The Romans thought excessive milk drinking and eating butter was 'crude and tasteless'

Mark Kurlansky, the author of Milk: A 10,000-Year History, wrote an adapted article for Gastro Obscura about the Romans disdain for milk and butter consumption when they visited Britain:

During a visit to conquered Britain, Julius Caesar was appalled by how much milk the northerners consumed. Strabo, a philosopher, geographer, and historian of Ancient Rome, disparaged the Celts for excessive milk drinking. And Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, described the German diet as crude and tasteless by singling out their fondness for “curdled milk.”

The Romans often commented on the inferiority of other cultures, and they took excessive milk drinking as evidence of barbarism. Similarly, butter was a useful ointment for burns; it was not a suitable food. As Pliny the Elder bluntly put it, butter is “the choicest food among barbarian tribes.”

But the Romans weren’t the only milk and butter critics. The Ancient Greeks used “butter eaters” as an insult for the Thracians who lived north of Greece. Interestingly, cheese was exempt from such criticism as both the rich and poor enjoyed a variety of cheeses. I guess they thought feta of it.

More on milk and cheese:

It's a federal crime to sell a pig carcass if it has a 'pronounced sexual odor.'

When I first read that quote from Mike Chase, a criminal defence lawyer, I had to re-read it about 4 times before I looked into what it meant. Krissy Clark explained what a ‘pronounced sexual odor’ was in more detail and it makes sense:

Between 10 and 20 percent of uncastrated male pigs have, well, the technical term is “boar taint.” It’s pheromones, which animals produce when they come into heat. Walter Jeffries, a pig farmer in rural Vermont, told us “sexual” doesn’t really do the smell justice.

“Go grab a guy and have him sweat on an undershirt for you real well, and that’s the smell,” he said. “To me it smells like shit and armpits.”

You still might be wondering though: Why did the government have to get involved? If people don’t want smelly meat, they don’t have to buy it, right? But here’s the thing: You can only smell boar taint when the meat is warm, not when you buy it refrigerated at the store.

So an unscrupulous pig farmer might be tempted to sell a little tainted meat, knowing it’d go unnoticed until some unsuspecting bacon-lover goes and cooks it. If enough sexual-smelling pork gets in to the pork supply, people are just going stop buying pork.  

Which is where title 21, sections 610 and 676 of the U.S. code of statutes, and title 9, section 311.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations come in. If you’re caught selling a pig carcass with a pronounced sexual odor, you could face up to a year in prison or a $1,000 fine. It’s a crime, one that’s maybe not quite as ridiculous as it first sounds.  

In summary, selling pork with strong sex smells could land you in jail and with a fine. Walter’s description was hilarious and may live with me longer than the title of this blog post. The downside is I can smell “shit and armpits” now and I’m nowhere near an abattoir.

Related to illegal animal meat: What was François Mitterrand’s final meal and why was it so controversial?

Portillo's famous cake shake

Chicago’s Famous Cake Shake Is A Portillo’s Staple | Legendary Eats

Portillo’s is a restaurant chain in Chicago known for its famous hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, salads, and its cake shakes.

Insider’s Medha Imam visited Portillo’s Summit, IL location to learn what goes into making the iconic cake shake. Rumor has it they put an entire slice of chocolate cake into their milkshake, making it a must-try dessert.

The best thing about the shake is that they bake cakes fresh so you don’t get anything stale. In the words of Bob Kelso from Scrubs, “Golly, I do love moist cake.

Shake-related: 3 levels of milkshakes, the $5 milkshake from Pulp Fiction, and the origin of the milkshake line in ‘There Will Be Blood’.

Babish makes steakhouse burgers

Steakhouse Burgers | Basics with Babish

I love Five Guys* but when I need to stop my bank account from gently weeping, I like to make my own (as best I can). That’s why I was excited for Babish’s video about making steakhouse burgers.

Babish made his own buns for this episode—not for me but go off, king—and picked 7 cuts of beef to see which one made the best burger:

  • Hanger steak
  • Short ribs
  • Sirloin
  • Chuck
  • Brisket
  • Eye round
  • Ribeye

In the end, he settled on ribeye and it looks nice and juicy at the end. If you’d like to see Babish make a Smashburger, check out the video as he goes into more depth about each cut of beef he used.

Burger related: How to make a smashburger (by J. Kenji López-Alt)

* – Also, I love these five guys: Roger Federer, Miles Davis, Ortis Deley, Simon Baker, and Prince

The spaceship McDonald's from Alconbury in Cambridge

Flying Saucer McDonalds at Alconbury on the old A604 near Huntingdon. 1993

It’s no longer with us but the spaceship McDonald’s, just off the A1 in Alconbury (UK), was an icon in the 90s. But it wasn’t always a Maccy D’s. The building opened in 1990 and traded as a Megatron, a space-age restaurant (below), but 3 years later, it transformed into a McDonald’s.

According to a former worker at the McDonald’s restaurant, the building had computer systems that allowed you to order at your table, predating the ordering kiosks by a couple of decades. However, due to echoey walls, poor lighting, and rising maintenance costs, the spaceship closed in 2000 and was demolished in 2008.

If you love abandoned buildings like I do, check out some of photos via Comfortable Disorientation and a camcorder still from 1993 (from the video at the top).

Googie architecture related: Paul R. Williams: the Black architect of public buildings and celebrity homes

Mountain Dew-flavoured cocktails, punches, and shooters

Who knew Mountain Dew was so versatile. I blogged about Mountain Dew cheesecake last September and a few months ago, I found a recipe list for 140 Mountain Dew drinks. They’re mostly alcoholic drinks—cocktails, punches, and shooters—but there are a few non-alcoholic ones in there. Names include:

  • Vuck Me Up (Cranberry-Strawberry Juice, Mountain Dew, Vodka)
  • The Mikedaddy (Absolut Vodka, Mountain Dew, Orange Juice)
  • Peckerhead (Absolut Vodka, Apple Pucker, Apricot Brandy, Blackberry Brandy, Blueberry Schnapps, Cherry Pucker, Cherry Vodka, Grape Pucker, Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, Lime Vodka, Maui Blue Hawaiian Schnapps, Melon Schnapps, Mountain Dew, Peach Schnapps)
  • Go Go Godzilla (Mountain Dew, Tabasco Sauce, Vodka)

As ever, drink responsibly and keep some water at your bedside because the hangover will be REAL after some of these. There’s always İşkembe Çorbası if you’re desperate.

Cocktail related: How to make Jamaican rum punch with Wray and Nephew, the mint julep and the Black bartenders who popularised it, and try a glass of panther milk.

The nostalgic packaging of Can Club

Selection box insert 🦜 ‘94

Instagram, for all its many faults, is a great place for nostalgia. I’ve featured a few of those accounts on this site and I’m here to add a new one: @itscanclub.

The account features mostly food packaging from the 80s and 90s and the odd carrier bag, old phonecard, and map. Anyone who grew up in the UK will get hit in the feels looking through this retro treasure trove and, given how the present and future are looking, it might offer some comfort to reminisce about the good times (if they were available back then). My personal favourites are the chocolate wrappers.

Retro packaging related: Carry A Bag Man’s carrier bag designs

How to make Jamaican rum punch with Wray and Nephew (recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cups Wray and Nephew (depending on your liver and gag reflex)
  • 2 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup grenadine
  • Ice, ice, baby!

Recipe

  • Put the ingredients together in a cocktail shaker (if you have one) filled with ice.
  • Shake vigorously for 30-40 seconds.
  • Strain into a hurricane glass with ice.

More on rum and cocktails: a very brief history of Jamaican rum, the mint julep and the Black bartenders who popularised it, and Equiano, the world’s first African-Caribbean rum

A brief history of pumpkin spice

Moss and Fog looked at the history of pumpkin spice:

The fall’s unofficial flavor wasn’t always pumpkin spice. But as people’s love of autumn and all things nostalgic reached fever pitch, the unmistakable seasonal taste cemented its place

The history of that spice mix goes back much farther than you might think. Indeed, this American invention can be traced back as far as 1796 in the cookbook American Cookery. In that very old book, they talk about recipes for ‘pompkin’ that include the same spices.

Pumpkin spice’s memeification detracts away from its origins but its popularity has given Certain Demographics the chance to experience a bit of seasoning in their otherwise flavourless food. That can only be a good thing.

How to brew coffee like it's the 19th century

Brew coffee 19th century style with a balancing siphon

You’ve got your French press, your coffee cone, and your Moka Pot to name but a few ways to make coffee. But how about a 19th-century balancing siphon? Boing Boing showed off this throwback contraption in the video above and it certainly has some flair to it.

The balancing siphon was notably used in Belgium by the royal family who would make their coffees using the device, as well as in France:

By 1850 the double-globe glass coffee maker had generally fallen out of favor in France, and the fashionable Parisians embraced the next incarnation of the vacuum brewer – the Balancing Siphon. In this arrangement, the two vessels are arranged side-by-side, with a siphon tube connecting the two. Coffee is placed in one side (usually glass), and water in the other (usually ceramic). A spirit lamp heats the water, forcing it through the tube and into the other vessel, where it mixes with the coffee. As the water is transferred from one vessel to the other, a balancing system based on a counterweight or spring mechanism is activated by the change in weight. This in turn triggers the extinguishing of the lamp. A partial vacuum is formed, which siphons the brewed coffee through a filter and back into the first vessel, from which is dispensed by means of a spigot. Sometimes called a Viennese Siphon Machine or a Gabet, after Louis Gabet, whose 1844 patent included his very successful counterweight mechanism, the Balancing Siphon was both safer than the French Balloon, and was completely automatic.

via Brian Harris

The good news is you can buy your own balancing siphon on Amazon but they aren’t cheap. Here’s a list of 4:

Coffee related: An oral history of the weird Folgers “incest” commercial

Community through food from people of colour

Catharine Hughes looked at the various UK community food projects headed by people of colour:

“Community is the act of coming together, but for me, it’s the coming together to achieve something,” says Fahima Jilani, the owner of Mosa Mosa, a Bengali food platform based in the West Midlands. Fahima began Mosa Mosa back in 2017, born out of a love for food passed down through her family. Initially, she was working at markets and catering small events like birthdays, and then the British Red Cross approached her to ask if she would be interested in providing meals for teenage asylum seekers, who were attending guidance sessions.

“These asylum seekers come predominantly from East African countries like Sudan, Eritrea, and I think they do genuinely appreciate spicy food, and I bring them South Asian food that is also spicy. Although it’s not the same culture as theirs, I think it’s comforting,” says Fahima.

An oral history of the weird Folgers "incest" commercial

Folgers Coffee Brother & Sister Home For Christmas 2009 Christmas TV Commercial HD

Living in the UK, I never got to see this controversial Folgers coffee commercial. But I found out about it through this oral history by GQ:

“Coming Home” opens with a taxi dropping a young man off outside a snow-covered house bedecked in Christmas decorations early one morning. A young woman excitedly opens the door and establishes that she’s his sister by pointing at herself and saying “sister!” He’s weary, having just returned from volunteering in “West Africa,” and the two share a cup of freshly-brewed Folgers coffee while their parents are still asleep. (In some versions he even says “ah, real coffee,” as if he didn’t just come from where some of the best coffee in the world is produced.) He hands her a small present, but instead of opening it, she peels off the red bow and sticks it on his shirt. “What are you doing?” he asks. “You’re my present this year,” she responds. The camera zooms in on her shy glance, then cuts to his furtive, flirty smile. Those three seconds sealed its fate forever.

When I first saw the ad, I thought: wait, are they fucking? (Then, every time after that: okay, they’re definitely fucking.) As I would come to learn, I was hardly alone. The reaction to the ad was an example of the internet at its most fun—the phenomenon of collectively realizing that the specific thing that you believed you’ve singularly noticed is actually a widely-held opinion. Memes, articles, and parody videos abounded. It even inspired a genre of vividly-rendered fan fiction known as “Folgerscest.”

It is weird and does give off incestuous vibes. But the people behind the commercial didn’t feel that way:

Jerry Boyle (SVP and executive producer at Saatchi & Saatchi): You kind of get sucked into the story, which is nice. It was all very, very innocent. Obviously what’s happened since then has been a real … something that nobody imagined happening. And our client is so wholesome. It was, we thought, emotional.

What people read into it—once that took off—was just insane.

This was my favourite reaction, and the first one to notice the strange vibe between the brother and sister:

Alexa Marinos (corporate communications manager): I’m a marketer by trade so I always pay attention to commercials and ads, particularly holiday ones because I’m always curious to see how brands flex and adapt their marketing for the holiday season. I used to do all my writing in front of the television. So when, I’ll call it, “Peter Comes Home for Christmas 2.0” aired I was sitting in front of my laptop. And I just remember immediately critiquing the spot in my head as a marketer. Particularly the casting, the casting seemed off to me. I was like “why is Peter’s little sister 22 instead of four? And why is Peter, like, vibing on his little sister?”

I hope nobody ever puts a gift bow on me.

Non-creept commercial related: Commercial Break: a YouTube channel for archiving commercials

What knives does Salt Bae use?

Folks wanted to know what salt Salt Bae used and now they want to know what knives he uses. So here’s the what I found during my research (read: Google searches):

Tools for The Discriminating Chef wrote a piece called Salt Bae and His Knife that claimed the Turkish restaurateur used breaking knives:

The talented chef cuts through his beef with ease using a 10″ breaking knife. While everyone is talking about his chiseled good looks, viral fame and his delicious cuts of beef; we want to focus on the knife and why it smoothly cuts through beef.

[…]

The knife is used to “break” through skin, light cartilage, and small bones. It is also pretty good at slicing and carving fat (As we have seen Mr. Gökçe do multiple times through his videos).

To be more specific, it appears Salt Bae uses F Dick breaking knives but if you can’t afford those, you can always try Dalstrong or Pirge (for UK readers).