January and February can set the mind to pondering. Staring out at a cold, grey (or white) landscape or watching re-runs, the mind wanders around whys and hows and whats. Trivia games, popular in the 1990's, are still good for some nostalgic entertainment with friends and exercising the winter-numbed brain cells. This writer was fortunate to receive a food trivia game for Christmas, and some of the questions on the "Foodie Fight" cards prompted a little more investigation.
With all of the popularity of cooking shows from public television to Bravo to the Food Network, what was America's first cooking show?
From August 1946 to May 1947 Borden Foods (remember Elsie the Cow?) sponsored "I Love to Eat" on NBC. The "show" began as a 15 minute segment from 8:30 to 8:45 p.m. but was later lengthened to 30 minutes to better accommodate recipe demonstrations. It was hosted by renowned chef and author James Beard who wrote the first cookbook on cocktail food in 1940, "Hors d' Oeuvre and Canapes." Beard grew up in Portland, Ore., and originally aspired and trained to be an actor. Struggling, he opened a small catering service and flourished. By the end of his career Beard was an author of 20 cookbooks, chef, restaurateur, consultant and food personality with a cooking school on both the east and west coasts. Today the James Beard House in New York City is a prestigious culinary center that still upholds his philosophy of "good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome American ingredients."
This food legend originally went to school for acting, training that came in handy when he became America’s first television chef.
Another food celebrity's kitchen, seen by millions of people, was donated to the Smithsonian Institute-whose kitchen?
The National Museum of American History Behring Center opened the exhibit, "Bon Appetit! Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian"on Aug. 19, 2002. Using the actual appliances, pots, pans, sink, utensils and everything found on the counters and in the cupboards and drawers of Child's kitchen in Cambridge, Mass., the 20 x 14 ft. room is not so much a recreation but a reconstruction. It was designed by her husband Paul in 1961 with 38 inch high counters, more comfortable for Julia's 6 ft. 2 inch height. It was used as the set of three television shows over seven years: "In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs," "Baking with Julia" and "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" with Chef Jacques Pepin. An interactive tour is available online at www.americanhistory.si.edu/ juliachild.
If one were renovating or painting an eat-in kitchen or a restaurant, what is the best color to use for encouraging appetite?
Red. It psychologically stimulates the body, causing an increase in blood pressure, pulse and respiration. Red energizes the mind and promotes interest in both food and sex. Orange has a similar, but milder, effect. Bright yellow, however, goes too far and can be irritating to the mind. As happy as it is, people become on edge if around it too long. Some fast food restaurants use a lot of yellow to move people through the tables faster. Green is a relaxing nature color that encourages people to get comfortable. Experts do not recommending using blue or purple in restaurant dining areas because studies show they promote loss of appetite. The reason? Subconsciously the brain associates blue and purple with toxins (like mold.) If skeptical, though most of their restaurants have been through renovations during the last decade, think about walking into a McDonald's from 1970 to 1995 and the red and yellow that continue to be part of their brand.
On the topic of color, what is the difference between a brown egg and a white egg?
The answer is "the color of the shell." Their compositions are the same. Nutritionally and taste-wise they may vary ever so slightly depending on the chicken's diet and health. However, that has nothing to do with the shell. The color is genetic and determined by breed and the chicken's earlobes-yes, earlobes. Chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs; chickens with red earlobes lay brown. Brown eggs used to be more prevalent, but society's aesthetics changed, and people have become more accustomed to white shells. Shell colors actually come in a wide range of colors: white (popular breeds include Andalusians and Leghorns,) cream (Legbar chickens,) tinted brown, brown (popular breeds Rhode Island Reds and Jersey Giants,) blue-green and olive (Araucana breeds,) some with speckles (Maran chickens.)
For fans of the Brothers Grimm, which story's title character was named for a root vegetable?
"Rapunzel" was named for a popular 17th century garden vegetable called rapion, or Campahula rapunculus, which was derived from the Latin "rapa" for turnip. The root is radish-like; the pointed leaves form a rosette and are eaten with oil and vinegar. In the story, a pregnant woman is craving this vegetable growing in the neighbor's (a witch) garden. The husband sneaks into the garden every night and steals the rapion and is finally caught. The witch allows him to take what he needs in exchange for the baby, and he agrees. When the baby is born the witch hides her in a tower where the only access is a high window. A prince discovers Rapunzel when he hears her singing, and they make plans for her escape, but Rapunzel's slip of the tongue to the witch one day spoils the plans. Rapunzel is banished to a desert. The witch waits for the prince, and upon seeing her he leaps from the window and lands in brambles where thorns pierce his eyes, blinding him. He wanders aimlessly for years until he hears Rapunzel singing again, and they are reunited.
Two other well known food names were known outside the food realm first. Duncan Hines products are named for a traveling salesman from Kentucky who wrote restaurant and lodging guides in the 1930's. Because he spent so much time on the road, Hines came up with a list of good restaurants for his friends to visit while traveling. The list became a guidebook called "Adventures in Good Eating" with his recommendations and sample dishes to try. He added a lodging guide later, and in the 1940's and 50's Hines wrote a newspaper column of restaurant recipes for home cooks. One of his breads was produced and sold by Durkee Bakery Company; in 1953 he sold his name rights and formed Hines-Park Foods. The cake mix license for which he is known today was first sold to Nebraska Consol Mills, then to Proctor & Gamble and is now owned by Pinnacle Foods.
What name is shared by appliances and award-winning cheese?
In the 1930's E. H. Maytag, son of the appliance company founder, owned a herd of prize Holsteins in Iowa. About that time researchers at Iowa State University discovered a process of making blue cheese out of homogenized cow's milk rather than sheep's milk as is done in Europe. Frederick Maytag II and Robert Maytag, sons of E. H., decided to use that process and made their first wheels of Maytag Blue Cheese in 1941. The cheese company is now run by third and fourth generations of Maytags and still uses milk from local dairies. The cheese is considered very high quality and was named "Best Hard Blue Cheese" in the 2005 World Cheese Awards.
Finally, whether cooking or storing foods, which wrapping will react to acids in the foods-or dishes, for that matter?
Acids and aluminum foil will combine to form aluminum salt, crystals that one may or may not see when removing the foil. The Reynolds Company assures users it's nontoxic and is found in many processed foods. Aluminum foil is not a principal source of aluminum. The chemical element is naturally found in soil, plants and water, and the body absorbs less than 10 percent of the aluminum the average person eats. Recent studies say that there is no proven link to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's diseases. Salts, vinegar, citrus, tomatoes and some spices can dissolve or pit aluminum, so containers or non-reactive dishes of glass or ceramics are best. When baking dishes with tomato sauces, laying a piece of parchment between the food and foil will stop the reaction.
For more food trivia visit www.homecooking.about.com and take tests in several categories. According to researchers, what celebratory gesture began as a test for poisoned drinks in the Middle Ages? People were wary and distrustful of each other, and poisoning an enemy was not uncommon. Get-togethers often started with a ritual of pouring a bit of each person's drink into each others' goblets, thus drinking "to health," now one of the most common toasts in the world.