7 Great Foods (That Were Created Thanks to Dick Moves)
All of your favorite dishes were probably invented one of two ways: 1) by extensive experimentation with different ingredients and sauces by experienced cooks or 2) happy accidents that led to unexpectedly delicious combinations.
Actually... there is a third category: food created thanks to incompetence, laziness, or just plain simple douchebaggery. Like...
If you've ever attended a high school chemistry class, you're probably familiar with the "lab safety rule sheet" apparently designed for idiots. Seriously, do we really need to be told to wash our hands properly and not eat chemicals? To answer that question, here's a basic lab safety page; you can check off a rule after one of the following (supposedly college-educated) scientists totally ignores it.
Ignores it for science, that is.
The most famous artificial sweetener, saccharin, was discovered by a grad student named Constantine Fahlberg. He was working with some chemicals in the lab, and neglected to wash his hands properly; when he ate dinner that night, he noticed the bread was unusually sweet and realized it had been contaminated.
Instead of washing vigorously and/or sticking his finger down his throat, he started licking his hands and clothes to double-check his hypothesis and then tested the chemicals in the lab-and when we say "tested" we mean he licked them, too.
"You see that? I licked the shit out of that. For science."
Meanwhile, Jim Schlatter took it up another notch when he discovered aspartame (chief ingredient of Equal and NutraSweet). Schlatter had a habit of licking his fingers while reading, an absolutely terrible habit considering he had to both handle chemicals and lab reports regularly. Thankfully, when the inevitable happened, all he experienced was an annoyingly sweet taste instead of a horrible death by poison.
"I probably shouldn't eat this. Oh, well. Science."
However, for gross negligence he couldn't top Michael Sveda, who was smoking in the lab and put down his cigarette on a pile of chemicals. He then picked it back up and put it in his mouth, because you gotta get that nicotine rush no matter what, and noticed-guess what!-a sweet taste. He had stumbled on cyclamate, currently found only in the Canadian version of Sweet N' Low because apparently Canada has to be different.
The crown prize of stupidity, however, has to go with sucralose (aka Splenda): A foreign grad student named Shashikant Phadnis somehow misread a request for "testing these chemicals" as "tasting these chemicals." Instead of doing the logical thing and asking the professor what the hell kind of country this was, he obediently stuffed the chemicals in his mouth. If this were a wacky college movie he would have started tripping out and trying to have sex with inanimate objects. Since it was (boring) real life, he just tasted, of course, sweetness.
Look, hospitals are pretty boring places. You're constantly surrounded by the elderly, sick, and dying, and if you try to do something fun like, say, spray your friends with catheter bags, people get all worked up about it. So when the Kellogg brothers (yes, they of cereal box fame) started running their own hospital, they made do with the only option available to them: experimenting on patients. Specifically, they were in charge of thinking of fun new health foods to stuff down the throats of the bedridden, and by "fun health foods" we mean "metric shit-tons of granola."
Either the Kelloggs thought the secret to eternal life lay in granola or they just liked watching people gag on the stuff; either way they cooked up batches of tempered wheat like it was going out of style. They were preparing one such wheat pile when they were called away for unknown reasons. Maybe they had to fill a massive granola prescription or meet a young tiger cub named Tony; the world may never know.
What we do know is that when they got back, they realized they had forgotten to clean up after themselves when they saw the huge pile of wheat had gone bad.
Now, normally they would have probably said some curse words and made a new batch of wheat but given that whole "hospitals are boring" thing, they decided to just push on with the stale wheat. When they forced it through the granola rollers, instead of plopping out as a nice, steaming pile of granola it broke off into tiny little flakes, which should have been a clue that they messed up. Instead, they just served up the stale wheat flakes to their hospital patients, because those whiners had it coming.
"It's a salisbury steak, sir. We dumped about half a medicine cabinet on it. Let us know what happens.
In addition to likely going to hell after they died, they were presumably astonished when the patients all asked for more instead of vomiting-but not astonished enough to forget to patent their discovery. Eventually they switched to corn when they realized that wheat flakes taste like pieces of cardboard, and an empire was born.
Unfortunately, Wheaties didn't get the "wheat is awful" memo.
Whenever you have a famous person hanging around, people tend to become nervous and/or excited. When the person in question is the current Prince of Wales and future Royal Monarch of England-back when that actually meant something other than a fancy crown and a penchant for effeminate dogs-it can put people on edge.
This puts people on edge for an entirely different reason.
So you can imagine how assistant waiter Henri Charpentier felt when he found out that Prince Edward was visiting Monte Carlo's Cafe de Paris, and that he would be serving him. What you probably can't imagine is how he felt after he burned the Prince's meal. And when we say "burned," we mean it went up like the Hindenburg, thanks to some spilled brandy and misplaced heating instruments.
When Henri finally put out the fire, he was left with a noticeably singed and brandied (it's a real word, look it up) dish, and two options: either remake the dish while the French equivalent of Gordon Ramsay yelled insults at him repeatedly...
"You are le biggest fucking failure in le entire fucking world!"
...or say "Fuck zis nonzense" and just serve the Prince anyway in the hopes that he wouldn't notice, followed by some desperate cleaning up in the kitchen. Unfortunately, Edward did notice; fortunately, he thought that it was great enough to name after his current mistress, Suzette.
Incidentally, the Prince was both married and known for having a shitload of, uh, "outside women," so Henri may have lucked out by finding the most chilled of all the royals to sample his hot cuisine.
At least, that's Henri's story. His son, however, has a slightly different spin on it: according to him, Henri actually burned the dish right in front of the prince, and served it to him anyway. It takes pretty massive amounts of not-giving-a-damn to ruin a meal right in front of someone and then tell him to eat it. Actually, we're starting to suspect that Henri just totally hated the whole waiter gig and was trying to pull a 19th century Steven Slater and quit as flamboyantly as possible; instead, he created a staple of French cuisine. Go figure.
Unless you're some sort of billionaire trust fund baby, odds are that at some point you've worked a demeaning job, which also means that at some point you've run across a horrible, flesh-eating monster of a customer. You probably dealt with them the same way everyone else does: by getting progressively more and more annoyed until one of you gives up, and then writing a highly fictionalized version of your encounter on NotAlwaysRight.com.
And, finally, hard drugs.
But that's only because you aren't nearly as awesome as a certain fry cook by the name of George Crum.
Fry Cooks: The epitome of awesome.
Crum was making potato slices for one of his customers, who kept complaining that they were too thick and soggy. Crum sliced them thinner and dried them out longer, but the guy kept sending them back because they didn't meet his exacting potato demands. Eventually Crum just got fed up with the whole thing and sliced up a potato ludicrously wafer-thin, threw the slices into a fryer, and doused everything with salt.
Incidentally, this "You don't like my cooking? Well, taste this" method of customer service was one of Crum's favorite ways to get rid of an annoying customer; when they looked at the culinary bitchslap on their plate they realized they just got served (literally) and presumably ran home in tears. So when he served up his disgusting potato plate, he had a pretty good idea what to expect: a look of incomprehension followed by violent retching.
But this time it backfired when they guy said something along the lines of, "Now that's what I'm talking about" and started scarfing it down while Crum watched, aghast. The satisfied customer started bringing in all his friends to try these newfangled "potato chips," and Crum was unable to say "But you were supposed to be humiliated!" over all the people offering him money.
Your average, ordinary rhubarb has been around since 2700 BC, and for a time it was widely sought on account of its supposedly magical healing abilities. When someone started growing it in England in the 1500s, though, it tanked almost immediately thanks to a noticeable lack of magical healing powers, improperly planted strains, and just general non-tastiness. Basically, it was the 16th century version of Crystal Pepsi.
Imagine this, but a vegetable and somehow worse-tasting.
By the time the 1800s rolled around, the rhubarb was totally unpopular and on its way out. One of the few places in Britain where they were still being grown was the Chelsea Physic Garden. One day a bunch of laborers were digging an irrigation trench to water the plants; unfortunately, the direction of the planned ditch crossed paths with the rhubarb patch. Since they were sensible workman who didn't want to destroy the gardens, they checked with their supervisor and then altered the trench so it went around the rhubarbs. Nah, just kidding. They plowed right through the fuckers.
Even if they thought initially that the rhubarb leaves were just weeds, they must have realized at some point that they were digging up vegetables instead of daffodils. This didn't stop them from completely covering the entire rhubarb patch with dirt and leaves.
What's more, they didn't even get called out on it since the head gardener only noticed weeks later that part of his garden had been totally obliterated. When he brushed off the rubble, he noticed that the rhubarbs looked way more tender and delicious; when he tasted one, he found that its flavor had improved tenfold. This process of "forcing" rhubarbs by covering them from sunlight also allowed them to be grown out of season; the combination of tasty food and the ability to eat it whenever you wanted created a popularity explosion for the rhubarb.
Prairie Home Companion is just an arm of the powerful Rhubarb Cartel.
French Dip Sandwich
The French Dip Sandwich sprung into existence in Los Angeles somewhere in the early 1900s. However, there are two mutually independent stories of exactly where, when, and how it came about; fortunately (well, fortunately for this article), they both deal with dick moves.
The first story is that in 1918, a chef in popular LA diner "Philippe the Original" was making a sandwich for one of his regular customers. He somehow managed to drop the entire thing into a vat of beef broth, an impressive feat of butterfingery considering that the sandwich he was making involved no broth whatsoever.
Next, on Cooking with Quaaludes.
After he fished it out, the sandwich had gotten incredibly soggy and was ruined, and clearly the only reasonable option was to apologize to the customer and make a new sandwich. But since you've read this far, you've probably already figured out that he just served it up anyway.
What you almost definitely didn't know was that the customer in question was a cop (who presumably could have called in a whole bunch of health inspectors), making this the equivalent of sending a computer virus to your IT guy: it could have intentionally pissed off the one guy who could shut you down for good. Thankfully the cop liked extra beef sauce with his beef sandwich, no one got shut down and the dish became a regular on the menu.
The second origin story takes place in 1908 in competing LA eatery "Cole's Diner." Cole's mainly served (surprise!) sandwiches, but the main difference between Cole's and Philippe was that the bread at Cole's was about as soft as a diamond-studded brick. The older patrons of Cole's simply couldn't chew the bread-shaped rocks, and eventually one of them complained to the head chef that his bread was pretty much inedible.
"Seriously, you can kill a man with it."
Now, he could have gone back to the kitchen and learned how to make sandwiches that didn't break your teeth if you even looked at them the wrong way, but that would simply involve too much effort. So he dunked the sandwich in some beef broth and handed the soggy mess back to the whiny old man in order to make him shut up for a bit. Not only did he shut up, he scarfed the entire thing down and asked for more, and a tradition was (possibly) born.
And what a wonderful looking tradition it was.
Regardless of who's right, this proves what we've said for years: there's no problem that can't be solved with the addition of beef.
Back in 1835, the British still ruled India and had started to realize that Indian cuisine was a damn sight better than spotted dick, toad-in-the-hole, or any of Britain's other terrible, terrible, native dishes.
What the hell, guys?
So when the ex-Governor of Bengal, Lord Marcus Sandys, returned home to Worcestershire, he started missing good food almost immediately. In order to fill the curry-shaped hole in his soul, he commissioned two pharmacists by the names of John Lea and William Perrins to make a recipe he had acquired in his two-year stay. Lea and Perrins gamely tried to figure out the weird foreign concoction Sandys wanted, and eventually wound up with an odd-looking, strange-smelling sauce.
It's a good idea to view any addition to British cuisine with extreme suspicion.
They looked at each other, shrugged, held their noses, and tasted a couple drops...and yeah, it tasted about as good as it smelled-namely, awful. They couldn't possibly give the sauce to Lord Sandys (unless they wanted to be arrested for intentional food poisoning) and there was really only one possible course of action: throw out the evil-tasting slime.
But we don't want to belabor the whole "British cooking" bit.
But apparently the walk from the pharmacy to the garbage can was simply too far, because Lea and Perrins decided to just chuck the jars in their cellar and employ the tried-and-true "we'll deal with it later" method of problem solving. In this case, later turned out to be two years, when they stumbled upon the sauce again. And since they were apparently in a 19th century version of Jackass, they decided to taste it again... and this time, it was delicious. Lea and Perrins quickly set up a company, unimaginatively titled Lea & Perrins, to sell their new Worcestershire Sauce.
Are you noticing a theme in this article? If you find an unknown and possibly dangerous substance, don't throw it out without shoving a little in your mouth first. If you survive, riches could await!
If not? Eh.