Tag Archives: Food

Who invented chocolate chip cookies? What is the story behind it?

Chocolate chip cookies are one of the most loved sweets in the world. Even though most of the people who enjoy this crunchy sweet know that it was invented, barely a few seem to know the inventor of it. The chocolate chip cookie was born in the USA during the days of great depression. It was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield, an accomplished chef and the owner of Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in Massachusetts.
There are various versions of the story behind the invention of chocolate chip cookie. Many of the stories say that the invention was accidental while people who knew Wakefield refute those claims. According to the popular version, she was making chocolate cookies when she ran out of baker’s chocolate. In a state of panic, she substituted it with the semi-sweet chocolate she had got from Andrew Nestle of Nestle Company. She thought that the chocolate would melt and mix into the batter but it didn’t, leading to the birth of chocolate chip cookie. However, a major shortcoming of this story is the history of the protagonist herself. Ruth Wakefield was an accomplished chef and author of a cookbook. She was aware of the mechanics of chocolate or cookie dough and should have known the Nestle chocolate would not melt. It points to a deliberate invention and Wakefield herself admitted so. In an interview given in 1974, she said that the chocolate chip cookie was the result of an attempt to give something different to her customers who all enjoyed her butterscotch nut cookie.
In a version contrary to those above, George Boucher, once head chef of Toll House Inn, claimed that the chocolate chip cookie was born when the bars of the semi-sweet chocolate fell into the chocolate dough from shelf due to the vibrations of an electric mixer located nearby.
In any way, the sweet dessert became instantly popular and Nestle bought the rights to the recipe. The recipe was first published in the 1938 edition of Wakefield’s cookbook, Toll House Tried and True Recipes under the name Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie. She became almost a celebrity in those days. Nestle still prints a variation of her recipe on their every packs of chocolate chip cookie sold in North America, as a tribute to her. However, the restaurant Toll House Inn no longer exists. After the death of Wakefield in 1977, its popularity began to dwindle, and it was eventually demolished on the New Year day of 1985.

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How is iron useful for the body? Which foods contain the most iron?

Our body needs several nutrients to survive. These include various minerals such as zinc, magnesium, manganese etc. as well. These are required for various metabolic activities in our body. One of the primary metals we require is Iron. This metal plays a vital role in the growth and development of most of the living organisms, not to mention humans.
One of the most important mechanisms in our body, the blood circulation, is aided by iron. Iron is a part of Hemoglobin, the pigment that gives erythrocytes (red blood cells) their color. It is required for hematopoiesis, the production of red blood cells. Hemoglobin is what carries the oxygen from lungs to various tissues and carbon dioxide from those tissues to lungs.
Iron helps in the conversion of sugar in our blood to the required energy. It is also required for function of muscles, immune system and DNA synthesis. Iron is needed for the physical and mental development of infants, and pregnant women need to consume enough iron for the baby.
Iron is a vital part of many enzymes in our body. Several of these enzymes act as electron carriers within cells, facilitating energy transfer in the cell. Some iron-containing enzymes play a big role in detoxification of foreign substances in liver.
Our body can’t produce iron on its own so it gets the mineral from food. There are two types of iron in terms of absorption; heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme-iron is obtained from animal products such as meat, poultry and fish and is easier to synthesize. Non-heme iron is found in plants and is comparatively harder to absorb. Our body monitors the iron levels and stores excessive amount mainly in bone marrow and liver.
It is necessary to ensure we consume enough iron. The most common problem caused by lack of iron is the iron-deficiency anemia. It is a condition where there is a fall in the number of red blood cells. It is mainly found in infants, adolescents and pregnant women. The symptoms of anemia include pale skin, dizziness, fatigue and breathlessness.
The major foods that contain iron are beef, leafy green vegetables, beans, oats and lentils. Since Vitamin C helps in the iron absorption, you need to consume enough of that as well. Iron is lost from urination, defecation, sweating and blood loss. Since women have higher chance of iron loss due to menstrual bleeding, they have a greater demand of iron than men.

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How does sugar make you fat if there is no fat in it?

One of the first things a doctor say to a fat person is the need to cut down the sweet things. Many of you would have thought as well; how does sugar make me fat?
First of all, our body needs sugar to survive. It is a significant part of our metabolism. We get the energy for our daily activities from sugar. There are different types of sugars, including glucose and fructose. Our body produces glucose and uses it for energy. But the sugar in the food we take in contains mainly fructose. It can only be processed by liver cells.
Too much of sugar is certainly harmful for us. Despite not having any fats, there are a number of ways sugar can make one fat.
As mentioned earlier, fructose is metabolized by liver. When we consume more sugar than necessary, the additional amount of sugar is converted by the liver into fatty acids. They get absorbed into the bloodstream, and are stored in various parts of the body, including the stomach, breasts, hips, and butt. These fatty acids later gradually enter our organs such as heart, liver, and kidneys triggering various health problems.
Another way sugar makes one fat is linked with insulin. Insulin, produced by pancreas, is a key hormone that regulates our metabolism. Whenever we consume sugar, insulin is produced to compensate it. The hormone has a few functions like sending signal to peripheral cells like muscles to absorb glucose. When we eat more sugar, the insulin production also goes higher. The other duty of insulin is to inform fat cells to take more fat from bloodstream. So, when insulin is produced in high levels, more glucose gets turned to fat and stored in our body. This also causes our energy levels to drop and makes us hungry, even though we have had enough food. This makes us eat even more and triggers an unhealthy cycle.
Sugar also makes us fat with the effects on the hormone named leptin. Leptin is produced by fat cells. The more fat we have, more leptin is secreted. Our brain determines whether we are hungry or not by checking the leptin levels. Constant eating of sugar produces more leptin and the brain eventually becomes resistant to leptin levels. It means it will be unable to decide we had enough food and keeps us hungry. We would eat more and trigger the aforementioned processes continuously. This is the reason why fat people eat more and keep on getting fatter. Not because they need more food, but because they feel hungry even when their body has had enough food.

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What is Ajinomoto? Why is it considered harmful?

Ajinomoto is one of the most popular taste enhancers in various cuisines around the world. The use of the ingredient is increasing day by day; it being found in every other packet food. And, in line with the growth of the use of ajinomoto, the concern about it is also rising.
The real name of the food ingredient known to people as ajinomoto is mono sodium glutamate. Ajinomoto is actually the name of the company that produces the chemical. The Ajinomoto Corporation is a Japanese food and chemical company which produces seasonings, cooking oils, sweeteners, amino acids, and pharmaceuticals. The corporation’s flagship products are mono sodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame.

Japanese spice maker’s Co President and CEO Masatoshi Ito

Their MSG product is marketed in the trademark name of Ajinomoto which literally translates into ‘Essence of Taste.’ The seasoning was discovered and patented by Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. It reached the Japanese markets in 1909.

Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, a non-essential amino acid. It is naturally abundant, found in tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, and many other vegetables and fruits.
Kikeda was experimenting on Kombu, an edible seaweed, to extract its savory taste when he came across MSG. He found out that the substance responsible for the likeable flavor of broths made of kombu was the glutamate salt. He called the taste umami, meaning ‘pleasant taste’. Even though all glutamate salts produce the umami taste, sodium glutamate is the easiest one to extract among them. MSG is a very effective flavor enhancer which intensifies the meaty flavor of the food and enhances all other tastes when added in the right amount.
Even though it was born in Japan, ajinomoto has entered almost every cuisine in the world. Its cheap price is also appealing. But the doubts about its health risks are also rising. A lot of research has gone into the side effects of ajinomoto. The most common problem linked to its use is recurring headache. Nerve issues are reported widely, and it is said to trigger diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Other numerous health problems linked with ajinomoto are obesity, sterility, high blood pressure, chest pains, abdominal problems, asthma, hormonal imbalance, autism, food allergies and eye problems. Pregnant women and infants are particularly advised not to consume the substance.
However, despite the allegations, not many scientific studies have come in support to the claims about ajinomoto’s side effects. MSG is recognized as safe to consume in many countries. A reason can be the adverse impacts such revelations can have on the ajinomoto industry. Several people have also claimed that the fear of ajinomoto in western countries is because its Asian origin. Let us hope for better and impartial studies that would shed light on the effects of ajinomoto.

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Why do we fart after eating beans?

Beans are one of the most nutritional foods out there. They are a great source of protein and contain many minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. Beans also contain several vitamins and soluble fibers that help with digestion. Dietitians often recommend beans as a protein source without fat.

However, this fantastic food has a small side effect that is considered embarrassing by everyone. The otherwise healthy food has a reputation of making one fart after eating it. This habit of beans makes many people reluctant to eat them. Beans’ tendency to make one fart comes from a group of sugars called oligosaccharides. The oligosaccharides are polymers made up of various types of sugar monomers and these are responsible for the sweetness of beans. The most recognizable ones among them are raffinose and stachyose. These sugar molecules are too large to be processed by the small intestine and pass on to the large intestine. There are no enzymes in our body that can synthesize these large molecules. Once in the large intestine, these molecules are broken up by the millions of bacteria residing there. These bacteria are inevitable part of our digestive system as they are responsible for releasing a number of necessary vitamins for us. As a result of these processes, various gases are released. These include hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. When these gases put enough pressure on the anus, it opens and releases them. It is the cause of the flatulence. The bad smell commonly associated with fart is produced by methane.
Even though the human body can’t process the oligosaccharides, some species of fungus possess the enzymes to break them down. These enzymes are now turned into supplements helping to solve gas problems. One of the most popular products is Beano, which is made from the enzyme alpha galactosidase, which is derived from the fungus Aspergillus nige. Those with gas problems often rely on Beano. There is also a new product named Bean-zyme which is cheaper than Beano. Another way to reduce the flatulence after consuming beans is soaking them in water for some time before making food. The yeast produced during the fermentation consumes the oligosaccharides, making beans fart-free!
In all fairness, beans are not the only food that causes flatulence. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, fruits like banana and apple, dairy products and fatty foods can all make you fart. Only a balanced diet can keep the flatulence under check.

Watch the video from Men’s Health magazine explaining the process graphically. (HBA is not affiliated with the creators of the video.)

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Why doesn’t honey go bad?

The world of food is full of many wonders. The nature of honey is certainly one of them. Every food item spoils over a certain period and becomes inedible. People would get sick eating them. But the case of honey in that aspect is very astounding one. Honey, unlike almost all other foods, doesn’t spoil over time. There is even a sample of perfect honey discovered in an ancient Egyptian tomb, dating back three millenniums before. Very few other foods, like salt or sugar, can claim such a long shelf-life although the aforementioned items cannot be considered edible food. What more, the longevity even gives honey some medicinal properties as well.
So how is honey able to keep itself fresh over time? The answer lies in its chemical mechanism. There are a number of factors that account for its specialty.
Honey is derived by the bees from plant nectar. It is basically a sugar, although it is of different type from others. All the sugars are hygroscopic, meaning they don’t have much water content in their natural state. Due to the lack of moisture, it is hard for bacteria and other microorganisms to thrive in honey. That is, there is no room for any outside agents that can spoil it.
Another feature of honey is its acidity. The pH value of honey falls between 3 and 4.5, which implies an extremely acidic environment. This alone can kill any organism that is likely to grow there.
These two features are not exclusive for honey. Molasses also have the same properties yet they would spoil eventually. If one would wonder then why does honey not spoil, that is where the role of bees come. Bees make honey by consuming the nectar and then vomiting them. They have an enzyme in their stomachs, named glucose oxidase. When they make honey, this enzyme gets mixed with the nectar, breaking it down into two products: gluconic acid, which is the reason for honey’s acidity, and hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide, which is very much hostile to any organisms, gives the honey an extra layer of protection.
The last thing that contributes to honey’s long life is its storage itself. Being hygroscopic, it can absorb water if exposed to air. So keeping it sealed in a dry place can save honey from spoiling, in addition to all other features.
Even though it is safe to say that honey does not contain any harmful substance, it may occasionally have the inactive spores of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium causing botulism. It poses no threat to healthy adults though infants can get sick from that.

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Why are some potato chips green? Are they poisonous?

The potato is such a universal food that it can be found in almost all cuisines. It is a part of daily staple in many regions. The westerners have a particular liking for the potato chips, known in various names like French fries, crisps etc. The vegetable is usually round and brown. However, very rarely, you may come across a green spud; either in those you brought from the market or in that packet of chips you bought for the midday snack. Some people don’t really mind but others immediately frown and subject it to intense scrutiny before deciding to eat it or throw it out. Many think that the greenish tint is poisonous, and there a fair bit of truth in it.
The greenish tint on the spud is actually chlorophyll, the pigment that gives green color to all the plants in the world. While chlorophyll itself is not harmful, it is the presence of a glycoalkoid named solanine that poses danger to us. Solanine is actually a nerve toxin produced in the greenish parts of the potato plant, including leaves and stem. A crystalline alkaloid, this poison is in fact a part of the plant’s defenses against insects and diseases. Solanine is developed when the potatoes are exposed to too much light or warm temperatures. When the potatoes start to produce chlorophyll, it also facilitates more synthesis of solanine. As you know, potatoes grow under the ground, shielded from the light. But occasionally, it might emerge above the soil and get exposed to the sunlight, thereby triggering the production of chlorophyll. The light need not be sunlight, meaning electric bulbs can also trigger production of the chemical. That is why we find some potatoes becoming green even at our homes.
Naturally, the substance is harmful to human body. It disrupts the transmission of impulses between our cells. If consumed in large amounts, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and even paralysis of the central nervous system. However, the poison doesn’t affect people unless they are eating a large amount of the spuds. A person weighing 200 pounds might have to eat at least twenty green potatoes to develop any sign of sickness. As for the chips, the chances of developing any significant sickness are very low since a packet will contain only one or two slices of green potato. Children, due to their small weight, are susceptible to solanine and should not be fed the spud if it has developed the green hue. But even a grown person should not eat the leaves and green sprouts of potato since they contain high levels of solanine.

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How bad is lead in food? How does it get into foods like Maggi noodles?

The human body needs a number of metals for nourishment. However, there are a number of metals that even in their tiniest amount can cause potential harm to the body. Lead is one of them. The confirmation of presence of lead in Maggi noodles of Nestle triggered public outcry because of nothing else.
Lead is a naturally occurring element, found in all parts of earth. It is a metal of a bluish-gray color with no particular taste or smell. It exists in various forms in our environment. It can be present in the soil or the home appliances. In the past there had been many cases of lead poisoning, but with strict monitoring, it has been reduced somewhat.
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Lead poisoning is a very severe medical condition. It is known in various names like plumbism, colica pictorum and saturnism. It is caused by building up of lead in the body to hazardous levels. Organic lead is more toxic than inorganic lead. The metal interrupts many a body activity. Lead produces adverse effects on many parts our anatomy like heart, bones, intestines and kidneys. It also affects our reproductive and nervous systems. Lead is particularly toxic to pregnant women and children, since it causes harm to nervous system. Children suffering from lead poisoning can develop behavior disorders and personality defects. The major symptoms of lead infection can range from abdominal pain, headache and anemia to coma and death.
Lead is one of the most common pollutants. It can enter the body by various means. The exposure to air, food, water, dust and other products contaminated by lead can result in lead poisoning. Many food products these days contain the toxic metal in various levels. It has been found present in many food products like chocolates, fruit juices, milk, fish, and even drinking water.
There are various ways lead can enter food products. If we take example of Maggi noodles, the major parts of the product are the noodle block, the sachet of tastemaker and the packet. The coloring agents used in the tastemaker can be contaminated with lead. Also the water used to make noodles can also be a reason. If nothing else, the package also might have been contaminated with lead. Since the metal is a major presence in industrial process the food might be exposed to lead while being processed by machines.
It is important that the food safety regulations be implemented with precision to avoid such cases. Lead poisoning reportedly causes more than a hundred thousand deaths worldwide a year.

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Who invented French fries? What is its history?

People call them different names such as frites, chips, fries, finger chips and French-fried potatoes. But everyone agrees about its taste in the same voice. The crunchy French fries are among the most favorite snacks of the people around the world, despite the local varieties in shapes and flavors. The long cut pieces of deep-fried potato is a common presence of the western fast food culture.
In spite of the fact that people agree on its yummy nature, many debates are going over its history. Although it is known as French fries, Belgians and French claim themselves as its inventors in the same voice.
The phrase ‘French Fried Potatoes’ first appeared in print in 1856 in the article ‘Cookery for Maids of All Work’ by E Warren. He used the term to indicate the product made by boiling sliced potatoes in fat till they sported a brown color. But long before that, the fries had been popular in Europe.
The potato didn’t arrive in Europe until late 16th century, when Spanish conquistadors brought back numerous products from their campaigns in South America. It took many years for the Europeans to accept the potato and make it a part of their daily staple. And after a few years, the Belgians and the French were fighting for the ownership of those potato chips!
In Belgium, the French fries have a status of the national food. According to them, Pommes frites, as they call that crispy food, had their birth in Namur, a region in southern part of the country. The people of the region used to catch fish from the River Meuse and fry them. However, during winters, when the river freezes and fishing becomes impossible, they would cut up potatoes into the forms of small fish and fry them instead. Even though there is no evidence to support this story, many people believe it.
As far as the French are concerned, the fries were born there in the preceding years of French revolution. Born as fast food, the first to offer the taste of fires were the street vendors at Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris.
There is also a hypothesis, that the term French fries was made popular by the British and American soldiers stationed in Belgian places. Since the language of a better part of Belgium was French then, the soldiers might have thought they were in France and called the delicacies French fries.
Whatever its history, there is no doubt that the French fries have become widely popular. Americans, Belgians, French, Australians and all consume them with equal fervor and local culinary varieties.

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Who Invented peanut butter? What is its history?

Peanut butter, the sweet, tasty delicacy has been a part of the daily staple in Western countries for a long time. Its popularity is huge, such that a National Peanut Butter Day is observed in the United States on January 24. Even though it cemented its presence in the world in late 19th century, peanut butter is actually older than we think.
The peanuts have been cultivated for almost ten thousand years. It is believed to have its origin in Latin America. And, the history of peanut butter can be traced all way back to the time of Aztecs and Incas, around 1000 BC, who used to ground roasted peanuts into a paste. Since then there have been many people who invented their own versions of peanut butter with different processes.
The first known patent for peanut butter was acquired by a Canadian chemist named Marcellus Gilmore Edson from Montreal in 1884. His product was obtained from milling roasted peanuts until it reached a fluid form. In 1890, an anonymous doctor from St. Louis developed peanut butter. He sold his product in packages to people with chewing problems, with the aid of businessman George Bayle. The peanut butter was priced 6 cents per pound.
Then the American doctor John Harvey Kellogg was issued a patent for the process of making peanut butter in 1895. Kellogg’s process included boiling the peanuts rather than roasting them, rendering it less tasty. He used to serve it to the patients of his sanitarium, Western Health Reform Institute.
The person to popularize the use of peanut butter in the modern world was none other than George Washington Carver, the American agricultural chemist who is famous for his numerous inventions. He discovered three hundred uses for peanuts in the beginning of 20th century and is considered to be the father of peanut industry, and often termed as the inventor of peanut butter. In 1904, peanut butter was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair by C.H. Sumner, grabbing the world attention.
In 1908, Krema Products Company from Ohio started the sale of peanut butter. It is the oldest peanut butter company still in operation. In 1922, Joseph L. Rosenfield from California developed smoother peanut butter, made with a churning process. His product was adopted by Swift & Company in 1928, which later sold the product under the brand Peter Pan. In 1932, Rosenfield founded the Skippy brand, which sold crunchy peanut butter. Later Procter & Gamble also entered the arena, with their brand Jif. They own the largest peanut butter plant in the world. Peter Pan, Skippy and Jif remain the big three of the peanut butter business today.

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