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Dietribes: Yogurt Made Me Cultured

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• Believe it or not, the Bible mentions yogurt in Genesis, where Abraham fed it to his guests. The history of yogurt is a long one - Assyrians ate it for health, and John Harvey Kellogg encouraged yogurt enemas at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan (though the less said about that the better).

• But yogurt has many other uses: Cleopatra attributed her beauty to yogurt baths, and Pliny the Elder reports that Persian women found it beneficial for their skin (related bonus fact: in Iran, sour, thick fermented milk is called mast, of which one of the most popular brands is "Mickey Mast").

• It wasn't until the early 1900s though that the "secret" of fermented milk was discovered by Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff, who studied Bulgarian yogurt in test tubes at the Pasteur Institute. Their yogurt contained Bacillus bulgaricus, which, Metchnikoff decided, chased out the "wild, putrefying bacilli in our large intestine." Now ... who's hungry?
 
• Of course, people just can't go around selling bacterial cowboys to round up and clear out your wiley intestines without some regulation - according to the U.S. FDA, "yogurt" must be refrigerated and contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus cultures from dairy ingredients. The same identity is not required for frozen yogurt, although they too may contain live cultures.
 
• For those of you who enjoy fruit with your yogurt, you can thank the Dannon company, who first added fruit to its mixtures in 1946. Dannon is actually a Spanish company founded in 1919 by Isaac Carasso, who came from the Balkans where yogurt was a staple. He introduced it to Barcelona and called it "Danone," meaning "Little Daniel" after his son. The rest is history. 
 

• Not to be outdone, Yoplait also made a major contribution to the world of yogurt: the disposable container. Unfortunately, some of these have become a little too disposable: according to a study by Wrap (Waste and Resources Action Programme) we throw away more than nine million yogurt and yogurt drinks - unopened - a week. That's almost a tenth of the 100 million pots sold each week.

• What's in a name? "Way back during the mid-1980s frozen yogurt wars, there was a chain called I Can't Believe It's Yogurt, which sued competing chain TCBY because the letters stood for This Can't Be Yogurt. Unperturbed, TCBY deftly shifted its underlying name to The Country's Best Yogurt, kept the well-established abbreviation, and went on its merry yogurt-peddling way. (Few of us now remember the third fro-yo warrior, YSCCMTTIIFY, which stood for: You Simply Cannot Convince Me That This Is in Fact Yogurt!)"
 
• Do you prefer your yogurt thick or light and creamy? A clever Fage billboard in 2008 along the Macy’s Day Parade route made it look as if a Tweety balloon got stuck in some deliciously dense yogurt.

• Ricky Gervais' friend and podcast co-host Karl Pilkington sums up the future of yogurt as such: "scientists reckon that one day you can wake up and eat a yogurt you could have a chat with." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. 

• What is your favorite kind of yogurt, and do you eat it plain or with other foods? I smother my Indian dishes with it and prefer Greek-style yogurt, although a fruity yogurt cup is also always welcomed! Yogurt-haters are welcome to comment, too - I used to be in your camp!

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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