Dietribes: Bloody Mary

• So what exactly is in a Bloody Mary? With its combination of vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, celery salt, cayenne pepper (or Tabasco sauce) and black pepper, the drink contains hundreds of compounds and has been called "the world's most complex cocktail." A flavor wheel shows how the drink hits pretty much every note for the senses.

• Many successful Bloody Marys include "secret" ingredients including fresh seasonal vegetables, pickled brussels sprouts, turnips, green beans, radishes, caper berries, Kim Chi and up to twenty ingredients in a single mix (and don't forget the bacon-flavored vodka!)

• One thing you don't need? Celery. "What is the celery doing there? It adds nothing, flavour-wise, and you have to drink around it, like a nervous vicar, or it gets impaled in your nostril. Are you meant to lick the vodka and tomato juice off the celery? Or nibble it like a rabbit? Puh-lease. I have yet to meet anyone who orders a Bloody Mary and says: '…And make sure you add a stick of celery, Marcus old chap.'"

• A (disputed) history is that the drink was created in 1920s Paris, because it was popularized by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, though the exact origins are unknown. What is known is that the recipe change of substituting Tabasco sauce for cayenne pepper occurred in the 1950s when Tabasco was exported to France for the first time.

• Despite what many of us would guess, the drink's name has nothing to do with 16th Century Queen Mary I of England. According to a 2008 article, the beverage's name "comes from a customer's fond memory of a waitress named Mary who worked at a Chicago bar called the Bucket of Blood" (which seems a lot more spurious to me….)

• As the New York Times mentions, "in this country, there is a holiday for nearly every date on the calendar." So here's another one: October 5th was declared Bloody Mary Day by New York City's Mayor Bloomberg in 2009, and included celebrations at one of the other "origin" bars, the King Cole at the St. Regis

• If once a year isn't enough celebration for you, you might consider joining the Bloody Mary of the Month Club, where you will be sent mixes for those who don't want to bother finding all of the ingredients themselves. There's no shame in it - the pre-mixed Bloody Mary is one of the most popular inflight drinks of all time.

• Many of us may remember in school or slumber parties daring someone to say "Bloody Mary" into the mirror. Brad Walters of “Cortical Hemming and Hawing” retells the legend of Bloody Mary and offers some thoughtful hypotheses as to what might actually account for the appearance of a strange figure in the mirror. (FYI: There's a creepy image on the page - to avoid it, you can go to the Snopes article that talks about the legend instead)

• And if this has made you thirsty for a libation, pour one out for poor Mary I a.k.a. Bloody Mary, who had a rather hard time (might also want to pour one out for the 300 Protestants she burned as well).

• So what do you put in your Bloody Marys, Flossers? Any secret ingredients you're willing to share?

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.

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.


More from mental floss studios