Posts tagged ‘cake’

Birthdays Were Not Always Celebrations

By Chad Upton | Editor

Although traditions can vary widely, annual birthday celebrations are pretty common around the world.

In the beginning, only Kings and other royalty were thought to be important enough to have birthday celebrations. At the time, birthdays were not celebrations for common people. They believed that evil spirits searched for people on their birthday, so friends and family would gather to protect the birthday person from the evil spirits. Singing songs and using noise makers was thought to scare the spirits away and gifts were given for good luck.

Of course, modern birthdays are much different. One of the highlights is the cake and the tradition of serving birthday cake comes from Ancient Rome. Originally, cakes were much like bread, the only difference being that cakes were sweeter.

With culinary advancements in the 17th century, cakes began to look more like their contemporary counterparts. At the time, they were a privilege of the wealthy and not until the industrial revolution were the materials and tools affordable and widely available enough for commoners to have birthday cakes too.

Although candles originated in China around 200 BC, it was the Europeans who popularized decorative candles. Candles made their way onto birthday cakes around the 18th century in Germany. Many cultures put enough candles on the cake to equal the age of the person, some cultures adding one more for good luck.

Some cultures also celebrate the birthday of a historical leader or religious figure. One of the most popular is Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus. In the United States we also celebrate Presidents Day on the third Monday of February, which honors George Washington’s birthday (February 22, 1732). Although most people celebrate the day they were born, there are some cultures in Europe and Latin America that also celebrate one’s name day. In that case, if you were named after a Saint, you would celebrate on that Saint’s name day (sometimes in addition to your birthday, other times in place of it — depending on the country).

There are many other birthday traditions from around the globe, some are current and others have long passed. In some South American cultures, it was tradition to pull on the earlobes of birthday children, once for each year they have lived. In India, icing from the cake is sometimes rubbed on the face of the birthday person.

In Mexico, a Piñata is a colorful container, often shaped like a star or an animal, that is filled with treats. The birthday person, usually a child, is given a stick to break the piñata or in some countries there are strings to pull open a trap door. Although this is well known, there are many other countries, such as Denmark, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil, Japan and others who have similar traditions involving clay pots or other containers that are broken to release treasures.

PS – Today, we are celebrating a very special birthday. Exactly one year and 235 secrets ago, I posted the first secret on BrokenSecrets.com — You Can Use Foil in the Microwave.

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Photos: Omer Wzir (cc), Joe Gray (cc)

Sources: BirthdayCelebrations.net, Wikipedia (Birthday, Birthday Cake, Candles, Pinata)

November 19, 2010 at 1:00 am 9 comments

Organic Food May Contain Non-Organic Ingredients

Back in 5th grade, my school had cupcake sales. There were thousands of cupcakes. I don’t remember what we were raising money for, but I ate a lot of cupcakes and that was memorable.

Baking all of these cupcakes was a lot of painstaking work, but my mom was a really hard worker. She always made chocolate cheesecake cupcakes, which the parents and teachers ate up, literally.

They weren’t covered in icing sugar, they didn’t have multicolored sprinkles or glitter and that’s exactly what the kids looked for: sugar. If you’re punny, you might say the kids had more refined palettes.

Some of my favorite cupcakes were the ones decorated with those tiny silver balls. It turns out the FDA now considers them inedible, due to the small amount of metal in them. Now, they’re sold “for decoration only,” except in California where they’ve been banned since 2003.

They were considered edible back then, but that still doesn’t mean they were food. I ate LEGO a couple times back then too. Again, not food.

Real food isn’t made in a laboratory, although laboratories do produce some really tasty stuff. In an earlier post, I talked about the differences between natural sugar and synthetic sugar made from corn (high fructose corn syrup).

Experts believe that your body can’t control its absorption into your bloodstream, in an attempt to control your blood sugar, your body quickly converts it into fat, which happens much slower with natural sugar. This could be extremely dangerous, and its addition to thousands of foods over the past 35 years could be partially responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Last month, a research paper was published, focusing on one genetically modified type of corn. This study shows that pesticide residue was still evident on this type of corn and it causes organ failure in rats. Genetically modified food has a bad reputation and it isn’t always bad, there are many success stories and it occurs in nature too (not just laboratories). But, this study shows a clear example of genetically modified food at its worst.

Because of these dangers, there are a lot of people who try to eat natural foods whenever possible. Food labeled “organic”  is one way to identify real food. Many food products contain a lot of synthetic ingredients, growth hormones, pesticides and antibiotics. On the other hand, Organic foods generally do not contain any of these.

At least, that’s what I thought. I don’t buy a lot of organic food, but when I do buy a product stamped with the “USDA Organic” logo, I assume that it’s entirely organic. The truth is, the USDA actually has a list (PDF) of non-organic ingredients that are allowed in products that carry the “organic” label.

Here is a very small sample of some non-organic ingredients and some uses for them:

  1. Fish Oils (dairy, egg, sauces, jam, jelly, snack foods)
  2. Gelatin (yogurt, production of tea and wine, thickening agent)
  3. Orange Shellac (glazing or polishing organic fruits and vegetables)
  4. Enriched Inulin (baking, nutritional bars, yogurt, cereal)
  5. Whey Protein Concentrate (yogurt, protein supplements, baby food)
  6. Carnauba Wax and Wood resin (chewing gum, candy coatings, juice, cosmetics)

The USDA has approved these ingredients (and many others) because the organic food producers that rely on them have filed petitions asking for approval. The petitions usually cite a non-existent or inadequate supply of that ingredient in organic form. In other words, organic food contains 100% organic ingredients when those ingredients are available as organic products.

Written By: Chad Upton

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[Available on Kindle]

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Images: USDA,

Sources: The Daily Green, Dragee, International Journal of Biological Sciences, USDA Food List, HFCS

January 21, 2010 at 1:12 am 1 comment


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