dental hygiene than candy, like crackers. That's because acid — not sugar — is the major cause of tooth decay.

"Ever notice how saltine crackers or Goldfish become sticky in your mouth as you're chewing them?" Dr. Mark Burhenne of Askthedentist.com said. "Even better for the bacteria, that sticky goo gets stuck between your teeth and the bacteria can feast for even longer."

 

Eating too much nutmeg has the effect of a hallucinogenic drug.

Nutmeg may be the perfect addition to your hot beverage, but don't sprinkle on too much. Eating too much nutmeg can have the physical effects of a hallucinogenic drug, including out-of-body sensations, nausea, dizziness, and sluggish brain activity.

But, according to The New York Times, it takes a lot of nutmeg— more than two tablespoons — to start feeling the spice's drug-like effects, so there's no need to worry too much.

Chicken wings were considered throwaway parts before Buffalo wings were invented.

It's hard to imagine today, but before Buffalo wings were invented by Buffalo, New York Anchor Bar owner Teressa Bellissimo, chicken wings were usually thrown awaywith the rest of a chicken's gristle and bones. (Either that or they were used to make stock.)

As the story goes, in 1964 Bellissimo was looking to whip up a midnight snack for her college-aged son. Since she had recently received an accidental wholesale order of chicken wings, she decided to deep fry them, and then slather them in butter and hot sauce, serving what would later become an iconic bar snack.

 

Chili peppers contain a chemical that tricks your mouth into "thinking" it's being burned — that's why spicy food hurts so much.

That burning sensation you get when you eat spicy peppers is a mental reaction, not a physical one. Chili peppers contain a chemical known as capsaicin, which naturally binds to the pain receptors on our nerves.

Your brain thinks you are ingesting something hot, so you begin sweating and your face turns red. This is your body's way of trying to cool you down, even though there is no real temperature threat, only a perceived one.

An 11-year-old invented the Popsicle by accident.

Even though some details of the origin story have been debated, according to NPR, in 1905 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a mixture of soda and water in a cup outside overnight. His mixture froze and he ate his newfound treat.

Epperson called his invention the "Epsicle" and began selling it all over Neptune Beach in San Francisco that summer. When he got older, Epperson's children began calling his creation "Pop's 'Sicle," or "Popsicle."

 

Processed cheese was invented in Switzerland, not America.

We may think of processed cheese as an all-American invention (think Kraft and Cheez Whiz), but it turns out the Swiss came up with the idea first.

Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler invented processed cheese in Switzerland in 1911 in order to improve the shelf-life of the product before it was shipped overseas, according to the Michigan Dairy Review.

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