Welcome back to Nyogtha. Thanks to those of you that participated in the survey from last week. I received about 125-150 responses, so we’re getting there. If you haven’t filled it out yet, please do so.
And as we spent the five Mondays in October going hardcore into the land of monstrous beasties, I’d like to back away into some other areas of folklore. This week, I thought it would be fun to cover the folklore of food. After all, we talk about recipes in the tail end of most Nyogtha’s, so why not devote a whole column to the mysteries and questions people have regards to what we stick in our bellies. I hope you’ll find this to be as interesting a column as I did writing it.
Topic 1: French Toast
Much like French Fries, French toast is not actually a product invented by the French. The actual creators of this popular breakfast dish has two very different sources, each with their own school of followers who believe “their” side to have the right story.
For those of you unaware about what French toast is (don’t laugh, it’s possible!), it is a fried bread product dipped in an egg-milk batter.
The first of the two origins of French toast is that the product in question originated in 1724 in Albany, New York and invented by a man named Joseph French. The second belief is that French toast originated in Lousiana in Cajun country. Here the French speaking cooks of the area modified the dish pain perdu into French toast out of lost bread. Pain perdu uses crusty French bread rather than the sandwich bread shapes we usually think of with French toast. It also has a more of a bread pudding flavour than what one would think of as a French toast taste.
French Toast has some lovely folklore and legends associated with it. A popular belief is that before World War I, large parts of the country called French toast, “German toast.” But when WWI broke out, the name was changed to universally be called “French toast”due to anti-German sentiments in America. Of course this is not true, as records of the phrase “French toast” go back to 1871, where there are no records of “German toast.”
Of course a version of this legend would enter reality in the year 2003 when American politicians engaged in one of many inane blunders that revolved around the Iraq war. As France refused to get involved or aid the US with their battle against Iraq, many “patriotic” politicians (and trust me I use this term very loosely) voted in a US Congress session (Yes, we spent tax money on this people) to change the name of French fries and French toast to…Freedom Fries and Freedom toast. If this doesn’t tell you about the quality of human beings in either party that we elect to office, then I don’t know what does. Of course, most politicians didn’t realize these aren’t actual French based food products. At least now you know better than your elected officials if you’re an American. Go Team you!
Topic 2: V-8
Just a quick one here, but for the unaware, the veggies in a V-8 are: tomatoes, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach.
Topic 3: Milk vs Skim Milk
For those of you that buy skim milk and actually look at what you put into your body, you’ll notice that every so often, your milk has a greenish tint to it. Don’t worry! It’s perfectly normal and part of the milk being well, skim. For a long time people assumed the greenish tint to the milk was due to the grass that the dairy cows had eaten. This belief is erroneous.
What makes most milk white is an ingredient known as casein. This is a calcium rich protein. As calcium is white, it is this protein that gives most milk its white colouring. This is also why cream is white. Part of turning whole milk into skim milk involves removing casein as it is also high in fat content as well as protein.
So why does this change skim milk’s colour to green instead of white? Well, it comes down to science. For an object to be a colour, it must absorb some wavelengths of light and reflect others. A Casein in the most dominant bit of milk, it determines the colour of the liquid. Casein reflects no colours, and the absence of all colour is white, so there you go.
Skim Milk is green because with so much of the casein removed, Riboflavin becomes the dominant aspect of milk. Riboflavin reflects green wavelengths of light, and thus this colour will occur in milks with most of their fats removed. A lot of people don’t pay attention to this as it is a subtle green shading. Next time you buy skim milk, take a look though. You’ll be surprised.
Topic 4 Sliced Bread
A popular adage in Western Culture is to say, “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread!” Of course, how many of those using it actually know who invented sliced bread and why it was considered such a great invention. Well thanks to your Sub-Cultural Icon, you’re about to get the answer!
Pre-sliced bread was invented rather recently on the food scale. In 1912 an Iowan named Otto Frederick Rohwedder noticed that people liked to toast bread, but as everyone had to slice their own bread, it was hard to get consistency of how long to toast a piece of bread for as everyone would cut slices differently. Some people would even cut the slices to thick. Ever tried to shave down a slice of bread, especially non crusty bread. It’s not fun.
Rohwedder developed his bread slicer in a workshop located in the town of Monmouth, Illinois. Alas, a fire destroyed his device and all his notes and schematics. Thankfully though Rohwedder would eventually return to his invention, although it would be fifteen years before he would do so.
Rohwedder unveiled his second bread slicing machine in 1927. Most bakers were skeptical at first, not just because most human beings fear things that are new and different, but because they felt the bread looked sloppy and ragged after the machine got done with it. Those that bought the slicer found customers felt the same way about the finished loaves.
If not for the intervention of one Gustav Papendick, pre-sliced bread may not have caught on for a long time, or at all. Papendick bought the rights to Rohwedder’s second device and he set about perfecting the technique. Papendick’s version of the bread slicer kept the loaves of bread in cardboard trays which would keep the bread neat and orderly, ensuring the slices stayed uniform. This new version of the machine also wrapped the bread in wax paper making for an excellent presentation to bakers and consumers.
Papendick sold his first series of the improved slicing machine to the Chillicothe Baking Company, which was located in Missouri. As before, bakeries were skeptical of this new version of the slicer. Now the excuses were that they didn’t want to buy new equipment that would almost certainly turn out to be a silly fad. Plus sliced bread goes stale faster than unsliced bread. Was it worth the time to wrap the new bread and to risk a product with a lower shelf life that would also cost more?
Well the skepticism was proven wrong when Papendick sold his invention to a company known as “Wonder Bread.” Ever heard of them? Exactly. Wonder Bread went national with presliced bread in 1930 and almost overnight became the most popular bread in America.
Sliced bread had a lot of unexpected consequences as well, chief of which was the fact Americans began to consume a LOT more bread. When people had to slice the bread themselves, they would usually cut just the amount needed more a meal and leave the rest to sit until another meal. But with the bread presliced, families would consume a lot more bread in the form of snacks, sandwiches, and so on.
As more bread was consumed, more peanut butter, jams, jellys, and lunchmeats were purchased as well. Sliced bread actually caused a massive increase in food consumption throughout the country. It also most likely led to the over-consumption of products and obesity that America is now known for.
So there you go. A quick and short history of sliced bread.
Topic 5: Beans, Beans the Musical Fruit
“The more you eat, the more you toot” as the song goes. Of course beans aren’t actually fruit. Beans, or legumes in general, are a food source high in protein, iron, and the assorted B Vitamins. However, in many people, beans tend to have a side effect of causing flatulence in those that eat them. There are several reasons as to why this occurs.
Besides having lots of the vitamins and minerals I mentioned above, beans are high in fibers and complex sugars known as oligosaccharides. The human digestive system lacks the enzymes that other animals have that allow them to break down these complex sugars properly. What this means is that these oligosaccharides flow from our upper digestive system without being processed and thus going into our lower intestine whole where the bacteria that live there end up having their work cut out for them.
These bacteria metabolize the sugars for us, but in doing so they create gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases then have to leave our body somehow, and well, that’s where farts come from boys and girls.
Gas caused by bean eating in similar to how the bodies of those who are lactose intolerant handle eating dairy. In both cases a digestive enzyme is not present, which means digestive bacteria basically has to improvise in order to break down the materials.
If you’re a big bean fan than rejoice, as there are ways to limit the gases coming from your body. Soak your beans or rinse them before cooking. Water helps to break down the oligosaccharides, but I’m afraid I’m not sure how exactly. I’m not a chemist or food scientist.
And there you have it. Five Food Folklore quickies.
This weekend I was on a crazy pancake hankering. I’m not really a breakfast kind of person, but I ended up eating pancakes two days in a row, which is a big deal for me. So it only makes sense as these have been on the brain all weekend, to kick off the work week for you all by giving you a nice pancake variant.
These pancakes are actually a bit different from your normal flour and baking soda recipe versions, although those ingredients are obviously part of this. What I’ve done for this week is give you a recipe where the pancakes, thanks to the addition of ground ginger and molasses, have a flavour similar to gingerbread. It’s an excellent way to liven up a morning dish.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons molasses
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooked.
1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves into bowl. Put the eggs and brown sugar into a second bowl and beat well with a wire whisk. Beat in the buttermilk, molasses, cooled melted butter, and 1/2 cup water. Add the flour mixture and beat once or twice until almost smooth. It’s okay if the mix is lumpy. For pancakes, generally the lumpier the mix, the better.
2. Turn on your griddle or skillet and let it warm to medium heat. Once there, reduce the heat slightly. Pour some of the battle into the pan, about 2 tablespoons worth. Spread it with the back of a spoon and then book about 3-4 pancakes for a minute over low heat. Once small bubbles begin to appear on the surface and the underside has become golden brown, flip over and repeat for another minute. When they’re done, transfer to a plat and continue making. Serve these finished pancakes immediately or let them stay warm by placing them in an oven on low.
Man, yours truly had a busy week. Besides my usual Nyogtha, I did another column on designing Heroclix teams. I also wrote two video game reviews. Both Shining Force Neo and Call of Cthulhu were mediocre games showing exactly what is wrong with the average gamer nowadays, where a license and/or brand name means more than quality gameplay. Alas, Inside Pulse seems to be the only place where you won’t find bought out fanboys actually disseminating video games in order to save you readers money over outright lying to you all and sucking up to publishers.
Then there’s the rest of my culture crew:
Danny Wallace talks drinks.
Elizabatdiscusses filthy diseases.
Becky is still discussing the Shinsengumi.
Elle is a wonderful Italian cook.
Elizabeth talks Tarot.
Fred talks Middle Eastern history and culture.
ML Kennedy attacks horoscopes.
Sara Reller is a rulesmonger.
In Games, our resident newbie Mark B. covers yet another awful game published by Electronic Arts. Does Electronic Arts make ANY good games anymore?
In Wrestling, Eric S. has to watch Jeff Jerrett reclaim his NWA world title. Yuck.
In Music, Gloomchen talks road trips. I actually listen to books on tape when going on drives 3 hours or more. It makes it go faster for me.
In Movies, Ryan Closs covers the uber generic non-american made films that are hyped enough by the US’s Hollywood Juggernaut as it is. Thankfully it’s Asian free. There’s enough Hong Kong and Japanese horrorphiles around as is.
That’s it for this week. I’ll see you next Monday with more myths, legends, facts, and folklore.