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Tian Kee & Co via Facebook
Tian Kee & Co via Facebook

14 Rainbow Foods to Try

Tian Kee & Co via Facebook
Tian Kee & Co via Facebook

We’ve been told that we should eat a variety of brightly-colored foods for maximum nutrition. Maybe that’s why we're so drawn to rainbow-colored dishes, even if they're created with food coloring. Lucky for us, there are more treats that come in rainbow colors than ever before. Here are just a few of them.

1. CHEESECAKE

Tian Kee & Co, a retro-themed cafe in Singapore, made the beautiful Rainbow Yogurt Cheesecake you see above. They serve several kinds of cheesecake, but the rainbow has become their go-to dessert to snack on while sipping your latte.

2. TOAST

 
Make a rainbow on your toast with a cream cheese spread made multicolored by adding different natural ingredients. Adeline Waugh at Vibrant & Pure Wellness has the recipe, in which she uses beet juice, turmeric, chlorophyll drops, spirulina powder, and blueberry powder to create the different colors. Perfect for anyone who wants to become a fine artist at breakfast time.

3. LATTE

 
Skilled baristas who decorate lattes with artful designs have a new weapon in their arsenal: rainbow cream! Mason Salisbury of Sambalatte in Las Vegas did the cups you see here, and there's plenty more colorful foam here that came from.

4. SMOOTHIE

PopSugar shared this recipe for a Rainbow Smoothie, which consists of layers of yogurt, honey, and fruit, with a different fruit combination for each color. The layers stay separate if you freeze each one as you prepare the next (and use caution when spooning in each new layer of the rainbow).

5. GRILLED CHEESE

 
We may be primed to think of rainbow-colored food as sweet, thanks to ice cream and sorbet, but the colors can be added to savory foods as well. Take, for example, the grilled cheese sandwiches at the Hong Kong restaurant Kala Toast, which are laden with rainbow colored cheese. The colors represent different flavors: the blue is lavender, the green is basil, the red is tomato, and the yellow is a combination of gourmet cheeses.

6. BAGELS

 
The Bagel Store in Brooklyn caused quite a sensation when they debuted their Rainbow Bagels in 2015. The bakery made 800 of the bagels every day, and every day, the run sold out entirely. The demand was so great that they closed one location temporarily earlier this year in order to regroup and ramp up their production process. They will ship bagels to you, but there is a large waiting list, so if you're hungry for custom-colored bagels for a special occasion, you better order early.

7. WAFFLES

 
This video from Kochen Online shows you the technique for making rainbow waffles with food dyes, homemade batter, and plastic baggies to control how much batter you drop into the waffle iron. There’s a recipe at their YouTube page, but you can do it with any batter you'd like.

8. MATZAH

 
This rainbow matzah is made by Southpaw Sweets, a bakery that specializes in custom designed candy, cupcakes, and cookies, and clearly wants to revolutionize your next Seder.

9. SUSHI

 
Food artists are now routinely showing off their rainbow sushi, made with colorful natural ingredients surrounded by rice dyed in bright colors (you can see a gallery of different creations here). The Rainbow Unicorn Sushi pictured above was created by The Indigo Kitchen, and they even reveal how they pulled it off at their website.

10. PASTA

Gimme Some Oven via Tablespoon

Even pasta can be made in rainbow colors, and it only takes a couple of extra minutes of prep time. Ali Ebright of Gimme Some Oven dyes cooked pasta in plastic bags for just a minute, then rinses before combining them to create pasta that looks like it came out of a Play-Doh machine. The full set of instructions is at Tablespoon, and Ebright has an archive of rainbow recipes, many of which use naturally bright foods.

11. BREAD

Girl vs. Dough via Tablespoon

Get your kids, or anyone, excited about sandwiches and French toast with five colors in your bread! Stephanie of Girl Versus Dough posted this recipe for her Rainbow Swirl Bread: a loaf of homemade yeast bread, divided into five portions, colored, and then swirled back together tie-dye style before baking.

12. CAKE

Joel Kramer via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Making a cake with rainbow layers is as simple as making a layer cake. You just divide your batter into six equal parts and add the appropriate food coloring to each. (Don’t make thick layers, since you’re going to stack six of them.) Of course, you’ll need quite a bit of frosting to hold your rainbow cake together. If you want a recipe, try one from a baker who uses a startling amount of buttercream frosting to make her Super Epic Rainbow Cake.

13. SANGRIA

 
A rainbow striped drink is a tricky project, but it gets a lot easier when you use layered fruit for your colors. Ali at Gimme Some Oven created this beautiful Rainbow Sangria drink with grapes, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi fruit, fresh pineapple, oranges and strawberries. That’s a lot of fruit for a glass of wine, but after you drink it down, you can simply pour more wine over the fruit.

14. JELLO

Miss Cellania via Flickr

No surprise here: Rainbow Jell-o is incredibly easy to make. All is takes is six colors of Jell-o, room in the refrigerator, and the patience to let each color set before adding the next one. Be sure to make enough to allow for family members who might sneak a taste before you have the chance to put the rainbow together!

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?
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For carbohydrate consumers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say “stuffing,” though. They say “dressing.” In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. “Dressing” seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while “stuffing” is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it "filling," which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If “stuffing” stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to The Huffington Post, it may have been because Southerners considered the word “stuffing” impolite, so never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

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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Food
The History Behind Why We Eat 10 Dishes at Thanksgiving
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Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.

1. TURKEY

A roasted turkey on a platter.
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Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as…served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!

2. STUFFING

Pan of breaded stuffing.
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Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.

3. CRANBERRIES

Dish of cranberry sauce.
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Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. MASHED POTATOES

Bowl of mashed potatoes.
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Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting President to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.

5. GRAVY

Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.
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Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, historian Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to created a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!

6. CORN

Plate of corn.
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Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.

7. SWEET POTATOES

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
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In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.

8. GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Plate of green bean casserole.
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Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you love was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at Campbells.com), contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.

9. PUMPKIN PIE

Slice of pumpkin pie.
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Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. WINE

Two glasses of wine.
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Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

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