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15 Foods Invented in Chicago Besides Deep Dish Pizza

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Tourists may flock to Chicago to try authentic, Bisquick-esque Chicago deep dish pizza, which Pizzeria Uno owner Ike Sewell invented in 1943, but there are a score of other foods that originated in Chicago that have either spread nationwide or are still only available in the Windy City. Here are Chicago’s illustrious and more obscure specialties.

1. ITALIAN BEEF

Just as ubiquitous as deep dish pizza and hot dogs, the Italian Beef sandwich has made its way around the world. Italian immigrants created the delicacy in the 1920s or 1930s, during the Depression. Al Ferreri and family members opened Al’s Beef in 1938, but it’s unclear if he was the inventor of the sandwich. It evolved from the means of making unflavorful meat taste better and last longer, so people roasted it, used the sandwich’s bread to soak up the juices, and then added giardiniera on top to add some heat.

Chicago’s Al’s Italian Beef has an option to serve the sandwich wet, which means more gravy is added. Almost all 50 states have at least one Italian Beef shop, and Chicagoland has over 300 of them. Al’s recently opened a store in Dallas that proved to be so well-liked, it had to temporarily close to restock. And if you ever want to make Italian Beef at home, Portillo’s sells a handy DIY kit.

2. TWINKIE

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James Dewar, who was a baker for Continental Baking Company in Chicago suburb Schiller Park, invented the spongy yellow cake snack in 1930. He came across a billboard for Twinkle Toe Shoes, and the name stuck. Dewar first made the Twinkies stuffed with banana crème but then switched to the traditional vanilla crème style. By 1980, Twinkies sold at the rate of about 1 billion a year, but in 2012 Twinkies almost vanished from the face of the earth when Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy. Two private equity firms joined forces and purchased Hostess and saved the food (and deep fried Twinkies) from eminent extinction. Twinkies made a comeback in July 2013, this time being manufactured out of only four plants in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Schiller Park plant closed last year, so it’s best to ration those treats just in case.

3. WRIGLEY'S GUM

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Gum has been around for thousands of years, but the mass-produced, multi-flavored varieties we know today can be traced to William Wrigley Jr. A native of Philadelphia, Wrigley moved to Chicago in the 1890s and established the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company in 1891, but back then he was a soap and baking powder salesman. He threw in a couple of free packs of chewing gum with each baking powder sale, and it was so popular that he decided to focus on gum.

In 1893 he invented Wrigley’s Spearmint and Juicy Fruit gums, added Doublemint in 1914, and the company introduced Extra sugar-free gum in 1984. Wrigley’s also known for his advertising acumen, when in 1915 he sent free sticks of gum to everyone in the phone book. Wrigley’s indelible mark can be seen all over Chicago: The Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue’s named after him, and so is Wrigley Field, home to the Cubs.

4. VIENNA BEEF

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Next to the deep dish pizza, Chicago’s best known for the omnipresent Chicago-style hot dog (all-beef hot dog in a steamed poppy-seed bun and “dragged through the garden”: chopped onions, neon green relish, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers, celery salt, mustard, and no ketchup) and subsets such as the char dog and Polish dog. For a while, it was the only game in town, but soon other all-beef suppliers—most notably Red Hots—started encroaching on their turf. While different joints around the city have slight variations for their hot dogs, there remains a constant: These types of frankfurters.

During the World’s Fair, Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany emigrated from Vienna, Austria, to Chicago and sold their beef hot dogs at the fair. A year later, in 1894, they opened their first storefront. The Great Depression helped the Vienna Beef encased meats become a staple throughout hot dog stands in Chicago, and in 1964 the dogs infiltrated markets in California. Vienna Beef hot dogs can be found everywhere from Johnny Rockets to mom-and-pop hot dog stands.

5. CRACKER JACK

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One of the foods introduced during the 1893 World’s Fair eventually became the ballpark snack Cracker Jack. German immigrant Frederick William Rueckheim and his brother debuted their candied popcorn mixed with peanuts at the exposition, and three years later the first batches of molasses-covered popcorn were sold to the public. In 1908, musicians Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer furthered the food’s popularity when they wrote about buying Cracker Jack in their heralded ballpark anthem “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” In 1912, the company started selling the product with small prizes inside the boxes. Today, Frito Lay owns the brand and concocts flavors like butter toffee, kettle corn, and caramel coated popcorn—which are all still sold with prizes inside.

6. CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

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You have Chicago to thank for brownies, more specifically, Bertha Palmer. Her millionaire husband, Potter Palmer, owned the Palmer House hotel (it’s still open today), and she wanted to bake something for the World’s Fair that wasn’t a cake but had the texture of one and was also small enough to place inside a boxed lunch. Palmer’s recipe consisted of semi-sweet chocolate, crushed walnuts, and it was topped with an apricot glaze made from preserves. The first instance of the word “brownie” appeared in a 1898 Sears Roebuck catalog, and eventually the rest of the world fell in love with the dessert.

7. FROZEN DESSERTS

Frozen pound cakes were the invention of Downers Grove, Illinois' Charles Lubin, who founded Sara Lee in the 1950s and named it after his daughter. Lubin started out as owner of a chain of bakeries called Community Bake Shops, but he wanted to figure out a way to distribute the baked goods outside of Chicago without the food spoiling. He came up with the concept of freezing the product in a foil baking pan. He then was able to distribute the goods within a 300-mile radius of Chicago and eventually into 48 states. In 1976, Sara Lee had the honor of baking the nation’s bicentennial birthday cake , which was so huge (four stories), it filled up Freedom Hall.

8. JIBARITO

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The jibarito is a modern entry on this list, as it was invented in the 1990s. It’s unclear if the sandwich was in fact invented in Puerto Rico or Chicago, but Chicagoan Juan C. “Pete” Figueroa definitely made it his own in the city. Figueroa read about the “sandwich de platano” in a Puerto Rican newspaper and decided to cook his own version. The jibarito (hee-bah-ree-to) uses crispy green plantains as bread, and meats (pork, steak, or chicken), garlic mayo, cheese, lettuce, and tomato go between the plantains. Figueroa’s Humboldt Park eatery Borinquen Restaurant was the first to serve the sandwich in the city, but soon other Puerto Rican restaurants and Cuban restaurants started serving it.

9. PEPPER AND EGG SANDWICH

It sounds so effortless: bell peppers and scrambled eggs on a sandwich, but it’s more complex than that. The peppernegg sandwich manifested during Lent. Strips of green and/or red peppers sautéed with or without onions, whipped eggs, and sometimes cheese go between two slices of bread. Establishments in Chicago sell iterations of the sandwich, but you can easily make it at home.

10. PIZZA PUFF

What’s a pizza puff? Well, it’s a smaller, folded version of a pizza wrapped in a soft flour tortilla that’s deep fried—similar to a Hot Pocket. They’re indigenous to Chicago’s fast food restaurants, especially hot dog stands and pizza joints. Chicago-based Iltaco Foods exclusively manufactures them and distributes them to retail outlets and restaurants. They sell varieties like beef sausage and mozzarella cheese, a gyro puff made with gyro meat, cheese, peppers, and yogurt sauce, and a breakfast puff made with ham and cheddar cheese.

11. FLAMING SAGANAKI

Tee Poole, Flickr

The Greeks were onto something when they came up with fried cheese, but it was Chris Liakouras of Chicago’s Greektown’s The Parthenon who perfected it. High melting point cheeses like halloumi, kasseri, and kefalotyri are fried in a two-handled frying pan that’s called a “saganaki.” In 1968, Liakouras got the idea to fry the cheese tableside, pour brandy over it to flambée it, yell “Opa!”, and then finish it with a squirt of lemon juice. The cheese gets crispy on the outside but stays firm and only melts slightly on the inside. Throughout Greektown’s restaurants, types of saganaki vary: The Parthenon uses kasseri cheese, and Roditys has the option to add shrimp.

12. CHICKEN VESUVIO

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This dish is rarely seen outside Chicago restaurants, but recipes for it can be found all over the Internet. According to “The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink,” an Italian cook who was inspired by the Mt. Vesuvius volcano (or Vesuvio in Italian) created the dish in Chicago after WWII. But Nick Giannotti claims his father, Vic, invented it in the 1960s. Chicken Vesuvio entails sautéing chicken-on-the-bone in a skillet with herbs, garlic, and white wine. It’s served with potatoes and peas to add some color. Critics named Italian steakhouse Harry Carey’s restaurant in Chicago as having the best Vesuvio in the city. Theirs is made with a half chicken or boneless breast, quartered potatoes, and sweet peas.

13. KRONOS GYRO

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If you eat gyros, you are most likely eating one made from Glendale Heights, Illinois, company Kronos Gyro. (Look for the pretty girl poster.) Chris Tomaras founded the Greek company in 1975 where he developed what’s called a GyroKone: sliced beef, lamb, or chicken meat wrapped around a cone and ready to cook. This led to his gyro sandwich, which is meat roasted on a vertical spit and placed inside a warm pita bread topped with veggies and tzatziki sauce. Gyros were invented in Greece, but Tomaras claims he introduced gyros to Chicagoans, although others take credit for the innovation. Today, Kronos is the world’s largest manufacturer of gyros.

14. AND 15. CREAM OF WHEAT AND SHREDDED WHEAT

At the 1893 World's Fair, two breakfast staples arrived on Lake Michigan's shores, where they were introduced to the masses: Cream of Wheat and Shredded Wheat. The former was developed in Grand Forks, North Dakota as "breakfast porridge" when a group of flour millers repurposed the "first break rolls" from their mill. Shredded Wheat was invented in Denver and manufactured in upstate New York before premiering to a national audience at the fair. Both Shredded Wheat and Cream of Wheat became so popular in Chicago that they helped spark the ubiquity of packaged breakfasts.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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