Whoops!  Missed Wednesday, and Thursday’s post is coming in late.  Sorry about that!  Here’s a doublepak of knowledge for ya!

Today (Wednesday) I Learned…

…that Popeye’s spinach habit was government-funded.  In the early days of Popeye comics, no explanation was ever given for Popeye’s super strength.  However, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the brawny sailor suddenly began eating cans of spinach to get his mus-kles.  Why?

Seems that the United States government was concerned about the nutrition of the American people given the extremely high price of meat during the Depression.  Spinach was believed to be a ridiculously good source of iron, and the government enlisted Popeye the Sailor Man to start hawking spinach to the people of the nation.  It worked — sales of spinach increased 33% and American children rated it as their third favorite food behind turkey and ice cream.  The feds weren’t just interested in the nutrition, however — they were also pushing canned goods as a good source of emergency rations.

Also, it turns out that some of the scientific findings that the US based this program on were faulty — a decimal point was misplaced in an 1870 paper which made it seem that spinach had 10 times as much iron as it actually did; however the deed was already done when this was found out.

Thanks to mental_floss magazine for that one.

Today (Thursday) I Learned…

…about a fantastic band.  Go check out Scythian, and support these guys if you get a chance.  A bunch of us saw them Thursday night at Castaways in Ithaca and they put on a hell of a show.  Opening for them was OneSide, another great band from Boston.  Check them out too.

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Today I Learned…

…that cautious optimism goes really well with thoughts of cheesy votes biscuits!  Good thing I also learned how to make said biscuits — a copycat election recipe from Red Lobster.

Here is the recipe, and here is a link to the page I found the recipe on for yummy-looking pictures.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit; spray a cooking sheet with non-stick spray.
  2. Add the following to a large mixing bowl: 2 cups of buttermilk biscuit mix (like Bisquick or Jiffy mix), 1/2 a teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  Stir to combine.
  3. Pour in 2/3 cup of milk and combine.  You may need to use your hands here.
  4. Spoon mixture out onto your cookie sheet.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, melt 2 tbsp (unsalted!) butter, and stir in some oregano and garlic salt — 1-2 tsp worth.
  6. When 10 minutes are up, brush butter mixture over biscuits, then bake for an additional 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned.  Once done, you can give them an optional extra baste.

In other news, please go vote tomorrow if you haven’t already.

Today I Learned…

…that yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing.  A yam is technically a member of the genus Dioscorea, while the sweet potato is Ipomoea batatas.  Although they are different species, the terms are used interchangeably throughout much of the United States, where you’re probably eating sweet potatoes even if your can says candied yams.

Today I Learned…

…that the term “sushi” refers specifically to the vinegared rice used in a “sushi roll,” /not/ raw fish.  Sushi, therefore, is vinegared rice served with an ingredient which may or may not be fish.  The rice itself is known as shari, and raw fish served by itself is sashimi (or a bowling ball having a dream…).

I still don’t like it, though.

For more food fun facts (including this one), check out http://www.pgacon.com/KitchenMyths.htm.  Also, points to whoever gets the bowling ball reference.

Today I Learned…

…exactly what French Vanilla is.  That’s a common request at my coffee shop — “Can you make a French vanilla latté?”  Our answer is always no, because we don’t have french vanilla syrup.  However, it got me and coworker Stephanie thinking today: what is the difference between regular vanilla and french vanilla?

Well, Wikipedia has the answer.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

The term French vanilla is not a type of vanilla, but is often used to designate preparations that have a strong vanilla aroma, and contain vanilla grains. The name originates from the French style of making ice cream custard base with vanilla pods, cream, and egg yolks. Inclusion of vanilla varietals from any of the former or current French dependencies noted for their exports may in fact be a part of the flavoring, though it may often be coincidental. Alternatively, French vanilla is taken to refer to a vanilla-custard flavor. Syrup labeled as French vanilla may include hazelnut, custard, caramel or butterscotch flavors in addition to vanilla.