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February has many culinary-related curiosities – here are just a few of them!



You’d never believe some of the strange stories there are about food. It’s not all ancient history either, and there are some truly bizarre tales to be told regarding food in all of its many aspects. And so here is a day-by-day look at some of the food-related oddities attributed to the month of February.


1st – Twenty eight gallons of milk for Blanca. This is what one Cuban cow managed to produce on this record-setting day in 1982. And her total of 6,405 gallons for the year also went into the record books!


2nd – It cost two pennies to ‘spend a penny’ in the first-ever public toilet which opened for the first time, on this day in 1852, in London’s Fleet Street.


3rd – Remember the movie? It’s actually true and today is the famous Groundhog Day which has been going since 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.


4th – This was the day, in 2011, that vampire bat saliva was first trialled to help treat stroke victims. A selected group of English hospitals began treating patients with this substance, which thins the blood and helps prevent blood clots from reaching the brain.



5th – Forget the horse d’oeuvres. This was the memorable day, in 1865, that master chef, Emile Delacroix, staged a horsemeat banquet at the Grand Hôtel de Paris. The 135 invited celebrities wolfed-down such fare as boiled horsemeat and cabbage, and horse soup; with relish, no doubt.


6th – ‘Winnie’s Gold Gnashers Gobbled up by Yank’. So, possibly, may the headlines have read on this day, in 2008, as a set of Winston Churchill’s gold-mounted false teeth fetched $23,770 at auction. They were custom-made to correct Churchill’s lisp and were bought by an America collector.


7th – A fishy tale but true, as 800 sardines fell onto the garden of Australian, Harold Degen, during a rain shower on this day in 1989.

8th – It was just one year ago, on this day, that aliens were blamed for the appearance of a freakish piglet, one of a litter of 11 born in Santa Cruz El Chol, Guatemala. Strange lights were seen in the sky and deemed responsible for the creature which had a head half-way between human and the beast from the ‘Alien’ movies.


9th – A double-whammy in America, as this day is not only ‘National Bagels and Lox Day’ but also ‘National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day’. Is somebody actually paid to think these things up?


10th – Perhaps the ultimate health drink was first marketed on this day, in 2008. Om Prakash, spokesman for the Indian company, RSS, claimed that the beverage, made from cow’s urine flavoured with herbs, was “… cheaper than Coke.” At least that’s something!


11th – This was the day, in 2009, that a spokesperson for the Green International Voices of Animals momentarily released the tree he was hugging to angrily object about the results of Britain’s grey squirrel cull appearing on sale in supermarkets in London. It seems that the idea of recycling these dead squirrels into squirrel sandwiches was something of a ‘grey’ area!


12th – Gelatine was patented in 1791 by the American, Peter Cooper, who was born on this day in 1791. Not a world-shattering invention in itself but, half a century later and filled with raspberry syrup, it was to take America by storm under the name of Jell-O.


13th – This was the day, in 2011, that Prahlad Jani, aged 82, was taken to hospital in Ahmedabad, India. He was to become the subject of intensive study, as he claimed that special powers from the goddess, Amba, had allowed him to go without food and water since the age of eight. Dr. Sudhir Shah, from Sterling University, described his case as ‘unusual’.


14th – And now for the truth. There are, in fact, no fewer than five different Saint Valentines. And none of them are connected i

n any way with romance. It all began with the licentious fertility feast of Lupercalia, celebrated on the 13th, 14th and 15th of February, which the early Christian Church tried to clean up and stamp out. And so they diverted the festivities to the closest feast day, that of St. Valentine of Terni, who died in February, AD 197.

15thDay Oh! Oh . . . day-eee-oh! This haunting refrain first appeared at the top of the UK charts, on this day in 1957, when Harry Belafonte made the news with his calypso-style ‘Banana Boat Song’.


16th – Take one overturned truck, filled with 40,000 pounds of hamburgers, on Interstate 50 in Utah. Then add a second truck which later spilled its load a few miles away – 30,000 bottles of Fat Tire Beer. Result? The opportunity for one enormous roadside barbecue, which probably almost happened, on this day in 2008.


17th – I’m sure that Monty Python still lives on, as evidenced on this day, in 2002, when the German authorities passed a law decreeing that all farmers must spend a minimum of 20 seconds every day with each of their pigs. Must have been a slow day at the Bundestag.


18th – Amsterdam’s airport actually now has a VIP ‘lounge’ for them, but the first instance of a cow going up in an aeroplane happened on this day way back in 1930. It was a feature of the St. Louis International Air Expo and must have made alcoholics look up and shake their heads in resignation.

19th – Hardly surprising, but a survey which appeared on this day, in 2011, revealed that fast food wrappers topped the list of rubbish dropped in towns and cities across the UK. Interestingly, 62% of London’s litter is made up of cigarette packets, whereas in more refined cities, such as Gloucester or Carlisle, it’s discarded confectionary packaging that tops the list.


20th – “Oops, sorry,” as personality chef Heston Blumenthal said to 529 of his diners, on this day in 2009. This was the number of people who had fallen ill after eating at his London-based Michelin 3-starred restaurant, The Fat Duck.


21st – Coincidence? On this day, in 2007, John Mainley surprised his surgeons in New York as they removed a piece of plastic bearing the words ‘Wendy’s’ , from his left lung. It was also the exact date, two years later, that Boston’s Ron Sveden had a small sprouting pea removed from his left lung.

22nd – ‘Watership Down’ strikes back? This was the day, in 1920, that the first-ever artificial rabbits were used on a dog track, in Emeryville, California.


23rd – On a vaguely similar theme (aren’t they all?) this day is both the feast day of San Pedro Regaladao, who is the patron-saint of potato crisps (!), and also ‘International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day’ in America.


24th – More Monty Python, as India’s Keshab Swain surpassed his own record by breaking 250 green coconuts with his forehead, on this day in 2011. It took only eight minutes and 58 seconds before the record-breaking ‘nutter’ was finally able to reach for the bandages.


25th – Nothing at all to do with ‘Miss America’ or ‘pies’ – this was the day, in 1922, that the other Don McLean was born. He was a Scot with the unusual hobby of collecting potatoes, of which he finally amassed 367 different varieties.


26th – The inventor of the Gatling gun, Richard Gatling died on this day, in 1903. Interestingly, his famous machine gun was developed after experiments with the rapid-sowing of rice and potatoes – that must have been one amazing spud gun!


27th – A really fed-up Ohio woman was released on this day, in 2011, having been cleared of two charges of assault. Earlier, when police had tried to remove her from the car in which she was a passenger, she turned and sprayed them with breast milk. It seems that they didn’t believe her reticence was due to her feeding her baby at the time!


28th – Pass the testosterone? It’s one thing to be a real man but another thing altogether when it comes to who can eat the hottest curry. This was the day, in 2009, that 33 year-old fork-lift driver, Andrew Lee, of Doncaster, England, suffered a fatal heart attack after challenging his friend with ‘the hottest-ever chili’!


29th – The explorer, Christopher Columbus, leapt at his chance to escape on this day, in 1504. He and his crew were marooned on Jamaica, but his arrogant attitude had disinclined the natives to offer him provisions. Knowing that a lunar eclipse was due he threatened the tribe with Divine Retribution, and when the moon duly disappeared, the frightened natives flooded the sailors with food and drink.




Rob De Wet

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