Pulse Rate November 2010

The word “potato” was first applied to what we know today as the sweet potato. Not a close botanical relative to the sweet variety, in the 16th century the white potato was called the “bastard potato,” among other names.

The originator of the modern techniques of food criticism was 18th/19th century French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. This critical framework was outlined in his landmark tome The Physiology of Taste, published in 1825. On Long Island, Pulse’s Richard Jay Scholem holds this distinction.

Icelanders use dried sheep dung to cold smoke fish, lamb, mutton and whale. It is, not surprisingly, an acquired taste.

The off-putting aroma produced by Limburger cheese is from the bacterium responsible for fermenting the cheese—Brevibacterium linens. It’s the exact same bacterium responsible for body odor.

The origin of hummus, the Middle Eastern dip/spread made with cooked and mashed chickpeas, is unknown, but folklore states that it is one of oldest prepared foods in history—reaching back to the heyday of Sumer and ancient Egypt.

The current hierarchy of restaurant kitchen staff (chef de cuisine, sous chef, chef de partie, etc.) was masterminded by French chef legend Auguste Escoffier and is known as the brigade de cuisine system.

Fast food giant Subway wins the prize for most locations: Approximately 33,037 in 90 countries.

In Chinese cuisine, the 5 stages of boiling water are called, as the temperature of the water rises, “shrimp eyes,” “crab eyes,” “fish eyes,” “rope of pearls,” and finally, “raging torrent.”

In 1945, three items were the first to be microwaved, in close proximity to the active ingredient in a modern microwave oven—the magnetron tube: a chocolate bar (accidently), popcorn kernels (which enthusiastically popped) and an egg (which promptly exploded).

The term “Happy Hour” originated in the US Navy during the 1920s. It was a slang term for the entertainment period on board a ship, usually featuring boxing and wrestling.

A meal on the run: Not being able to stop to dine, 12th century Mongol army horsemen would place horse and/or camel meat under their saddles, let the riding motion break up the filets and have the heat from the animal cook them.

The earliest evidence of wine production was discovered by the detection of tartaric acid (a major component of wine) in ceramic jars found in present day Georgia (the Asian republic, not the state) dated to the late Stone Age, around 6000 BC.

Coffee beans are actually berries—the apocryphal story about their discovery has an Ethiopian goatherd’s goats becoming noticeably stimulated by eating them off of a bush, which intrigued the goatherd. The rest is (supposed) history.