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



You’d never believe some of the strange stories about food. It’s not all ancient history, either, and today, 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 May. And this month seems to somehow star sheep, somewhat!


1st – The blockbuster movie ‘Jaws’ was released, on this day, in 1974. It almost didn’t happen, as director Stephen Spielberg went over his budget of 6 million dollars – but the movie then went on to make 100 million in its first month!


2nd – This was the day, in 1934, that pioneering scientist, Sergey Vasilyevich, died. He is renowned for creating synthetic rubber from a process using potatoes and limestone..


3rd – It was on this day, in 1841, that Britain established New Zealand as a colony. This had no connection whatsoever with the number of resident sheep (see 25th).


4th  – Researchers from the National Defence Institute of Physiology placed Pralad Jhani under observation, on this day in 2010, in response to his claim that he had not eaten or drunk anything for 70 years. He remained in hospital in Ahmedabad, India, for a week, during which time he continued to refrain from eating or drinking. 


5th – A real tooth-saver was patented on this day, in 1936, by Edward Ravenscroft of Illinois: he was the inventor of the screw-top bottle.


6th – Pay close attention: ‘национални овце ден’. That’s Bulgarian for ‘today is National Sheep Day’ – in Bulgaria, naturally!


7th – This was the day, in 2009, that Wyoming resident, John Potter, was taken to hospital after having been shot in the buttocks by his dog. The accident occurred after the 46 year-old man’s excited pet jumped on a shotgun in his boat and was later to involve the rearguard removal of 27 pellets of birdshot.


8th – It was on this day, in 2011, that Juan Antonio was finally nabbed by Madrid police. Using GPS bugs they tracked the serial shopping trolley thief back to his lair, where evidence of €290,000 worth of previous trolley thefts was discovered.


9th – Joseph Bramah was born on this day, in 1785. A Yorkshire inventor, amongst the things he created was a hand beer-pump in order to, “prevent fluid loss when getting new jugs from downstairs.”


10th – Look out for all the happy sheep today (and not just in Bulgaria). Today is the feast day of St. Solangia, the patron-saint of shepherds.


11th – This was the day, in 2010, that a Florida man, Don Wynn, was arrested on a charge of attempted murder. His explanation was that he’d stabbed his son because he suspected that he’d stolen his last tin of lima beans.


12th – It was on this day, in 1889, that John Cadbury, the founder and director of (at one time) the world’s biggest chocolate-making company, passed sweetly away.


13th – It’s recorded that this was the day, in 1669, that the French king, Louis XIV, introduced special table knives with blunt rounded ends. This effectively put an end to dinner-time squabbles that resulted in his guests stabbing each other!


14th – Oh joy and bliss – today is ‘National Dance Like a Chicken Day’. It’s an American thing but don’t let that stop you!


15th – What has Vaseline to do with wining or dining? Easy. It was created by pharmacist Robert Augustus Cheesebrough and patented on this day, in 1878.


16th –What do you do with 3,220 tons of rotting food and kitchen refuse which is too wet to burn and too big to bury? Why, you’d probably put it on a gigantic ‘garbage scow’ called Bobro-400, which is exactly what the New York authorities did on this day, in1987. (And then they tried to get rid of it somewhere else but the boat came back 5 months later after a trip of 6,000 miles – still full!)


17th – Remaining in New York, astonishingly it took until this day, in 2005, for authorities to permit alcohol to be sold online.


18th – Bye-bye and ta-ta – to the 200,000 Tatars from the Crimea whom Russia expelled on this day, in 1994. Reports of this incident vary, but many journalists are said to have had first rate Tatar sources.


19th – Move over road rage. This was the day, in 2009, that ‘food rage’ made headlines in Atlanta, when Melodi Dushane threw a violent tantrum on being told that chicken nuggets were unavailable at her local eatery. She smashed a window and attacked three of the staff before being subdued.


20th – On this day, in 1498, the Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama, very probably discovered curry, on the occasion of his first-ever landing in India.


21st – Let’s hear it for the ubiquitous Cornish pasty. This was the day, in 2011, that the European Commission granted Cornish pasties ‘protected status’, putting them on a par with Champagne and Stilton, and meaning that only Cornish pasties made in Cornwall and following the traditional recipe could use the name.


22nd – Chuckle. Haley’s Comet had just passed close to the earth in 1910 and thousands of Americans rushed to buy ‘antidote pills’ to the gas cloud that followed in its wake. This was the day they all suddenly stopped taking the pills – the day after it had passed!


23rd –Famous last words: “I wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.” Thus gasped American frontiersman and legend, Davy Crockett, upon his demise on this day, in 1869.


24th – This is the day when, undoubtedly, the management and staff of Samui Wining & Dining will be saying more than a few prayers to St. Bernadine of Siena. She’s the patron-saint of advertisers.


25th – Time for sheep again. It was on this day, in 1882, that the first imports of frozen mutton from New Zealand arrived in England.


26th – What famous song begins with the death of Buddy Holly and ends with the assassination of President John F Kennedy? Yes, it’s Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’, first released on this day, in 1971.


27th – This was the day, in 2000, that Scottish farmers were mad enough about ‘mad corn disease’ to begin legal action again the manufacturers of the genetically modified seeds.


28th – A long time waiting for supper! On this day, in 1999, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous ‘Last Supper’ eventually appeared again in Milan’s Santa Maria della Grazie gallery, after a world-record restoration which had lasted 22 years.


29th – Two firsts and, as the sub-heading says, it’s about food ‘in all its aspects’! This was, a) the day in 1886 that the new Coca-Cola company ran its first series of national newspaper adverts. It was also, b) the day, exactly 85 years later, that The Rolling Stones first recorded ‘Brown Sugar’.


30th – A flaky start, as it took Dr. John Harvey Kellogg almost 20 years for his new breakfast serial to catch on after his first patent, taken out on this day, in 1884.


31th – And a sad tale of our times to end with. This was the day, in 2010, that an ‘unnamed man’ was turned away from entering the subway in New York. This was because he was seen kissing and hugging a live chicken, and throwing it up in the air and catching it. Members of the press were later informed that, “only service animals and those in containers are permitted on the subway system.” What’s the world coming to when a feller can’t even enjoy his dinner in peace?




Rob De Wet

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