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March has many culinary-related curiosities – here’s just a few of them!

 

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You’d never believe some of the strange stories about food. It’s not all ancient history, either, and these days there are some truly bizarre tales to be told regarding food in all of its aspects. So here is a day-by-day look at some of the food-related oddities attributable to the month of March, and with alcohol playing a most prominent part!

 

1st – For 75 years, beer was banned in Iceland. But on this day, back in 1989, prohibition finally ended. And to celebrate, every year since, this is the day that pubs and bars stay open for 20 hours in a beer-swilling frenzy!

 

2nd – Iceland again, and today it’s their ‘National Hangover Day’. I wonder why that is?

 

3rd – This was the day, in 1927, that the first trans-Atlantic phone call occurred. After the official conversation between British PM, Stanley Baldwin, and the Canadian PM, William Lyon King, their respective wives came on for a chat and to swap recipes.

 


 

4th  – It’s a sign of the times that, on this day in 2007, when police arrested the owner of a mobile burger van for also selling porno movies, he was charged, in Driffield, Yorkshire, with not having a licence to sell food!

 

5th – This was the day, in 2010, that scientists at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde patented an ‘intelligent’ indicator for pre-packed food. The plastic tab detected bacteria levels and changed colour when the contents were about to ‘go off’.

 

6th – Demon drink again and, on this occasion, New Zealand’s legendry ‘6 o’clock Swill’ suddenly ceased, on this day in 1967. Prior to this, pubs had to shut at 6:00 pm, giving rise to a mass influx of workers trying to grab a quick beer on their way home. Extending opening time until 10:00 pm changed this overnight!

 

7th – Kellogg’s ‘cornflakes’ first emerged on this day, in 1897, when Dr. John Kellogg served his Illinois hospital patients servings of his brother’s new product.

8th – This was the day, in 1874, when it was reported that Alfred Parnell opened 307 oysters in 30 minutes and won the title of ‘Quebec’s Fastest Oyster Opener’.

 

9th – On this day, just one year ago, authorities shut down a Massachusetts barbershop after finding evidence of animal sacrifices. New Bedford barber, William Camacho, is still protesting his innocence and claiming that his religious freedoms have been violated

 

10th – Due for a rise? Henry Jones of Bristol got one, on this day in 1853, when he added bicarbonate of soda to baking flour for the first time and discovered self-raising flour!

 

11th – The world’s largest sandwich was going to measure 1,500 metres in length and be filled with 700 kilograms of ostrich meat. Unfortunately, before this record snack could be weighed and measured, in Iran, on this day in 2009, crowds of starving bystanders lost control and scoffed the lot!

 

12th – In 1887, the American chemist, Asa Griggs Chandler, brought the formula for Coca-Cola for $2,300. In 1919 he sold his company for $25 million. He died on this day in 1929.

 

13th – English scientists in Lincolnshire announced plans to power cars using discarded scraps of Cornish pasties and pies, on this day in 2011. This was when the eco-friendly fuel firm, Greenergy, first revealed their intentions to make bio-diesel using oil extracted from various forms of greasy food waste.

 

14th – The legendary absinthe was cheap, cheerful, but often fatal, causing hallucinations and blindness en route. And so, on this day in 1915, it was declared illegal in France. Whereupon Henry-Louis Pernod seized his chance and introduced his low-octane, aniseed-flavoured ‘Pernod’ to fill the gap.

 

15th – Returning swallows are supposed to be the first sign of summer – but what about buzzards? Today is the official day in Hinkley, Ohio, that their buzzards come back after their winter break in Florida!

 

16th –It was on this day in 1891 that, most probably flushed with the success of his achievements, Joseph Bazalgette passed away. He was the civil engineer who designed London’s main sewer system.

 

17th – It’s ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ today. It’s also ‘National Green Beer Day’ in America, where they feel that adding food colouring to their beer helps them become somehow more empathetic with the occasion.

 

18th – This was the day, just a year ago, that New Zealand’s renegade Merino ram, Shrek, finally had his hair cut. He’d managed to avoid being sheared for six years by hiding in caves and gullies. His gigantic fleece was eventually auctioned on TV on behalf of a children’s medical charity.

 

19th – Can you can it? Yes you can, but it won’t sell! So the Welsh Felinfoel Brewery discovered when they announced the first-ever beer sold in cans, on this day in 1936. Regular drinkers didn’t trust this new invention and clung firmly to their bottles, so to speak.

 

20th – What happens when a green ‘Flower of Kent’ apple falls off a tree? Nothing much! Unless it happens to land on the head of Sir Isaac Newton, that is, whereupon Gravity becomes discovered. Sir Isaac passed away on this day in 1727.

 

21st – This was the day, in 1984, that the City of New York named a section of Central Park ‘Strawberry Fields’ in memory of John Lennon.

 

22nd – On this day, in 2010, the city of Portland, Oregon, flushed away 8 million gallons of city drinking water, although the authorities discounted this at a mere $8,000 cost to the tax payers. The reason? A 21 year-old man was caught on camera urinating in the local reservoir.

 

23rd – That melodious ditty, ‘Yes We Have No Bananas’, was first-recorded on this day, in 1923, by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn. Since which time a number of notable singers have had a go at it, including Al Jolson and The Muppets!

 

24th – An unpleasant legend still continues, that of the mega-tanker, Exxon Valdez, which ran aground on this day in 1989. The 11 million gallons of crude oil it spilled off the coast of Alaska is still affecting marine life, even today.

 

25th – Herb Peterson, the originator of the ‘McDonald’s Egg McMuffin Breakfast Sandwich’, went peacefully to that great Golden Arch in the sky, on this day in 2008.

 

26th – Service with an oily grin? Yes, at Dalu Robot Restaurant, in Jinan, China, where their doors first opened on this day in 2010. There are six robot waitresses serving up to 100 diners, although the kitchen is staffed by ordinary people!

 

27th – Two records at once. This was the day, in 2007, that an 81 year-old bottle of Macallan malt whisky was sold at auction for £26,500. This was also the first liquor auction to be held in New York since the end of Prohibition in 1933!

 

28th – If you like soup, freeze it first or this won’t work. Today is ‘National Something on a Stick Day’ in America, where everywhere the catchy slogan will be heard, “Put your favourite food on a stick and cook it.”

 

29th – The Guinness Book of Records reveals that on this day, in 2009, the world’s longest dinner table was constructed. Made in Spain, it was 1,800 metres in length and catered for 2,700 diners. I wonder what the service was like . . .

 

30th – This was the day, in 1945, that Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton was born, who later was to come to the pop public’s attention as a member of supergroup, Cream.

 

31th – March traditionally ‘comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. But make sure you get this the right way around, especially if you’re thinking of making stew at the end of the month!

 

 

Rob De Wet


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