Past posts

Coca-Cola on trial in 1911 charged with being injurious to health

In October of 1909, the Coca-Cola Company transported forty barrels and twenty kegs of its signature syrup across state lines, from its hometown of Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  As soon as the it crossed state lines into federal jurisdiction, Chief Chemist for the U.S. Government, Harvey Washington Wiley, had his agents seize the shipment. Two

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The discovery of umami, the fifth taste

More than one hundred years ago, Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda wondered how a simple bowl of broth containing water, dried fish flakes, and a little bit of dried seaweed could be so mouthwatering. He knew the flavor would reside in either the fish flakes or the common seaweed known as kombu. Knowing an extract of

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Yeast recovered from 1886 shipwreck used to brew new ale

Yeast extracted from bottles of beer recovered from the 1886 shipwreck of a luxury liner off Long Island, New York, has been used to brew a modern beer. After culturing the yeast in test tubes, diver Jamie Adams spent two years brewing test batches  to perfect “Deep Ascent,” which has a fruity taste with a

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Bakers banned from selling sliced bread during World War II

The U.S. government suddenly banned bakeries from slicing bread for their customers beginning in January, 1943. The reason was never clear,  but probably was an attempt to conserve wax paper (which sliced bread was wrapped in), or steel (used to make slicing machines, or wheat (sliced bread was thought to spoil faster). Or maybe, the government

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Bananas became a dietary staple as a health food

Beginning in the early 20th century, the United Fruit Company promoted bananas in a series of pamphlets and ads, taking it from a little-known novelty to a household staple. At the heart of their campaign was an endorsement of the fruit’s healthy properties. In 1917 the United Fruit Company published “The Food Value of the Banana,”

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Green Books guided black Americans to welcoming restaurants and inns

“Prior to the arrival of the Green Book, Black Americans relied on the kindness of strangers – also Black – when traveling. Until the 1960s, Jim Crow laws in Southern states barred them from access to white hotels, resorts, and restaurants. Outside the South conditions were not much better, despite civil rights laws barring discrimination

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The Troubled History of Horse Meat in America

Horse meat has a long history of causing problems for American politicians. The Trump administration wants to cut the budget used by the Bureau of Land Management to care for wild horses. Instead of paying to feed them, the Administration proposed lifting restrictions preventing the sale of American mustangs to horse meat dealers who supply

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Tasty menu at Alcatraz federal prison in September 1946

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary opened in 1933 on an island in the San Francisco Bay to house troublemakers from other prisons. It closed in 1963 and was replaced by a prison in Marion, Illinois. Here’s what was on the prisoners’ menu for September 3, 1946. Lunch appeared to be the big meal of the day: Breakfast:

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Demand for spices in Middle Ages drove globalization

“The quest for spice was one of the earliest drivers of globalization. Long before the voyages of European explorers, spices were globally traded products. Desire for spices helped fuel European colonial empires to create political, military and commercial networks under a single power. Historians know a fair amount about the supply of spices in Europe

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Bread discovered that predates agriculture by 4,000 years

At an archaeological site in northeastern Jordan, researchers have discovered the charred remains of a flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers 14,400 years ago. It is the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, predating the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. The findings suggest that bread production based on wild cereals may have

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California postman discovered the Hass avocado

California postman Rudolph Hass brought back some some avocado seedlings to his home in southern California in 1926 and planted them in his garden. One that wouldn’t bear fruit he just left alone to grow.  Eventually, this tree bore bear fruit that tasted better than the dominant variety of the day, the Fuerte which had

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When Norway introduced salmon sushi to Japan

The Norwegian farmed salmon industry had a big problem in the 1980s: a huge surplus of salmon which it even tried unsuccessfully to sell to Japan to use in sushi. Japanese consumers were accustomed to eating salmon, but only after it was cooked to kill its parasites, never raw in sushi. Norwegian salmon, on the

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Eleanor Roosevelt does TV commercial for margarine in 1959

Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, 75, appeared in a television commercial for Good Luck brand margarine  in 1959. She was paid $35,000 (equivalent to more than a quarter million dollars in today’s money) which she apparently donated to charity. Facing criticism that this commercial was beneath her, she replied: “With the amount of money I am

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The chicken experiment that radically changed meat production

On Christmas Day in 1948, 42-year-old biochemist Thomas Jukes came into work to weigh the chickens in his feeding experiment and discovered something unusual. The 25-day chicks fed the highest dose of the antibiotic aureomycin weighed a third more than chickens who didn’t receive the drug. This was the beginning of the use of antibiotics

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How Fish and Chips Migrated to Great Britain

When Portugal fell under Spanish rule, the Inquisition targeted individuals with Jewish lineage. As religious violence worsened, many fled Portugal and resettled in England, bringing with them culinary treasures founded in Sephardic cuisine, including Peshkado frito, a dish of white fish, typically cod or haddock, fried in a thin coat of flour. It was a favorite particularly among

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The “Poison Squad” men who tested food additives on themselves

“Poison Squad” was the name contemporary newspapers gave the men at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who volunteered to test on themselves the toxicity of chemicals commonly added to foods at the beginning of the 20th century when little was known about their safety. Conceived and managed by the Department’s Chief Chemist, Harvey Washington Wiley

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Toxic amounts of Vitamin A in Polar Bear Liver

It has long been known among Eskimos and arctic travelers that eating polar bear liver can cause severe illness in men and dogs. Nearly 80 years, a researcher Norway named Kåre Rodahl set out to find out why. “During a recent expedition made by one of us to north-east Greenland, 1939-40, specimens of polar- bear liver

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First attack against Nestle for discouraging breastfeeding

In what has been hailed as “the first salvo in the battle of the breast versus bottle,” pediatrician Cicely Williams in 1939 accused the Nestle company of murder by infant formula in a notable address before the Singapore Rotary Club. “If your lives were embittered as mine is, by seeing day after day this massacre

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George Washington’s mess kit from Revolutionary War

George Washington’s well-appointed personal camp chest, or “mess kit,” enabled him to dine in a manner reflecting his position as commander of the Continental Army, according to the U.S. National Museum of American Museum. By 1782, his camp equipment included canteens, tents, tables, traveling beds, and various other field equipment that required two horses to

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One of First Vitamin-Fortified Breakfast Cereals

PEP was a whole-wheat breakfast cereal introduced by the Kellogg Company in 1923. A long-running rival to Wheaties, PEP became in the 1930s the first cereal fortified with vitamins through the “spray” method. Kellogg company history Related posts Related books Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

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Benjamin Franklin gives up eating meat for a time

“When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I

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How About a Vitamin D-Enriched Beer?

In 1936, capitalizing on the demand for vitamin-fortified foods, the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, introduced a vitamin D-fortified canned beer. Evidently it wasn’t popular, since Schlitz discontinued the product about two years later.   See the Wisconsin Historical Society’s article Schlitz ‘Sunshine Vitamin D Beer Can’   Related posts Related books Facebook Twitter

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John Glenn’s first space meals crumbled and floated around

The first American to orbit the earth, John Glenn “carried a menu of freeze-dried powders, tubed spaghetti and roast beef, and a variety of foods reduced to bit-sized cubes The cubes flaked into crumbs that floated around the astronaut’s capsule,” according to a military history of food in space. “The Gemini program began in 1965

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Were insects a major food source for early humans?

Insects, specifically termites, could have accounted for almost half the diet of hominins about 1.8 million years ago, according to researchers at Heriot Watt-University in the UK and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. The researchers discovered that the carbon signature of fossil insects in an ancient termite nest matched the carbon signature of fossil

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Cookbook that Inspired Generations of Black Cooks

Ebony magazine food editor Freda DeKnight’s A Date with a Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes,  published in 1948, inspired a generation of cooks. Both a cookbook and cultural guide, it changed the course of black culinary history and shaped everything from family gatherings to social movements in the process. Read more: How Freda DeKnight’s Cookbook,

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How apples came to be sold on street corners during the Great Depression

Thousands of men spent thousands of hours on New York street corners during the Depression due to the efforts of a man named Joseph Sicker,  chairman of the Unemployed Relief Committee of the International Apple Growers Association. Sicker started “an apple selling crusade” during National Apple Week in September, 1930. With a startup fund of $10,000 donated

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Ex-slave Nancy Green becomes “Aunt Jemima”

The R.T. Davis Milling Company, new owner of the Aunt Jemima brand of self-rising pancake flour in 1890, decided to search for an African-American woman to hire as a living trademark for its product. After an extensive search, it discovered ex-slave Nancy Green, 56, working as a cook for a prominent Chicago family. At the Columbian

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Anti-Chinese Immigration Laws Encouraged Growth of Chinese Restaurants

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred the entry of Chinese laborers into the United States, yet also ended up stimulating the formation of certain Chinese businesses through a system of visa preferences. Owners of particular businesses could obtain “merchant status,” which enabled them to enter the United States and sponsor relatives. After a 1915

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All of the World’s Yeast Probably Originated in China

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.The yeasts that ferment beer, bread, and wine all over the world appear to have originated in China. The same is true for yeast found in sewage, termite mounds, infected tissue,

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Ötzi the Iceman’s last meal 5,300 years ago

Twenty years after his frozen body was discovered in an Alpine glacier on the Austrian-Italian border, researchers found Ötzi’s stomach full of food tucked under his ribs. In the hour before his murder 53 centuries ago, probably from an arrow wound to his shoulder, Ötzi had consumed the contents of what researcher Frank Maixner called

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Pathogen that caused Irish potato famine probably came from South America

Phytophthora infestans, the fungus responsible for the Irish potato famine of 1846 that killed an estimated  one million people, probably originated in South America. That’s the conclusion researchers from North Carolina State University reached after analyzing the DNA of 183 samples of the fungus from all over the world dating back to 1846. The particular lineage

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History of School Lunch programs in the United States

Philadelphia and Boston were the first major cities to actively attempt to implement a school lunch program in the United States. Philadelphia began by serving penny lunches at one school in 1894. Eventually a lunch committee was added to the Home and School League and the penny lunch program was extended to eight additional schools

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Cause of “milk sickness” that killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother

In the fall of 1818, 34 year-old Nancy Hanks Lincoln, mother of 11 year-old Sarah and 9 year-old Abraham, died unexpectedly from “milk sickness,” a mysterious disease afflicting pioneers in the Midwest, particularly in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It would be many years before it became widely known that “milk sickness” was poisoning by milk

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Busted! Sent to federal prison for coloring margarine

Joseph Wirth (above), his brother Toney Wirth, and Patrick Raidy were each fined $5,000 and sentenced to five-year terms in Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas in 1911 for coloring margarine in violation of the Oleomargarine Act of 1886. The U.S. Congress passed the Oleomargarine Act to protect the butter industry by taxing margarine and banning

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Did calorie miscalculation doom Scott at the South Pole in 1912?

Robert Falcon Scott and his party of four others likely starved to death on their return from the South Pole in 1912 because they underestimated their caloric needs and did not have enough rations to sustain their exertions, according to Lewis Halsey and Mike Stroud. “One hundred years on, our understanding of such stresses caused

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No more bread-and-water punishment in Navy

Beginning January 1, 2019, the traditional naval punishment of jailing junior sailors for three days with just bread and water to eat and drink went the way of flogging and keelhauling. It was part of an extensive change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which President Barack Obama signed into law in late 2016. Bread-and-water confinement

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