Interesting Stuff: Who Knew?

The Truth About Peanut Butter and Jelly

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as peanut butter and jelly. This was known as the Pre-Lunch Period.

Even once peanuts were invented no one really cared or paid attention until the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Initially, peanut butter was a très trendy treat and one ate it on toast triangles while one called oneself “one.” One sometimes at it with watercress just to show that one was sophisticated enough not to spit out the watercress.

Meanwhile in 1901, Julia Davis Chandler invented the recipe for peanut butter and jelly. (All hail the first Ms. Julia.)

Peanut butter and jelly DearKidLoveMom.comThings really picked up for pb&j when Otto Rohwedder invented the bread slicer. Yes, he most certainly did, and he marketed it as “the greatest step forward in baking since bread was wrapped. (Later the slogan became “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”—I am not making that up.) The bread slicer meant that people (and by “people” I mean children and klutzy adults) could make sandwiches without having to handle sharp implements.

With pre-sliced bread readily available, people needed things to put in between slices.

Enter Mr. Paul Welch and his love of smooshing up grapes into jelly, which wasn’t nearly as good as strawberry jam, but Paul didn’t care about that at all.

Meanwhile, the peanut thing was happening. Fact: Peanut butter was not invented by Dr. George Washington Carver. He just popularized all things peanut. Peanut butter was probably invented by Dr. Ambrose Straub who thought peanut butter paste was a good thing for patients who had trouble swallowing (or fewer than the standard number of teeth). Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (you know him as the inventor of boxes of cereal) figured out how to manufacture peanut butter. Kellogg and Straub went to the Fair (the St. Louis World Fair) and it was a hit. A smallish hit, but a hit nonetheless.

Enter sugar added to peanut butter (yum), creamier peanut butter that didn’t stick to the roof of your mouth as much (yay), and The Great Depression (boo). Peanut butter was satisfying, high in protein, and cheap, all of which helped boost its popularity.

Then (this part should be accompanied by an amazing soundtrack), We the People entered WWII and pb&j went right along with us. Peanut butter and jelly was (were? was?) part of the rations given to soldiers—and it was better than much of the food they were served. And with that, peanut butter and jelly became the quintessential American lunch.

Nothing much happened on the pb&j front for many years. Then came the Era of Commercialization and Mistakes Were Made. Like combining peanut butter and jelly (and blech) in a single jar. And inventing a shelf stable way to make peanut butter slices (think individually wrapped American cheese slices but with peanut butter) which avoided all that spreading and bread ripping. Bad ideas all around.

These days, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a staple of most homes that have people living in them. There is much controversy in the world about whether creamy or chunky is the correct version (as if it’s even a question!) but that’s a different discussion for a different day.

Love, Mom

P.S. Guess what I had for dinner last night?

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Knowing More About Wilkes-Barre

Dear Kid,

You’re living in central-north-east (more or less) Pennsylvania, and you should probably know more than a bit about the baby Penguins (who kept things waaaay to “interesting” this weekend by going into overtime and then winning in a penalty shot shootout).

Wilkes-Barre. DearKidLoveMom.comWilkes-Barre was founded in 1769 and was named after John Wilkes and Isaac Barre who were British members of Parliament and supported colonial America even though that wasn’t BPC (British Politically Correct) at the time. W-B is located between the Pocono Mountains (to the east) and the Endless Mountains (named for the drive between Cincinnati and Wilkes-Barre) to the west.

Wilkes-Barre sits on the edge of the Susquehanna River and they built a really nice levy area called River Commons to prove it.

Planters Peanuts (named for Mr. Planter and Mr. Peanut) was founded in Wilkes-Barre in 1906.

Wilkes-Barre was the first place in the country people could get HBO (yes, really).

The weather in summer is hot, and in winter is cold. In between it’s both hot and cold (oooh, good lyrics for a song).

Love, Mom

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More Than 10 Facts About The Number 10

Dear Kid,

Today is the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year (assuming you started counting 10 years ago), so it seems appropriate to talk about the number 3.

Great Facts About the Number 10 DearKidLoveMom.comJust kidding, the number 10.

I was going to share 10 fabulous facts about the number 10. But there are too many fun facts to stop at ten. Then I thought about 10 times 10 facts—until I realized that no one wants to read (or write) 100 facts.

So here are a bunch (I counted) of seriously interesting (mostly) facts about the number 10.

We (or at least most of us) have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Which is useful considering that most numbers we deal with are in base 10 (and that’s not even counting—get it, counting—the metric system). Also, the length of your hand (if you’re an adult) is a tenth of your height.

Number 10 Downing Street is the home of the British Prime Minister. But only if you say “Number 10” in a British accent.

“Deca” means ten (you knew that). But did you know that “decimate” really means to reduce by a tenth? If you write the number 10 twice (1010), you get the number ten in binary. Now that’s cool.

Ten is a triangular number (think about how bowling pins are arranged: 1+2+3+4). It’s also a tetrahedral number (very few people care).

There are 10 acres in a square furlong. (I never knew that, did you?)

Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and other crustaceans have 10 legs. This makes them very tasty (but difficult to find shoes for).
A $10 bill is also known as a “sawbuck.” The traditional 10th anniversary gift is tin, while the modern gift for the 10th anniversary is diamonds. That’s a lot of sawbucks.

There are 10 Lords A-Leapin’ according to the song. Capricorn (the sea-goat) is the 10th sign in the Zodiac. (Sea-goat? What on earth is a sea-goat?)

There are 10 provinces in Canada, eh? Virginia is the 10th State in the Union.

The number 10 is very important in sports, because it is the maximum number of events most people can watch at any one time. (I’ve watched you flip channels!) The decathlon has ten events. In auto racing, driving a race car at ten-tenths means driving as fast as possible. There are 10 yards in a first down, and ten yards in a football endzone. A basketball hoop should be hung 10 feet above the ground. There are ten players per side in lacrosse. The top score in gymnastics is 10 (except it isn’t anymore). Surfers try to Hang 10.

Odysseus traveled for 10 years (and that was before the invention of frequent traveler miles).

There are 10 commandments (plus “Pick your stuff up off the floor!). There were 10 plagues (the 11th may be the floor of your room). There are Ten Sephirot in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu appeared on the earth in 10 incarnations.

The Richter scale is measured in tenfold increase of energy. There are ten official ink-splats in the Rorschach inkblot test. The atomic number for neon is 10 (which you can write in neon).

Ten is the number you count to when you need to take a moment, and you take 10 when you need a longer break. We love Top Ten Lists, and searching for the perfect 10. 

10-4 good buddy.

Love, Mom

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It’s All Jibber Jabber

Dear Kid,

The things I do for you. Seriously. This is me going Above and Beyond in the Mom department.

I’ve been watching Big Bang Theory. There is an episode in which Penny tells Sheldon that she hasn’t seen him recently and misses his jibber jabber. Sheldon asks if she knows where the term “jibber jabber” comes from, and Penny says, “Oh, my God, you’re about to jibber jabber about jibber jabber.”

At that moment, Leonard interrupts to tell them that Howard’s mom is in the hospital (it turns out to be food poisoning, not the fact that Howard is going to marry a shiksah that put her there) and we never learn the etymology of jibber jabber.

Well, that can’t be right.

No, seriously, Sheldon never returns to the subject and we are left uninformed.

So, being that kind of mom, I looked it up.

Turns out that it wasn’t the shock of finding himself in a hospital with all those icky germs that kept Sheldon from telling us about jibber jabber. It’s that it’s boring—seriously boring—and the writers were smart enough to know that saying “jibber jabber” is fun, but talking about it isn’t.

There are no interesting stories. There are no amusing anecdotes. The term just is. No one agrees who invented it. No one cares.

It’s just jibber jabber.

Love, Mom

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Mastiffs, Elephants, the Alps, and a Chihuahua

Mastiffs, Elephants, the Alps, and a Chihuahua

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time (or for all I know, two or three times upon a time) Hannibal was getting ready to cross the Alps.

He decided to take soldiers because they fight better than hairdressers (and everyone knew about Sampson) and elephants (because elephants are well-known for enjoying a romp in the snow—not). “Why not take a dog?” said Hannibal’s friend Flavius (Flavius is Latin for “friend who knows nothing but always gives advice”).

“Um, no,” said Hannibal, picturing a Chihuahua (even though Chihuahuas hadn’t been invented yet).

There are lots of types of mastiff; they are all bigger than you. They are also all furrier than you. It’s possible that they eat more than you (not really). They almost certainly drool more than you. I hope. DearKidLoveMom.comThen Flavius (Latin for “friend who occasionally has a reasonably good idea”) showed Hannibal a mastiff (Latin for “freakin’ huge canine”).

“Holy cow!” said Hannibal who was never really good with animals (see: Elephants and Snow [above]).

So mastiffs marched with Hannibal, the elephants, and the soldiers over the Alps.

On the way, they met (and by “met” I don’t mean “met”) other dogs. Eventually, one of the offspring was born with a barrel of whiskey around its neck and Saint Bernards were invented.

After they crossed the Alps, all the mastiffs got together and agreed that Alp-marching wasn’t anything they were interested in doing again. Ever. In fact, they agreed that most forms of work and/or exercise were worth avoiding, a credo they follow to this day. Do not argue with a mastiff about who gets control of the channel changer.

There are lots of types of mastiff; they are all bigger than you. They are also all furrier than you. It’s possible that they eat more than you (not really). They almost certainly drool more than you. I hope.

Like most dogs, mastiffs are very sweet, delightful creatures. Except when they aren’t (like if they’re being asked to cross the Alps). Always ask the mastiff’s person before saying hello to avoid being its mid-day snack.

Love, Mom

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The Magic (or not) of Tiny Houses

Dear Kid,

I have been watching too much HGTV. Mostly tiny house shows.

I am fascinated with these homes that are smaller than a refrigerator. I don’t want one, mind you, but I’m fascinated.

Most of the tiny homes are built with a tiny budget and are more functional than anything else, but there are some that are high(er) end. For example, I was watching one last night that had three (count them, three) televisions—including one that swung out outside the home (the better to ignore nature and watch The Game).

Building a tiny home (in 30 minutes) involves operating in time-lapse reality. Today, we built the entire outside of the home in 12 seconds.

It also involves getting rid of pretty much everything you own. You can take anything you want as long as it fits in this gigantic 3 foot by 2 foot storage space. Who can fit all their worldly belongings in a space the size of a postage stamp?

Here’s what I really don’t understand. When you drive around with your tiny house hitched to your vehicle, don’t the chairs and things slide around? How does that work, exactly? And how do the plates stay on shelves if it’s open shelving?

And why am I so interested?

There has to be some HUGE (or tiny) secret to how people live in these things. It’s like an impossible magic trick and I’m desperate to know how it works.

Please let me know if you figure it out.

Love, Mom

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