10 More Fascinating Food Facts

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1) Pre-Sliced Bread was Once Banned in the United States

In 1943, Claude R. Wickard, the head of the War Foods Administration as well as the Secretary of Agriculture, got the bright idea to ban pre-sliced bread in America, which he did on January 18, 1943.  The specific reasons behind this aren’t entirely clear, though it was about conservation of resources.  One known  reason for the banning was to conserve wax paper.  There have also been many who have suggested there were secondary goals of conserving wheat and steel. As you might imagine, banning pre-sliced bread didn’t go over very well with the masses. Thus, within about three months of the ban being introduced, it was rescinded on March 8th, 1943.

2) Coffee Bean is Not Actually a Bean

Coffee bean is not actually a bean, rather it is a seed.  Now I know you are saying to yourself right now, “Aren’t beans seeds and seeds beans?”  Surprisingly, that is not the case.  (who knew?)  In fact, though beans are always seeds, seeds are not always beans.  A bean is just one kind of a seed. Specifically, it is a name for seeds of the family Fabaceae (also known as Leguminosae) of which the coffee plant is not a member; thus, coffee “beans” are not actually beans.

3) Bananas are Naturally Radioactive

Bananas are naturally radioactive.  This comes from the fact that they contain relatively high amounts of potassium.  Specifically, they contain Potassium-40, which is a radioactive isotope of potassium. The fact that bananas are radioactive has actually given rise to the radiation unit: “banana equivalent dose” (BED); this is the average amount of radiation you are exposed to by eating one banana.  The banana equivalent dose is occasionally used to help conceptualize the relative danger of various radiation sources and amounts; for instance, living within 10 miles of a typical nuclear power plant will expose you on a daily basis to just a bit more radiation than you’d get from eating one banana a day. Now before you start boycotting bananas because of the above association with nuclear reactor radiation leakage, consider that, to cause illness in a person, it takes about 100 rems (Roentgen Equivalent Man).  Eating one banana a day for a year only exposes you to 3.6 millirems. You’d need to eat about 10,000,000 bananas in order to reach that amount [100 rems *(1000 millirems / rem) * (365 bananas / 3.6 millirems)].

4) The Red Juice in Raw Red Meat is Not Blood

The red juice in raw red meat is not blood. Nearly all blood is removed from meat during slaughter, which is also why you don’t see blood in raw “white meat”; only an extremely small amount of blood remains within the muscle tissue when you get it from the store. So what is that red liquid you are seeing in red meat?  Red meats, such as beef, are composed of quite a bit of water.  This water, mixed with a protein called myoglobin, ends up comprising most of that red liquid. Myoglobin is a protein that stores oxygen in muscle cells, very similar to its cousin, hemoglobin, that stores oxygen in red blood cells.  This is necessary for muscles which need immediate oxygen for energy during frequent, continual  usage. Myoglobin is highly pigmented, specifically  red; so the more myoglobin, the redder the meat will look and the darker it will get when you cook it.

5) One Calorie is equivalent to one gram of TNT in terms of energy

(It is important to note the capital “C” in calorie which signifies a kilo-calorie, also known as a “food calorie” because the value listed on food labels are typically in kilo-calories.) A Calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. One Calorie is also approximately 4.184 kilojoules or about 1.16 watt/hours. TNT is yet another method for quantifying energy released, but this time the energy released during an explosion. The explosive yield of TNT is considered the standard measure for strength of bombs and other explosives with 1 ton of TNT equaling 4.184 gigajoules. So 1 kg of TNT then equals 4.6 megajoules, thus a single gram of TNT is equivalent in energy to one Calorie.

6) Chef Boyardee was a Real Person

Ettore Boiardi was an Italian-American immigrant born in 1897.  He worked as a cook at his first restaurant at the tender age of 10 years old in Italy.  He later immigrating to America at the age of 16 and took the name “Hector Boiardi” as he passed through Ellis Island. From there, he worked at a variety of high end restaurants in New York as a cook, eventually working his way up to Chef.  At the age of 24, he moved to Cleveland and opened a restaurant with his wife.  The restaurant was called “Il Giardino d’Italia”, which means “The Garden of Italy”. As he developed a strong customer base, he found himself in the enviable position of having customers clamber after his food so much, they wanted to take it home with them so they could have it any time.  He thus began bottling up his sauces in old milk bottles and packaging his special blends of cheeses and spices with dried pasta and selling these meal kits to customers.  It wasn’t long before the sale totals of these products surpassed his restaurant earnings, despite the restaurant itself doing booming business.

Fast forward around 4 years and the volume of his carry out meals being sold per day required a factory to produce.  Another 6 years later and he came up with the now famous brand name “Chef Boyardee”, changing the spelling of his name to be phonetically correct, as he was tired of explaining to people how to pronounce his name and thought if he was going to be selling nationally, he should make it easy for Americans to  pronounce.

7) The Mathematical Volume of a Pizza is Pizza

How does that work you say?  Well if z = radius of the pizza and a = the height then Pi * radius2 * height = Pi * z * z * a = Pizza.  Mind officially blown.

8) Peanuts are Not Nuts

Peanuts are a food with an identity crisis. While most people think of peanuts as nuts, they are actually legumes. What is a legume? It is a type of plant with seeds that grow inside pods such as peas or beans. Unlike nuts, which are grown on trees, peanuts grow underground. Peanut seeds flower above ground and then migrate underground to reach maturity. They are removed from the ground during harvesting. Peanuts are also called goobers, goober peas, groundnuts, earthnuts, monkey nuts, and grass nuts.

9) What the 8 Juices in V8 Juice Are

The included juices in the original V8 100% vegetable juice come from tomatoes, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach.  The dominate juice in this mixture is tomato juice comprising nearly 87% of the total juice. The V8 vegetable juice blend was created by W.G. Peacock in 1933 in Evanston, IL.  Peacock was the founder of the New England Products Company, which made a variety of vegetable juices and marketed them under the brand name “Vegemin”.  Not surprisingly, vegetable juice wasn’t a big seller at first given that the original juices were sold as pure juice from specific vegetables. In order to try to boost sales, Peacock began experimenting with mixing the juices from different vegetables to improve on the overall flavor.  Eventually, he came up with the recipe for “Vege-min 8”, which was later shortened to “V8” at the suggestion of a local grocery store in Evanston, Illinois that was carrying the product.

10) Almonds are Not Nuts

Almonds are not nuts. In fact, an almond is the seed of the fruit of the almond tree.  This tree bears fruits with a “stone-like” seed within. Fruits with these characteristics are called “drupes”.  Specifically, a drupe is a fruit that has an outer fleshy part surrounding a shell that contains a seed.  Other drupes include fruits from walnut trees and coconut trees. The seed inside the almond fruit is what is commonly referred to as an almond “nut”, even though it’s not a nut.  A nut is a hard shelled fruit that has an indehiscent seed; more simply, a hard shelled fruit that doesn’t open to release its seed(s).  An example of a true nut would be an acorn or chestnut.

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  • The volume of pizza equation is flawed. It’s not Pi*z*z*A, it’s Pi*(z+z)*A.
    The diameter of a circle is not radius multiplied by radius, it is two multiplied by the radius.

    For example, the arbitrary radius is 3 and the height is 1,

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Greg: We are looking for the volume here. The area of a circle is then Pi*r^2. The volume then is Pi * r^2 * height. So the equation is correct.

  • There is a misatke in the calorie equivalence – it is 1.16 kW * h and not W / h

  • @ Greg, Daven: The volume of a perfect pizza is Pi*z*z*a, but the volume of any given pizza is also Yu*m*m*y
    Yu = 1 🙂
    m*m*y = the integral of the areas of the infinitesimally thin 2D cross-sections with respect to m, from the minimum to the maximum m-coordinates of the pizza, where y = Pi*2/3.