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11 Things You Might Not Know About Eggs

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They’re incredible, they’re edible, and if you lived in Roman times you’d also think they were magical. Here are a few facts about eggs, cooked just the way you like.

1. EGYPTIANS WERE THE FIRST TO CRACK THE EGG BUSINESS.

Around 1400 BCE, Egyptians figured out how to incubate eggs inside small underground caves. This freed up hens to lay more eggs, which proliferated through the kingdom as a food source. Egyptians also regarded eggs as sacred, and would keep baskets of them inside their temples to ensure a bountiful flood.

2. THE ROMANS INVENTED THE OMELET.

They sweetened it with honey and called it ovemele, which literally translates to “eggs and honey.” Some say this is the origin of the word “omelet,” while others point to the French word amelette, which describes the omelet’s flat shape. The Romans also thought eggs were good luck charms, and would often line eggshells beneath their floors. Which means they were literally walking on… well, you know.

3. WE'VE BEEN DYEING EASTER EGGS FOR CENTURIES.

In the Christian religion, eggs came to represent rebirth, and in medieval times and even before, they were often dyed red to symbolize Christ’s blood. Numerous sources claim that egg dyeing actually predates Christianity, stretching back to pagan rituals that welcomed the spring season.

4. A 19TH CENTURY EGG PROPHET RAN QUITE A CON.

In 1806, an Englishwoman named Mary Bateman convinced hundreds of people that her chicken would predict the world’s imminent end. “Christ is Coming” read the eggs that the hen laid. Bateman sold protective wards to people for a shilling apiece, but her con was exposed after a local doctor caught her shoving a handwritten egg back up into her poor hen. Bateman went on to practice medicine, and was executed for poisoning several of her patients.

5. A GENE MUTATION ALLOWS CHICKENS TO LAY EGGS YEAR ROUND.

In wild animals, a thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor, or TSHR, gene helps regulate reproduction to specific seasons. Chickens, though, have a mutation in this gene—developed through years of selective breeding—that allows them to breed and lay eggs throughout the year.

6. CHINA LEADS THE WORLD IN EGG PRODUCTION.

The country surpassed the U.S. in egg production in 1984, and now accounts for around 40 percent of the world’s output. Those eggs may not all be legit, however, as production of fake eggs has been rampant in recent years. Made from resin, starch and other materials, the fakes are cheap to produce, and ARE quite convincing to shoppers.

7. AMERICANS EAT 250 EGGS PER YEAR.

That’s a lot of eggs, but it’s actually way down from 60 years ago, when Americans ate an average of 389 eggs each year. Growing demand for protein-rich foods, though, has worked in the egg industry’s favor, with consumption ticking upwards each year.

8. THE COLOR OF AN EGG DEPENDS ON THE BREED OF HEN.

There’s a saying that the color of the egg reflects the color of the chicken—which isn’t entirely true. The all-white Leghorn, the most common breed of laying hen, produces white eggs, while the brown-and-red Barnevelder produces brown eggs. But there are numerous exceptions to the rule, including the speckled Olive Egger, which lays light green eggs, and the Amercaucana, which lays blue eggs.

9. THE EGG INDUSTRY WAS INCENSED AT THE “YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS” PSA.

In the late '80s, the Partnership for a Drug Free America ran a memorable fried egg demo on national television. “This is your brain on drugs,” a narrator’s voice intoned as the egg sizzled and cooked in the skillet. The ad, which may have been effective in the short term, polarized viewers. It also ticked off the egg industry, which disliked the connection between its signature product and a drug-addled brain.

10. THE U.S. IS ONE OF THE FEW COUNTRIES THAT WASHES ITS EGGS.

Ever been inside a market overseas and noticed eggs sitting out, unrefrigerated? Eggshells naturally have a protective coating that keeps them fresh at room temperature. However, they can also contain harmful bacteria, which is why the U.S. and a few other countries require producers to wash eggs in a disinfecting solution before packaging them. The process wipes out bacteria along with the protective coating, which is why American eggs have to be refrigerated.

11. ENGLAND CAN CLAIM THE LARGEST EGG EVER LAID.

In 1896, a Lancashire hen squeezed out a 12-ounce egg that was 9 inches around. That world record stood for more than a century, until 2010 when Harriet, a hen owned by a cab driver in Essex, laid an egg that was 9.1 inches in circumference. All of which begs the question: What are they feeding English hens, anyway?

All images via iStock.

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Food
How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
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Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

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How to Choose the Best Watermelon
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Buying a watermelon is an experience one can grow to resent. The 92 percent moisture content of Citrullus lanatus means you're basically buying a giant ball of water. On the plus side, they're delicious and packed with enough vitamin C and D to keep you from getting scurvy.

But how to select the best of the batch? Food blogger Emma Christensen over at kitchn recently offered some advice, and it involves a little weight-training. When you examine watermelons in the produce section of your local grocery, you want to look for the heaviest one for its size. The denser the fruit, the more juice it has. That's when it's at its most ripe.

Next, check the underside of the watermelon for the "splotch." That's the yellow patch the watermelon develops by resting on the ground. If it's a creamy yellow, it's also a good indicator of being ripe.

Finally, give the underside a little smack—not aggressive enough to draw attention from grocery workers, but enough so that you can determine whether the watermelon sounds hollow. If it does, that's good. If it sounds dull, like you're hitting a solid brick of material, it's overripe; put the watermelon down and slowly back away from it.

If you're not confident in your watermelon evaluation abilities, there's another option: Local farmers markets typically have only choice product available, so any watermelon you pick up is likely to be a winner. You can also ask the merchant to pick one out for you. Pay attention to what he's doing and then try to emulate it the next time you're forced to choose your own produce.

[h/t: kitchn]

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