15 Bizarre Moments in Food History You Won’t Believe Are True
Everyone eats food. But even though you’re well-acquainted with your favorite meals, that doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about what you’re digesting daily. Some of the craziest facts about the history of food sound too weird to be true.
For example, did you ever stop to wonder about who first discovered waffle cones (No. 8)? Or why we call it a sandwich (No. 4)? Read on to discover the answers to these burning questions, plus more.
1. Goats may have discovered coffee
Many people can barely function before they’ve had their first cup in the morning — but how exactly did people learn the benefit of grinding up coffee beans? One popular legend holds that an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi discovered this natural stimulant. He noticed his goats were more energetic after feasting on beans from a certain tree, and when he tried the beans, he got more energy too!
Next: People used to submerge this animal in milk.
2. People used to put frogs in milk to keep it from spoiling
Before modern refrigeration, people needed a way to keep their milk from going bad in hot weather. So they put frogs in it.
This seemingly gross practice worked because of the frog’s skin secretions called peptides. Now scientists are trying to isolate these to create medicines for other uses beyond just keeping dairy products fresh and drinkable.
Next: This pink drink was a total mistake.
3. Pink lemonade was created by accident
There are two origin stories for pink lemonade, and both are a little gross. The first claims that a concession vendor named Pete Conklin ran out of water during a circus. Thinking quickly, he ran into the dressing tent and grabbed the first bucket of water he could find, which was colored pink since a performer had just rinsed out her red tights. His new “pink lemonade” was a hit.
The second story asserts that Henry E. Allott, a circus promoter, saloon owner, and gambler, dropped red cinnamon candy into lemonade by mistake. His pink concoction outsold the traditional yellow stuff.
Next: This popular food started out as a gambling aid.
4. The sandwich was invented so a gambler could keep playing
It was 1762 when the Earl of Sandwich felt the first pangs of hunger while playing poker. Rather than give up on the game to have a meal, he requested something he could easily eat one-handed without getting his cards dirty, which prompted his cook to place some beef between two pieces of toast. And just like that, the sandwich was born.
Next: The way this was discovered is kind of gross.
5. Worcestershire sauce almost never happened
Chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins weren’t too fond of the sauce they made based on an Indian recipe. They tried it, sealed it up, and tried it again two years later. Amazingly, this time it tasted delicious, and the rest is history. The exact recipe remains a mystery.
Next: These food items used to contain shocking ingredients.
6. Soft drinks used to have hard drugs in them
It’s no myth — the original Coca-Cola recipe used cocaine and didn’t even try to cover it up. Early soft drinks were marketed as health tonics and cocaine was considered a type of medicine. Meanwhile, 7-Up used to have lithium, a psychiatric medication.
Next: A child invented this summertime favorite.
7. A little kid invented popsicles by mistake
11-year-old Frank Epperson didn’t mean to invent one of the world’s most iconic summer treats when he left his soda-making ingredients outside on a cold day. The stirring sticks in his kit stuck to the liquid, creating the world’s first popsicle. He didn’t even patent the idea until 1923 — a full 20 years after his frosty discovery.
Next: This delicious food item is the result of creative thinking.
8. Waffle cones came from some quick thinking
It was a sweltering day at the World’s Fair in 1904 and everyone was ordering ice cream. When the ice cream vendors ran out of cups, they turned to the waffle vendors next door to create edible vessels for the cold, creamy treats. The Syrian immigrant who originally provided the waffles started his own cone company soon after.
Next: This is another delicious invention that wasn’t intentional.
9. Slurpees were a total accident
Following the trend of best-selling products happening by accident, Slurpees are another invention that almost never was.
Kentucky Dairy Queen owner Omar Knedik used to keep soda in the freezer when his fountain machine was malfunctioning. This led to the soda freezing — but his customers loved it. Eventually, Knedik made a machine to intentionally freeze soda and later licensed the idea to 7-Eleven convenience stores.
Next: This food was made to help people stop masturbating.
10. Corn Flakes were marketed as an anti-masturbation aid
Physician John Harvey Kellogg was hard at work creating the ultimate vegetarian diet when he accidentally created bland, predictable Corn Flakes. He claimed that this wholesome cereal helped to reduce passionate tendencies in people and could even help curtail masturbation urges.
Next: Herdsmen discovered this food when it went sour.
11. Yogurt is just spoiled milk
Here’s something the yogurt industry never told you: that slightly sour taste is created by fermentation. In 6000 B.C., herdsmen in central Asia used to transport milk in animal stomachs to preserve it longer. But this milk eventually curdled and became something similar to what you buy in the dairy aisle: modern-day yogurt.
Next: The recipe for this popular condiment is vastly different today.
12. Ketchup was made with mushrooms for 100 years
English settlers in Malaysia adopted a local fermented fish sauce recipe but added shallots and mushrooms to appeal to their unique tastes. This early version of ketchup featured mushrooms as the main ingredient until about 1850.
Next: This snack food was created in a livestock feed factory.
13. Cheese puffs are a waste product
Edward Wilson worked at the livestock company Flakall. The employees used corn kernels inside the machines that crushed the grains to make sure it didn’t get clogged, and the heat puffed up the kernels into those long, cylindrical puffs we know and love today. Wilson came up with the idea to season them and serve them as snacks.
Next: This is why it pays to ask for what you want.
14. A picky customer is responsible for potato chips
In 1853, chef George Crum was dealing with a picky customer. He kept sending back his French fried potatoes claiming they were too thick and soggy. In exasperation, the chef sliced them thinly, fried them to a crisp, and loaded them with salt. The crispy potato chips were an instant hit.
Next: People misusing this product turned it into what it is today.
15. Tea bags weren’t made for steeping tea
Originally, tea bags were intended to portion out servings of loose tea. But busy American tea drinkers quickly realized that it was easier and quicker to leave the tea in the bags and let the water filter through. The string and tag soon followed.
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!