Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Gory Grub


I thought I'd have some fun and peruse the internet for strange facts about foods...and other odd information in relation to the stuff we consume. Here are a few references I came up with:

*Krod Yotchomrang was preparing her family’s evening meal when she discovered the corpse of a kitten inside a sausage. Most people would throw a fit and demand compensation, but Krod was not ordinary. She decided to make a small shrine for the poor dead kitten, then light some sweet-smelling incense and pray before it.

Word spread and friends, neighbors, and others turned up to visit the shrine. Unexpectedly, they started reporting amazing turns for the better after praying there. Krod and her friends allegedly won money on several lottery tickets, proving that the shrine brought good luck.

Suspicious officials soon began an investigation into the incident. They were skeptical about the good luck angle and perplexed as to how the kitten became part of a sausage. Investigators eventually came to the conclusion that the kitten had somehow managed to sneak into a pipeline at the sausage factory. They allowed the shrine to remain intact.

*In Victorian England, Tuberculosis – then called consumption – was rampant. It was believed that the fresh, hot blood of a slaughtered animal would build up the sick person’s constitution, alleviating the disease. Consumptives would line up in the slaughterhouse with cups ready to catch the blood, which was swallowed right away.

*Allyl isothiocyanate, or mustard oil, is five times as lethal as arsenic, mass-for-mass. Although people often build up resistances to small amounts in their food, a small restaurant in Indiana, sells a dish specifically designed to push a person’s tolerance to their limits. The signature dish at St. Elmo Steak House is a prawn cocktail whose spiciness comes from the 9kg of grated mustard oil-containing horseradish used to make it. The sensation of eating this dish is described as akin to being electrocuted.

*Maple syrup is one of the most expensive things you can pour on your pancakes. A high-grade bottle generally retails for well over $20. Part of the expense involved in the syrup is the great inefficiency in producing it. It requires anywhere from 5 to 13 gallons of maple sap to make just one quart of syrup.

To make sure that it has enough to meet the international demand, the Canadian province of Quebec maintains a Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. In 2012, during an audit, it was discovered that 6 million pounds of the syrup (worth about $18 million wholesale) had been stolen in a daring heist. This was not some smash and grab theft; it would have taken dozens of trucks to move so many barrels. In the subsequent months, several arrests were made, and some two-thirds of the missing syrup was recovered.

So...what is the most frequently stolen retail food item? According to multiple studies, up to 4% of the cheese put up for sale ends up pilfered. Next time you’re in the market, pay attention to the way the store displays cheese, particularly the valuable imported kinds. Generally, it is centrally located and well lit to keep thieves from scampering off. The phenomenon is not completely understood, though researchers indicate that cheese is relatively expensive, easy to conceal, and can be resold to other stores or restaurants. Black market cheese is big business.

*Despite being seen by most modern humans as “the ultimate taboo”, cannibalism has been practiced in every part of the world, and is still more frequent than most of us would like to believe. The natural although somewhat macabre question most people would ask themselves would be, “What does it taste like?”

William Buehler Seabrook, a reporter who decided to find out for himself, received a chunk of flesh from an intern at a hospital in Paris. Seabrook cooked it, later writing: “It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal.”

*In Scandinavia one can enjoy lutefisk, which is unlike almost any other seafood dish in the world. The fish is saturated in a highly alkaline solution of either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. After being soaked like this for days, the alkaline solution breaks down the protein in the fish and causes it to bloat into a large, jelly-like mass. If left to soak too long, the fats of the fish can even begin to turn into soap. It then needs to be soaked in plain water for about another week so that it is safe to be eaten, as it can cause chemical burns if not treated. The final product, lutefisk, has a pH of up to 12, making it 100,000 times more alkaline than water and highly caustic. Lutefisk is so alkaline that it cannot be eaten with certain types of cutlery. Silverware will corrode, and any plates or cooking pans with residue from lutefisk left on them can become eroded and ruined overnight. Lutefisk can cause severe pain if eaten by anyone with stomach ulcers or similar gastrointestinal problems.

*Most of us have heard of civet coffee, the very expensive coffee beans that are gathered from the scat of civets...though this has now been replaced by a synthetic chemical (civetone). However, beaver anal secretion (castoreum) is not (yet) able to be synthesized and it is still used in foodstuffs. It is most commonly found as a flavor enhancer in raspberry products...apparently it adds a nice rounded flavor. It is also found in chewing gum and cigarettes. Who the hell discovered that beaver ass tasted good with raspberries?

*The original recipe for Coca-Cola:

1. Mix 2,400 grams of sugar with just enough water to dissolve (high-fructose corn syrup may be substituted for half the sugar).
2. Add 37 grams of caramel, 3.1 grams of caffeine, and 11 grams of phosphoric acid.
3. Extract the cocaine from 1.1 grams of coca leaf (Truxillo growth of coca preferred) with toluol; dry the cocaine extract.
4. Soak the coca leaves and kola nuts (both finely powdered; 0.37 gram of kola nuts) in 22 grams of 20 percent alcohol.
5. California white wine fortified to 20 percent strength was used as the soaking solution circa 1909, but Coca-Cola may have switched to a simple water/alcohol mixture.
6. After soaking, discard the coca and kola and add the liquid to the syrup.
7. Add 30 grams of lime juice (a former ingredient, evidently, that Coca-Cola now denies) or a substitute such as a water solution of citric acid and sodium citrate at lime-juice strength.
8. Mix together 0.88 gram of lemon oil, 0.47 gram of orange oil, 0.20 gram of cassia (Chinese cinnamon) oil. 0.07 gram of nutmeg oil, and, if desired, traces of coriander, lavender, and neroli oils, and add to 4.9 grams of 95 percent alcohol.
9. Shake.
10. Add 2.7 grams of water to the alcohol/oil mixture and let stand for twenty-four hours at about 60 °F (15.5 °C). A cloudy layer will separate.
11. Take off the clear part of the liquid only and add the syrup.
12. Add 19 grams of glycerine (from vegetable source, not hog fat, so the drink can be sold to Jews and Muslims who observe their respective religion’s dietary restrictions) and 1.5 grams of vanilla extract.
13. Add water (treated with chlorine) to make 1 gallon of syrup.

This recipe is from Food Flavorings: Composition, Manufacture, and Use
by Joseph Merory (AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, CT). Makes one U.S. gallon (3.8 L) of syrup. Yield (used to flavor carbonated water at 1 fl oz per bottle): 128 bottles, 6.5 fl oz (192 ml).

*Interesting pizza factoid: In America, the day of the year when the most pizzas are sold is Superbowl Sunday. But remarkably enough, some other odd events have caused spikes and drops in pizza sales. One such phenomenon was the OJ Simpson saga; on June 17, 1994, the nation was glued to their television sets, watching as the former football hero fled from police with friend Al Cowlings in a low-speed chase. Domino’s reported a huge increase in sales as the white Bronco crept down the highway.

Extreme Cuisine: The Weird & Wonderful Foods that People Eat

Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods: An Intrepid Eater's Digest

Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs, and Blood Sausage


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