Fun Facts: Food and Drink
"For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind"
- Hosea 8:7 (NRSV)
To celebrate his victory over Pompey, Julius Caesar gave
a banquet at which 150,000 guests were seated at 22,000 tables. It
lasted for 2 days. He also proclaimed a rent-free year for every poor
family in the Empire.
While oranges appear frequently in major Renaissance paintings, they
were not eaten at the Last Supper because they were not available.
Returning Crusaders reported seeing oranges in the Holy Land, which may
have influenced Titian, Boticelli, and other artists. However, these
reports were from a time over 1,000 years after the Crucifixion. During the
intervening time, citrous fruits had been introduced to the Mediterranean
countries from China.
The first volume of recipes was published in 62 A.D. by the Roman
Apicius. Titled De Re Coquinaria, it described the feasts
enjoyed by the Emperor Claudius.
It is said that Vitellus, Emperor of Rome briefly in 69 A.D.,
spent over £1,200 a day on food alone. He was capable of downing
1,000 oysters a day as well as vast quantities of other delicacies.
After a short reign he was deposed by the Roman citizens, driven to
revolt by the excesses of their emperor, and his body was dumped in
the River Tiber.
The Romans used poisonous lead as a sweetening agent.
When King John ascended the English throne in 1199, he gave one of the
most fantastic Christmas parties recorded. 200 gallons of various
wines, 400 oxen, 1,000 capons, 1,000 eels and 200 lampreys were
devoured by his hungry guests.
Honey was used as a synonym for anything pleasant ("land of milk
and honey") in ancient and mediaeval times because it was about the
only sweetener then available to the West. Sugar didn't reach Europe
in quantity until the twelfth century, when returning Crusaders
brought it with them from the East.
Archaeological digs at ancient tombs have unearthed edible honey.
Honey has been used both as a centre for golf balls and in
When a dead body needed to be preserved from putrefaction, the ancients put the body into honey to preserve it. For example, the body of Agesipolis, King of Sparta, who died in Macedonia, was sent home in this way.
Legend has it that Clement VII, pope from 1523 to 1534, was so fond of mushrooms
that he made it illegal for anyone else to eat those growing in the Papal States,
so that there would never be a shortage for his own table. He died in 1534 from
eating a poisonous death cap mushroom.
The Jerusalem artichoke is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke;
it belongs to the sunflower family. The Italians called it girasole
articciocco, "sunflower artichoke". Over the years girasole
When ketchup was originally developed by the Chinese in 1690, it
contained no tomatoes. It was made out of pickled fish, shellfish,
The name of the beef extract Bovril comes from the 1870 novel
The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The novel features
a subterranean race whose superhuman powers come from a substance called
Dynamite is made, in part, from peanuts.
Chemists have found over 300 chemicals that contribute to the
flavour of Scotch whisky.
Grape juice contains acetaldehyde (a close chemical relative of the
poisonous embalming fluid formaldehyde), ethyl acetate (used as a varnish
solvent), acetone (used in nail-polish remover), acetic acid (vinegar),
and a few chemicals called hexenals, which give freshly cut grass its
Around the turn of last century, a nutrition book contained a typographical
error. A decimal point was misplaced in the value of iron for spinach, so that
spinach appeared to have ten times more iron than it actually did. As iron is
associated with strength, this may have been the basis for Popeye's eating
It is untrue that carrots are good for your eyes. This belief started
in World War II, when the British began using airborne radar, allowing them
to find German bombers at night. In order to mislead the Germans, a rumour
was spread indicating that John Cunningham, the Royal Air Force's most
successful night fighter pilot, had developed phenomenal night sight by
eating carrots in large quantities.
The average American spends 18% of his or her income on
and only 13% on
The term "humble pie" comes from the food "umble pie", a pie consisting deer innards that was eaten by very poor people in Mediaeval England.
To be forced to "eat umble pie" was to be considered one of the lowest in the social order.
Sauerkraut was invented by the Chinese. Shi Huang-Ti, China's first
emperor, had cabbage pickled in wine and fed it to slaves working on the
Great Wall of China.
Saffron is made from the anthers (parts of the stamen) of crocus.
During Apollo 11, the astronauts ate two meals. Meal A was bacon squares, peaches, sugar cookie cubes, coffee, and pineapple-grapefruit drink. Meal B included beef stew, cream of chicken soup, date fruitcake, grape punch, and orange drink.
Each Space Shuttle astronaut is allotted 3.8 pounds of food per day (including the one pound of packaging). Foods are individually packaged and stowed for easy handling in the zero gravity of space. All food is precooked or processed so it requires no refrigeration and is either ready to eat or can be prepared simply by adding water or by heating. The only exceptions are the fresh fruit and vegetables stowed in the fresh food locker. Without refrigeration, carrots and celery must be eaten within the first two days of the flight or they will spoil.
Condiments available on the Space Shuttle include salt, pepper, taco sauce, hot pepper sauce, catsup, mayonnaise and mustard.
Spaghetti means "little strings" in Italian.
One pound of spaghetti, if each piece is placed end to end,
measures 320 feet in length.
On April Fools' Day, 1957, the BBC television documentary show
Panorama broadcast a documentary about the "spaghetti
orchards" of Switzerland. Over pictures of Swiss spaghetti trees,
the spaghetti plantations of Switzerland and Italy, the spaghetti
weevil, and the reason for spaghetti being of such uniform lengths
were discussed. Many viewers, oblivious to the date, believed
that what they were watching was genuine.
The food with the highest calorific value is pure animal fat, which
provides 930 calories per 100 grammes.
Green, black, white, and oolong tea all come from leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences are the result of differences in harvesting and processing the leaves.
Not only was saffron used as an herb by the ancients, but it was also used as a perfume. Not only were halls, theatres and courts strewn with the plant, but it entered into the composition of many spirituous extracts, which retained the scent. These costly smelling waters were often made to flow in small streams, which spread abroad their much admired odour.