While 2020 left a bad taste in many people’s mouths (or no taste for some COVID-19 sufferers), undoubtedly one thing remained constant – everyone had to eat! Food transformed into our clocks. Meals helped track time each day for people stuck at home during lockdowns with nowhere to go and nothing to do. As the pandemic dragged on, people missed the simple pleasure of sitting in a crowded restaurant, indoor dining spaces shuttered, or even enduring a 40-minute wait for a table for two. Food grew into new hobbies for some, which sometimes grew into new “pets” – looking at you, sourdough starter!
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a branch of the United Nations, there exist more than 250,000 distinct species of edible plants on the earth – that was in the early 2000s, and many new species may have been found since. If recipes require a minimum of two ingredients, then with a bit of complex mathematics, we can make more than 30 trillion unique recipes to fill a vegetarian cookbook! (But we didn’t say they’ll all be tasty!)
With that food for thought, check out these thoughts on food! Taking those trusty search skills to task – they are sufficiently warmed up from Googling recipes every night over the past year – these questions come from fun facts shared by chefs, food specialists, farmers, and scientists from culinary schools, international organizations, science labs, and newsrooms. Read on for 100 food-related trivia questions.
Food Firsts – Origins and first moments in food history
- What is the largest school of culinary arts, opened in 1895, called?
A: Le Cordon Bleu
- Which band was first to ever appear on a lunchbox?
A: The Beatles
- Who invented the spork (spoon-fork, the brunch of utensils)?
A: Samuel W. Francis
- What was the first modern grocery store (i.e., self-service)?
A: Piggly Wiggly in Memphis, Tennessee
- From what animal does mozzarella cheese originally come from?
A: Water buffalo! Mozzarella di Bufala
- What was the original tagline for SPAM?
A: The Meat of Many Uses!
- What was the first solid food eaten in space?
A: Corned beef sandwich on rye bread
- What sweet treat did Milton Hershey originally make?
- Where does margherita pizza get its name?
A: From a queen – Queen Margherita of Savoy
- What was John Glenn’s first meal in space, the first meal is ever eaten out of this world?
A: Applesauce from a tube
- What was the original color of carrots?
- What was the plant-based substance that originally went into marshmallows?
A: Sap from the mallow plant!
- Where was Gatorade invented?
A: University of Florida
- What is the name of the world’s oldest restaurant, located in Madrid, Spain?
A: Sobrino de Botín
- Where does the name I.P.A., Indian Pale Ale, come from?
A: Beer that was shipped to the British rulers in India with extra hops to age and keep from spoiling.
- Where does the term “soft drink” come from?
A: It used to refer to any drink without alcohol, i.e., the opposite of hard drink
- Why did John Montagu invent the sandwich?
A: He refused to leave the table to go eat and wanted food brought to him to easily eat there – myth has it from an intense gambling game or because he was a workaholic.
- How old was Frank Epperson when he invented popsicles?
A: 11 years old
Food Follies – The oops moments that taste good and things you don’t want to know
- According to scientific research, why do some people despise the taste of cilantro, sometimes likening it to the taste of soap?
A: It’s in their genes! Their olfactory receptor genes to be exact, which are sensitive to the aldehydes in cilantro.
- What is the fear of garlic called (no, it’s not vampire-ism)?
- What can happen to pearls in vinegar?
A: They can dissolve! So much for cleaning house in your pearls and heels!
- What fruit (or perhaps you call it a vegetable) can erase pen marks? A: Cucumber peel!
- Which fast-food chain settled a lawsuit for $500,000 because of their too-hot coffee?
- What popular food in Scandinavia can kill you if eaten raw?
A: Brain mushrooms, but luckily, mushrooms are almost impossible to overcook!
- Can artificial vanilla be used in vegan baked goods?
A: Nope! Artificial vanilla has castoreum, an ingredient derived from beavers’ anal glands.
- What condiment used to be thought of as a cure for stomach ailments?
- When Ruth Whitfield ran out of baking chocolate, what did she end up inventing?
A: Chocolate chip cookies
- What food products often contain trace amounts of wood?
A: Cheese and cereal
- What do ranch dressing, powdered sugar, and sunscreen have in common?
A: Titanium dioxide for that white color
- What can be found in red-dyed foods, like red velvet cake and red Skittles?
A: Crushed beetles
- How did climate change in the fifteenth century affect wine?
A: Caused bubbles in fermenting wine in the Champagne region – that’s how we got bubbly champagne!
- What is the name of the device used in an animal feed mill that was repurposed to make cheese puffs and lots of other snack foods?
A: An extruder
Farm Foods – The amazing things that grow!
- What kind of fruits are watermelons and bananas but not strawberries?
A: Berries! Turns out, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, scientifically speaking, aren’t actually berries but rather aggregate fruit.
- Theoretically, how long can a single piece of ginger root last?
A: Forever! If planted and properly watered, by cutting off pieces of ginger from the root to use, the plant can keep growing infinitely.
- What is the average time it takes to grow a single pineapple?
A: Between 14 to 18 months for one pineapple to grow on a bush!
- What do broccoli, kale, and cabbage have in common, besides their green and purple varieties?
A: They originate from the same wild mustard plant thanks to artificial selection in farming (long, long ago!).
- How much celery would you have to eat to equal a glass of water?
A: About 2.5 cups
- What is the difference between brown rice and white rice?
A: Brown rice has a bran layer and germ intact after milling to remove the hull, white rice has this removed.
- Maybe you’ve heard that if you throw boiled pasta at the wall and it sticks, it’s cooked, although we won’t attest that it’ll taste perfectly al dente. What fruit can you throw to find out if it’s ripe?
- True or False: Potatoes can help test Wi-Fi signals.
A: True – Boeing used them to test in-flight wi-fi signals because of their water and chemical makeup, not dissimilar to the proportions in the human body! But I don’t recommend it to boost your home signal.
- What fruit inspired the paisley pattern?
- Which vegetable has tiny hairs all over it (not fruit, like peaches and kiwis)?
A: Green beans
- What vegetable contains more protein per calorie than steak?
- From what kind of plant do we get chocolate?
A: Trees! Cacao trees grow the fruit from which we get cacao beans.
- What is capsaicin?
A: The naturally occurring chemical that gives peppers that spicy flavor
- What’s another name for kiwi?
A: Chinese gooseberry
- What kind of corn does popcorn come from?
A: Flint corn
Famous Food – The people who made food and dishes we can’t forget
- What is the name of a tall chef’s hat?
- What tire company awards prestigious rankings to restaurants around the world, considered among the highest honor chefs can earn?
- What does Leslie Knope always order at JJ’s Diner in the series Parks and Recreation?
- What is the drink of choice for The Dude in The Big Lebowski?
A: White Russian
- In Call Me By My Name, Elio has an intimate scene with what fruit?
A: A peach
- In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White slips into a coma after taking a bite from a poison apple. In reality, what poisonous substance can be found in apple seeds?
A: Trace amounts of cyanide (just one won’t kill you, but don’t make it a habit!)
- What kind of cuisine was Julia Child’s best known for?
- What is the name of the chocolate factory Lucy and Ethel work for in an episode of “I Love Lucy”?
A: Kramer’s Kandy Kitchen
- What is the price of the most expensive taco in the world?
A: $25,000, according to Sotheby’s. The Grand Velas Taco from Frida restaurant at the Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort in Mexico
- What is the most expensive fruit in the world, selling for over $27,000?
A: Yubari melon in Japan
- What is the name of the food company Forrest Gump co-founds?
A: Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
- In the series The Office, what dish does Kevin spill all over the floor?
- How many meals do Hobbits eat in a day?
Far Out Foods – Things to know about food from all over the world and beyond
- In what country were the first Michelin stars awarded to street food vendors?
- In what language is “pfefferminz”, meaning peppermints, where PEZ candy gets its name?
- What is Mazagran and where does this drink originate?
A: A type of iced coffee in Algeria
- Where is the world’s most expensive cheese, more than $500 per pound, made? Hint: the cheese is called Pule and made from donkey’s milk.
- What five colors (derived from berries, fruits, and plants) are used in the five-color rice eaten during the Sisters’ Meal Festival in China?
A: purple, red, yellow, white, and black
- Which country grows the most sesame seeds in the world?
- What Mexican food staple was first eaten in space in 1985?
- What does piri piri mean?
A: pepper pepper in Swahili
- What is the only legal way to chew gum in Singapore?
A: With a doctor’s prescription
- Would you like a spot of tea? *insert fake British accent* Where in the world do people drink the most tea per capita?
- In what town in Spain is the largest food fight, technically tomato fight, held?
- What is ironic about the dish Efo-riro from Nigeria?
A: The name translates to “vegetable soup” but often contains meat and fish.
- Where do scientists think foods were first fermented?
- Kobe beef is a variety of what kind of Japanese beef?
- What dessert are you ordering in Italy if it’s made of coffee and ice cream?
- How many chopstick pairs are used each year on average in China?
A: 45 billion
- What are “gazelle ankles”?
A: A crescent-shaped cookie popular in Morocco and Northwest Africa.
- Where might you find the spice blend Merquén used in food?
- What is unique about the egg dish balut in the Philippines?
A: There is a 15-day fertilized duck embryo boiled inside.
- From what body of water does the fish used in the South African dish chambo come from?
A: Lake Malawi
Food Factoids – Random tidbits of information about food
- What does kissing crust mean?
A: The edge of a loaf of bread that has touched another loaf during baking.
- How long does true balsamic vinegar have to age?
A: 12 to 25 years
- What do the two Ms in M&M’s stand for?
A: Mars and Murrie
- How many scoops of ice cream (or gelato) is the record on a single cone?
- Which food brand has the most Facebook likes (as of 2016, at least)?
- What is so devilish about deviled eggs?
A: The term “deviled” has an 18th-century reference to frying or boiling with spices
- What fish is the base of Worcestershire Sauce?
- Why are the twist-tie wires that seal bags of bread loaves different colors?
A: The color corresponds to the day of the week they were baked!
- What animal inspired inventor George Smith to call his new candy a lollipop?
A: Horse – his racehorse Lolly Pop to be exact
- What other candy is named after a horse? Hint: It’s chocolate-covered.
- What is albumen?
A: The egg white
- What is the substance used in gummy bears that can also be found in car wax?
A: Carnauba wax – don’t worry, it’s edible and just there to those tasty teddies their glossy shine.
- What is the red liquid made of what often oozes from cooked red meat?
A: Water and myoglobin, not blood
- What is the difference between jam and jelly?
A: Jam contains the crushed fruit with its juice while jelly only contains the juice.
- What do lifesavers candies and lightning have in common?
A: Triboluminescence, an electric charge build-up when molecules are suddenly crushed and play bumper cars with other molecules, creating vibrations and light waves
- What is the third listed ingredient on the label of the lemon-lime soda Mountain Dew?
A: Orange juice
- What insect is responsible for pollinating figs (yep, they’re a flower, not a fruit)?
- Can you name the 4 McDonald’s Chicken McNugget shapes?
A: Boot, ball, bone, bell
- How do wild salmon get their natural pink color?
A: From eating shrimp – farm-raised salmon has to be dyed pink since they consume a different diet.
- 100.What is viticulture the study of?