Dietribes: Salt


Just after I asked you guys how to get rid of that high salt content in Ramen a few weeks ago, here I am pouring it on (nudge nudge) this week. This post contains 27% of your daily value for salt, one of the most important compounds and foodstuffs known to man.

"¢ Of course, salt has many other uses besides enhancing flavor and preserving food. As most of you know, it was also used to preserve humans. One of the most interesting naturally-occurring cases is that of the "Iranian Salt Men," whose remains from 1800 years ago have been preserved naturally in salt mines. Even their hair stayed intact!

"¢ You may pour salt on everything you eat, but you certainly don't pour ... bleach? Still, Clorox bleach starts and ends as salt and water. Clorox was in fact founded on converting brine from a salt pond into bleach. This all sounds too good and non-toxic to be true ... any chemists want to weigh in with their two cents?

"¢ One major non-food related use of salt is for de-icing roads. Not something we much think about here in Hotlanta, but "in the United States, only 8 percent of salt production is for food. The largest single use for American salt, 51 percent, is for de-icing roads." Salt was first used in this capacity in the 1930s.

"¢ Speaking of the 1930s—1930 itself to be exact—it was the year Gandhi and 78 other men walked 240 miles from the Sabarmati Ashram to the Sea of Dandi, in an act of civil disobedience against the British Salt Tax (which forbade the production or selling of salt by anyone but the British government, and also heavily taxed salt in general). After arriving at the Dandi coastline, Gandhi illegally collected salt and encouraged others to do so, for which he was arrested—a seminal moment in the movement for Indian independence.

morton-salt.gif"¢ There are many uses for salt, but what about varieties (such as iodized)? What's the deal with that umbrella girl? In the early 20th century, Michigan seemed to have a high prevalence of goiter. (A 1922 study even identified it as a "goiter belt.") The Michigan State Medical Society and a man by the name of Dr. David Murray Cowie took up the cause and eventually tried to promote the use of iodized salt (potassium iodine added to salt) as a solution. Michigan salt producers took their advice, and Morton's took it national in the fall of 1924. For more on salt additives, check this out.

"¢ If you're like me and the early Romans (the word "salary" originates from the word for money allotted to Roman soldiers for the purchase of salt; hence, their pay), and you can't get enough of salt in general, try visiting the Salt Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas. Has anyone ever been?

"¢ Other stops on your Salty Tour of the US might include the mystical wonder of the Galos Caves in Chicago, and of course the Great Salt Lake in Utah. At the end of your salty journey, find relaxation at a Salt Spa for a mere $15.

"¢ Take this site with a grain of salt, you salty dogs, but it has theories on the origins of some common salt-related phrases that might make it worth its salt. Ok, I'm just rubbing salt in the wound now. Seriously, I'm stopping.

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

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]

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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