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Monday, June 27, 2005
WHY ?.... OH WHY?...... OH WHY?.....
** Why do Bananas spoil if you put them in the refrigerator?

No, no. no....they don't spoil. The peels turn black. But the fruity parts tatys perfectly fresh.

The peels turn black because the cold temperature of the refrigerator kills the surface cells. "They're grown in the tropics, and when you put it at forty two-degrees, obviously it's going to kill some of those cells", says Ernie McCullough, s spokesman for Chiquita Brands INternational.

The prohibition against putting bananas in the fridge is mostly jingle-inspired, he says. The Chiquita Banana Song includes line "Bananas like th climate of the very ,very tropical Equator/ So you shoild never put bananas in the refrigerator.

** Why does a can of Diet Coke float in water, while a can of regular Coke sinks?

We heard this from reader Mary Callahan of Washington, who head about it in a speech by Max called the people at Coca-Cola USA, they said it's true/ Of course, we have a policy in the Why bunker of experiementally verifying we hear, so we obatained two specimens of soda of the specified Coca-Cola brand, one "Diet" and one "Classic", and immersed them in the sink in the men's room.

Not since Galileo dropped weights off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, has an experiment proved so brilliant. Yes, the Diet Coke bobs right to the surface. Definitely the more bouyant of the two. We must note.though, that the Classic did'nt exactly sink. It seemd to have trouble making up its mind whether it coild float. (No doubt both cans were bouyed by the air pocket inside).

The explanation form Coca-Cola: Diet Coke contains aspartame (NutraSweet), which is less dense than sugar and also much sweeter, so less is needed. We could imagine that the second half of that is what really matters here. Aspartanme is two thousand times sweeter than sugar., if it takes nine teaspoons of sugar (sucrose or high fructose corn syrup) to sweeten Coke, then it takes less than a twentieth of a teasponn of aspertame. Check out the ingredients label: There's loess sweetener in a Diet Coke than there is caramel coloring.

So the gobs of dissolved sugar make Classic denser than either water or Diet Coke. But if you drop both cans off a building simultaneouly, they bit the ground at the same time. This time, we'll take Galileo's word for it.

** Why do we presume that human meat tastes worse than, say, cow meat or pig meat?

There we go again -- being tasteless.

Don't be so sure that anthropophagy (cannibalism) is merely the habit of exotic Stone Age tribes and the occasional American psycho. A thousand years ago in France and Germany, professional killers would attack travelers, butcher them, and seel the meat in markets as "two-legged muttons", according to The Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating by: Peter Farb and George Armelagos. (This is the kind of anecdote about which you can say in defense, "Seriously, I read it in a book").

Armelagos, an antropologist at the University of Florida, told us that there's no reason to assume that human meat tastes bad. Indeed, it probably does'nt have a whole lot of flavor because humans are so lean. The fat is what creates much of the flavor we like in the meat.

"Humans probably aren't marbled as well as cow meat," says Armelagos.
What's a humanburger taste like? "Someone would probably say that it tastes like chicken", he said.

Admittedly, people don't refrain from eating human flesh simply because they think it would be unpalatable. There are ethical and religious reasons not to eat the stuff. But the morality of the matter is mixed up with an intersting gut level reaction: it seems so gross! The flip side to this purely psychological bias is that eating other animals doen't seem gross at all, at least to most of us. We are nauseated bu the mere thought of consuming one of our own kind, and yet we think nothing of literally grinding up other critters and trying them in a pan.

You have to wonder if the phobia is a precondition for the philia.

Although we don't do "What" questions as a general rule, we were struck by this one today whole eating a wonderfully healthy lunch (we favor yogurt, carrot sticks, celery, and a double order of onion rings).

** Why do people eat Mushrooms even though they're fungus?

You never feel a craving for fungi, have you ever noticed that? Mushrooms are not what you'd call a "Mouth watering" food. On what grounds do we eat these things? Should'nt they be considered gross and unpalatable?

"We eat lots of fungi. We eat the yeast that we use to brew beer", points out Mark Wach, dirctor of agricultural prodcuts for Penwest Foods in Englewood, Colorado. He says there are as many types of fungi as there are types of plants (fungi aren't plants because they have no chlorophyl and feed off decaying matter.)

"They're as diverse as any plant or animal would be," say this fungus apologist. Look at plants, he says, "You would'nt eat poison oak or ivy, butyou love lettuce".

Chefs say mushrooms are great at soaking up flavors from sauces and other foods. They're widely considered boring only because the standard button mushroom's flavor comes from the spores and the gills, but you rarely find 'shrooms that are old enough to have them. One reason is that spores can carry diseases to have them. One reason is that spores can carry diseases that hamper a commercial crop. But we'd guess the main reason is that fussy Americans don't like the look of the gills.

** What does Yogurt turn into when it spoils?

We've always been suspicious of yogurt. Like maybe we shoiuld be diguisted by it. Like maybe it is not technically edible but we have been brainwashed to think it is. Naturally we called the National Yogurt Association in McLean, Virginia, and the veep of regulatory and technical afairs, Bob Garfield, told us that if you leave yogurt aorund long enough, it will eventually turn into cottage cheese. Not really! What he said was:

"Yogurt is protected because it's a low-acid food. Unlike regular milk products, it has lower acidity so it does'nt spoil as much",

He said if you abandon yogurt in an unrefrigerated place, it will gradually spoil and the "whey" will separate from the rest of the yogurt, giving you lots of that watery stuff on top, not to mention probably some mold and other charming substances. He explained that yogurt is created by adding of "cultures" to skim milk. A "culture" is a nice way of saying "a whole bunch of bacteria".

But they are nice bacteria, unlike the "spoilage bacteria" that can turn milk into a putrid substance. Yhe yogurt bacteria, such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, don't break down themilk the way bad bacteria do.

"There are good and bad bacteria in the universe," Garfield reminds us. He notes, "You can drink spoiled milk, but certainly the smell and taste are not good. The spoilage bacteria are different from the cultures."

We asked whether the cultured bacteria might mutate and turn yoour cup of Dannon fruit-on-the-bottom strawberry yogurt into something that could star in a movie with a little like It Came from teh Bayou.

"They won't mutate", he assured us. "They're made under laboratory conditions".

(abstracted from the book:WHY THINGS ARE AND WHY THINGS AREN'T by: Joel Achenbach)
posted by infraternam meam @ 2:23 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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