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Dietribes: A Little Donkey

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"¢ Have you had a little donkey today? Aside from the certainty of its literal translation, the origins of the burrito are highly disputed (although we can be sure they never contained actual donkey meat ... but after that, anything goes). Peter Fox of the Washington Post notes, in his quest to find the true origins of the burrito, "As we followed the historical trail, and got closer and closer to the source, the burritos became smaller and smaller, and our favorite ingredients disappeared one by one. When we finally found what we thought was the original burrito, it was very different from the burritos we knew and loved. The burrito's evolution seemed like a cross-generational version of the children's game of telephone, in which a message is passed through so many people that the message at the end is completely different from the original."

"¢ In Mexico, burritos typically consist of refried beans, Spanish rice, or meat in a small tortilla, whereas in the United States fillings might include a combination of ingredients such as Spanish rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, meat, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream, and, like many things in American ... is considerably large.

"¢ What exactly IS a burrito? Well, at least we know it's not a sandwich, or so it was ruled by a judge when Panera attempted to thwart a Qdoba Mexican Grill from moving into its shopping center by invoking a clause that prevented other sandwich shops from moving in.

"¢ So what were original burritos like? Fox found, "this humble burrito was very small—maybe 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, a far cry from the hefty burritos we were used to. The meat, while smoky and flavorful, was a little bit dry and chewy, as you might expect dried beef to be [...] I was disappointed, but only for a moment: I realized that all was as it should be [...] but for me, I'll stick with the California style any day." Listen to a clip from Peter's journey to find the original burrito here.

casa-sanchez.jpg"¢ If your dedication to burrito consumption is paramount, consider this deal by Casa Sanchez in San Francisco. In 1999, they offered a lifetime of free burritos if you got their logo tattooed on your arm.


"¢ Burritos can be healthy, nutritious meals. Consider the Burrito Project—Feeding the homeless with burritos, an idea that got rolling thanks to MySpace.


"¢ I'm noticing a trend in these Dietribes ... no matter the food, there always seems to be a related eating competition. So, for those of you with stronger stomachs than mine, information on Competitive Burrito eating.

"¢ Is that a burrito in your pocket, or are you just angry to see me? The story of a New Mexico high school that went into lockdown when a giant burrito was mistaken for a weapon. I like two things about this story: One, that the perp's name is Morrissey (because it would be), and that he's now referred to as "Burrito Boy."

"¢ According to Burrito Brothers founder Peter Fox (the same one mentioned earlier), the classic assemblage of a burrito is as such:
Steam or grill a 12-inch flour tortilla for 30 seconds to soften it up. Then spoon about 1/4 cup salsa, 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup beans and 1/2 cup meat down the center of the burrito. Fold 2 to 3 inches of the right and left sides in. Flip the bottom up over the filling, tuck it in and roll up the burrito. Cheese, guacamole, hot sauce or sour cream may be added to the filling as desired.

"¢ Bonus link: Speaking of Little Donkey, for Ricky Gervais podcast fans, here's Karl Pilkington talking about "going down a storm" drumming to Little Donkey.

"¢ OK fellow Flossers, where's your favorite place to pick up a burrito? Here in Atlanta, we often stop by Moe's, especially in the late morning after long nights out. Or, if making your own burrito, what are your favorite ingredients?

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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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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