Weird Food Tales
There is a reason most restaurants don’t let you watch them cook your food; and it goes along the lines of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”. We eat all kinds of odd things; from those reviled by other cultures to everyday snacks with hair raising additives. Below are strange stories about the food we eat.
Canadian Maple Syrup Heist
Maple syrup is one of the most expensive things you can pour on your pancakes. A bottle generally retails for well over $20. Part of the expense involved in the syrup is the great inefficiency in producing it. It requires anywhere from 5 to 13 gallons of maple sap to make just one quart of syrup. To make sure that it has enough to meet the international demand, the Canadian province of Quebec maintains a Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. In 2012, during an audit, it was discovered that 6 million pounds of the syrup (worth about $18 million wholesale) had been stolen in a daring heist. This was not some smash and grab theft; it would have taken dozens of trucks to move so many barrels. In the subsequent months, several arrests were made, and some two-thirds of the missing syrup was recovered.
Most Stolen Food
Asked to guess the most frequently stolen food on the planet, some might guess candy or alcohol or even steak. But according to multiple studies, up to 4% of the cheese put up for sale ends up pilfered. Next time you’re in the market, pay attention to the way the store displays cheese, particularly the valuable imported kinds. Generally, it is centrally located and well lit to keep thieves from scampering off. The phenomenon is not completely understood, though researchers indicate that cheese is relatively expensive, easy to conceal, and can be resold to other stores or restaurants. Black market cheese is big business.
American and Canadian tourists traveling outside their respective countries are often astonished to see eggs sitting out at room temperature. They would probably be even more shocked to find out that in the countries of the European Union, the eggs they are getting are straight from the chicken—they have not be sanitized or washed in any fashion. A chicken actually imparts a liquid coating around its egg called a cuticle, which protects against contamination. The layer is mostly removed by cleaning, which involves washing the egg with water of at least 90 degrees and an odorless detergent. The washing actually makes the egg more porous and susceptible to contamination, so it must be kept in a refrigerator.
With dozens and dozens of ice creams available on the market, a distinctive taste sets a company apart from it’s competitors. The largest producer of ice cream in the United States is Dreyer’s (which includes the Edy’s and Häagen-Dazs), due in no small part to their official taste tester, John Harrison. Harrison travels throughout the country to different Dreyer’s plants to impart his expertise. He uses a gold spoon, which does not impart any flavor to the ice cream. His tastebuds are insured for $1 million. He helped create several different popular flavors of ice cream, including the Oreo-based cookies and cream.Other ice cream makers use different philosophies. Using fresh, local ingredients, Vermont’s Ben & Jerry’s is a crowd favorite. Their ice cream is noted for large chunks of things like brownies and fruit, added in response to co-founder Ben Cohen’s anosmia (he cannot smell and can barely taste anything). Since Cohen couldn’t really taste anything he was eating, he tended to add more stuff to satisfy a need for texture.
Prior to the explosion in popularity of sushi, many fish such as the Bluefin tuna were so plentiful that they were used as cat food. Today, the Bluefin is one of the most highly valued creatures in the world, with exceptional specimens fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the expense rising and the ocean’s population falling, many sushi restaurants take advantage of most peoples’ inability to distinguish between types of fish, often substituting cheaper species. In the United States, many establishments selling “tuna” are actually pushing escolar, also known as the oilfish or snake mackerel. Escolar has a staggering oil content known to have a laxative effect in many people. Many countries throughout the world consider escolar toxic; it’s sale has been banned in Japan since 1977, but many American diners still (unwittingly) consume it each day.