THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- AUGUST 25, 2018
One of the great mysteries of the universe was solved last week. This was an important advance in science, so now you and I can check it off our “to do” lists and move on to other critical matters.
Of course, I am referring to the age-old quandary: “Is it possible to cleanly break dry spaghetti into two pieces?” According to LiveScience.com: “It's a logic-defying phenomenon that has baffled chef and scholar alike for decades; even Nobel physics laureate Richard Feynman, who helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II, is said to have spent the better part of a night sitting in his kitchen, snapping spaghetti sticks and searching for an explanation.”
Thanks to researchers at MIT, we now know that breaking a strand of dry spaghetti into two equal pieces can be accomplished. All you need is a robot and the proper calculations. “With the help of some mathematical models and a spaghetti-bending robot, it is possible to break a piece of uncooked spaghetti into just two pieces, but there's a twist … literally. To prevent bent spaghetti from splintering into a half dozen pieces, one end of the pasta first has to be twisted nearly 360 degrees.” This crates a “twist wave” which lessens a “snap-back wave.” Thus, the pasta breaks in two pieces rather than several.
Now that this mystery is cleared up, you can go on with your life. If you want to see the theory in action via a time-lapse video, go to: https://www.livescience.com/63338-spaghetti-snap-machine.html or watch the video below.
Learning about this made me hungry for spaghetti. This led me to another study conducted by researchers in Toronto. The results revealed more good news. Not only are we now able to enjoy spaghetti in a consistent length, but doing so may help us lose weight.
“Researchers identified 30 trials involving 2,500 people who ate pasta instead of other carbohydrates as part of a low-glycemic index diet. The study found participants, who ate an average of one-and-a-half cups of cooked pasta a week, lost weight. We can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.” No word yet on how meatballs may alter this calculation. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2018/04/05/eating-pasta-can-help-you-lose-weight-analysis-finds/488728002/)
This research involves complicated meal planning, but with the football season kicking off this week many of us associate food with tailgating. One popular item is Ro-Tel Dip, which combines cans of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and chilies with blocks of Velveeta cheese. This got me thinking about Velveeta, a “cheese product” that actually contains no real cheese. Still, Velveeta has been around since the 1920s, so it's obvious we Americans love it.
Here are two Velveeta factoids to toss into your tailgating kibitzing. It was originally marketed as a health food. “In 1931, the AMA claimed Velveeta had all the nutritional qualities to promote firm flesh.” One of the early Velveeta recipes touted by Kraft “instructed housewives to make a cheese sauce using a half pound of Velveeta and quarter cup of milk, then pour it over toasted sandwiches of peanut butter and pickles." Mmmmm, boy. Tailgating heaven?
For more Velveeta facts, videos of early commercials, and to see a performance by the rock band Velveeta, go to: http://mentalfloss.com/article/68222/14-cheesy-facts-about-velveeta.
You might need a frosty beverage to chase down that tasty Vpb&p sandwich. If you need more than one libation, you have another iconic American company to thank – Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
According to the American Beer Museum: “Pabst is believed to be the first brewer to package beer in sixes (six packs). This allegedly became a thing after a study determined six beers was the ideal weight for the average housewife to hoist home from a store. An alternative explanation: Six-packs fit snugly in the standard paper grocery bag.”
This critical invention may never have taken place if it was not for a sort of “Velveeta-ish” chapter in Pabst history. “Pabst stayed alive during Prohibition as a cheese-making business. Pabst-ett, as the operation was called, was eventually purchased by Kraft.” Kraft owns Velveeta. Cue the Twilight Zone music. (https://vinepair.com/articles/pbr-pabst-blue-ribbon-beer-guide/)
PBR is a fairly standard brew, but IPA is the most popular beer variety these days. IPA stands for India Pale Ale and there is a reason for this. “IPA was allegedly invented by the British during their efforts to colonize India. Again and again, the beer they sent their troops failed to endure the sea voyage all the way around the cape of Africa. Extreme temperatures and prolonged storage without the benefits of refrigeration were less than ideal conditions for transporting beer. As a result, it kept spoiling on the trip. The British had two tools to work with: alcohol and hops. Both of these work as preservatives. The first IPA was bitter and highly alcoholic, but it could make the long ocean trip.” (http://www.hopandwine.com/what-does-ipa-stand-for/)
While you're sipping an IPA at a tailgate, you may notice that others at your party can't stand IPAs. “A major characteristic of IPAs is bitterness, and how humans react to bitterness is rooted in instinct and genetics.” Seventy-five percent of us can detect bitterness, but twenty-five percent of us cannot. This means: “ Twenty-five percent of us won’t even detect the bitterness, so it’s smooth sailing from there. Of the seventy-five percent of us who do, some of us will decide it’s simply not worth getting accustomed to.” See, hoppiness is in the tongue of the beholder.
Finally, my personal food gripe. Have you noticed that breakfast cereals have a plastic envelope that contains the cereal within the box? These envelopes are impossible to properly open without the assistance of a chainsaw, blowtorch, six extra guys and a mule. Once opened, they can't be effectively resealed. Hey cereal manufacturers – three words. Zip Lock Bag!
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.