The New Pepsi Challenge

In the late 1970's Pepsi began doing public blind taste tests where subjects would take sips of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi - and choose which one they liked better.  They found they had a slight edge in these tastings over Coke and ran the claim, "Nationwide, more people prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coca-Cola."

I remember these ads clearly.  I also remember being a big proponent of Coke at a young age, but I couldn't tell you why.  Even though Pepsi was, "The Choice of a New Generation," I felt angry that so many foolish people would incorrectly pick Pepsi when Coke was so clearly better.

In his amazing book Blink, author Malcom Gladwell actually describes some of the nuances of taste tests that the Pepsi Executives may-or-may-not-have knowingly taken advantage of.  When testers are asked to take only a sip, Pepsi, being slightly sweeter than Coke may be chosen more often even though many might think its flavor cloying over the course of a whole drink.

Anymore, the two are equal in my book; and although I don't drink sodas often, they go great with Mexican food.  When I figure out why, I'll let you know.

So, what's the New Pepsi Challenge?  Last year, Pepsi and Mountain Dew released "Throwback" versions of their sodas made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup.  Just like the good old days, you know, 1980.  They were released only for a limited time and came in old-fashion cans, which I think look pretty cool myself.

I bought a 12-pack of each the Throwback Pepsi and the regular one and conducted my own New Pepsi Challenge asking testers to see if they could choose the one made with real sugar over the one made with corn syrup.

While some people just made their guess, some added that they preferred one over the other.  Some people even said, "I think this one is corn syrup AND I think I like it better."  Although I could discern a very slight difference in flavor, I couldn't tell you beyond a guess which one was which.  I also didnt prefer one over the other.

They both tasted like sour carbonated sugar water.

And your results:  8 vs 8.  A tie. 

Authordavid koch
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Diner enters restaurant, is seated, and peruses the menu.  

He places the menu on the table, indicating that a decision has been made.  The server greets the diner and takes the Diner's order, but what's this?  Red wine with fish?  The Cardinal Sin!  Not on my watch!  

The Server, aghast:  "One moment sir, I'll fetch the sommelier."

Diner:  "That won't be nec..."

Server:  "One moment sir, just one moment."

Sommelier enters scene, corkscrew a blazin':  "May I make some recommendations, sir?"

Diner:  "I'll have the Argentinian Malbec with my Mackerel please."

Sommelier:  "Instead Sir, may I recommend a New Zealand Savignon Blanc?"

Diner:  "The terrior at this particular Château, mon frier, has a very low iron content.  I will have the Malbec and I will wallow in my own decanal and heptanal if the case may be, thank you."

Sommelier:  "Um, but, um.  But the tannins, sir, the tannins.  Um.  Very well."


What did the diner know that the sommelier didn't?  What's this about iron?  In a recent article published this past August in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a team of crack-shot food scientists broke open the door to pairing red wine with fish... and it's not the tannins.

According to The Economist

Authordavid koch
CategoriesDrinks, Science
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I had seen the blind tasting done on the TV show Top Chef a handful of times but what made me actually want to sit down, get blindfolded, and do it was an article in the April 2009 issue of Saveur, titled "Dream Job."  It was written by Bryan Miller a restaurant critic for the New York Times from 1984 to 1993.

Miller said that he would place dried herbs on his tongue a few times a month to try and identify them.  Like culinary push-ups, now I was intrigued by the blind tasting.  His Kryptonite?  Dried turmeric, Miller states "To this day, I wouldn't know the spice if you rolled my pillow in it."

We set up our own Top Chef-Style Taste Test.  With three people, we each tasted the other's picks, not tasting our own.  One of us would set up their tray and administer to the test to one while the third was in another room.  

I went first.

Dave's Picks
  1. Currants
  2. An Orange wedge
  3. Turmeric
  4. Raspberry Jam
  5. Oyster Sauce
  6. Smoked Paprika
  7. Coconut Oil
  8. Wasabi Peas
Dave:  "As I suspected, currents threw them off
Authordavid koch
CategoriesHumor, Science
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My wife was craving some KFC the other day (it's not Kentucky Fried Chicken anymore) and I didn't feel like cooking... well that, I was exhausted from work and I could walk there too were all factors that helped her cause.  We got some combos with the requisite Mashed Potatoes 'N Gravy (which I call wallpaper paste), Cole Slaw (which I shamefully enjoy), and their biscuits (which have gone dreadfully downhill since my youth.)

What caught my eye was the packet titled "Colonel's Buttery Spread" which beyond its title bore only the following two tidbits of information: "Keep Refrigerated" and "Artificially Flavored."  What is this magical spread?  Was it outsourced to the Keebler Elves and made churning Yeti milk with a unicorn's horn?

I went online to take a peek at the KFC Nutrition Guide...

Authordavid koch
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Caffeine has become so commonplace in our society that I'm starting to think it has become unavoidable.  I'm a big-time coffee aficionado (RYO Coffee, Latte Art, (STARBUCKS)RED Whole Bean Coffee) but methinks sometimes marketing "gurus" take it a little too far. 

Recently, I counted 14 different flavors of Monster Energy Drink at a Fry's electronic store in a cooler by the registers.  Do any of them taste good?  Unlikely.  Maybe that's why they have to keep cranking out new ones, to keep the public guessing.

Here are some of the latest snacks that have been, shall I say tainted with caffeine:

Butterfinger Buzz...

The definition of a Calorie (note: Calorie with a capital "C") is "the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius." - conversely, calorie with a lowercase "c" is the amount of energy to heat one gram of water.  Essentially, a lowercase calorie is 1/1000th of a Calorie.

For all intents and purposes we will be referring to "Calories" here because that is the standard measurement in the United States (that's what is on your food labels).  Ironically, we use Calories in the U.S.... but not Celsius.  Go figure.

Back to the the question ,"Can I Shed Pounds Drinking Ice Water?"  By the definition of a Calorie, yes, absolutely.  There's a little math involved, but it's easy, let's go.

Here are the facts:

A)  Ice water is approximately 0 degrees Celsius. 

B)  Body temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius.

C)  A kilogram of water takes up one liter (that's the beauty and logic behind the metric system). 

D)  Urine doesn't come out cold, it's comes out at body temperature.

If you were to drink a liter of ice water, about 32  fl oz (or four cups), it would require your body to burn 37 Calories to bring that liter of ice water up to body temperature

So the answer is yes, sort of.  For every 8.35 pounds of ice water you drink, you would burn the Caloric equivalent of a half-ounce of cookie dough.  There are a lot more effective ways to slim down.  Stick to the "8 cups of water a day" rule; however, make it ice water every time, and that's burning 74 Calories a day.

Just think, you would only need to drink a gallon of ice water to burn the Calories in 3 tubs of McDonald's BBQ sauce...

Authordavid koch


photo by bashfordphoto by Photo Mojo

Ahh Beer Can Chicken, a staple food growing up and always a go-to grill option for my father.  The logic is sound, prop up the bird so that the breast meat is not scorched by the direct heat of the grill and thus dried out.  The beer gently steams the cavity adding a subtle nuance of malted barley and hops; the liquid also adding to the moisture of the meat.  Brilliant.

But wait.  Is there a plastic liner in my beer can?  What's this about Bisphenol-A (BPA)?  Is BPA going to kill me?  What about the paint on the outside?  Is it true that Aluminum is linked to Alzheimer's Disease?  Oh my gosh, is my Beer Can Chicken going to kill me?

This debate sprung up recently and I decided to check the facts.  Note:  I'm not a doctor but I had a cameo as one in a school play.  Let's begin:

Is there a plastic liner in my beer can?
- Most likely.  Beer and soda are reactive to metals and would taste horrible out of a can without a liner of sorts.  There is a wonderful article on the History of the Beverage Can by the Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising that states that lined cans hit the market in 1935 - and the industry, basically, never looked back.

This is an image of the plastic liner inside a beverage can that has had the aluminum exposed by dissolving it in acid (photo courtesy of Steve Spangler Science):

What is all this news about BPA?
- BPA is a building block of many everyday plastics.  Researchers have correlated exposure to BPA to heart disease, diabetes and possibly cancer.  Consumer awareness about BPA hit an all time high last April when news detailed baby bottles that contain BPA and Nalgene quickly removed its water bottles from shelves.

Is BPA going to kill me?
- Maybe.  Not from drinking beer it appears [thank god] but a recent study by the Center for Disease Control fount BPA to be present in 93% of the population in the U.S.  That's how everyday this stuff is. 

In 1995, the Society of the Plastics Industry, ran a study to quantify the migration of BPA from can coatings.  They determined that an average adult consumer would have to consume "about 500 pounds of canned food and beverages every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the safe level of BPA set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)."

Before you sigh a breath of relief, there are some mitigating factors here... Do you trust that the EPA has correctly determined what safe exposures to BPA are?  Do you trust the results of a BPA study conducted by the Society of the Plastic Industry?  Why hasn't anyone studied the exposure generated by grilling a can of beer that's been stuffed in a chicken's rear end?

What about the paint on the outside?
- Hmm, I've got nothing for ya - except Little Jimmy used to eat paint chips and we all know how he turned out...

Is it true that Aluminum is linked to Alzheimer's Disease?
- "They" don't think so.  The link between Aluminum and Alzheimer's was first put forward in 1965 and aluminum has been shown to be present in both plaques and tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.  I know people who avoid antiperspirant because they contain aluminum-based compounds.

According to the Alzheimer's Society; however, "The overwhelming medical and scientific opinion is that the findings outlined above do not convincingly demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease, and that no useful medical or public health recommendations can be made− at least at present (Massey and Taylor 1989)."

Oh my gosh, is my Beer Can Chicken going to kill me?
- I am completely unqualified to answer this, but... I don't think so.  For what it's worth, this is my logic:  As long as beer is still inside the can, the temperature won't reach much more than 212 degrees F, the boiling point of water. 

The boiling point of BPA is about 428 degrees F, so whatever BPA there might be inside the can liner, likely won't cook into the food.  If it does, it will stay mostly inside the cavity of the bird and considering how unappetising chicken ribs are, no one is likely going to be eating them. 

The paint on the outside follows the same rules as far as I'm concerned.  Ensure there is enough liquid in the can and the paint probably won't bake off either.

As far as the aluminum goes, just think about how much plastic and paint there is on that can protecting you from that nasty aluminum...

There is a great debate on Beer Can Chicken going on in the Chowhound forums, here is my favorite comment so far:

I think to many people are a little to panicky about these simple heath issues. You never heard anyone say anything back in the day when we all as kids drank from the garden hose. How about putting marshmallows on a tree branch to roast them? Maybe an insect deficated [sic] on that branch, or maybe it was sprayed with mesquito [sic] spray, who knows? - Jimbosox04

Lastly, if you want to see how beverage cans are manufactured, thank How it's Made by the Discovery Channel for making this video.

Authordavid koch
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"051707_004 [HDR]" - photo by Ushlambad

High Dynamic Range Photography (HDR) is a technique that takes [usually] three what-would-be-identical images, but with three different exposures.  One is under-exposed, which brings out detail in the very lightest areas of the photo.  One is normally exposed; optimal for the lighting conditions.  The last image is over-exposed, which brings out detail in only the darkest areas.

HDR was developed in the first half of the 20th century but it didn't become mainstream until the digital age; where, now everyone and their Aunt Ruth has a digital camera, and software like Adobe Photoshop CS4 (CS2 or later make work?) and Photomatix can easily seam your images together.

I have dabbled around with HDR photography a little bit, and with either of the two above programs your results can be quite satisfying.  Although most HDR content are of landscapes, the broad range of lighting captures and immense amount of detail, here are some photos I found of food (because I can't even take a decent picture of the back of a lens-cap).

Which of these are your favorites?


"snow & HDR" - photo by Giuliagas


"Wine & Chocolate HDR 2" - photo by beatbull


"Subway HDR" - photo by *Melody*


"Late Lunch" - photo by neona

"duckunit" - photo by witpim


"'Know your onions'..." - photo by Compound Eye - 1st book at Blurb now!


"小龍包作っている" - photo by angrydicemoose


"Busy(HDR)-Taiwan" - photo by 中華民國台灣台� � Taipei, Taiwan


"The Secret Underground Restaurant...." - photo by wattsbw2004


"A Chinese Family at Dinner" - photo by Stuck in Customs


"Groceries" - photo by Mista Yuck

"The Secret Ukrainian Underground Restaurant" - photo by Stuck in Customs



Authordavid koch
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The Associated Press reports that Austria's health ministry found detectable traces of cocaine samples of Red Bull Cola energy drinks... keep in mind that this is Red Bull's Cola and not their ubiquitous Energy Drink.  They use the Coca leaf as a flavoring but are supposed to remove any cocaine.

Before you go out and buy a case, Red Bull Spokeswoman says that any traces are very slight and do not pose a health risk; and the company maintains that its Cola is "harmless and marketable in both the U.S. and Europe."

So how much did they find? - 0.4 micrograms/liter.

To put things in perspective, the EPA allows a maximum threshold of arsenic in drinking water of 10 micrograms/liter.  That's 25 times more than how much cocaine the Austrians found. 



Authordavid koch

photo by youcansleepwhenyouredead

I've been reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and to say the book is excelent would be to describe the Golden Gate Bridge "nice."  It is a true manifesto and a call to action.  Although much of the research he details in the book is still in progress - and often controvercial, it opens your eyes to contemporary theories in nutritionism.

Some of these theories revolve around omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; both of which are unsaturated.  What has been known for a long time in the scientific comminity is just beginning to gain press, that "not all fats are created equal."  The American Heart Association even has a page on their website for children called Meet the Fats, going into the differences between Trans, Saturated, Poly- and Mono- unsaturated.

The media have made popular the evidence that omega-3's may have a link to possibly limit the risk of heart disease.  People have been supplementing omega-3's in their diet (usually in the form of fish oil) for many years and more recently, it seems that flax seed is getting put into practically everything.

What Pollan and much of the researchers he cites are starting to divulge is the idea that omega-3 suppliments alone may not account for improved cardiovascular health.  There is evidence to suggest that what is more important than an increase in omega-3 is a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (called n-6 and n-3 for short).  This ideal ratio of n-6 to n-3 is hypothesized to be between 1:1 and 4:1.

What makes this difficult is that the typical American diet is overwhelmed with government subsidized corn and soy.  The oils of which carry n-6 to n-3 ratios of 46:1 and 7:1 respectively.  What's even more alarming Pollan states that, "Nine percent of the calories in the American diet today come from a single omega-6 fatty acid: linoleic acid, most of it from soybean oil" (In Defense of Food page 131) 

That's a profound thought.  Consider this, if true, of all the compounds humans can consume, digest, and extract energy from... 9% of the energy in the typical American diet comes from this single molecule.  We are omnivorous and benefit from a varied diet.


Linoleic acid


According to the Omega-3 wiki, "Typical Western diets provide ratios of between 10:1 and 30:1" and they list the ratios of n-6 to n-3 of some common cooking oils:

  • Corn 46:1
  • Soybean 7:1
  • Olive between 3:1 and  13:1
  • Canola 2:1
  • Sunflower (no n−3)
  • Grapeseed (almost no n−3)
  • Cottonseed (almost no n−3)
  • Peanut (no n−3)
  • Flax 1:3

They continue:

It should be noted that olive, peanut and canola oils consist of approximately 80%  monounsaturated fatty acids, (i.e. neither n−6 nor n−3) meaning that they contain relatively small amounts of n−3 and n−6 fatty acids. Consequently, the n−6 to n−3 ratios for these oils (i.e. olive, canola and peanut oils) are not as significant as they are for corn, soybean and sunflower oils.

What compounds our consumption of omega-6's is that livestock and poultry feed in this country is largely made up of corn and soy as well.  A project completed at Cal State Chico showed that grain-fed beef had a ratio of 4:1 (n-6 to n-3) vs. grass fed beef which was about 2:1.  Ergo, there are even more n-6's making their way into our diets than one might be natural because they are coming from not only plant but animal sources.  

This shift in our entire ecosystem from one based on leaves to one that is based on seeds (corn, soy, olive, peanut, etc.) is pivotal in Pollan's manifest.  It tipped the ratios of fatty acids far towards the omega-6 side, but he also states it, "helps account for the flood of refined carbohydrates in the modern diet and the draught of so many micronutrients and the surfeit of total calories."

Joseph Hibbeln, a prominent researcher at the National Institute of Health, has done extensive research on how these compounds effect our health - and specifically our mental health.  He believes that much of our society's reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are to quell the effects of too much omega-6 fatty acids in our diet.

In April 2006, Hibbeln (et al) published an article called Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: Opportunities for intervention - concluding the Summary with, "Ensuring optimal intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during early development and adulthood shows considerable promise in preventing aggression and hostility."

In December 2006, Hibbeln (et al) published another article called Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry.  They suggest, "EPA and DHA [two specific omega-3 fatty acids] appear to have negligible risks and some potential benefit in major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder..."

From In Defense of Food, Pollan quotes Hibbeln:

"The increases in world [omega-6] consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality."

...I feel like eating a bowl of oatmeal now.

Authordavid koch
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 photo by jeff dlouhy


The Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes - awarded each year by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.  They began in 1991 as a way to draw attention to projects "that cannot, or should not, be reproduced."  It is a humorous event each October on Harvard's campus and the awards are handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates.

I went through the list of past winners and culled out the food related awards.  If I put my mind to it, maybe I could win an Ig Nobel Prize too:


NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK,  for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.


CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.
PRESS NOTE: Toscanini's Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The flavor is called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist." 

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink of Cornell University (from our article Is The 'Joy of Cooking' Fattening Us Up?), for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.



NUTRITION: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, for showing that dung beetles are finicky eaters.

PHYSICS: Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, for their insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces.

CHEMISTRY: Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito and José Bon of the University of Valencia, Spain, and Carmen Rosselló of the University of Illes Balears, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain,  for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature."

BIOLOGY: Bart Knols and Ruurd de Jong of Wageningen Agricultural University for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.


CHEMISTRY: Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, for conducting a careful experiment to settle the longstanding scientific question: can people swim faster in syrup or in water?

NUTRITION: Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats of Tokyo, Japan, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting).



Jillian Clarke of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and then Howard University, for investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it's safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor.



Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces."

C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.



Arnd Leike of the University of Munich, for demonstrating that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay. 


Peter Barss of McGill University,
for his impactful medical report "Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts." 

Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colorado for inventing Under-Ease, airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape.


Jasmuheen (formerly known as Ellen Greve) of Australia, first lady of Breatharianism, for her book "Living on Light,"
which explains that although some people do eat food, they don't ever really need to.


e Penfold, of York University in Toronto, for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops.

Dr. Len Fisher of Bath, England and Sydney, Australia for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit.
Professor Jean-Marc Vanden-Broeck of the University of East Anglia, England, and Belgium, for calculating how to make a teapot spout that does not drip.

The British Standards Institution for its six-page specification (BS-6008) of the proper way to make a cup of tea.

Dr. Paul Bosland, director of The Chile Pepper Institute, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, for breeding a spiceless jalapeno chile pepper.


Peter Fong of Gettysburg College
, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac.


T. Yagyu and his colleagues from th
e University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, from Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and from Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic, for measuring people's brainwave patterns while they chewed different flavors of gum.

Bernard Vonnegut of the State University of Albany, for his revealing report, "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed."


Anders Barheim and Hogne Sandvik of the University of Bergen, Norway, for their tasty and tasteful repo
rt, "Effect of Ale, Garlic, and Soured Cream on the Appetite of Leeches."

Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy's Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.

George Goble of Purdue University, for his blistering world record time for igniting a barbeque grill-three seconds, using charcoal and liquid oxygen.


John Martinez of J. Martinez & Company in Atlanta, Georgia, for Luak Coffee, the world's most expensive coffee, which is made from coffee beans ingested and excreted by the luak (aka, the palm civet), a bobcat-like animal native to Indonesia.

D.M.R. Georget, R. Parker, and A.C. Smith, of the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, England, for their rigorous analysis of soggy breakfast cereal, published in the report entitled 'A Study of the Effects of Water Content on the Compaction Behaviour of Breakfast Cereal Flakes."


Ron Popeil, incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television,
  for redefining the industrial revolution with such devices as the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler.

The Pepsi-Cola Company of the Phillipines, suppliers of sugary hopes and dreams, for sponsoring a contest to create a millionaire, and then announcing the wrong winning number, thereby inciting and uniting 800,000 riotously expectant winners, and bringing many warring factions together for the first time in their nation's history.

Louis Kervran of France, ardent admirer of alchemy, for his conclusion that the calcium in chickens' eggshells is created by a process of cold fusion.


Ivette Bassa, constructor of colorfulcolloids, for her role in the crowning achievement of twentieth century chemistry, the synthesis of bright blue Jell-O.

The utilizers of Spam, courageous consumers of canned comestib
 les, for 54 years of undiscriminating digestion.


Alan Kligerman, deviser of digestive deliverance, vanquisher of vapor, and inventor of Beano, for his pioneering work with anti- gas liquids that prevent bloat, gassiness, discomfort and


Authordavid koch
CategoriesHumor, Science

It has been determined that a person's ability to detect either of two distinct chemicals phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), and propylthiouracil (PROP) - makes that person a "Supertaster."

I remember taking the test in Junior High School but I couldn't remember my results.  It was science class and we were discussing genetics.  The ability to taste these are the result of having a specific gene.

According to the Wiki:

"The bitter taste receptor gene TAS2R38 has been associated with the ability to taste PROP, and PTC, however it cannot completely explain the supertasting phenomenon.  Most estimates suggest 25% of the population are nontasters, 50% are medium tasters, and 25% are supertasters."

In their Introduction to their book, Genetic Variation in Taste Sensitivity (by John Prescott and Beverly J. Tepper) they tell the story how DuPont chemist A. L. Fox was synthesizing some PTC and some of it flew into the air.  A colleague commented in its bitter taste, which Fox had not noticed.  So it began... research into how genetics effect taste.

It is now pretty clear that Supertasters perceive bitterness (not just PTC and PROP) as much more bitter than the rest of us.  Specifically in foods like broccoli, grapefruit juice, coffee, and dark chocolate.  Also, other non-bitter flavors seem more intense, like alcohol, hot peppers, and ginger (via the NY Times).

When I first heard of Supertasters, I immediately thought I could be one.  I can taste cilantro in what are probably microscopic quantities.  I can taste my wife's face lotion if she takes a sip of my coffee.  I can taste other people's conditioner in the water if they are surfing near me (I know, it's gross).

I had to know.


It didn't take long to find which is selling 2 Supertaster test strips for $4.95.  I ordered a pair.  They arrived within a few days in a little baggie (photo at top) and my wife and I put them on our tongues.  


They were bad, but not appalling.  From the description, I suppose we would be called "medium tasters."  Besides, I love coffee, dark chocolate, grapefruit, hot peppers, and ginger.  I would never make it as a Supertaster, I would be distraught.

More recent information; however, has revealed that being a Supertaster may not only take away the pleasure of many foods - but it might even be deleterious to your health.  It is theorized by a group at Yale Medical that because many of the foods that are aversive to Supertasters are nutrient-rich, they are not taking in as many cancer-fighting compounds.

Their research found a correlation between colon polyps and the ability to taste PROP.  The Abstract concludes with, "In the subset reporting vegetable intake, men who tasted PROP as more bitter consumed fewer vegetables. These preliminary findings suggest that taste genetics may influence colon cancer risk, possibly through intake of vegetables."

Life must be rough for a Supertaster, thank goodness I'm not one of them.

Authordavid koch

This famous quote by French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) may be more pertinent now than it has ever been.  Several recent studies have begun to shed light on the subject of our past and how cooking may have been the single biggest development to help Mankind diverge from apes.

Last year from Wired:

"Some have proposed that it was our high-energy, high-protein and cooked diet that enabled us to fuel our big brains during our evolution," said study co-author Mehmet Somel.

More recently, Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, outlined in a meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) how he believes that it was cooking (and not simply a shift from a plant-based diet to a meat-based diet) that allowed for Homo Erectus to literally feed a larger brain.

I find his logic is sound and it follows like this.  The human brain consumes up to 25% of our caloric intake.  Ergo, it would require the consumption of either 25% more calories OR for us to more completely digest what we've eaten.  He notes three major factors involved with the cooking of food. 

  1. Softens food - In one study, two groups of rats were given different diets: soft pellets and hard pellets.  The soft group gained 30% more weight than the hard group after 26 weeks.   
  2. Breaks down starches
  3. Breaks down and denatures proteins

Quoted from Wired:

"Wrangham cited data showing that cooking increases the body's ability to digest starches (as found, for example, in bread, potatoes and bananas). Only about 50 percent of raw starches are digested, compared to 90 percent of cooked ones. The trend, and the numbers, are similar for protein: from 50 to 65 percent digestibility raw to better than 90 percent cooked."

Referencing the same meeting with Wrangham at the AAAS, the Economist states,

"[Cooking] “denatures” protein molecules, so that their amino-acid chains unfold and digestive enzymes can attack them more easily...That makes it easier to digest, so even though the stuff is no more calorific, the body uses fewer calories dealing with it."


I feel compelled to mention too, that cooking food makes it taste a heck of a lot better!  Now get cooking and pass the paprika please...


Authordavid koch
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Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink".  In this short lecture from a TED conference he dives into how data gathered by Howard Moskowitz and food companies during the 1980's led them to embrace the diversity of people's tastes and provide more diversity of products.  He uses spaghetti sauce, mustard, and coffee as examples.


Authordavid koch

From National Geographic comes The Green Guide; and like the magazine, the website is visually fantastic.  Specifically, their Food Section has topics on how to stay green when Buying, Cooking, and considering food Safety & Storage.  Right now, the Buying section offers up a guide to some of the new-ish labels you may have noticed appearing on your beef's packaging.  

What do they all mean?  Check out their Beef Label Decoder to find out more or click on each of the labels that you see below:


USDA OrganicUSDA Process Verified




Food Alliance Certified


American Grassfed


Certified Humane


Animal Welfare Approved








Authordavid koch

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that some of the commonplace recipes in the ubiquitous Joy of Cooking have seen calorie contents skyrocket from its first publication in 1936 to its 75th Anniversary Edition published in 2006.

From WebMD:

"Wansink and Payne reviewed seven editions of The Joy of Cooking, looking for recipes published in each edition (printed in 1936, 1946, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1997, and 2006).

Only 18 recipes qualified: chicken gumbo, corn chowder, plain omelet, Spanish rice, chicken a la king, goulash, biscuits, blueberry muffins, cornbread, brownies, sugar cookies, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, baked macaroni, waffles, apple pie, chocolate cake, and chili con carne."

17 of the 18 recipes analyzed showed an increase in calories per serving, and the average increase was by a whopping 63%.  The gains were found to be from a variety of reasons in addition to an increase in the size of the portions: extra meat, more butter, more sugar, or adding nuts and raisins.


Who wouldn't want more butter, sugar, and extra nuts and raisins?

In that case, then I agree with Beth Wareham, editor of the 2006 edition and quoted by The LA Times: "It's such a tiny number of recipes. It's really a non-event,"

The authors of the report are Collin Payne, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and Brian Wansink, Director of Cornell University's Food Lab.

Authordavid koch
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photo by lombardo_uk

With the global trend of food becoming spicier and spicier, also comes the cultivation of hotter and hotter chilies.  Common household names like the Tabasco, jalapeno, and habanero may be ubiquitous but heat-wise, some new cultivars make even the habanero squirm. 

From Wikipedia: "The "heat" of chili peppers is measured in Scoville units (SHU), which is the amount of times a chilli extract must be diluted in water in order for it to lose its heat. Bell peppers rank at 0 SHU, New Mexico green chilies at about 1,500 SHU, jalapeños at 3,000–6,000 SHU, and habaneros at 300,000 SHU."

Until recently, the hottest pepper recognized (by the Guiness Book or Records, no less) was the Naga Jolokia, coming in at over 1,000,000 SHU.  This is incomprehensibly hot.  To put this in perspective, pepper spray is 2,000,000 SHU. 

Enter the Dorset Naga.  Developed by a mail order chili pepper grow house in the UK called Peppers by Post, the preliminary findings from labs testing the heat of the Dorset Naga is astounding.  Some have rated it as high as 1.6m SHU.  That's more than 5 times hotter than the habanero and approaching levels which are used as non-lethal weapons.

In a great article about chilies in The Economist titled "Global Warming", they quote the owner of Peppers by Post Michael Michaud,  “I sent the powder to a couple of labs. They didn’t believe the reading. They thought they had made a mistake.”

There are several videos online of people trying to eat the Dorset Naga.  Check them out, some are hilarious.

Authordavid koch
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photo by zoyachubby

There has been a wafting smell reminiscent of maple syrup in the Big Apple lately - causing bioterrorism concerns for many.  The occurrence has happened as far back in recent memory as October 2005, the NY Times reports, and it has been so potent as to have sparked a press conference by Mayor Bloomberg (via Gothamist).  Bloomberg states, “It wasn’t exactly akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but a smell over a very large area.”  How perspicuous.

Investigators followed the scent to a  fragrance company in New Jersey called Frutarom who the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog suspects may be using fenugreek to refine a substitute for maple syrup flavor.  I only know fenugreek from Indian Cuisine, but what immediately strikes me is that fenugreek is the only spice in our cupboard that requires extra sequestering.  

Our fenugreek is not only a sealed zip-top bag, but that bag needs to be placed inside a Tupperware also in order to keep it from scenting everything in the cupboard "curry."  I suppose if there is one spice that could cross the Hudson, frighten the pants off of tens of thousands of citizens of New York City and make them think they were under attack... it would have to be fenugreek. 


Authordavid koch
CategoriesHumor, Science

Ital Cuisine photo by svacher

Today, February 6th, is Bob Marley's birthday and it would have been his 64th.  I thought today would be appropriate to investigate Rastafarian Cuisine, also known as Ital (from vital).  The Ital diet adheres to Biblical guidelines, mostly GenesisDeuteronomy, and especially Leviticus.  Ital dietary guidlines are, like anything else, open to many different interpretations.  

At it's core, Rastafarian diets are essentially composed of foods that are fresh and natural; avoiding chemicals, additives, coloring, flavoring, and preservatives.  Most Rastafarians also do not consume coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, or even Western medicines.  

Herbs, however, are GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe: an FDA term).  Many Rastafarians are vegetarian, but those who do not abstain from all meat generally avoid pork, shellfish, and often red meat.  Those who do eat fish, generally avoid fish more than 12 inches long.

Most also take measures to avoid consuming metal.  In order to avoid metal, some Rastafarians avoid cooking and serving food in metal vessels, and some even avoid metal eating utensils.  For the same reason, some also avoid foods that have been canned.  

Many avoid preparing food with salt and/or oil.  What's left you ask?  The bulk of their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  I found this recipe on



  • 1lb 8ozs to 1lb 14ozs sweet potato (I used 1lb 14ozs in this Pudding)
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 to 1 ¼4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups soaked raisins (I have mine soaked in Sherry for over 5 years now. I top it off with more Raisins, Prunes and Sherry every time it gets too low in the bottle.)
  • ½ - 1 cup flour (More or less flour will make it firmer or less so I used half a cup)
  • 5ozs Beet Root or Carrots (optional)


  1. Puree sweet potato and coconut milk in blender
  2. Pour mixture into a bowl
  3. Dice beet root
  4. Add all the ingredients to the bowl. Mix and pour into a well greased 8" or 10" round tin
    (vegetable shortening to grease the tin)
  5. Bake at 350F for 1 ½ hours then 300F for 25 mins
  6. Remove from the oven immediately.
  7. Best eaten the next day or at least 5 hours after cooking.
  • The pudding sets as it cools.

    And this book, specifically on Rastafarian Cuisine.


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