The Real Purpose Behind That Plastic Grass in Your Take-Out Sushi Box

iStock.com/Floortje
iStock.com/Floortje

Containers of takeout sushi in America don't tend to vary too drastically from one vendor to the next. They usually come with a dab of mossy-green wasabi (actually mustard and horseradish). They may feature California rolls (actually Canadian). And they almost always come with a strip of fake, plastic grass separating the components.

That last part may seem like a distinctly American invention, but it actually comes from a centuries-old practice that's vital to Japanese cuisine, according to The New York Times.

Traditionally, haran (from the Japanese ha for leaf and ran for orchid or lily), also known as baran, is made from fresh leaves, not brightly colored plastic. By nestling a watertight leaf between two foods like fish and rice, Japanese chefs are able to preserve the natural flavors of the ingredients and stop scents from co-mingling.

Today, when Japanese chefs pack their bento boxes with fresh leaves, they often use bamboo leaves. Not only do these leaves keep odors from spreading, but they're also antimicrobial, which means they can slow bacteria growth and extend a meal's expiration date. Baran is so common in Japanese cuisine that there's even an entire art form called sasagiri that involves cutting the leaves into intricate patterns.

In recent decades, though, plastic barriers made to look like grass have started to gain popularity in both the United States and Japan. Fake grass may not look as pretty as the fresh leaves, but it is much cheaper—it cost $6 to supply 1000 to-go boxes, or 0.6 cents per swatch.

[h/t The New York Times]

KFC's New Firelog Makes Your House Smell Like Fried Chicken

KFC
KFC

The classic yule log has received updates from Star Wars, Nick Offerman, and Lil Bub over the years. This holiday season, why not stoke your fireplace with a log from the folks at KFC? As KRON reports, the fast food chain has produced its own firelog that releases the scent of Kentucky fried chicken when ignited.

The KFC 11 Herbs and Spices log is the best way to fill your house with delectable fried chicken smells without ordering takeout. Made in collaboration with Enviro-Log, it contains 100 percent-recycled materials and burns for up to three hours. KFC warns buyers that burning the log "may result in a craving for fried chicken," and that it "may attract bears or neighbors who are hungry." Despite the mouthwatering aroma, the KFC firelog is not safe to eat.

KFC and Christmas may seem like an odd pairing, but it's an annual holiday tradition in other parts of the world. In Japan, KFC has been a Christmastime staple for decades, with customers placing orders for buckets of "Christmas chicken" months ahead of the holiday.

The KFC log went on sale for $19 on Thursday, December 14, and it's already sold out from the online store, but keep checking back to see if they've restocked them.

It likely won't be the last scented novelty product we see from the brand: KFC has previously released a candle, nail polish, and sunscreen all made to smell like its famous fried bird.

[h/t KRON]

Where to Score Free Treats For National Cupcake Day

iStock.com/RuthBlack
iStock.com/RuthBlack

December is a magical time of year, and not just because of all the winter holidays. A few days on the calendar this month cater to those of us with a sweet tooth, and we can’t say we’re complaining. National Cookie Day fell on December 4, followed by National Brownie Day on December 8, and we still have National Cupcake Day to look forward to tomorrow, December 15. Because if you’re already planning to indulge in Christmas cookies and cake, why not go all out?

The icing on the cake is that a few bakeries across the country will be handing out free cupcakes tomorrow. Sprinkles Cupcakes will be giving away a limited edition strawberry cupcake with rainbow sprinkles to the first 100 visitors at each of its bakeries, which are located in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C. The bakery will also be doing “impromptu cupcake drop-offs” around New York City tomorrow.

Baked by Melissa also promises customers a free cupcake of their choosing at any of its 14 outlets in the New York City region, according to Metro. The company will also post information about a cupcake giveaway to its Instagram page tomorrow, and you can participate by tagging a friend in the comments. Two winners will receive a “Superstar” pack of 50 cupcakes.

If you happen to live in Cleveland, LaBella Cupcakes is taking a unique approach to the holiday and launching a scavenger hunt at 10 a.m. tomorrow. It will take participants to 10 historic locations around the city, and the person who solves the clues the fastest will take home a dozen free cupcakes. Check out the company's Instagram and Facebook pages for more details. 

There’s also a chance one of your local, non-chain bakeries will be hosting a promotion, so it’s worth visiting their website or social media pages to see if there are some freebies you can take advantage of. 

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