Monday, December 31, 2007

Apple #290: The Phoenix

Well, Apple readers, I'm back from my trip home. It was filled with much, much sleeping -- all of it very necessary -- as well as other good things like sandwiches, dog walks in the snow, board and card games with my parents, and finally, football on TV. I encountered some topics during my vacation that I plan to investigate here in these (web) pages. But I'm going to hold off on those because I thought it would be more appropriate to do an Apple on something New Year's Eve-related instead.

I considered the various aspects of New Year's Eve, such as how have various cultures around the world celebrated the beginning of a new year, or the Times Square ball drop, or party hats and blow-horns, etc. None of these topics really piqued my interest, though. So I tried to think of something kind of New Year's-esque, and I thought of the phoenix. You know, the bird that gets re-born.

  • The phoenix is a mythological bird that lives a very long time and then is reborn or resurrects itself. It is symbolic of new life, regeneration, all those good things.

Generally what we imagine when we think of a phoenix.
(Image from Bocage Books)

  • Lots of different cultures have stories about a phoenix. Depending on the country of origin, the bird may have a different name, a different method of dying or resurrecting itself.


Only one exists at a time. Lives near a well, sings an enchanting song.

Large as an eagle with scarlet and gold feathers

Death & Resurrection
Builds its own pyre of aromatic branches and spices (like myrrh) and sets itself on fire. Rises from the ashes 3 days later.

Grecian phoenix, nesting in a palm tree
(Image from Anyone for Tee?)



Comes from Arabia to Heliopolis in Egypt to bury his father, encased in an egg of myrrh.

Eagle, with scarlet and gold feathers

Death & Resurrection
Builds a nest on top of a palm tree with aromatic plants (cassia and myrrh) and dies. Young phoenix arises from the dead phoenix.

Egypt's Bennu
(Image from Phoenix Moon)



Soul of the sun god, Re, or also a symbol of the periodic flooding of the Nile.

Heron with two long feathers extending from his head, sometimes also crowned with the sun

Death & Resurrection
Stands alone on the rocks following the flood.

The closest representation I've found to how I picture Fawkes.
(From Laura Freeman's Harry Potter tarot deck)

Harry Potter (I couldn’t resist)

Phoenix, specifically, Fawkes

Animal representative of Albus Dumbledore. Tears have healing properties, as does its song.

Size of a swan, crimson feathers, long (very strong) tail. Claws, beak, and tail are golden.

Death & Resurrection
Can appear and disappear at will, but also dies in a burst of flame to be re-born almost immediately in its ashes.

China's Feng Huang
(Image from the Aerie of Paragon)


Feng Huang

Very gentle, lands without crushing anything, eats only dewdrops. But it does attack snakes.

Rooster’s beak, swallow’s face, snake’s neck, goose’s breast, tortoise’s back, stag’s hind legs, fish’s tail

Death & Resurrection
Immortal. Appearance signals the start of good times; disappearance marks onset of bad times. Nests in the woo-tung tree.



Combination of the male Ho and female Oo bird.

Very similar to the Chinese Feng Huang

Death & Resurrection
Descends from heaven at the birth of a virtuous ruler and nests in a paulownia tree. Goes back to heaven at the close of peaceful and prosperous times.

Hindu Garuda (here, he's eating a snake)
(Photo by D. Finnin)

Indian / Hindu


King of birds. Hates evil, attacks snakes

Head, wings, talons, beak of an eagle; body and limbs of a man. White face, red wings, brilliantly shining body.

Death & Resurrection
Fought the gods to get the draft of immortality and rescued his mother from the underworld where she was guarded by snakes. Carries immortality still.

  • In nearly all of these stories, as you can see, the phoenix is a force of good. Sometimes its appearance only signals the beginning of good times; in other stories, the phoenix actively fights on behalf of good and against evil.
  • Basically, if the phoenix is on your side, you're in good shape.
  • In addition to these mythological birds, other birds have been suggested as variants of the phoenix.
      • Although the name Firebird is very suggestive of the story of the Phoenix, I don't think the Russian legend of the firebird is actually that similar to the phoenix. You can read the story of the firebird yourself and see what you think.
      • The Thunderbird, who is present in many Native American stories just as there is not one Native American tribe, so there is no single Thunderbird, is also said to be similar to the phoenix. But just as there is not one single Native American tribe but several tribes with all sorts of different stories, so there is also not one Thunderbird. In just one of the stories I read, the Thunderbird seems more powerful and god-like than the phoenix, and it has more to do with influencing the weather. But again, you can read the Thunderbird stories yourself.

May your new year be like the phoenix rising from the ashes. Or, may your new year be as filled with goodness as the phoenix's song. Or, may you be empowered like the feng huang to fight the snakes of evil and nest in the woo-tung tree of happiness. Or otherwise, happy new year!

Mythical Realm, Rise of the Phoenix
Encyclopedia Mythica, Garuda and Phoenix
Carlos Parada, Greek Mythology Link, The Phoenix
Godchecker, Chinese Mythology, Feng-Huang
Dr. Jean Couteau, archipelaGoMagazine, Garuda: From Myth to National Symbol
Harry Potter Lexicon, The Bestiary, Phoenixes: Fawkes
N.S. Gill, "Phoenix - Bird - The Phoenix," Ancient / Classical History

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Apple #289: Some Santa Facts

Lots of people say that the Santa Claus we know today is the product of Coca-Cola ads. That's not exactly true. Here's the real chronology:

The 1931 Coca-Cola Santa, drawn by Haddon Sundblom
(Image from the St. Nicholas Center)

  • The Coca-Cola advertisements that depicted Santa in a red suit with white trim and all the works we're so familiar with did not begin to appear until 1931.
  • In the 1920s, popular illustrators like Norman Rockwell and N. C. Wyeth were painting Santas in the well-known red suit, etc.
  • And actually, the first person to draw Santa as fat, jolly, white-whiskered and wearing a red suit was Thomas Nast, in 1869.

This image of Santa in the red suit and red floppy cap etc. appeared around 1869, long before the Coca-Cola ads.
[Dang it, they changed the link. I can't post it here now, but you can click to look at the Thomas Nast drawing.]
(Image from the St. Nicholas Center)

  • In 1832, Clement C. Moore described him in "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (now known as "The Night Before Christmas") as a jolly elf who smoked a pipe and drove a flying sleigh pulled by "eight tiny reindeer."
  • In 1809, Washington Irving's satire, Knickerbocker's History of New York, included several references to St. Nicholas as a jolly Dutch fellow with a clay pipe. Although he meant to make fun of a lot of things that people were doing at the time, the image of St. Nicholas as a fat, pipe-smoking Dutch tradesman is generally regarded as the product of Irving's imagination.

This drawing of St. Nicholas is from 1810. Didn't take long to get from here to the jolly fat elf in a red suit.
[They changed the link for this too.  Click to see the 1810 broadside.)
(Image from the St. Nicholas Center)

  • Colonial Germans in Pennsylvania, as well as other settlers from Europe, celebrated St. Nicholas' feast day in the colonies in the 1700s.
  • Many European and Russian Catholics celebrated the feast day of St. Nicholas for centuries.
  • The original Saint Nicholas was an actual person who was born some time around 260 AD. He was a bishop who lived in various places around Turkey and Asia Minor. Many stories are told about him and it is difficult to determine what is accurate and what is legend. Mainly, he was renowned for his generosity. He gave to those in need, and he often did so in secret, since the people to whom he gave could not have afforded to repay him in any material way.

With that, I leave you for about a week or so. I'm going to my homeland for Christmas celebrations, dog-walking, and much nap-taking.

Merry Christmas from the Apple Lady.

St. Nicholas Center, Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus, Santa's FAQ page, Historical Questions
Lone Star Christmas connection, Santa's Origins and FAQs

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Apple #288: Cinnamon

For today's entry, I considered the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City. But in doing a little searching around, I found an already excellent entry covering all the major facts I wanted to know about the tree: what kind is it, why does it always look so skinny, where do they get the trees, etc. For these answers and more, check out Steve Nix's guide to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Also, this year, the lights aren't fluorescent bulbs but more efficient LEDs. And they're powered by 365 solar panels installed on a nearby skyscraper rooftop. When the tree is taken down after the first week of January, the wood will be used to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

I couldn't find a photo of this year's Christmas tree, so here's a video of when it was first lit on November 28.

Anyway, since that topic has already been well-covered elsewhere, I needed to pick another subject. So I looked around and saw a mug of tea. My favorite tea right now includes several different herbs but what makes it especially tasty is the cinnamon (I prefer bags to loose tea, by the way).

So here's an Apple about cinnamon.

(Image from Leslie Beck, RN, Canada's Leading Nutritionist)

  • Cinnamon is originally from Sri Lanka, or what used to be called Ceylon.
  • The oldest known written reference to cinnamon is from -- you guessed it, regular readers -- China.
  • In the 16th and 17th centuries, cinnamon was so highly prized, European countries fought over ownership of Sri Lanka, just so they could export cinnamon.
  • By the early 1800s, though, people figured out they could grow cinnamon in other places such as the various islands in Indonesia and Malaysia. Once there was no longer a monopoly on cinnamon, the price dropped, and people stopped fighting over it -- for the most part.

Sri Lanka is shown in red on this map, but you can also see the other countries where most cinnamon is grown today, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China.
(Map sourced from High Quality Organics)

  • Cinnamon is the inner bark of a cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). It's an evergreen tree that grows best in almost pure sand.
  • The bark is harvested during the rainy season when it's moist and pliable, then allowed to dry into its familiar curling shape.
  • Most of the cinnamon sold in the United States actually comes from a different tree, called Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia). This tree is native to China, and it, too, is an evergreen, but its bark is coarser and darker, and its flavor is more pungent and less sweet.

Ceylon cinnamon on the left, Cassia cinnamon on the right. Similar, but not exactly the same.
(Images from Mrs. M. Grieve's

  • Though Cassia cinnamon is far more commonly available, Sri Lanka's cinnamon, or Ceylon cinnamon, is still considered the best because of its flavor, which some say is sweeter, or more "lively."
  • Ceylon cinnamon is made from only the inner bark, while Cassia cinnamon is made from the entire bark.

Ceylon cinnamon bark on the left, cassia cinnamon bark on the right.
(Images from Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages)

  • Cinnamon is one of the essential ingredients of the increasingly well-known Chinese five-powder spice.
  • Several Indian dishes that call for cinnamon actually use an entire roll of bark, or quill. The quill is put into hot oil and cooked until it uncurls, this releasing its fragrance and flavor. Then other ingredients are added to the dish. The cinnamon bark is typically removed, or else it is retained but only as a garnish.
  • If you have powdered cinnamon, though, use it quickly or else store it in the refrigerator. Once cinnamon is powdered, it loses lots of its essential oils and thus much of its flavor, and it deteriorates pretty quickly.
  • If you think you might be keeping it for a while, cinnamon sticks will actually stay preserved longer if you store them in an airtight container, and grind only what you need when you're about to use it.

In a jar is possibly the best way to store cinnamon for greatest longevity -- provided that cork makes a tight seal. And if you put the jar in the refrigerator, that would help, too.
(Image from SoftDental)

  • If you're not sure whether your cinnamon is still fresh, open the jar and take a good sniff or two. If it still smells sweet, it's good. If the sweetness is faint or not there at all, the spice won't do much for your food, either.
  • Two teaspoons of ground cinnamon* will give you more than 35% of your daily requirement of manganese.
  • You've got to have manganese to stay healthy, but you only need a little bit of it. Besides cinnamon, sources for manganese include whole grains, spinach, soy beans, nuts, olive oil, oysters, and tea.
  • There's another reason to make sure you don't go overboard with the cinnamon -- or in this case, I should say, cassia. Cassia cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin which can be toxic in high doses. Ceylon cinnamon has much lower levels of coumarin.
  • Cinnamon also contains a chemical called cinnamaldehyde.  Sounds like formaldehyde, doesn't it?  That's because they're chemically similar -- and similarly bad for you.  A little dusting of cinnamon on your French toast won't hurt you.  But a bunch of it at once will. (See below.)
  • Some people say cinnamon can aid in alleviating high blood pressure and that it can also reduce blood sugar, so it is considered to be helpful to people with diabetes. But please note that if you are going to use cinnamon as an herbal remedy, you'll be safer if you use the Ceylon cinnamon -- if you can find it.

You can make these cinnamon buns yourself with the recipe posted at Once Upon a Cakestand

*EDIT: You don't really want to eat a whole bunch of cinnamon at once because it can be toxic.  There's currently a fad called the Cinnamon Challenge which dares people to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking water.  Mostly it's teen-agers who've tried it, but then, so has the governor of Illinois.

Here's why you DO NOT want to do this: people who have done this wind up calling poison control centers or else being rushed to emergency rooms because of the toxicity of so much cinnamon.  Some people have even shown up with collapsed lungs.

First, you get a terrible burning feeling in your nose and throat, you can't breathe.  Because your body knows better than you that that much of the stuff is toxic, you will gag.  You will next either spit the stuff out, or if you persist in swallowing it, you'll probably vomit (if you're lucky).  When you gag, you'll puff out a bunch of the powdered spice which you then may inhale by accident.  Once the cinnamon is in your lungs, its toxicity will go to work there, and you could wind up with an asthma attack or even scars on your lungs.  Scarring of the lungs is emphysema, folks. Same as what you get from smoking cigarettes over a long period of time.  Your lungs may even collapse.  Thus you could find yourself in the hospital with a collapsed lung, needing to be put on a ventilator.

Your body knows this is bad stuff.  Be at least as smart as your body and don't force it to do something it knows is a really bad idea.

If someone has swallowed a spoonful of cinnamon, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

"LEDs will light up Rockefeller Christmas tree," AP Newswire posted at, November 21, 2007
Peggy Trowbridge Fillippone, Cinnamon History, Home Cooking
Recipe Zaar, Kitchen Dictionary, Cinnamon
Mrs. M. Grieve,, Cinnamon and Cassia (Cinnamon)
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages, Ceylon Cinnamon, Cinnamon: The Truth About This Spice
The World's Healthiest Foods, Cinnamon, ground
Leslie Beck, RD, Healthy Cooking, Cinnamon -- December 2006's Featured Food
Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, ToxFAQs for Manganese
Lenntech, Health effects of Manganese

Consequences of the "Cinnamon Challenge," The New York Times, April 22, 2013
5 Reasons not to Take the Cinnamon Challenge, Forbes, April 23, 2013

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Apple #287: Anniversaries

  • Most people think of the word "anniversary" in connection with weddings, or how long a couple has been married. But really, an anniversary can mark any event.
  • The word comes from two Latin words, annus which means "year", and versus which means "turned." In other words, an anniversary commemorates the passage of a year.

"The best way to forget something is to commemorate it."
--The History Boys, by Alan Bennett

  • In fact, the first known use of the word "anniversary" in English was in a religious sense. The word first appeared in print around 1230 A.D. in a devotional book for nuns. It wasn't until 1673 that the phrase "wedding anniversary" appeared in English usage.

"I once wanted to be an atheist, but I gave up -- they have no holidays."
--Henny Youngman

  • A birthday is a kind of anniversary. The Spanish way of wishing someone "happy birthday" makes this pretty plain: felix compleanos literally means "happy completion of another year."

"He that outlives this day, and comes safe home
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named"
--Henry V, Shakespeare

  • Our Independence Day here in the United States is another kind of anniversary. Each year, we celebrate the passage of another year since our country declared its independence from England and we mark the fact that our country is another year older.
  • Veterans' Day, sometimes also called Armistice Day, commemorates the end of World War I. The war officially ended in June of 1919, but on November 11, 1918, the Allied nations and Germany agreed to a temporary cease-fire, or armistice. So Veterans Day is celebrated each year on November 11.

"At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
--"For the Fallen," by Laurence Binyon

  • For some people, anniversaries can be really difficult. If someone you love has died, anniversaries seem to pop up all over the place, and they can trigger feelings of sadness all over again. Such difficult days can include the anniversary of the person's death day, their birthday, Christmas or other holidays that had particular meaning, or if it was a romantic relationship, days that were especially important to the two of you such as the day you first met.

"The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart."
--"Holidays" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • If this is true for you, allow yourself the time to feel whatever it is you're feeling. Just because a certain amount of time has passed, that doesn't mean you're supposed to be "over it." Sad things happen. It's okay to be sad.
  • Some things you can do on difficult anniversaries include:
      • Make sure you're with friends or family members
      • List the good things you remember about the person you lost
      • Write the person a letter telling him or her all the things you meant to say
      • Start a new tradition in honor of the person, such as making a journey someplace meaningful, or establishing a charitable fund in your loved one's memory
      • If it's a loss you share with others, such as a loss of your loved one to war, attending a group ceremony or memorial can bring you together with others at a difficult time.

Whether you're having a bad anniversary or a good one, know that there will be more good anniversaries to come. More birthdays, more peace agreements, more feast days, more life.

Sources, The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Anniversaries and the Origin of History, by Michael Olmert
India Pakistan Trade Unit, Sikh Religious Holidays and Muslim Religious Holidays
Exploring Religions, Buddhism, Time and Worship
United States Department of Veterans Affairs, History of Veterans Day
MayoClinic's article sourced at CNN, Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss
Quotations found using Bartleby's, Quoteland, and Michael Olmert's page on Anniversaries

Monday, December 10, 2007

Apple #286: Cold Turkey

I recently ran across this expression, to quit something cold turkey. Usually people use this phrase in reference to quitting cigarettes or alcohol or some other kind of drug, and they mean that you stop using it suddenly, all at once.

But all of a sudden, the phrase seemed strange to me. Why turkey? And why is the turkey cold? And what do turkeys have to do with quitting anything?

"Cold turkey" does not mean, literally, a chilly turkey.
(Painting by Ron Parvu, Cold Turkey, 1998, on view at the Saginaw Art Museum)

  • There are lots of ideas about the origins of this phrase.
  • One page says that when you quit some sort of drug immediately, you get the cold sweats, which gives you goose bumps, and that's where the phrase comes from. But that slang dictionary is not very reputable, and I suspect that Ted Duckworth, who wrote it, didn't do all his research -- at least, not on this phrase.
  • Wikipedia's entry (and multiple sites that link back to it or simply copy it verbatim) say that "cold turkey" is a variation on the phrase "talk turkey," which means that you speak without lying or indirection of any kind. When you go cold turkey, then, you're no longer messing around with those drugs that set you wandering off course. And when you do that, you go through withdrawal, so you get the cold sweats and goose bumps as in plucked turkey flesh.

Wikipedia, I think on this occasion, you're a turkey.

  • As one person noted at the Word Reference forum, that connection between the appearance of goose bumps and the appearance of a plucked turkey's flesh seems much too serendipitous to be believed.
  • And actually, my copy of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) says that to "talk turkey" means to say lots of affable, high-flown things. Or, to spin a story that's probably got some flattery in it besides. This is just about as opposite as it gets to Wikipedia's definition of talking turkey.

Sort of what my copy of the OED looks like. Except I bought mine from the Book of the Month club back in the late 1980s for $30.
(Photo from the Oxford English Dictionary)

  • The Online Etymology Dictionary's definition of "talking turkey" is closer to the OED's than it is to Wikipedia's. They say that that phrase probably comes from a long, extended joke told in 1824 about an Indian who got swindled. So, according to the Etymology Dictionary, talking turkey means talking hogwash. Which I think is what those other definitions of "cold turkey" are doing.
  • So here's what the Online Etymology Dictionary says is the definition of cold turkey: If you've served turkey but it's still cold, you haven't given it very much preparation. So doing something "cold turkey" similarly means you've done it with little preparation.

If all you've done is lay out cold slices of this, you haven't done very much.
(Photo from Koch's Turkey)

  • Furthermore, the Etymology Dictionary says that the phrase was first used in 1910. But by 1921, the phrase was further specified to mean quitting an addictive substance -- and in that original usage, heroin.
  • None of those other sources offer an initial use of the phrase. And the Online Etymology Dictionary is written and compiled by Douglas Harper, a much-published historian who does his work and then some when it comes to historical topics he cares about, as opposed to other definitions that have been written by just anybody whose credentials are unknown. So I'm putting my money on his definition.

I wish, though, that somebody could tell me why turkey as opposed to, oh, chicken or beef or sausage. But I suppose it's the same reason why people picked mutton when they made up the phrase, "she's a regular cold shoulder of mutton." Just because.

By the way, in addition to this entry, I also updated my entry (Apple #5!) on Handel's Messiah with more information on that score. (Pun-of-the-day brought to you by the Apple Lady)

Definitions I trust:
Online Etymology Dictionary, cold turkey and talk turkey
Short Stories Help Children, The etymology of common phrases means what it means!, English language forum, Cold turkey

Definitions I don't trust:
Wikipedia, cold turkey
Answerbag, "How did the phrase "(to quit) cold turkey" originate?"
Yahoo! Answers, I know what it means to quit "cold turkey," but why is it called that?
You Q and A, Why is it called cold turkey when you are in withdrawal?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Apple #285: Cows in Winter

The building where I work is near some farmland, including a cow pasture. The other day, it had snowed a couple inches or so, and the cows were out. In the snow. I wondered what they do in the snow. Do they snuffle through the snow to find grass, or do they just wander around and eat the snow? And just in general, what do you do with cows when it snows?

Somebody left these cows out in the snow.
(Photo from Utah State Cooperative Extension)

  • Well, apparently this is a subject of some debate among cattle farmers. Some farmers say that cows get too thin and sick if you leave them outside during the winter (this is called "outwintering"). They say if it gets icy, the cows can slip and fall and maybe break a leg. These farmers also say that high winds and rain make the animals the sickest in winter. Of particular concern is the likelihood that milk cows can get frostbitten teats. Yikes!
  • Other farmers say the cows prefer to be outside, and as long as it's not too icy, and if you give them windbreaks -- high walls or something tall like bales lashed together where they can stand to shield themselves against the wind -- they'll be all right. Farmers who outwinter their cows generally do so because they believe their cows stay healthier if they can keep grazing all year round.

These cows live in the UK, where people have made limestone walls like this one all over the place. These walls act as excellent windbreaks for the cows.
(Photo from the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, England)

  • Some farmers also say it's far less expensive to keep the cows outside because, even though it requires some more work on your part, you don't have to spend as much money keeping the buildings warm. Also, you don't have to pick up the forage, bag it, bring it inside, and feed it to the cows. You'd still have to bale the hay, but you can leave it out in the field or in feeders and let the cows go get it.

New hay bales left out in the snow for cows to graze from, with spaces between to provide shelter for the cows.
(Photo from Big Oak Ridge)

  • Apparently, cows need two basic types of food:
      • Something for roughage, like hay or stockpiled grass or even kale. Some farmers let the cows graze and get all the roughage they need that way, but most say you have to supplement the grazing at least somewhat.
      • Grain, which in the winter usually means some sort of corn or corn waste, but it could also mean cotton seed or, in the case of one farm, pizza crust!

Another way to make sure your cows get enough to eat is by "swath grazing," which involves laying down stretches of forage in the late fall and allowing the animals to graze for it through the snow during winter, as these Canadian cattle are doing.
(Photo by Duane McCartney, from the FAO's Grasslands of the World, Chapter 12)

  • If you're going to outwinter your cows, you have to feed them more than you would if you kept them in the warm barn. This is because the cows need more energy to keep warm while they're outside, and they're going to move around more and get more exercise. So you have to feed them about 15% to 20% more than you would otherwise. Since cows eat about 90 pounds of food a day per cow, that's an additional 13 to 18 pounds of food per day.
  • Farmers also disagree on the best way to water the cows in the winter. Eating snow to get water is not an instinctive behavior for cows, but after about three days, they figure it out and will eat the snow.
  • Some farmers they'll eat the snow and do fine, as long as you make sure to turn them out into areas where the snow is fresh and clean. One Canadian farmer says, "Canadians . . . said that their cows do better eating snow than drinking large amounts of cold water."

Cow eating snow, after having learned to do so.
(Photo from Wie IST das Wetter?)

  • Others say it's hard to make sure the cows are in clean snow, and they won't eat snow if it's crusted over, so you need to provide the cows with water tanks -- heated, if you can afford it, or otherwise you go out there yourself and crack the ice off of it for the cows.
  • All cows will grow longer hair as winter approaches. If you put them outside, their hair will grow longer still, around six to eight inches long depending on the type of cow and your location. Some people have coats or sacking drapes made for their cows. They say the cows wearing the coats will stay outside in even the worst weather and continue to graze and feed.
  • Cows that are ready to give birth (calve) are kept inside. Smaller cows may also be kept inside and fed until they reach a healthy enough weight to be outside. Less hardy animals can be, um, sent elsewhere.
  • But most farmers say that, if you give the cows high-quality hay, keep a close eye on their health, and ensure that the food and water supply are adequate, most cows will actually be healthier by virtue of having stayed outside and walked around and eaten in the snow.

Cows in Missouri, grazing through snow in February. Agricultural researchers grew annual feed rather than hay and let the cows graze on that. They saved lots of money, and the cows did very well on the annual feed besides.
(Photo from the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station)

Ed Brick, Outwintering dairy cattle: animal health issues, UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
Jeremy Hunt, "Out wintering cattle can be worth the effort," Whitebread Shorthorn Association
"Significant savings make outwintering attractive," Farmers Weekly Interactive, March 12, 2007
Outwintering Issues Summarized by FWO from Graze-L, Owenlea Holsteins
Outside winter feeding on forage basics, Trumpline Stackyard, September 12, 2005
Watering Cows with Snow - Frequently Asked Questions, Government of Alberta Agriculture and Food
National Agricultural Library, All about Dairy Cows

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Apple #284: Ketchup

I have several burning questions about ketchup:
  • Why does the word have two spellings, ketchup and catsup?
  • Which of the two spellings is preferred?
  • Who first made it and how long has it been around?

The answers to all these questions are interlinked in the global history of ketchup.

Ketchup is actually the descendant of a condiment first made in China (as I have found again and again in my Daily Apple quests, just about everything in the world today came from China). But in its original form, it included no tomatoes, and was closer to Worcestershire sauce.

Worcestershire sauce
(Image from Jupiter images)

In fact, ketchup's ancestor was a pickled fish sauce, called ketsiap. This word, too, has various spellings, including kôe-chiap and ka-chiap, among others. It was thinner and more liquid than what we know as ketchup today, and its primary ingredient was pickled fish brine. People loved that fish brine, and they used it as a dipping sauce.

As sailors and other traders traveled about, they brought the sauce with them from China to Indonesia and Malaysia. From there, it made the journey to England and France, where it underwent some modifications, mainly the addition of lots of mushrooms. By the 1700s, various ketchup recipes included ingredients such as:
  • anchovies
  • fish brine
  • oysters
  • walnuts
  • mushrooms
  • kidney beans
  • lemons
  • white wine
  • vinegar
  • sweet spices like nutmeg and cloves.

Frontispiece of Elizabeth Smith's The Compleat Housewife, first published in 1742 (this image is from the 1850 version). It was published in England but sold in the US. It includes a recipe for mushroom ketchup, and is considered to be the record of the first known ketchup made in the United States.
(Image from University of Pennsylvania Library)

People started adding tomatoes to their ketchup in the 1780s. Then, in 1872, Henry J. Heinz came up with his recipe that used tomatoes plus the primary ingredient in all his multitudinous products, vinegar. He also added salt, sugar, onion, and spices, and wound up with a condiment that hit all the major taste sensations: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savory (umami).

Heinz' tomato ketchup hit the stores in 1876. But his was not the only tomato ketchup for sale. All sorts of other manufacturers were making their own tomato ketchup. And they each had a slightly different spelling for their product, trying to establish theirs as unique and also the best one available.

Bottles of Heinz ketchup as they appeared in 1876.
(Image from Heinz Australia)

Finally, after all the competitors edged each other out of the market, three were left standing: Heinz, Del Monte, and Hunt's. Heinz called their product Ketchup, while Del Monte and Hunt's called theirs Catsup.

So you can thank advertisers, I suppose, for the fact that two spellings for the same product are still in use today.

The spelling that seems to be the dominant choice today is ketchup. Personally, I decided I prefer that spelling because it is closest to the word for ketchup's ancestor, ke-tsiap. But another event influenced the preference in spelling.

In 1981, the US government issued a list of preferred vegetables for use in school cafeterias. They included ketchup on that list of vegetables. There was a huge outcry about this, lots of scoffing at the idea of ketchup as a vegetable, and the USDA took it off the list.

But when they put ketchup on the list, they used only one spelling, ketchup. Del Monte and Hunt's fell way behind in their sales compared to Heinz because they were selling catsup. Del Monte changed the name of their product to Ketchup, and Hunt's followed suit not long after. Both companies wanted to catch up with their competitor. Har har har!

Del Monte used to sell catsup . . .
(Image from adclassix)

. . . but now they sell ketchup -- and still classify it as a vegetable item.
(Image from Del Monte Vegetables / Ketchup)

Hunt's also sold catsup for a very long time . . .
(Image from Goantiques; ad for sale by TCAC Mall)

. . . but they, too, got on the ketchup bandwagon.
(Image from Hunt's Ketchup Products)

While all this furore was going on about whether or not ketchup could be considered a vegetable and how should companies could get more of it sold to schools, the fact remained that tomatoes, from which ketchup is made, are technically fruit.

One final tidbit about ketchup: the best way to get ketchup out of the bottle is not to invert the bottle completely and whack it on the bottom. Instead, tilt the bottle part way, as you would to pour a bottle of soda, and tap it on the neck. This will help the air slide up the neck and displace the extremely viscous viscous liquid that is ketchup, so that it will want to slide out of the bottle. If you've got a glass bottle of Heinz ketchup, try tapping on the number 57 on the neck. That should do the trick.

This billboard demonstrates the best angle for pouring ketchup.
(Image sourced from Heck Of A Guy's blog, which provides extensive detail on all the elements of decanting ketchup)

But actually, most ketchups are now sold in squeeze bottles, so that's not much of an issue anymore.

Now I'm really hungry for French fries and ketchup.

(Image from Impact Menu Systems)

Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, "Ketchup / Catsup History," Home Cooking,, 2007.
Lynne Kerrigan, Culinary Sleuth, Global Gourmet, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ketchup.
Lynn's false facts which many people accepted as true debunked here.
Andrew F. Smith, Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes, page 6.
Patricia B. Mitchell, Ketchup's Colorful Past, Food History.
Joe Kissell, The Story of Ketchup, Interesting Thing of the Day, December 1, 2004.
Kimberly Skopitz, A brief history of ketchup, essortment, 2002.
The Accidental Scientist, Science of Cooking, A Brief History of Ketchup.