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In a Delicious Rivalry, Two Pierogi Festivals Fight Over a Shared Name

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Whiting, Indiana and Edwardsville, Pennsylvania are embroiled in a duel of the dumplings. While located in different regions of the U.S., the two municipalities share a local tradition: They host annual festivals that celebrate Polish pierogies, which are fried dough morsels stuffed with meat, cheese, potatoes, fruits, and other fillings. Both events are called "Pierogi Fest"—and as Smithsonian reports, neither town is pleased about it. And now, they're in a nasty legal battle over the name.

Technically speaking, Whiting's Pierogi Fest—and its moniker, which the city trademarked in 2007—came first: Their event was launched more than two decades ago, whereas the inaugural Edwardsville Pierogi Festival took place in 2014. The following year, the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce—which runs Indiana's Pierogi Fest—sent a letter to their their dumpling-loving rivals in the Keystone State, threatening to sue them for infringing on their name.

The Edwardsville Hometown Committee—which runs Pennsylvania's Pierogi Fest—didn't comply with the request. So in June 2017, Whiting officials followed up with a second legal threat, which they mailed to the Edwardsville Hometown Committee and five of its sponsors. This move reportedly made some local businesses think twice about supporting the event.

Instead of backing down, Edwardsville officials flexed their own legal muscle: They filed a federal lawsuit against the Whiting Pierogi Fest's organizers, alleging that they "willfully and tortiously interfered with the Hometown Committee's relationship with sponsors" by "threatening them with liability for the claimed trademark infringement," according to The Chicago Tribune. They're requesting compensation for damages and attorney fees, and official legal permission to continue using the name Pierogi Fest.

Whiting officials—who, in recent years, also filed a successful infringement lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival—say that the similarly named festivals cause "consumer confusion," even though Whiting's festival is much larger and more established than the one in Edwardsville. Meanwhile, pierogi lovers in Edwardsville argue that the two dumpling fests are held so far away from each other that having the same name shouldn't be a big deal. 

The 2017 Edwardsville and Whiting Pierogi Fests have already passed, but the legal battle between the two towns rages on. Hopefully by the time the 2018 festivals roll around, the two municipalities will have finally settled their nasty dough-spute once and for all.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Big Questions
Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?
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Even if you don’t have a dog, you probably know that they can’t eat chocolate; it’s one of the most well-known toxic substances for canines (and felines, for that matter). But just what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? Why can't dogs eat chocolate when we eat it all the time without incident?

It comes down to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that humans can metabolize easily, but dogs cannot. “They just can’t break it down as fast as humans and so therefore, when they consume it, it can cause illness,” Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss.

The toxic effects of this slow metabolization can range from a mild upset stomach to seizures, heart failure, and even death. If your dog does eat chocolate, they may get thirsty, have diarrhea, and become hyperactive and shaky. If things get really bad, that hyperactivity could turn into seizures, and they could develop an arrhythmia and have a heart attack.

While cats are even more sensitive to theobromine, they’re less likely to eat chocolate in the first place. They’re much more picky eaters, and some research has found that they can’t taste sweetness. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to sit at your feet with those big, mournful eyes begging for a taste of whatever you're eating, including chocolate. (They've also been known to just swipe it off the counter when you’re not looking.)

If your dog gets a hold of your favorite candy bar, it’s best to get them to the vet within two hours. The theobromine is metabolized slowly, “therefore, if we can get it out of the stomach there will be less there to metabolize,” Topper says. Your vet might be able to induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids can also help flush it out of your dog’s system before it becomes lethal.

The toxicity varies based on what kind of chocolate it is (milk chocolate has a lower dose of theobromine than dark chocolate, and baking chocolate has an especially concentrated dose), the size of your dog, and whether or not the dog has preexisting health problems, like kidney or heart issues. While any dog is going to get sick, a small, old, or unhealthy dog won't be able to handle the toxic effects as well as a large, young, healthy dog could. “A Great Dane who eats two Hershey’s kisses may not have the same [reaction] that a miniature Chihuahua that eats four Hershey’s kisses has,” Topper explains. The former might only get diarrhea, while the latter probably needs veterinary attention.

Even if you have a big dog, you shouldn’t just play it by ear, though. PetMD has a handy calculator to see just what risk levels your dog faces if he or she eats chocolate, based on the dog’s size and the amount eaten. But if your dog has already ingested chocolate, petMD shouldn’t be your go-to source. Call your vet's office, where they are already familiar with your dog’s size, age, and condition. They can give you the best advice on how toxic the dose might be and how urgent the situation is.

So if your dog eats chocolate, you’re better off paying a few hundred dollars at the vet to make your dog puke than waiting until it’s too late.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What is Duck Sauce?
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A plate of Chinese takeout with egg rolls and duck sauce
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We know that our favorite Chinese takeout is not really authentically Chinese, but more of an Americanized series of menu options very loosely derived from overseas inspiration. (Chinese citizens probably wouldn’t recognize chop suey or orange-glazed chicken, and fortune cookies are of Japanese origin.) It would also be unusual for "real" Chinese meals to be accompanied by a generous amount of sauce packets.

Here in the U.S., these condiments are a staple of Chinese takeout. But one in particular—“duck sauce”—doesn’t really offer a lot of information about itself. What exactly is it that we’re pouring over our egg rolls?

Smithsonian.com conducted a sauce-related investigation and made an interesting discovery, particularly if you’re not prone to sampling Chinese takeout when traveling cross-country. On the East Coast, duck sauce is similar to sweet-and-sour sauce, only fruitier; in New England, it’s brown, chunky, and served on tables; and on the West Coast, it’s almost unheard of.

While the name can describe different sauces, associating it with duck probably stems from the fact that the popular Chinese dish Peking duck is typically served with a soybean-based sauce. When dishes began to be imported to the States, the Americanization of the food involved creating a sweeter alternative using apricots that was dubbed duck sauce. (In New England, using applesauce and molasses was more common.)

But why isn’t it easily found on the West Coast? Many sauce companies are based in New York and were in operation after Chinese food had already gained a foothold in California. Attempts to expand didn’t go well, and so Chinese food aficionados will experience slightly different tastes depending on their geography. But regardless of where they are, or whether they're using the condiment as a dipping sauce for their egg rolls or a dressing for their duck, diners can rest assured that no ducks were harmed in the making of their duck sauce.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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