- Lovin’: It is National Potato Lovers Day, and we at WISEACRE love spuds in all forms: fried, smashed, scattered, smothered and covered. What former US president is generally credited with introducing the french fry to the US?
Answer: President Thomas Jefferson; he supposedly fell in love with them while in France and had them served up at a formal White House dinner.
- Dunkin’: Who was the tiny 5 foot 7 inch “Spud” who won the NBA Slam Dunk Competition on this day in 1986 (full name please)? Answer: Jerome "Spud" Webb; he was over a foot shorter than former champion and teammate Dominique Wilkins, who beat Michael Jordan the year before.
- Brewin’: In Cooley’s Cyclopaedia of practical receipts and collateral information in the arts* (1832-1888) under the heading “Beer, Potato” a recipe for an “excellent beverage” calls for the “mixing the pulped potatoes with about 1/12 of their weight of” what ingredient? (without which, even if seasoned with hops and fed to yeast as the recipe continues, the concoction would remain mashed potatoes ...good with butter and cheese but not beer). Answer: Malted Barley. Potatoes can only provide starch, and you need starch and enzymes to produce sugar, a necessary ingredient in alcohol production. Yeast eats sugar and excretes alcohol; it cannot eat starch. Malted barley has starch and provides the enzymes necessary to break its own starch and the starch from the potatoes into sugar. The mash is now useful for alcohol production and can be seasoned with hops and fed to yeast (upon which the yeast will eat the sugar and make the beer). Barley's amazing package of starch and enzymes are what make it so specially suited for alcohol production, as opposed to other starchy grains, like corn, that has no enzymes of its own. One can make an all-corn or all-potato "beer" like certain ancient tribes of South America have done for millennia...by chewing these up and spitting them out (your spit contains enzymes).
*The full name of Cooley’s book is: Cyclopaedia of practical receipts and collateral information in the arts manufactures, professions, and trades including medicine, pharmacy, hygiene, and domestic economy : designed as a comprehensive supplement to the Pharmacopoeia and general book of reference for the manufacturer, tradesman, amateur, and heads of families. Phwew! It contains many useful recipes for making beer with ingredients your average early settler may come across. On the same page, it also contains loads of information on Bees.