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11 Tasty Tidbits for National Ice Cream Day

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In 1984, President Ronald Reagan decreed that July would be National Ice Cream Month. And on the third Sunday of July—yes, that's today—we celebrate National Ice Cream Day. Here are 11 fun facts to help you celebrate the occasion.

1. ROMAN EMPEROR NERO MAY HAVE BEEN AN EARLY FAN.

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Though his sanity has often been called into question, some sources have claimed that Nero helped spark the evolution of present-day ice cream. The emperor allegedly ordered his slaves to bring ice from nearby mountaintops on hot summer days before mixing it with fruits and honey. If the story is true, this treat was among the first frozen snacks known to history.

2. MARTHA WASHINGTON USED TO SERVE ICE CREAM TO HER GUESTS AT MOUNT VERNON.

Prior to the invention of refrigeration, ice cream was a rather expensive dessert. Our nation's first president is rumored to have once spent $700 on the delicacy in New York City over the course of one summer. Sharing her husband's zeal, Martha acquired a “cream machine for ice” in 1784.

3. THE FIRST HOME ICE CREAM MACHINE WAS INVENTED IN THE 1840S.

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Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia created the hand-cranked device in 1843, revolutionizing the distribution and sale of ice cream throughout the United States and Canada.

4. THE ICE CREAM CONE WAS POPULARIZED AT THE 1904 ST. LOUIS WORLD'S FAIR.

While metallic and paper cones had been used by ice cream-eating Europeans for more than a century beforehand, Syrian immigrant and waffle salesman Ernest Hamwi has generally been credited with inventing the first edible ice cream cone at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair when a nearby vendor ran out of serving dishes, and the creation sparked a nationwide sensation. However, while Hamwi most certainly did a great deal to popularize ice cream cones at the aforementioned festival, he's no longer cited as their inventor due to a recent reanalysis, which dates them back to 1894.

5. ICE CREAM FLOATS WERE CREATED WHEN A SODA SHOP OWNER RAN OUT OF REGULAR CREAM.

Yet another Philadelphian entrepreneur by the name of Robert Green would regularly mix syrup and cream into his carbonated beverages in the last decades of the 1800s. Legend has it that on one fateful day, he ran out of these regular ingredients and used ice cream as a substitute, creating the first ice cream soda in the process. One of the beverage's biggest fans was none other than Will Rogers, who exclaimed after first tasting one, “You will think that you have died and gone to heaven!”

6. BEN AND JERRY ONLY DECIDED TO MAKE ICE CREAM BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T AFFORD A BAGEL MACHINE.

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You can read the full story here.

7. YOU CAN BUY SQUID ICE CREAM IN JAPAN.

Octopus and ox tongue are also among the many weird and wonderful flavors one can enjoy in the land of the rising sun.

8. AFTER THE U.S., NEW ZEALAND IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST ICE-CREAM-CONSUMING NATION.

Kiwis may trail Americans in ice cream devouring, but they rank above Australians, Danes, and Belgians, all of which crack the global top 10 list.

9. A 2012 STUDY FOUND THAT THE BRAIN OF AN ICE CREAM LOVER BEARS A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO THAT OF A COCAINE ADDICT.

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The study—which was launched at the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—found that when the brain craves ice cream and other high-fat/high-sugar foods, it reacts in the same way as a cocaine user's does in a period of withdrawal.

10. LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA CONSUMES MORE ICE CREAM THAN ANY OTHER U.S. CITY.

In 2012, after an exhaustive survey of regional credit card transactions throughout the nation, researchers found that, “Long Beachers eat ice cream a whopping 268 percent more than the average American." Fort Worth and Dallas also scored well above average when it comes to devouring ice cream.

11. ICE CREAM TRUCK JINGLES ARE A LOT MORE DIVERSE THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT.

“I Scream, You Scream” has hardly had a monopoly on the music blared by these beloved vehicles over the years. Other popular jingles include “La Cucaracha,” “Do Your Ears Hang Low,” and Scott Joplin's “The Entertainer.” But not everyone has been amused by this musical repertoire: In 2010, a Wichita, Kansas resident petitioned the city council to tighten their restrictions on ice cream truck jingle volume: “I'm not anti-ice cream," the resident said. "I just don't think they need to play the music that loud and that often. It's obnoxious.”
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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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