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Dietribes: Ramen

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Possibly considered its own food group to those strapped for cash, Ramen noodles have prominently established themselves in our culture's lexicon of favorite food. But where did they come from? And more importantly, what kind of fascinating facts have we uncovered about this popularly priced pasta?

"¢ In Japan, Ramen is "more than a cheap cup of noodles. It is the national dish, cheaper than sushi, available everywhere and perpetually fashionable. With its rich, meaty broth, ramen is very different from other Japanese soups; in fact the dish is a relatively recent import from China."

"¢ Nissin Foods first introduced an instant form of Ramen in 1958. Weirdly, it was considered a "luxury" item at the time, since most grocers sold fresh noodles (udon) at a fraction of the cost. Still, noodles are no passing fad—in 2005, a 4,000-year-old bowl was unearthed in China.

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"¢ Nissin Foods founder Momofuku Ando died in 2007. The previous year, his company sold 46.3 billion packs and cups of noodles around the world, earning $131 million in profits. He penned an autobiography in 2002 called The Story of the Invention of Instant Ramen, and said in 2005 that he had "realized his dream that noodles can go into space" when a vacuum-packed version traveled with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on the space shuttle Discovery.

"¢ The award for Largest Packet of Instant Noodles goes to Indofood, who created a packet of their instant-noodles, "Indomie," that weighed over half a ton (and STILL no doubt costing less than your average organic snack bar).

"¢ Is Ramen worth more than gold? To some, yes. According to the Houston Chronicle, inmates from the Harris County jail bought over 3 million packets of Ramen from the jail commissary (which made it the #1 seller, followed by envelopes), after which they were used primarily for bartering and gambling.

"¢ For those who just can't get enough Ramen, there's the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, which boasts a Ramen-only food court as well as a theme park (the "Ramusement Park"). If that doesn't seem relaxing enough for you, try out the Ramen Spa in Hakone, Japan. Or just try having your noodle-fortune read.

"¢ Forget "spaghetti westerns," here's a film dedicated to Ramen. Tampopo is a comedy revolving around, well, noodles. The trailer is in Japanese, but you get the idea. I can assure that you that I just added it to my movie queue.

OK flossers, what are some of your experiences with Ramen? Also, any recipes for knocking down that killer sodium content? For those relying on Ramen to get them through tough times, don't worry—plenty of people have done it and gone on to bigger things.

Previous 'Dietribes'

Strawberries, Macaroni & Cheese, McIntosh Apples, Smoothies, Coffee, The Sweet Potato, Eggs, Cookies, Watermelon and Tea

"˜Dietribes' appears every Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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University of Pittsburgh
Researchers Create Motorized Wheelchair Made for the Water Park
University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh

Despite advances in technology, there are many aspects of the world that remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. But researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to make one activity easier for people who use motorized wheelchairs: navigating water parks.

The average motorized wheelchair has a number of electrical and battery components that can’t get wet, limiting who can access the joys of splash parks and pools. But a new wheelchair that uses compressed air instead of a heavy battery could change that, Gizmodo recently reported.

Created through a joint research project between University of Pittsburgh engineers, the university’s medical center, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PneuChair is lighter and quicker to charge than traditional motorized chairs. It can also be repaired with basic hardware tools if something breaks in the midst of all the splashing.

The 80-pound chair (a traditional device can weigh up to 400 pounds) can travel about three miles on one charge, about a third of the maximum distance of an electric mobility device. Another benefit: It only takes 10 minutes to recharge rather than eight hours.

The university's Human Engineering Research Laboratories is also working on a scooter version for people who don't need the assistance of a full chair. “The potential to open opportunities for people with disabilities who need powered mobility to access splash parks, water parks, beaches or pools is transformative,” lab director Rory Cooper told the university's press service.

The PneuChair was designed in part for use at Morgan’s Inspiration Island, an upcoming water park in San Antonio that’s designed for people with disabilities. The accessible splash park—which is part of Morgan’s Wonderland, a fully accessible theme park—will initially offer 10 of the chairs to its guests for use while they’re there.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Dietribes: Cabbage


• Cabbages are derived from the wild mustard plant of the Mediterranean region, and have been popular since ancient times. Cato the Elder praised the cabbage for its many medicinal uses.

• Cabbages are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of Vitamin C, folate and fiber. That and its low calorie count is why some people use cabbage on weight-loss diets.

• However, the cabbage is also known to have a certain undesirable gastric side effect. As Nicholas Culpeper said in A Complete Herbal (1653) "Cabbages are extremely windy, whether you take them as meat or as medicine, as windy meat as can be eaten, unless you eat bag-pipes or bellows."

• Remember "freedom fries"? That wasn't the first time the name of one of our foods has been attempted to be changed because of political fervor. During World War I, Americans renamed sauerkraut "liberty cabbage."

• No one knows exactly how the Cabbagetown neighborhood in Atlanta got its name, though stories include the idea that the original poor Scotch-Irish residents (workers at the nearby cotton mill) would grow cabbages in their front yards, and that the smell of cooked cabbage was a nuisance (and later a point of pride). Other apocryphal suggestions include a train derailing or a Model T car overturning and spilling cabbages everywhere for people to snatch up, shouting "Free Cabbages!"

• Georgia has another cabbage connection - Cabbage Patch Kids, which were originally called Little People. In the late 1970s, art student Xavier Roberts started creating "soft sculptures," which he later expanded on by giving them birth certificates and allowing "adoptions." In 1982 the name changed to Cabbage Patch. By the mid-80s, the dolls went on record as having the most successful and in-demand introduction of a toy ever.

• Though cabbages have often been thought of throughout history as a cheap food, that's certainly not true in Northern Canada, where a cabbage can cost $28. The northern Canadian territory of Nunavut is so remote that anything not a product of hunting and gathering must be flown in.

• By the way, that corned beef and cabbage you cook up for St. Patricks Day? Not actually Irish. Though corned beef was made in Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, most Irish families were too poor to eat it. Instead it went to British citizens as well as the British and U.S. military. These days, the Irish reportedly find the dish just plain boring.

• Cabbages can have a killer instinct - genetically modified cabbages can produce scorpion poison that kills caterpillars when they bite leaves. But don't worry, the toxin is modified so it isn’t harmful to humans. (I like that the title of the article is "Venomous Cabbage"!)

• Another way to get rid of pests in your cabbage? Er, human urine. According to a 2007 study, "Our results show that human urine could be used as a fertilizer for cabbage and does not pose any significant hygienic threats or leave any distinctive flavor in food products." Good to know?

• The largest cabbage on record was called "The Beast" and weighed 127 pounds. Reportedly it wasn't actually particularly tasty, so it ended up as compost rather than on anyone's plate.

• How do you like to eat your cabbages, Flossers? And have you found a way to counteract their less-desirable side-effects?

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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