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Dietribes: It's Peanut Butter Time

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To start, a rhyme I remember from childhood: "A peanut sat on the railroad track, his heart was all a-flutter. The 5:15 came roaring by ... Choo choo! Peanut butter."

Unless you suffer from Arachibutyrophobia (the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to roof of your mouth), read on to learn more about the yummy, creamy (sometimes crunchy) goodness that is peanut butter, a relatively high-fat food that also contains significant amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

"¢ Fancy whipping up your own jar of the stuff? It takes 772 peanuts to make a 16.3 oz jar. Nearly half of the United States' peanut crop is devoted to peanut butter production, and another 20% is used specifically for manufacturing candy.

"¢ Ah, the ubiquitous childhood favorite (unless you suffer from a peanut allergy, of course), the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Did you know 96% of people put the peanut butter on first?

"¢ C.H. Sumner was the first to introduce peanut butter to the world at the Universal Exposition of 1904 in St. Louis. He sold $705.11 of the treat at his concession stand, and Krema Products Company in Columbus, Ohio, began selling peanut butter in 1908. It remains the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today.

"¢ There are many other uses for peanut butter besides as a spread. It can also be the basis for a simple outdoor bird feeder (coat a pine cone once with peanut butter, then again with birdseed), effective bait for mouse traps, and can help take gum out of hair. Also, you might find peanut butter being used to make ... beer?

hershey_elvis_cup.jpg"¢ Peanut butter and banana is a favored pairing, such as Elvis' personal preference for the pair in a sandwich ... fried, of course. In 2007, Reese's came out with a special edition formulated peanut butter and banana crème cup for Elvis' 30th anniversary. And of course, another famous example of peanut butter and bananas here.

"¢ This all brings us to one of the most important influences on my formative years—The Peanut Butter Solution, a 1985 Canadian movie that is, trust me, amazing. Premise: boy gets so scared his hair falls out (obviously). Toupees won't do, so luckily he's visited by the ghost of his late grandmother who tells him to put peanut butter on his scalp. His hair grows quickly and to alarmingly lengths, and has a mind of its own. Basically a hairy monster attached to his head. See for yourself...

"¢ No article about peanuts or peanut butter would be complete without the mention of Jimmy Carter, former President who grew up on a peanut farm. I've been lucky enough to visit the boyhood farm and the quaint town of Plains, Georgia (where President Carter and his wife Rosalyn still live part-time), but for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, here is a sight to see. Also, the peanut butter ice cream is to die for.

You guys have been great at sharing yummy recipes, so how about some dealing with peanut butter? Or maybe we should just talk about The Peanut Butter Solution, and other strange movies we saw growing up.

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜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
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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
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• 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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