Category Archives: Food

Barkeep, give me a juice box, neat!

I’ve done a little research and haven’t found the answer to my question, so please help. Where do all the bar/alcohol terms we use come from (like straight, neat, on the rocks…)? And more importantly, are you a rube if you still use them or a rube if you don’t?

Neat?!  Who are you, Sinatra?  While some descriptive is necessary to let the bartender know what you want, I’d only use terms like “neat” ironically.

A good place to learn about the etymology of such words is the Oxford English Dictionary.  Also, Duke Libraries has several excellent slang dictionaries, including Barron’s American slang dictionary and thesaurus and Chambers slang dictionary.

Who "invented" oatmeal?

Who invented oatmeal? [3583C]

I assume you mean the consumption of oatmeal as a breakfast cereal.  Humans began eating oatmeal for breakfast thousands of years ago – most commonly in the British Isles – so it’s impossible to know who “invented” it (but I’m going to say it was a guy named Conor, who lived near the current town of Dunfanaghy on the Donegal coast around 420 BC).

Ironically, since he was gout-ridden at the time of his death and could’ve benefitted from eating it regularly, Dr. Johnson referred to oatmeal as “a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”

Why do leftovers taste better?

Why do leftovers taste better? [3586A]

[written in answer space:  scarcity principle]

Good guess, Secret Scribbler, but I don’t think so.  The correct answer is gristle. That’s right: gristle, that crusty, crunchy, delicious stuff that bakes around the edges of leftovers (especially those with cheese).  Oh, yeah!

Simply red

Do different color M&M’s taste differently?  Why do people love red M&M’s if it isn’t their favorite color? [3581C]

The flavor – if there is any (see my earlier post: Soooooo delectable!) – is from the chocolate.  If people love red M&Ms, it’s because the color projects strength and passion.  Red is said to raise metabolic rates, which is why stop signs and lights are red.

Taste the rainbow

How many skittles are there in a bag?  Is is always the same amount?  What is the most preferred flavor? [3581B]

That’s impossible to answer, since Skittles come in a variety of bag sizes. I’m not sure what the most preferred flavor is, but my preference is for Orange Skittles Vodka.

Soooooo delectable!

Why are mashed potatoes with butter soooooo delectable? [3570A]

[written in answer space:  “They ain’t mashed potatoes ma, aight?!” –B.I.G.]

Americans, at least, are conditioned to crave the unholy trinity of fat, sugar, and salt.  And mashed potatoes have them all!

The alchemy of homemade vanilla extract

I had no idea that vanilla extract could be made from soaking bean pods in vodka or brandy, or that commercial extract must be 35% alcohol. So, what does soaking it longer (say a year) do for the flavor?

Ah, I can see you’re someone who believes that anything worth doing is worth overdoing!  Actually, though, maximum flavor extraction takes place in about seven weeks, so soaking the beans for a year won’t produce stronger flavor.  Furthermore, if the beans aren’t fully submerged in the alcohol (i.e., exposed to air), they could mold and foul the entire batch.

Water, water, anywhere?

Why are there never any water bottles in the vending machine?  Can’t we have a regular vending machine refill-er on staff 24/7?

The Pepsi machine in the Link has one button for Aquafina water and of course you can purchase bottled water in the Perk during operating hours.  But between the two beverage vending machines in the Link, that’s just one button out of about two dozen.

I’ve passed on your outstanding idea of having a purified water refilling station to the appropriate staff member.  As always, though, I can’t promise that it is economically possible.