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What Is Amchur?

Amchur (amchoor, aamchur) is dried unripe mango flesh, used either as slices or as a powder. It is an important spice in India, especially in the Northern states, where most of it is produced. Usually, unripened mangos which have fallen prematurely from the tree are used to make amchur. Mango is a climacteric fruit, which will continue to ripen even after it is picked or has fallen. Buy Amchur Powder Now Like tamarind or anardana, amchur is used as an acidulant or souring agent. It is used...

When Is Recycling Actually Downcycling?

In my article explaining the meanings of plastic recycling codes, I listed the various types of products for which these different types of recycled plastic are used. In other words, I described what happens to the plastic you put in your recycling bins. If you read that article, you will discover that those circular arrows, which seem to indicate a never-ending stream of recycling, again and again, are misleading. Many times, recycled plastic is turned into products that are not themselves...

Is the 'How Coca-Cola Reacts to Stomach Acid' Video Real?

A video on YouTube entitled 'Experiment Pouring Coca Cola in Stomach Acid!! - Epic Reaction!,' or 'How Coke Reacts to Stomach Acid,' between YouTube and Facebook, has been viewed millions of times. Posted by a channel called Molten Science, it purports to show what happens when Coca-Cola comes into contact with stomach acid, or hydrochloric acid. The video starts by showing a square glass containing a small amount of clear liquid with a can of Coke sitting next to it. We cannot tell what the...

Why Use Leftover Rice For Fried Rice?

Fried rice can be a quick and satisfying meal, especially for those who love anything rice. Indeed, if you only equate fried rice with the soy sauce spiked stuff you get from carryout Chinese places, you have the wrong idea, entirely. Fried rice can be a quick and comforting meal you throw together, with nothing but leftovers, or it can be a bit more complex. Either way, it is not complicated to make. One rule you will always hear about making fried rice is to use leftover rice. Many think that...

Substituting Dried Herbs for Fresh Herbs: What Amount?

You may have read that you should never use dried herbs in your cooking. But you do, don't you? What's more, you make tasty food with dried herbs. Sure, in a perfect world we'd always use fresh ingredients. However, depending on the preparation, dried herbs can sometimes be even better. But, what if you have to substitute dried herbs in a recipe calling for fresh? Amount of Dried Herb To Use The rule usually given is to use about half the amount of dried herbs as fresh herbs. However, this...

Never Eat Complimentary Bread At Restaurants?

I have long seen dire warnings against ordering or eating certain restaurant foods. These warnings come in two main varieties. One, the food is gross and dirty in some way and, two: it is a rip-off and of low quality. One of the most often heard examples is complimentary bread. Chefs, restaurant employees, and others say we should never eat it. First, before we even get into whether or not it is true that you should not eat the complimentary bread at restaurants, let's consider potential...

What is the Difference Between Bitters and Amari?

Cocktail bitters such as the well-known angostura and Peychauds are very bitter alcoholic liquids that started out as medicinals but are now used to lend a bitter flavor to cocktails. They are usually too strong and bitter to drink own their own. In other words, they are not potable. For this reason, they can be sold in grocery stores despite their alcohol content. Amaro, however, means bitter in Italian and amari (the plural) are often described as Italian bitters. You won't find any at the...

What Do The Recycling Codes On Plastics Mean?

When it was common for consumers to pay deposits for bottles and then return the bottles to a retailer to reclaim the deposit, the type of plastics used in the bottles were known. Now that curbside recycling or drop-off recycling centers are common, it is much more difficult to identify particular types of plastic. Plastic resin identification coding was developed to assist in this identification. Therefore, most plastic packaging, including bottles and food packets, have a symbol on them which...

Origin Of 'Kill The Fatted Calf' Expression

To kill the fatted calf is to prepare a huge celebratory feast, especially to welcome someone. It means to have a big party with lots of food and drink. The American Heritage Dictionary Of Idioms defines it as to prepare for a joyful occasion or a warm welcome. An example would be a long lost beloved relative coming home: When Steve comes home from his deployment we are going to kill the fatted calf. The expression is used in the Elton John song Bennie The Jets in the first verse:...

Toxic Canola Oil Warning

Since 2001, warnings have circulated via Email and Facebook warning people not to use Canola oil because it is highly dangerous to humans. According to such messages, you shouldn't use Canola oil because it is made from a genetically engineered plant developed in Canada which is part of the mustard family of plants. Mustard Gas and Canola Oil Like other such warnings concerning foods derived from the mustard family, the message probably plays on the perceived correlation between mustard gas...

A Man Bought Lobster and Steak on Food Stamps?

A viral image of a grocery store receipt from Menominee, Michigan has been circulating online since May of 2011. The receipt, from Angeli's Country Market, lists fresh cold water lobster, porterhouse steak, and diet Mountain Dew, totaling $141.78, dated February 8, 2011. So, someone was going to have a surf and turf feast. Not so unusual, except that the bill was paid using the Bridge Card, which is the electronic equivalent of food stamps in Michigan. So, someone bought almost $150 of lobster...

Origin of the Word Pumpernickel

I've written about many food word origins here on CulinaryLore. I have been meaning to write about the origin of the word pumpernickel for a while, especially since I had read it had some surprising derivations. I thought I may as well do some research of my own to confirm these odd and funny origins. Pumpernickel is a unleavened dark bread made from whole rye grain which is prepared using a sourdough process. It is claimed to have originated during the fifteenth or sixteenth century in...

Is Chocolate Milk Really Made From Expired Milk?

I recently noticed an Instagram post under the hashtag #foodfacts, which I use for my CulinaryLore posts on Instagram. The image claimed that chocolate milk is actually made from expired white milk that is sent back to the processing facilities, boiled down and re-pasteurized, then mixed with artificial synthetic chocolate flavoring, sugar (GMO). In other words, chocolate milk is a way to get another month of shelf-life out of white milk while adding a lot of bad stuff. I had never heard this...

Origin of 'Egg on Your Face' Expression

Have you ever had egg on your face? Possibly, after eating eggs. But someone having egg on their face is also an idiomatic expression meaning to look foolish after having made some mistake. The expression is figurative in that the person doesn't really have egg on their face. But, does the expression come from having remnants of egg yolk left on one's face after eating soft-cooked eggs? Perhaps, but it is difficult to be sure. It appears the first recorded use of the expression in America was...

Banana Wackies Cereal from General Mills, 1965

Banana Wackies cereal is a forgotten cereal that was introduced by General Mills in 1965. The boxes actually only read 'Wackies' cereal, but the television commercials used the name Banana Wackies. General Mills ran a series of animated television commercials featuring a small boy and a talking gorilla, using the catch-phrase what's wackier than a __ gorilla, like the ones below, and other similar ads. Banana Wackies was also a sponsor of the Happy the Clown TV show which aired every...

Origin of the Word Epicure

The word epicure refers to someone who is a connoisseur of food and wine, seeks out only the finest, and has selective tastes. The meaning of the word was not originally so highfalutin, though. It could also mean something more like glutton. Epicure comes to us from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, and its meaning, especially in the original sense, from his followers. Also associated with them is the word hedonism, which comes from a fairly innocent Greek word meaning sweetness or pleasure....

What does 'Au Gratin' Mean?

Au gratin is one of many fancy-sounding French culinary terms to enter English during the 19th century, when a taste for French food, especially among the wealthy, developed in America. When you cook something au gratin or simply gratin, you are not, in reality, doing anything fancy at all. In fact, the verb to gratinée, as used today, means simply to give a dish a golden brown top. The word gratin is given many alternative and incorrect definitions. Since most gratin dishes, such as...

Is Swiss Steak Really Swiss?

One of my favorite mom dishes growing up was Swiss Steak. It was a simple affair of round steak, tomatoes, onions, and celery cooked together. My mom would cook it in the oven, but she could just as well have finished it on the stovetop. Although thin cuts of round steak were used, it was more a pot roast than a steak, pure comfort food, served with mashed potatoes. It was also regularly featured in our high school cafeteria, and we had some good school lunches! I have a feeling most of those...

Why Do Waiters Ask You if You Want a Drink First?

Let's be honest, even as we ask this question, we know that we probably don't want to sit in a restaurant reading a menu without anything to drink. It gives us something to do and in the case of alcohol, it helps us relax, leading to a more pleasant evening as long as we drink in moderation. But, you can bet, if you respond to the question would you like anything to drink with just a water, please, your waiter is going to be a bit disappointed. Even an upsell from tap water to a club soda or...

What Is Jackfruit?

The jackfruit, native to Southeast Asia, had the distinction of being the largest edible fruit that grows on trees. It belongs to the family Moraceae or the mulberry family, and of the genus Artocarpus, an important group of about 50 species which also contains breadfruit and other edible starch fruits that can serve as staples. The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam) bears fruit which can weigh up to eighty pounds or even 100 pounds, reaching three feet in length, eighteen inches wide,...

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