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88 Million Pounds of Sugar Catch Fire in Germany

88 Million Pounds of Sugar Catch Fire in Germany

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A silo of sugar caught fire in central Germany


More than 88 million pounds of sugar caught fire in central Germany.

Thursday afternoon a fire broke out in a storage silo in central Germany, and all those carbohydrates make good fuel because the fire was still going strong a day later.

According to The Local, the fire initially broke out in a 90-meter sugar silo belonging to the Nordzucker sugar company at 2:15 in the afternoon on Thursday. As of Friday, it was still burning.

40,000 metric tons is over 88 million pounds of sugar. Nobody was reported to be injured in the fire, but firefighters said the roof of the silo had already collapsed and they were concerned that the silo itself might cave in and spill millions of pounds of molten sugar.

Over 100 firefighters were involved in attempting to put out the sugar fire before that could happen. Thursday and Friday, firefighters were trying to put out the blaze by flying police helicopters over the silo and dumping water into it. Police said the efforts to stop the fire would likely continue “for some time.”

When The Red Army Reached Berlin, Germany Became Hell On Earth

Here's What You Need To Remember: An estimated 100,000 civilians perished in the battle, 20,000 of them to heart attacks, 6,000 in suicides. Rape estimates range anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000. Abortions, normally illegal in Germany, were allowed for months after the war, but there is no figure on how many were performed.

It began with what a German colonel called “a dull, continuous roar of thunder from the east.” The Soviet bombardment was so immense in Berlin’s eastern suburbs, houses shook, pictures fell from walls, and telephones rang. Berlin civilians heard the rumbling, saw the shaking buildings, and knew the hour had come. On ration queues, women and girls listened “in dread to the distant sounds of the front,” and asked each other if the Americans would get to Berlin ahead of the Soviets.

It was April 16, 1945. The rumbling was the sound of 8,983 Soviet artillery pieces, up to 270 guns every kilometer, hurling a stockpile of seven million shells (1.2 million on the first day alone) at the German defenses on the Oder-Neisse River line. The last and most consequential battle of World War II in Europe was starting—the battle for Berlin.

“Who Will Take Berlin? Us or the Allies?”

After a breather to finish off the “Oder balcony” in East Prussia and to bring up supplies, the Soviet Army was finally ready to attack Berlin and end the war. To Russia’s tyrannical and paranoid ruler, Josef Stalin, nothing mattered more than beating the British and American forces to Berlin. Not only did his prestige demand it, so did vengeance for the bloody trail of atrocities and destruction sown by the Germans all the way to Moscow and Stalingrad.

“Who will take Berlin? Us or the Allies?” Stalin asked his two top commanders, Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, and Marshal Ivan Koniev, head of the 1st Ukrainian Front, who faced Berlin, in a Moscow conference on April 1.

“We will, and before the Allies,” answered Koniev.

“So that’s the sort of men you are,” responded Stalin, who promptly gave them their orders—Zhukov would drive on Berlin from the center and north, while Koniev hit Berlin from the south, enveloping the immense German capital in a gigantic pincer movement. To achieve this victory, Stalin was massing 2.5 million men, 41,600 guns, 6,250 tanks, and 7,500 aircraft.

The Soviet Army was by 1945 a well-oiled war machine, lavishly equipped with powerful T-34 and JS tanks, superior to most of their German counterparts and fairly easy for the mechanically challenged Soviet tank crews to operate and maintain. Artillery was still Russia’s “God of War.” Infantry and tanks cooperated with skill, resolution, and aggressiveness. The Soviets understood the importance of surprise, maneuver, and commitment of reserves. They did not rely on numbers alone to win battles.

But the Soviets had weaknesses. While ammunition was plentiful, food, spare parts, and even uniforms were in short supply. Soviet troops were often lean and hungry, expected to live off the land. Much of their rations and transport were American Lend-Lease.

Most importantly, the Army was poorly disciplined. Despite the toughness of Soviet political officers, Soviet troops in all echelons had a fondness for theft and rape, which was inspired by the harsh propaganda of Stalin’s political writers, who hammered down the idea that the invasion of Germany would be the wreaking of Soviet vengeance—Germany was not to be defeated, but despoiled.

Nothing Left to Lose

Zhukov’s assault on Berlin was the centerpiece of the attack, and the general who “never lost a battle” planned this one poorly. He showed little of his usual verve and flexibility. Facing German troops dug in against him on the Seelow Heights, he deployed 143 searchlights to blind the defenders, one every 200 meters. When the searchlights snapped on, the Germans shelled them, killing many of the lights’ female operators.

The German defense was headed by one of that nation’s sharpest minds, Col. Gen. Gotthard Heinrici, son of a Lutheran pastor, married to a “mischlinge,” a half-Jew. Only Heinrici’s ability as a defensive specialist kept him on the Wehrmacht’s payroll, as boss of Army Group Vistula, which was actually defending the Oder.

Heinrici planned his defense with great care. He had close to a million men to defend against the Soviets, counting training units, Hitler Youth, police, and Volkssturm, equipped with 10,400 tanks, 1,500 guns, and 3,300 aircraft. The Soviets outnumbered him badly. Worse, the German war machine had been ground down by years of defeat and retreat. Tanks were short of fuel, artillery short of shells, and many soldiers had gone unpaid for months. Their morale was worn out by the stream of defeats, refugees clogging roads, letters (when mail came) from home that their houses had been destroyed or hometowns occupied by Allied forces.

Yet they fought on. Some did so with the courage of desperate and fanatical men who believed in Hitler. Others were members of SS foreign contingents, like the tough Nordland Division, made up of Scandinavian Nazis—Swedes, Danes, and Norwegian renegades—who had thrown in their lot with Hitler. Another such outfit was the SS Charlemagne Division, composed of Frenchmen. They fought with the courage of men who had nothing left to lose. Capture meant a treason trial back in their homeland, and escape was impossible. So these mercenaries and opportunists—including a scattering of renegade Britons from the 50-strong British Free Corps—also fought on.

The Germans also had some of their usual strengths: mobility, quick-thinking field commanders, an astonishing ability to regroup under pressure, and immense Tiger tanks that hurled 88mm shells and could withstand heavy bombardment.

There were other incentives for Germans to fight this last battle with determination. Josef Goebbels’s propaganda continued to promise miracle weapons to turn the tide of battle. German troops feared the destruction that would rain down upon their homes if the Soviets conquered their Fatherland. SS flying “courts-martial” and the military police effectively patrolled the rear areas. Anyone suspected of being a deserter would get a quick drumhead court-martial, inevitably followed by a hanging.

The picture was bleak. The German divisions that stood on Heinrici’s main line of resistance on the Neisse River and the Seelow Heights were not the goose-stepping legions that had terrorized Europe in 1940. There were contingents of German naval personnel drawn from immobile surface ships and bases, Luftwaffe ground crews and pilots without planes, personnel from Army training schools, and the scores of poorly equipped Volkssturm units, made up of locally drawn old men and Hitler Youth, often armed only with one-shot disposable Panzerfaust antitank rocket launchers instead of rifles. Many had no uniforms and no weapons, and less training.

A Typical “Morning Concert”

With this, Gotthard Heinrici faced Zhukov’s attack. At first, things went well for the Germans. Beyond shooting the lights out, the searchlights themselves were ineffective because their dazzle reflected back off the smoke and dust of the Soviet bombardment. Order and counterorder to turn them on and off soon followed. Overcast skies and rain hampered both sides.

Even so, the bombardment was horrific. The Hitler Youth and trainee youngsters at first thought it was a typical “Morning Concert,” but the old hands soon recognized that this was the long-awaited big offensive. Gerd Wagner of the 27th Parachute Regiment said, “In a few seconds, all my 10 comrades were dead.” Wagner himself regained consciousness in a smoking shell crater and was barely able to escape. Farther back, an SS panzer battalion commander peered through his pericscope and saw “in the field of view the eastern sky was in flames.”

The Soviet bombardment churned up the Seelow Heights, leaving both physical and moral destruction in its wake. An SS war correspondent found a dazed soldier wandering in a wood, having tossed his rifle. This was his first experience of the Eastern Front, he said. He had spent the war as a barber in an officers’ hotel in Paris.

Still, Zhukov had trouble. He sent his men storming across the Oder in American amphibious DUKWs, driven by female soldiers. Behind the Lend-Lease vehicles came all kinds of ordinary boats, many of which leaked. Under heavy fire, the boats came ashore and the Soviets advanced through minefields, making little progress. By midday, the troops were wallowing in heavy mud and German shelling.

The Germans were not doing well either. Joseph Goebbels made a passionate speech on the German radio that the new storm of Mongols would break itself against the Oder walls, but Berliners, who could read maps, got into longer lines at food shops to fill their larders as quickly as possible. Heinrici wanted to counterattack, but Adolf Hitler, in a typically loony decision, had taken away three of his panzer divisions and sent them to Czechoslovakia. At the German Army’s “holy of holies,” the command bunkers at Zossen, Chief of Staff General Hans Krebs kept going on shots of vermouth from a bottle he kept in his office safe, struggling with broken communications to the front and desperate requests for information from the rear.

8.8 cm FlaK 36

Weight: 7,407 kg (16,325 lbs)

Length: 5.791 m (20 ft)

Barrel length: 4.938 m (16 ft 2 in) L/56

Height: 2.10 m (6 ft 11 in) (firing)

Elevation: -3° to +85°

Traverse: 360°

Rate of fire: 15-20 rpm

Muzzle velocity: 820 m/s (2,690 ft/s)

Effective range: 14,810 m (16,200 yds) ground target, 7,620 m (25,000 ft) effective ceiling

Maximum range: 11,900 m (39,000 ft) maximum ceiling

Breech: Horizontal sliding block, semiautomatic or manual

88 Million Pounds of Sugar Catch Fire in Germany - Recipes

88 is a white supremacist numerical code for "Heil Hitler." H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler. One of the most common white supremacist symbols, 88 is used throughout the entire white supremacist movement, not just neo-Nazis. One can find it as a tattoo or graphic symbol as part of the name of a group, publication or website or as part of a screenname or e-mail address. It is even sometimes used as a greeting or sign-off (particularly in messages on social networking websites).

The number is frequently combined with another white supremacist numeric code, 14 (shorthand for the so-called "14 Words" slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children") in the form of 1488, 14/88, 14-88, or 8814.

It should be noted that 88 can be found in non-extremist contexts. The number is used by ham radio operators to mean "hugs" or "hugs and kisses." Also, a number of NASCAR drivers, including several very well-known ones, have used the number 88, resulting in various automobile stickers and other forms of merchandise sporting that number.

The Best Gun of WWII – Flak 88 in photos

The Flak 88 was a legendary WWII-era anti-air and an anti-tank gun used by Nazi Germany and their allies.

The predecessor of this iconic gun was produced by Krupp during the First World War, designated as 8.8 cm Flak 16, as one of the first specially designed AA cannons, it soon showed results in countering the swarm of newly-developed aircraft which were conquering the skies above Europe. However, the German Empire suffered a crushing defeat, forcing extreme budget cuts on its military.

Anti aircraft gun Flak 88

Despite the Treaty of Versaille forbidding the German military to produce such heavy weapons in the interwar period, the 88 series were constantly improved and developed. The semi-automatic loading system made it easy to use since the shells would be disposed of by levers and the loader would insert the second shell.

But the trick in producing any functional anti-aircraft gun was in achieving high muzzle velocity while firing heavy projectiles high into the air. This was the main trait of every Flak 88 model ― from its introduction in 1917 to the late-WWII versions adapted for heavy tanks and tank destroyers such as the Tiger and Jagdpanther.

88 mm gun eighty-eight 8.8 cm Flak. Photo: Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden / CC BY 2.0

In 1933, when the Nazis seized power, the 8.8 cm Flak 18 was put into mass production. What followed were improved versions created in 1936, 1937, and ultimately in 1941. The 8.8 cm Flak 41 became the symbol of air defense in Nazi Germany as its powerful 20 lb (9.4-kilogram) shell was capable of knocking down Allied bombers and fighters at an altitude of more than 26,240 ft (8000 m).

Once the Wehrmacht realized the scale of firepower which the 88 caliber had to offer, projects were initiated to produce an anti-tank version called the 8.8 cm PaK 43 and to fit the gun onto tanks. Besides impenetrable armor, the 88 gun designated as the 8.8 cm KwK 36 and later the KwK 43 tank gun was the main advantage which made the Tiger tanks so dreaded by Allied servicemen.

88mm flak AA gun

Although its primary use was to ward off invading high-altitude bombers by using high-explosive ammo, on the ground the 88 caliber had a devastating effect, once supplied with armor-piercing shells and a variety of anti-tank projectiles.

Its successful service history is perhaps best described in the words of an American historian and WWII veteran. Paul Fussell wrote that American troops knew that the greatest single weapon of the war, the atomic bomb excepted, was the German 88-mm flat-trajectory gun, which brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers. The Allies had nothing as good.

8.8cm Flak. Photo: Mark Pellegrini / CC BY-SA 2.5 Flak 18 88 30 German Flak 18 88 mm anti aircraft artillery Flak 8,8 cm Flak Crew Paint Victory Kill Rings Flak 18 88mm gun Flak 88 gun ready to firing against aircraft Flak 88 Regiment 24 Artemowsk Winter 1941 Two 88 mm anti-aircraft guns stands ready for action. German 88 mm Artillery Flak 18 German anti aircraft gun Flak Flak 88 1944 Gobschelwitz Leipzig Germany A burnt out German 88 mm FlaK 36 gun and its SdKfz 8 half track near El Alamein, Egypt.

Flak 18 88 wwii artillery

Mauser Model 1888 (Gew 88 / Model 1888 Reichsgewehr)

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/31/2019 | Content © | The following text is exclusive to this site.

To remedy their defeat at the hands of the German Empire and North German Confederation in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), neighboring France moved to adopt the 8x50mmR Lebel cartridge for their new Lebel Model 1886. What made the adoption unique was the 8mm's smokeless powder design which immediately put the French Army at the forefront of small arms advancement. An 8-round tubular magazine allowed for a repeat fire action, an upgrade over all existing single-shot designs. The weapon was a standard bolt-action weapon featuring an outward-turned bolt handle and of typical "long gun" arrangement of the period sporting a solid wooden stock and grooved, single-banded wooden forend. Support was, of course, retained for a bayonet. Some 2.8 million of the type would ultimately be produced.

The move naturally spurred the Germans into action for their existing Mauser Model 1871 line was now made largely obsolete. It still relied on a black powder cartridge, featured an upturned bolt-handle prone to snagging and made use of the larger, slower 11x60mmR cartridge. It originally appeared as a single-shot form though this was eventually addressed through the Model 1871/84, with its 8-round tubular magazine, and the Model 1880/07 which supported a 5-round "stripper" clip feed. A shortened carbine version was also unveiled.

Nevertheless, the need to modernize was great against their long-time enemy. This positioned a German Army-led commission to issue formal specifications for both a new, small caliber, smokeless powder cartridge and a new service rifle to fire it. Interestingly, the commission moved away from the Mauser influence and focused on a Mannlicher-type clip-loading magazine approach with features of the Model 1889 "Belgian Mauser" and the competing French Lebel. The barrel was rifled with a pattern largely taken from the Lebel while the gun was given a single-piece wooden body with integrated straight handle grip and solid wooden stock. The action resided in the main section of the body with an outward-projecting bolt-handle. The trigger was underslung with its ring integrating into the projecting magazine assembly. A barrel jacket was fitted around the barrel assembly. Support for a field bayonet was managed through a mounting at the right side of the barrel shroud. Overall weight was 8.4lbs, decidedly lighter than the Lebel, with an overall length of 49 inches managing a 29 inch barrel - both qualities shorter than the Lebel. The commission also developed the corresponding new cartridge which became the M88 and up to five of these were loaded into the fixed magazine assembly. Sights were fitted ahead of the action and at the muzzle.

The weapon was adopted as the Model 1888 and known under other names as well - Gewehr 88 (Gew 88), Model 1888 Commission Rifle and Model 1888 Reichsgewehr. Manufacture was across Germany, Austria and Prussia through Ludwig Loewe & Company, Osterreichische Waffenfabriks-Gesellshcaft,C. G. Haenel, Steyr-Mannlicher and V. C. Schilling & Company while several national arsenals also became involved (Amberg, Danzig, Erfurt, Spandau).

In practice, the Model 1888 proved a sound bolt-action service rifle, perhaps one of the best of the new generation smokeless powder-firing types. The barrel jacket of the original models was soon given up when it was found that they trapped moisture which led to rusted barrels within. A new, reinforced barrel was instituted in 1891 and this was followed by a new rifling pattern in 1896. In early 1890, a short-bodied form was introduced as a carbine variant and another short rifle variant emerged in 1891.

In April of 1903, the German Army dispensed with the original "round-nose" M88 commission-led cartridge and adopted the new 7.92x57mm Mauser "pointed" bullet cartridge. This change begat the Model 1888S designation which appeared in 1905. The switch to the new cartridge also brought about use of "clip-loading" in which containers housed five ready-to-fire, stacked cartridges and entered as a whole unit into the weapon - helping to speed reloading. This adoption led to the new designation of Model 1888/05.

The Gew 88 remained in service from 1888 to 1915 which allowed for its availability in World War 1 (1914-1918). Over 100,000 of the type were in circulation and these pressed into service when the German Empire committed to war alongside their Austro-Hungarian cousins following the assassination of one of their royalty (Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria). Some German troops went to war with their charger-loading, bolt-action Model 1888s and variants which reportedly gave a good account of themselves. The fighting began in July of 1914 and degraded into a slog-fest of trench warfare by December (many expecting the fighting to be over by Christmas). In that month, a revised charger-loading version appeared as the Model 1888/14 which featured engraved guides at the bridge to facilitate reloading. Thousands of the guns also made their way to Austrian-Hungarian inventories (as the "Repetiergewehr M13") and even more were shipped to the equipment-strapped allied Ottoman Empire (Turkey).

The Gew 88 officially served with German forces until 1915 though other operators persisted with the type much longer - many still appearing in the fighting during World War 2. Illegal copies were fabricated at the Hanyang Arsenal of China and designated as "Hanyang 88" for use by the Qing Dynasty. The Gew 88 was eventually superseded by the excellent Gewehr 98 which proved a substantial upgrade over the Commission Rifle - considered the pinnacle of Mauser bolt-action rifles - and saw extensive service throughout World War 1 and World War 2 as a standard German Army service rifle.

Gew 88 rifles were also featured in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) against the British Empire and the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) which involved China, Europe and the United States. Due to early teething issues coupled with production at some "Jewish-owned" factories, the German press began to deride Gew 88s as the "Judenflinte" or "Jewish Rifle"/"Jews' Musket". This insult, however, proved inaccurate for more Gew 88 factories than not were owned by non-Jews.

The Huge 88mm Flak Gun Was So Effective The Nazis Put It On Their Tanks

The German 88mm gun, originally designed as an antiaircraft artillery weapon, was equally effective as an antitank gun.

As the gun’s use expanded to other roles so did the different types of rounds employed by the Nazis. A 1944 German ordnance listing includes 19 different rounds. That includes eight types of high-explosive (HE) rounds and seven armor-piercing (AP), with the rest being kineticenergy solid projectiles. The HE rounds employed two types of fuses. When used in an antiaircraft capacity, clockwork time fuses were employed. By the end of the war, a percussion element was added to the clockwork fuse mechanism. For use against ground targets, either type of fuse was used, with the clockwork mechanism able to produce deadly airbursts over Allied positions.

The AP rounds also proved deadly effective. Once the projectile penetrated the target, a small bursting charge was ignited by a delayed percussion fuse that had a tracer element in its base. The tracer aided the gunner and the delayed fused helped create mayhem inside the target. Not fully satisfied with that, the Germans went on to produce the AP40 rounds for use with antitank and tank guns. These used tungsten carbide penetrator slugs minus a bursting charge that carried more energy for their weight and size. Fortunately for the Allies, use of the AP40 rounds was restricted by the limited supply of tungsten carbide.

The basic AP round used chemical energy rather than kinetic energy. The round used the hollow-charge principle to penetrate armor with an exceptionally high temperature jet formation that burned its way into the target. Most of these rounds were largely used by the feared Tiger I tank.

Mounting the 88 Onto the First Tigers

The Germans developed the Sd Kfz 7, a semitracked vehicle, to haul the 88s on their Sonderanhanger 201 trailers. This specially designed vehicle was basically an artillery tractor, with tracks on the back and traditional tires on the front steering axel. The tracks provided cross-country mobility, contributing greatly to the usefulness of the 88, especially on the poor roads of the Eastern Front that were often no more than muddy paths.

The Germans were so impressed with the 88 that as early as 1936 plans were afoot to mount the weapon on a tank that eventually became the Tiger I.

While the ballistics of the German 88mm KwK 36 tank gun and antiaircraft guns were identical, the tank gun had a one-piece barrel and a thin jacket. Like other German tank guns, the breech block used a vertical sliding action in place of the horizontal sliding block used on the antiaircraft guns. The recoil mechanism was different and there was a double-baffle muzzle brake to lessen stress on the vehicle.

The trigger on the tank was repositioned from the breech block to the gunner’s elevated hand wheel. The heavy and well-armored turret was slow moving, adding to the tank’s ponderous reputation. The rounds were the same as used on the FlaK 18-37 series of antiaircraft guns, except for the use of the electrical primers that relied on a 12-volt vehicle battery. Some 92 rounds could be carried around and under the turret, although crews often did manage to store additional rounds.

The accuracy and distance of the Tiger I’s 88 gun often resulted in a “one shot, one kill” ratio for the Germans against Allied tanks and their crews.

The size and the weight of the 63-ton Tiger, coupled with its somewhat underpowered V-12, 700 horsepower Mayback engine hindered mobility and usefulness on the battlefield, despite its fearsome gun.

A Self-Propelled Gun With 360-Degree Maneuverability

The Germans also used the 88mm gun as a self-propelled gun. That further improved its mobility and increased its usefulness for close-in support for ground troops. This resulted in the Selbstfahrlafette with armor protecting the engine and driver. Six of these tank hunters were used successfully in the battle for France. However, the vehicle proved top heavy and provided very little space for the crew to operate the gun. There was limited movement in the gun, little space for carrying ammunition, and no provision for outriggers to stabilize the gun when firing. These were succeeded by the Zugkraftwagen 18t, a larger, more powerful and more heavily armored vehicle that could travel at 40 kilometers per hour. The gun on that vehicle could be elevated and swung 360 degrees for anti-aircraft use. It came with outrigger legs and a more accommodating firing platform for the crew.

Initial plans called for 112 units, but only 14 were produced by June 1943 when production ceased when other programs were given greater priority. As Germany’s military prospects continued to diminish, additional prototypes appeared, included one mounted on a converted bus chassis. The few that were actually produced were rushed to the Eastern Front in an effort to slow the advancing Red Army.

The 88 also was mounted on railway cars and used there in antiaircraft roles. In some cases, full railway batteries were positioned in the railroad yards. The Germans also mounted the guns on the Siebel Ferry, a shallow draught, twinhulled craft. These floating gun platform-ferry combinations proved quite effective and were used in the successful evacuation of two German divisions and all their equipment from Sicily.

The 88 On the Tiger II

Developments continued on the basic FlaK gun, resulting in the emergence of the 88 FlaK 41 that first saw real action in late 1943 in Tunisia. The barrel had been lengthened to the point that it had five main components. The multi-segment barrel initially presented difficulties similar to early multi-barrels. The gun proved to be a significant improvement on earlier models, despite its complexity and high cost of production. The number of barrel segments was first reduced to four and then to three in an effort to reduce jamming. The gun’s maximum ceiling was 19,800 meters from 10,600 meters.

The German 88mm FlaK 41used an 858mm long cartridge, significantly longer than the cartridge used by its predecessors. The FlaK 41 was used primarily for air defense in the West, so its anti-armor use was limited. The Germans found that it could outperform the older but larger caliber 10.5cm FlaK 38 and 39 heavy antiaircraft guns.

The Germans also designed an 88 PaK 43 as a dedicated antitank weapon, with the first ones coming off the production lines by the end of 1943. It soon became widely recognized as perhaps the best all around antitank gun of the war. It could easily provide firepower in a full 360degree traverse and it could penetrate the frontal armor of any Allied tank on the field. The gun’s distinctive, heavily sloping front armor could deflect most oncoming rounds. The barrel was produced in two segments and the breech was semi-automatic. The gun’s maximum possible range was 15,150 meters, enabling it to be used as a supporting field gun in addition to its antitank role.

The 88 PaK 43 was modified and placed on the Tiger II tank. This feared tank was designed to hold 40 HE and 40 AP rounds, and it first saw action in early 1944 on the Eastern Front. The Tiger II weighed in at nearly 69 tons—substantially heavier than its predecessor—yet it was still powered by the same Mayback engine, causing concern among the German military because of the Tiger II’s lack of speed, mobility, and exceptionally high fuel consumption. Because of those limitations, toward the end of the war it was used more in a defensive role.

Anti-Aircraft to Anti-Tank

The PaK 43 also was employed as a self-propelled gun in a number of forms, including the Nashorn (Rhinoceros) and the Ferdinand. The latter was rushed into service for the Battle of Kursk in 1943 where 89 were reportedly used. The Ferdinands destroyed some 200 Soviet tanks, according to some reports, despite initial design flaws. The survivors of the fierce Kursk fighting were extensively rebuilt and were rebranded as the Elefant.

The PaK 43 was also placed on the Panzerjager Panther—or Jagdpanther—a fast-moving tank killer. It weighed in at 46 tons, could store up to 60 rounds, and could travel at speeds of 48 kilometers per hour. Fewer than the 425 units produced were actually delivered, but the Jagdpanther was pressed into action on all fronts where it earned the grudging respect of the Allies.

Interestingly, both Britain and the United States had guns with somewhat similar antiaircraft capabilities as the 88 FlaK. Both the British 94mm and the American 90mm could fire higher and loft larger projectiles. On paper they could outperform the German gun, many contend. Both weapons, though, were bulkier and heavier. The Allies restricted those guns to their initial antiaircraft roles, while the Germans expanded the 88’s role to antitank and against fortified ground positions. This, in turn, led to other advances in terms of power rammers, fuse-setting devices, and improved ammunition handling systems—-all of which made the weapon far more versatile and effective.

The German’s flexible and innovative approach to the initial 88 FlaK permitted them to learn and adapt as the war progressed, improving the antiaircraft fire capabilities of the weapon and they successfully modified it for tank, antitank, and related ground roles. This contributed greatly to the 88’s lasting reputation as the legendary large gun of World War II.

The Deadly 88 — Was Germany’s Flak 18/37 the best gun of World War Two?

IN DECEMBER 1940, the Allies chased the Italian army out of Egypt and back into Libya. Operation Compass was a brilliantly executed Blitzkrieg-style campaign spearheaded by the new British Matilda II tank.

Although not a particularly fast machine (its top speed was under 10 km/h), the Matilda’s 78 mm (3.1 inch) frontal armour was impervious to Italian anti-tank guns. Even Germany’s 37 mm and 50 mm anti-tank weapons couldn’t penetrate the exterior of the new 25-ton British fighting vehicle.

By the spring of 1941, the Allies were confident that the Matilda could still drive through Axis defenses. At the insistence of London, Archibald Wavell, commander of British forces in the Middle East, devised a plan to break the German siege of the port of Tobruk. Operation Battleaxe relied on Matildas advancing west through the Halfaya Pass as supporting armoured units moved along the coast.

Ominously, an operation earlier in the year (codenamed Brevity) saw four Matildas shot up by German guns at long range. Unfortunately for British tank crews, the Afrika Korps was now using the Flak 18 88 mm anti-aircraft gun in an anti-tank role.

As Operation Battleaxe kicked off on June 15, 1941, Matildas advancing towards the Halfaya Pass were cut down with surgical precision by just five German 88s. Of the 18 Allied tanks put out of action on the first day of the offensive, 15 fell victim to Flak 18s.

It also didn’t help the British that the combined German/Italian force holding Halfaya was led by a remarkable combat solder: Captain Wilhelm Bach. The decorated 49-year-old commander was a combat veteran having previously served in the First World War. He was wounded during the 1940 invasion of France and a year later, he still walked with a limp (he was the one officer in the Afrika Korps allowed to use a walking stick). Bach was rarely without a cigar in his mouth, even if unlit. Yet his command style was far from that of the stereotypical gruff Prussian martinet. In fact, he’d worked as a Lutheran pastor between the wars. He spoke softly and often encouraged his men with biblical passages. They adored him and called him “Papa Willi”.

Bach’s small force (about 900 men, 400 of them Germans from his own battalion of the 105th Infantry Regiment) performed with exemplary skill and resolve over the course of Battleaxe. Despite being cut off in the first 24 hours of the Allied assault, the unit fought on, even as their water ran out. After three days, a German counter attack linked up with them.

It also didn’t help the Allies that their communications methods were totally amateurish. British troops transmitted over open radios using what they thought were cunning circumlocutions. The German listening posts instantly cracked the codes. The tank commander who radioed, “my horse has thrown a shoe,” to his superiors could not have made it more obvious to enemy intelligence that he had lost a track. Not surprisingly, Bach’s men at Halfaya had a pretty good idea not only that they were to be attacked, but from what direction.

Despite this, the key to Bach’s success was technological. The once-fearsome Matilda (six months before nicknamed the Queen of the Desert) was now a sitting duck for a well-sited 88. The tank’s main armament, the two-pounder (40 mm) gun, couldn’t fire high explosive shells. In fact, none of the Matildas destroyed in June 1941 troubled the gunners of the German 88s.

Cyril Joly in his excellent book Take These Men described the impact of an 88mm round on a British tank:

“As I spoke I saw the flame and smoke from the German’s gun. In the next instant, all was chaos. There was a clang of steel on the turret front and a blast of flame and smoke from the same place, which seemed to spread into the turret, where it was followed by another dull explosion. The shockwave, which followed, swept past me, singed my hands and face and left me breathless and dazed. I looked down into the turret. It was a shambles. The shot had penetrated the front just in front of King, the loader. It had twisted the machine-gun out of its mounting. It, or a jagged piece of the torn turret, had then hit the round that King had been holding ready – had set it on fire. The explosion had wrecked the wireless, tore King’s head and shoulders from the rest of his body and started a fire among the machine-gun boxes stowed on the floor.”

It’s possible to argue that later anti-tank guns, like the Sherman Firefly’s 17-pounder or the Soviet 100 mm Model 1944, were technically as good or even better than the German 88. Certainly, the Nazis themselves would later develop an even more effective anti-tank weapon, the PAK 43. But it’s hard to argue with the devastating effect that the 88 had in 1941 in the Western Desert, or the fact that it was the only weapon that German troops knew could stop the fearsome Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks when they encountered them during Operation Barbarossa. That famous battle opened just days after the 88s had crucified the British Matildas during Operation Battleaxe.

As a British tankman taken prisoner in June 1941 complained to his German captors: “In our opinion it’s unfair to use ‘flak’ against our tanks.”

You can find more about the technical specs and history of the deadly 88 in a free “Rapid Read” ebook available on the German War Machine website: Follow them on Twitter @GermanWarM

100 Totally Useless Facts That Are Too Entertaining for Words

Take cover, because we're about to drop some seriously random knowledge on you.


There are animal facts, there are historical facts, there are state facts, there are Disney facts, and then, there are useless facts—the kind of trivia you will never, ever need to know. But hey, that's part of the fun, right? From the type of music that can ward off mosquitoes to the shocking food you can turn into diamonds, you'll love learning these useless facts. Now, we dare you to try to find a reason to use them!


Unless you live in the United Kingdom where it's proper to write 101 as "one hundred and one," there is no number from 1 to 999 that includes the letter "a" in its word form, according to longtime math teacher Jonathan Garnett-Smith. One, two, three, four, five, six… twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty… You can keep going, but you won't find the first letter of the alphabet until you hit "one thousand."


While we assume that all oranges are orange in color because of their name, the fruit is often green when ripe, thanks to plenty of chlorophyll. In South America and other tropical locales, oranges are green year round. But in the U.S., where it's colder, oranges lose their chlorophyll and take on the color that matches their name. And because North American shoppers are used to oranges that are actually orange, imported fruit is either exposed to ethylene gas or shocked with cold water in order to remove the chlorophyll.


If you take a look, you'll see that one and six are on opposite sides of the cube (1+6=7), as are two and five (2+5=7), and three and four (3+4=7). And if you want to understand more about this amazing but useless fact, The Guardian offers a deeper explanation.

According to a 2012 study published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology, humans are 13.8 percent more likely to die on their birthday than on any other day of the year. That's according to Swiss mortality statistics from 1969 to 2008. We've got to say, that study is (morbidly) interesting!


Playing electronic dance music (EDM) could be just what you need to scare away those pesky mosquitoes in the summer. According to one 2019 study published in the journal Acta Topica, the Skrillex song "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" combines "very high and very low frequencies" as well as "excessive loudness and constantly escalating pitch" that discourages the yellow fever mosquito from biting victims and mating.


There are four kings in every deck of cards. And while they all look similar, the King of Hearts is the only royal fellow who doesn't have a mustache. According to The Guardian, the so-called "suicide king" (who earned his name because it looks like he's stabbing himself in the head with a sword) wasn't always bare-faced. He mistakenly lost his facial hair in a redesign.


The English language is full of idiosyncrasies, and the word "dreamt" is one of them. According to Oxford Dictionaries, "dreamt" (and its variations, such as "undreamt") is the only word in the English language that ends with the letters "mt."


The next time you're wearing a pair of jeans, take a look at the pockets. Do you see those little metal studs on the corners? They're not just there to add some extra pizzazz to your pants they actually have a purpose. These rivets, according to Levi Strauss & Co., are placed on certain spots to add extra support where the denim is more likely to wear out and rip.


There will always be fierce debates over whether or not pineapple has any place on a pizza, but there's no question about where the Hawaiian pizza originally came from: Chatham, Ontario, Canada! Restaurant owner Sam Panopoulos was born in Greece but moved to Canada when he was 20 years old. And in 1962, the entrepreneur decided to put pineapple on pizza.

Panopoulos, who passed away in 2017, once told the BBC, "We just put it on, just for the fun of it, see how it was going to taste. We were young in the business and we were doing a lot of experiments." The name apparently came from the brand of canned pineapple that Panopoulos used on that fateful day he invented the Hawaiian pizza.


Go into the darkest room that you can find, one where there's no light at all, and spend a few minutes with your eyes closed. Then, open them up and take a look around. While you'd expect to be staring into pitch-blackness, you'll actually notice that you're seeing a sort of dark gray shade. And that color has a name: It's called "eigengrau."


Cats can jump surprisingly high, slip through the tightest spaces, and seemingly have nine lives. But there's one thing they can't do: taste sweet things. According to a 2007 article in Scientific American, unlike other mammals, felines can't taste sweetness due to the fact that they "lack 247 base pairs of the amino acids that make up the DNA of the Tas1r2 gene. As a result, it does not code for the proper protein … and it does not permit cats to taste sweets."


While most of us are happy to slap some peanut butter between two slices of bread, scientist Dan Frost of the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany did something a little bit different with his peanut butter: He made a diamond. Frost studies the conditions of Earth's mantle and has found ways to mimic them in his lab. According to the BBC, the high pressures of the mantle can strip oxygen from carbon dioxide and leave behind the carbon to form a diamond. And since peanut butter is already rich in carbon, Frost was able to transform the nutty goodness into a shiny jewel.


If you ever see a group of hippos, you can inform everyone around you that you're looking at a "bloat." The BBC laid out the story behind the word, which comes from The Book of St Albans (also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms), written by Juliana Berners, a 15th-century English Benedictine prioress. She came up with multiple terms to describe groups of animals including a "swarm of bees" and a "gaggle of geese."


You probably know your fair share of men who sport some sort of facial hair. But if you suffer from pogonophobia—the fear of beards—then you'd rather avoid them. And it turns out, this fear could be justified: A 2018 study published in the journal European Radiology suggests that beards contain "significantly higher" amounts of bacteria than dogs do.


With "A" and "S" being beside each other on the middle row of the standard QWERTY keyboard and "K" and "L" over on the other side of the same row, Alaska is the only state name that you can type out using a single row on a keyboard.


If you find yourself only able to use the left side of your computer's keyboard, there are still plenty of words that you can type out. By using Q, W, E, R, T, A, S, D, F, G, Z, X, C, V, and B—the letters on the left side of the standard keyboard—you can not only tap out whoppers like "tesseradecades," "aftercataracts," and "sweaterdresses," you can also type "great," "vast," "water," "starter," "cascades," "retracts," "affects," "trees," "caves," "crests," "waver," "reverberate," "sat," "far," "raced," "faster," "created," "craters," "graves," "wasted," "arrested," and (perhaps best of all) "abracadabra!"


According to a 2017 study by British non-profit UKActive, adults spend an average of 3 hours and 9 minutes on the toilet each week, but only spend around 1 hour and 30 minutes being physically active during that same time span. Maybe this somewhat useless, but also motivating fact is what we needed to hear to get to the gym.


If you've ever broken a nail way down near the base—or lost one completely—you know they take quite a while to grow back. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology says that a fingernail takes around six months to grow from base to tip and toenails can take up to a year. But a couple factors tend to speed that process up: Fingernails grow faster on your dominant hand as well as on your bigger fingers, and nails also grow faster during the daytime as well as during the summer months.


You've probably said you'll be "back in a jiffy" at least a few times in your life. But what you might not realize is that you made a promise you couldn't keep. According to, a "jiffy" is an actual unit of time—and a very short one at that. Sometime during the late 18th or early 19th centuries, scientist Gilbert Newton Lewis defined a jiffy as the amount of time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum, which is about 33.4 picoseconds or one trillionth of a second. That's a short (and pretty much useless) amount of time indeed!


You might have seen a dragonfly hanging out on a plant in your garden or zipping around in the air above a pond. But we can guarantee that you've never seen a dragonfly parading across a picnic table or strolling along a branch. That's because, despite having six legs like other insects, a dragonfly's legs are too weak for them to walk on for lengthy amounts of time.


When you're on the golf course, you're probably paying more attention to what club you're using than the details of each golf ball. But if you did take notice of the specifics, you might discover that your golf balls can have anywhere between 300 and 500 "dimples," though most tend to have 336. According to the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, "golf balls are usually covered with dimples in a highly symmetrical way," which "is important or the ball will wobble."


In many cities, you can pick up a Quarter Pounder or some McNuggets on every other block. However, it's not as easy for residents of Montpelier, Vermont, to get a Big Mac. That's because it's the only U.S. state capital that doesn't have a McDonald's. As the smallest state capital in terms of population (approximately 7,500), the city doesn't have a Burger King, either. Sorry, Whopper lovers! To enjoy a meal from either fast food chain, Montpelier residents can simply head over to the neighboring city of Barre.


As they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away—unless you eat too many apple seeds, that is. The tiny black seeds found in the fruit contain a plant compound called amygdalin that turns into hydrogen cyanide if the seeds are chewed or digested, according to Medical News Today. Seeing as cyanide is poisonous (even deadly in high doses), you should definitely spit those seeds out. Do the same for apricot, peach, and cherry seeds, which contain the compound as well.

Walt Disney

Mulan is fierce, brave, and incredibly inspirational. But she's also incredibly deadly. In fact, she was not only the first Disney princess to kill someone on-screen in the 1998 film Mulan, but she also has the highest kill-count of any Disney character, according to UNILAD. Mulan took out nearly 2,000 people over the course of the animated film, including the evil Hun leader, Shan Yu, and 1,994 Huns by triggering an avalanche.


Human bodies can sometimes feel vulnerable and fragile. But if you want to feel like a superhero, keep in mind that human bone is actually stronger than both steel and concrete. "Bone is extraordinarily strong—ounce for ounce, bone is stronger than steel, since a bar of steel of comparable size would weigh four or five times as much," biomedical engineer Cindy Bir told Live Science in 2010. "A cubic inch of bone can in principle bear a load of 19,000 lbs. (8,626 kg) or more—roughly the weight of five standard pickup trucks—making it about four times as strong as concrete."


Birds can do some pretty amazing things. For example, frigate birds can sleep while flying. That's because they can snooze while using only one hemisphere of the brain at a time, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Nature Communications.


Maybe you already knew that Jupiter was the biggest planet of them all. But did you know just how big? Not only is it more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined, but if Earth were the size of a grape, Jupiter would be the size of a basketball, according to NASA.


Blood vessels are incredibly small, measuring around five micrometers (for reference, a strand of our hair is about 17 micrometers). However, because we have so many in our body, The Franklin Institute explains that if you laid them out in a single row, a child's blood vessels would stretch more than 60,000 miles, while an adult's would measure around 100,000 miles long.


While many other languages include written accents throughout their alphabets, English only has two letters that include a "diacritic dot," according to That small mark you make over a lowercase "i" and a lowercase "j" is called a "tittle." It's likely a combination of the words "tiny" and "little" since it is an itty-bitty dot.


While we used to think that dinosaurs were giant lizard-like creatures that roamed the earth, it's now widely accepted that dinosaurs have more in common with present-day birds than they do with oversized reptiles. Research out of Harvard University in 2008 confirmed that the Tyrannosaurus rex shared more of its genetic makeup with ostriches and chickens than with alligators and crocodiles.


In the late 2010s, artist Anish Kapoor won the exclusive rights to use the color called vantablack, the "blackest black," meaning no other artist could use it. This didn't sit well with other creative-types, which is why Stuart Semple created the "pinkest pink," which he made available for purchase to anyone except Kapoor.

He even included a message to potential buyers, writing, "By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information, and belief this paint will not make its way into that hands of Anish Kapoor."


When Pixie Wireless Tracker commissioned the largest independent lost and found survey in the U.S. in April 2017, the research showed that Americans spend around 2.5 days each year in total looking for their lost things. The most commonly misplaced items, according to the survey, are remotes, phones, keys, and glasses. Luckily, the survey also found that 29 percent of people who have lost their wallet or purse have had them returned to them. Those are pretty good odds!


If you've ever been told to pinch your nose while taking medicine so that you don't have to suffer through the awful taste, you might want to follow that advice. Our sense of smell is responsible for interpreting around 80 percent of what we taste, according to the University of Florida's Center for Smell and Taste. That means that without being able to smell apples, potatoes, and onions, they're indistinguishable. If you want to watch a few people try, check out this video from Food Beast. Or just trust us—it works!


It would be nearly impossible to properly read without periods, commas, exclamation points, and question marks. But it turns out that punctuation wasn't always a part of our written language. According to the BBC, a librarian named Aristophanes from the Egyptian city of Alexandria in the 3rd century B.C. attempted to introduce a form of punctuation into a system that not only didn't use it, but also didn't bother to use capital letters or include spaces between words. While Aristophanes' version of punctuation didn't stick around, Christian writers in the 6th century began to punctuate their text, and eventually, we ended up with the punctuation system we use today.


The game of Monopoly dates back to 1903, according to The New York Times. And while it's seen plenty of changes throughout the years, the current version we know and love features a snazzy top hat-wearing man with a mustache who's holding a cane. While you may know him as rich Uncle Pennybags, his real name is Milburn Pennybags. And he's not the only member of the game who has a name. The Monopoly policeman is officially called Officer Edgar Mallory.


If you were to draw an infinity sign, you would create a sort of figure-eight that looped in a continuous, unbroken line. You could also say that you're sketching out a lemniscate, which is another word for the infinity sign and means "decorated with ribbons" in Latin.


Taco Bell may feature a big bell on its logo, but the fast food chain didn't take its name from the musical instrument. The restaurant was actually named after its owner, Glen Bell, who opened the first Bell's Drive-In and Taco Tia in San Bernardino, California, in 1954. Bell's first restaurant named Taco Bell opened in Downey, California, in 1962.


While we'd hope you wouldn't hunt down a camel even if you did see one, you should know that in Arizona it's actually illegal, according to the Maricopa County Bar Association. And while this might seem like a useless law, it was once totally necessary. That's because camels did, in fact, populate the Arizona desert back in the 1800s after they were brought to the States by the U.S. Army.

Jack Ramu / Shutterstock

The squirrels in your neighborhood are most likely brown, black, or grey. But in southern India, there are giant technicolor squirrels. Weighing around four pounds and measuring up to three feet from head to tail, the Malabar giant squirrel looks more like a rainbow-inspired muppet than something that you'd find in the forest stateside. Amateur photographer Kaushik Vijayan was able to snap some spectacular shots of one of the creatures in 2019 and told CBS News, "I felt so amazed by how drop-dead gorgeous it looked. It was indeed a jaw-dropping sight to behold."


In 1966, Fredric Baur developed the ingenious idea for Procter & Gamble to uniformly stack chips inside a can instead of tossing them in a bag.

Baur was so proud of his invention that he wanted to take it to the grave—literally. He communicated his burial wishes to his family, and when he died at 89, his children stopped at Walgreens on their way to the funeral home to buy the burial Pringles can for his ashes. They did have one decision to make, though. "My siblings and I briefly debated what flavor to use," Baur's eldest son, Larry, told Time. "But I said, 'Look, we need to use the original.'" And that's exactly what they went with.


After multiple people claimed that they had passed kidney stones while riding Walt Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride, a research team from Michigan State University decided to take a look at the situation in 2016. When they conducted tests using a model kidney, they found that there was a 64 percent successful pass rate for those seated in the rear of the roller coaster. But that number was just 16 percent for those seated in the front.

Unfortunately, this only worked on Big Thunder Mountain. "We tried Space Mountain and Aerosmith's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and both failed," the study's lead author David Wartinger, a professor emeritus at Michigan State's Department of Osteopathic Surgical Specialties, said in a statement. "The ideal coaster is rough and quick with some twists and turns, but no upside down or inverted movements."


They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And if you're the kind of person who wakes up hungry, then perhaps your mouth will water over the fact that in Oct. 2019, the Federación Nacional de Avicultores de Colombia made the largest scrambled eggs ever, a process that took quite a few chefs to pull off.

After mixing 59,758 eggs—along with a whole lot of butter, milk, onion, and garlic—the dish wound up weighing 6,860 pounds and 12.57 ounces, which is about 3.4 tons. The pan used to prepare the history-making dish was over 39 feet long and 13 feet wide.


Dr. Seuss is responsible for coming up with some wild and wacky words. But we can also thank the children's book author for a very common term: nerd. American Heritage Dictionary explains that "nerd" first appeared in Seuss' 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo. The passage reads, "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo and bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo. A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker, too!"

According to Merriam-Webster, a year later, Newsweek included the word "nerd" in an article about the latest slang, writing, "In Detroit, someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd, or in less severe cases, a scurve." Unfortunately, "scurve" didn't catch on in the same way.


The nine-letter word "spoonfeed" is the longest word that's spelled with letters that are arranged completely in reverse alphabetical order. "Trollied" comes in second place with eight letters.


If you're trying to locate Rome on a map, you'd probably head right to the boot-shaped country of Italy. But Europe isn't the only continent that decided to use that particular name, or rather, the Italian version, "Roma." In fact, there's a Rome on every continent except Antarctica, according to National Geographic.


You surely know what it feels like when your heart starts pumping wildly, so imagine what it must be like for an octopus or squid, which each have three hearts. The cephalopods both have one systemic heart that circulates blood around the body and two branchial hearts that pump blood through the gills.


Ray Tomlinson is often credited with inventing email (although that claim has been disputed). He sent the first email message to himself while trying out the revolutionary form of online communication in 1971. "The test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them," he wrote on his website. "Most likely the first message was QWERTYUIOP or something similar. When I was satisfied that the program seemed to work, I sent a message to the rest of my group explaining how to send messages over the network. The first use of network email announced its own existence."


At some point in time, for whatever reason, someone decided to give a name to the lint that collects in the bottom of your pockets. And that name is hilariously "gnurr."


In Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, there's a small 1,600-square-foot piece of land that sticks out into a pond. This little area may not have an official name, but some know it as Busta Rhymes Island—yes, as in Busta Rhymes the rapper. Shrewsbury resident Kevin O'Brien has been diligently geo-tagging the spot on Google Maps in hopes that it will eventually come to be known by the moniker.

However, a celebrity has to have been dead for at least five years before a place can officially be named after them—and so it will probably (hopefully) be a while until every Massachusetts map lists Busta Rhymes Island.


It's hard to imagine ketchup without the sweet tomatoey taste, but when the condiment was originally invented, it was actually a fish- or mushroom-based mixture. Ohio physician John Cook Bennet was one of the first people to add tomatoes to ketchup in 1834, Fast Company reports. And because it was rich in vitamins and antioxidants, the doctor claimed that the product, which he sold in pill form, could help cure diarrhea and indigestion.


Even casual cereal eaters probably know that the Rice Krispie mascots are called Snap, Crackle, and Pop. But only cereal connoisseurs will be able to tell you that Cap'n Crunch is just a nickname. The next time you're enjoying a bowl for breakfast, you can tell everyone around you that his full name happens to be much more formal: Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch (yes, Magellan, like the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan).


If you've ever wondered why movie previews are called "trailers" even though they're shown before a film, then you'll be interested to discover that their name was once more accurate. When trailers were first introduced in the early 1910s—the first one being for a Charlie Chaplin movie—they were shown after the movie, i.e. "trailing" it. But when advertisers realized that audiences were leaving immediately after the feature film ended, the "trailers" were moved to the preview position, where they remain today along with their ironic name.


When the public started using the phone back in the 1800s, inventor Alexander Graham Bell thought they should answer a call with "ahoy." (That's likely why Mr. Burns on The Simpsons says "ahoy-hoy" when he picks up the phone.) However, Bell's rival, Thomas Edison, wanted users to answer the phone with "hello." And, according to The New York Times, by 1880, "hello" had won out.


Desserts don't have to be super complicated to be delicious. Take pound cake, for example. Not only is it made from some pretty common ingredients—butter, eggs, sugar, and flour—but its name comes from the fact that the original recipe called for a pound of each item, according to What's Cooking America. While that may seem like a lot, the simple recipe (which dates back to Britain in the 1700s) was easy to remember during a time when not everyone could read.


We've all seen movies where people are sucked into space before meeting their doom in various ghastly ways. However, the truth is probably much more intense. According to IFL Science, if you found yourself in outer space without a spacesuit, "you'd swell up, burn, mutate, pass out, and your lungs might explode." Wondering about that mutation element? Well, IFL Science explains that the UV and other high energy photons (X-rays and gamma radiation) would "damage your DNA, leading to mutations that would likely cause cancer (if you survived)."


The word "rainbow" is already one of the most beautiful words in the English language. And it turns out that those who spoke Victorian English had a similarly beautiful term for the stunning arches of multi-colored light, according to The Washington Post: "bows of promise."


The mighty Mount Everest was first measured in 1856 by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India and was deemed to be 29,002 feet tall, according to Smithsonian magazine. However, in recent years, surveyors have come up with different numbers for the height of the peak (although its official height is 29,029 feet, thanks to a survey from the 1950s). And while it might just be human error that resulted in these contradicting measurements, another reason for the discrepancies could be that Everest has changed heights in the past few years.

In April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Himalayas and reshaped parts of the mountain range, Science Alert reported. Satellite data showed that some areas around Kathmandu lifted and the Langtang region dropped as much as five feet while Everest sank around an inch.


Whenever you got a new pair of shoes as a kid, your parents likely had you sit down in the store while the shoe salesperson measured your foot with a weird-looking metal tool. You probably never gave that handy-dandy foot-measuring contraption a second thought. But if you were curious, it happens to be called a Brannock Device, and it was invented by Charles Brannock and patented in 1926. His Brannock Device Company has been making them ever since.

Schmidt Institute

There are so many wonders waiting to be discovered deep within the ocean and scientists came across one of them in March 2019. While exploring an underwater volcano with a remotely operated vehicle some 6,500 feet under the sea, they spotted what appeared to be a small lake-like pool that was upside-down (and, obviously, underwater). And if that doesn't seem like it makes sense, that's because it doesn't.

Along with a video of the underwater illusion, the Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition explains, "The liquid in these upside down pools is hydrothermal vent fluid. Up to 320 degrees in temperature, it is a 'soup' of harsh chemicals—including sulfur and metals—that allows life to thrive in a deep dark ocean."

Mandy Joye, a professor at the University of Georgia and the lead scientist of the expedition, told Smithsonian magazine that "the immense beauty and majesty of the scene was overwhelming. It is something I will never forget."


Scientists are aware of the fact that space travel takes a toll on the human body. But it turns out that it also does something strange to mice. When 20 rodents were sent up to the International Space Station, they started to suddenly run in loops around their cage after just a week, according to a 2019 study published in Scientific Reports. Once one mouse started to run, the others quickly joined in. While researchers don't know exactly why the mice were acting like race cars circling a track at top speed, they think the little critters might simply have been enjoying the "rewarding effects of physical exercise."

Ministry of Information

During World War II, then 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth was a member of the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, making her the only woman in the British royal family to have served in the armed forces and the only living head of state to serve in the Second World War.

Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, as she was called during her service, trained as a mechanic and military truck driver, according to Time. Interestingly, Her Majesty is also the only person in Britain who doesn't need a driver's license to get behind the wheel!


According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2017, Americans produced an average of 4.51 pounds of trash per person per day. Paper and cardboard products were the biggest culprits, with yard trimmings, plastic products, and consumer electronics also making up a bulk of the trash. And while that may seem like a lot of trash, it was actually one of the lowest estimates since 1990. So we're certainly improving when it comes to taking care of the Earth!

When Ted Hastings' son asked him whether he could set an official Guinness World Record, he decided to give it a try. And on Feb. 17, 2019, he reached his goal by wearing 260 T-shirts at one time. Hastings was able to get 20 shirts on by himself, but after that, he required assistance from a team to help him into sizes ranging from medium to 20X. Around the 150-shirt mark, there were concerns about Hastings' ability to breathe due to the weight of the fabric, but he was determined to keep going and beat the previous record of 257 shirts.


According to a 2013 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, bottlenose dolphins each have their own special whistles, which are just like human names. "Bottlenose dolphins develop their own unique identity signal, the signature whistle," the researchers reported. "This whistle encodes individual identity independently of voice features. The copying of signature whistles may therefore allow animals to label or address one another."


You likely picture a sloth lounging around in a tree or slowly making its way from one branch to another. But it could also be in the water. In fact, the animal's arms, which are both long and strong, make them great swimmers. And you don't have to worry about their slow-moving ways being an issue: According to the ZSL London Zoo, sloths can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes, which is 30 minutes longer than a dolphin.


"Schoolmaster" is an old-school word for a male teacher. It also happens to be an anagram (meaning it uses the exact same letters) as "the classroom."


The next time you're planning a trip and want to head somewhere that's both breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly unique, check out Quebec City in Canada. In the capital of the province of Quebec, the Old Town (Vieux-Québec) area is the only fortified walled city in North America. It was founded by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century.


Ravens are notoriously clever creatures—so much so that they're aware of when they're being watched. A 2016 study published in the journal Nature Communications found that the super smart birds display what's called "theory of mind," which is the ability to attribute mental states to others. That means that ravens can tell when someone (or something) else can see them. In the 2016 study, researchers put this idea to the test and found that ravens acted as if they knew they were being watched when there was an open peephole available for other birds to spy on them.

20th Century Fox

Bruce Willis played the legendary John McClane in the Die Hard film franchise. But before Willis landed the role in the action-packed movies, the part was offered to singer Frank Sinatra, who was in his 70s at the time. While that may sound strange, it all has to do with a legal obligation.

The movie was based on the 1979 Roderick Thorp novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which was a follow-up to 1966's The Detective. In 1968, that novel had been made into a film starring Sinatra (not as John McClane, but as Joe Leland, a former New York cop who becomes a private investigator). When Sinatra signed on for The Detective, it was in his contract that the studio had to offer him the main part in the sequel. However, when that eventually happened, Ol' Blue Eyes refused the role.


You surely know that when bears and other animals sleep through the colder winter weather it's called "hibernation." But did you know that there's a name for sleeping through the summer? If you were to snooze the sun-soaked months away, then you would be indulging in "estivation." Snails, tortoises, salamanders, and crocodiles all estivate, as do the Malagasy fat-tailed dwarf lemur and East African hedgehogs.


Some of us eat more than others, but according to Kim Barrett, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, on average, men and women both produce around 14 ounces of feces every day. That equals a little over six pounds per week!


Genghis Khan wasn't only known for being the leader of the Mongol Empire from 1206 to 1227—he also fathered a lot of children. In fact, he sired so many offspring that a 2003 historical genetics paper found that around 16 million people alive today are his direct descendants.


Johnny Di Francesco of 400 Gradi restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, set the Guinness World Record for the cheesiest pizza by creating a pie using 154 different kinds of cheese. Di Francesco said he was inspired by the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in which the Donatello character claims that a 99-cheese pizza was a "culinary impossibility."

As a direct response to the movie, Di Francesco first came up with a pizza topped with 99 kinds of cheese. And it was such a success, he wanted to outdo himself. "We had an overwhelming response from our customers, so much so that they petitioned to have it a permanent menu item," he told Guinness World Records. "Since then we decided to up the ante and create a 154-cheese pizza. So my apologies Donatello, culinary impossibility debunked!"


When you think of the pope, you probably envision a holy man in robes, not an athlete. But Pope John Paul II was, in fact, a member of one of the most famous basketball teams in the world.

In 2000, the Harlem Globetrotters made the head of the Catholic church an honorary member of their squad. The CBC reported that the team's owner and chairman, Mannie Jackson, and some players met with the pope during a visit to the Vatican City where the pontiff was given an autographed basketball and his very own jersey.

Some smaller dogs have high-pitched yappy barks while larger dogs tend to have deep howls and low growls. But the Basenji is a breed of dog that doesn't bark at all—although that doesn't mean they're silent. Instead, according to the American Kennel Club, "they make their feelings known with an odd sound described as something between a chortle and a yodel."


Hopefully, the passwords you choose are unexpected and cryptic, unlike the vast majority of people who still use incredibly common ones. According to an analysis by SplashData, the most popular passwords of 2018 was "123456." That was followed by "password," "123456789," "12345678," "12345678," "12345," "111111," "1234567," and then, delightfully, "sunshine," and "iloveyou."


While your wallet may be filled with $5, $10, $20, $50, or even $100 bills, the government once decided that it might be handy to have some higher denominations available. That's why there were once banknotes of $500, $1,000, and even $5,000 value.

But the largest note ever issued for public circulation was the $10,000 bill, which featured a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury from 1861 to 1864. The bills were first printed in 1945, and on July 14, 1969, the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury announced that the larger bills would be discontinued due to lack of use.


The human body is capable of amazing things. For instance, when your brain sends messages via your nerves, the signals travel along billions of nerve cells (neurons), synapses, and neurotransmitters in a process that can be as speedy as 200 miles an hour, according to National Geographic.


Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie died as a result of the vast amounts of radiation she was exposed to during her groundbreaking work. But her body wasn't the only thing to absorb the emissions. Her clothes and belongings—including her furniture, cookbooks, and laboratory notes—were also saturated with the deadly radium particles. That's why, even though Curie died around 85 years ago, her possessions are still radioactive, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

And since radium has a half-life of 1,601 years, they're likely to stay that way for a while. Currently, Curie's laboratory notebooks are being safely stored in lead-lined boxes at France's Bibliotheque National in Paris. Anyone who wants to see them has to first to sign a liability waiver and then agree to wear protective gear.


If you're lucky, you may be able to see a panda or two at a nearby zoo, but that cute creature is most likely on loan from China. In fact, the majority of pandas around the world either come from China or, if they're born somewhere else, have to be sent to a Chinese breeding program before they turn four in order to expand the gene pool of the species.


Yes, you might stink when you're sweaty, but it's not the sweat that smells bad. Medical News Today explains that body odor—also known as B.O., bromhidrosis osmidrosis, or ozochrotia—is actually caused by bacteria breaking down the protein in sweat and turning it into certain (unpleasant) acids. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about it—except shower, of course.


There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love to sleep naked and those who could never drift off if they aren't wearing proper PJs. But according to a survey conducted in 2018 by, plenty of people prefer to head to bed in the buff. The poll found that 65 percent of millennials sleep in the nude.


If you're over 10 years old, you likely have around four to six dreams every single night, The National Sleep Foundation says. And, according to a 2003 study published by the Association for the Study of Dreams, the most common dreams include being chased or pursued, falling, school and studying, and sexual experiences.

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In 1977, Randy Newman sang, "Short people got no reason to live … Well, I don't want no short people … Round here." Although it's meant to be a satirical take on short-sighted people's intolerance and prejudice, the state of Maryland didn't take kindly to the tune. In 1978, delegate Isaiah Dixon Jr. tried to introduce legislation to make it illegal to play the song on the radio, proposing a $500 fine. However, his effort was unsuccessful the assistant attorney general deemed that the move would be a violation of the First Amendment.

The late Bob Ross, the host of The Joy of Painting, was known for being a soft-spoken artist with a signature hairstyle and a stunning talent for painting dreamy landscapes filled with happy trees. But he might not have ever been the painter we came to adore if he hadn't been in the U.S. Air Force, according to an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. While rising to the rank of Master Sergeant, Ross was also able to take a painting class, and he was inspired by the scenery in Alaska where he was stationed. The state's landscape would often pop up in his work throughout his artistic career.


The Earth may seem like a giant place, but our planet is incredibly small compared to the sun, which makes up an incredible 99.8 percent of our solar system's entire mass, according to the experts at


In the Old Town district in Alexandria, Virginia, John Hollensbury once owned a house on Queen Street. He apparently hated the fact that horse-drawn wagons would travel down the alley beside his building and wasn't fond of the people who liked to hang out in the space either. So, to spite them, he built a second tiny house in the alley to keep everyone out, which is how the home earned its name: the "Spite House," according to The New York Times. The house is seven feet wide and 25 feet deep. There's also a walled patio outside that goes back an additional 12 feet.


If you were to draw the devil, you'd probably give him horns, a tail, and a pitchfork. And even if you decided to take a few creative liberties, there's still a good chance you'd make your demon red from head to toe. But this is a modern interpretation. The oldest representations of Satan in early Christian art actually showed him as a blue angel, while the good angels were red.


When Parker Brothers released the first Nerf ball in 1970, they wanted the public to be aware of how safe the four-inch foam toy was. To do that, they included text on the box that told buyers, "Throw it indoors. You can't damage lamps or break windows." They also added, "You can't hurt babies or old people." What a selling point!


In April 2019, the Kasama Kita Sa Barangay Foundation and the people of Bayambang in the Philippines set the Guinness World Record for the tallest supported bamboo structure. They built a sculpture of St. Vincent Ferrer that stood 164 feet and 9 inches tall.


Although American readers may recognize the book as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the British story was originally titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. And when a few of the first editions were printed, there were some mistakes inside. On top of the word "philosopher" being misspelled on the back cover, "1 wand" was listed twice when it came to the supplies Harry was meant to take to school. When one of these books was up for auction in March 2019, it sold for a staggering $90,000.


Space is filled with all kinds of wonders, including an asteroid called "Kleopatra." While it sounds like an Egyptian queen, the metallic minor planet—which has two of its own moons, Alexhelios and Cleoselene—is similar in shape to a dog bone.


It turns out even Queen Elizabeth II's cows enjoy a life of luxury. The monarch's 165 dairy cows spend much of their time snoozing and relaxing on waterbeds, said Mark Osman, the manager of the royal's farm at Windsor Great Park, in an episode of BBC's Countryfile. "As the cow lies down, the water pushes underneath the pressure points where the cow lies, and the cow ends up floating," he said.

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In 1950, an Associated Press article titled "How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D." included a prediction from editor Dorothy Roe, who thought that in the future, the average woman would "outsize Diana," AKA Wonder Woman.

"She will be more than six feet tall, wear a size 11 shoe, have shoulders like a wrestler and muscles like a truck driver," Roe said. "Her proportions will be perfect, though Amazonian, because science will have perfected a balanced ration of vitamins, proteins, and minerals that will produce the maximum bodily efficiency, the minimum of fat." She also thought that women would forgo traditional meals and instead opt for "food capsules."


In 2008, then-19-year-old George Garratt from the U.K. legally changed his name to this incredibly long moniker, which was believed to be the longest name in the world. Once he "decided upon a theme of superheroes," he apparently just went for it.

Unfortunately, the name change also meant that his grandmother was no longer speaking to him, Mr. Captain Fantastic told The Telegraph.


If you pick up a Bible and flip to Genesis 1:20–22, you'll find the following: "And God said, 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.' So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.'"

Therefore, according to Moses, who is credited with writing Genesis, God made birds first and the egg would have come afterward when those birds were "fruitful" and multiplied.

Those who love creepy creatures likely know that the Cthulhu is a fictional monster that first popped up in H. P. Lovecraft's 1928 tale The Call of Cthulhu. And in 2019, when scientists found a 430-million-year-old fossil with tentacle-like features that reminded them of the Cthulhu (which was much like an octopus), they officially named the newly discovered species the Sollasina Cthulhu, according to the research they published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


In April 2019, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) gave us a look at a Neolithic dog that lived around 4,000 years ago—or rather, they gave us a glimpse at what the ancient canine probably looked like by using a skull that was found in 1901 in Scotland. A CT-scan of the skull was taken and a 3D print was created, which forensic artist Amy Thornton then used as a base to add fake muscle, skin, and hair, resulting in a model of the pup.

"Looking at this dog helps us better relate to the people who cared for and venerated these animals," HES interpretation manager Steve Farrar explained.


In an attempt to prevent the plague from spreading back in Shakespeare's time, many public places were shut down until things improved. That's why theaters were closed in Jan. 1593 and didn't reopen until the spring of 1594. This closure meant that playwrights like William Shakespeare were temporarily out of work. And that's when the Bard spent his time writing poetry instead of focusing on his famous plays. It's likely when he began his 154 sonnets.


The continent is "governed internationally" through the Antarctic Treaty System, which includes Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom. However, the land can only be used for "peaceful purposes"—that, and a whole lot of science.


The cuisines of the cultures of the Mediterranean Basin since antiquity had been based on cereals, particularly various types of wheat. Porridge, gruel and later, bread, became the basic food staple that made up the majority of calorie intake for most of the population. From the 8th to the 11th centuries, the proportion of various cereals in the diet rose from about a third to three quarters. [2] Dependence on wheat remained significant throughout the medieval era, and spread northward with the rise of Christianity. In colder climates, however, it was usually unaffordable for the majority population, and was associated with the higher classes. The centrality of bread in religious rituals such as the Eucharist meant that it enjoyed an especially high prestige among foodstuffs. Only (olive) oil and wine had a comparable value, but both remained quite exclusive outside the warmer grape- and olive-growing regions. The symbolic role of bread as both sustenance and substance is illustrated in a sermon given by Saint Augustine:

This bread retells your history … You were brought to the threshing floor of the Lord and were threshed … While awaiting catechism, you were like grain kept in the granary … At the baptismal font you were kneaded into a single dough. In the oven of the Holy Ghost you were baked into God's true bread. [2]

The Church Edit

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and their calendars, had great influence on eating habits consumption of meat was forbidden for a full third of the year for most Christians. All animal products, including eggs and dairy products (during the strictest fasting periods also fish), were generally prohibited during Lent and fast. Additionally, it was customary for all citizens to fast before taking the Eucharist. These fasts were occasionally for a full day and required total abstinence.

Both the Eastern and the Western churches ordained that feast should alternate with fast. In most of Europe, Fridays were fast days, and fasting was observed on various other days and periods, including Lent and Advent. Meat, and animal products such as milk, cheese, butter and eggs, were not allowed, and at times also fish. The fast was intended to mortify the body and invigorate the soul, and also to remind the faster of Christ's sacrifice for humanity. The intention was not to portray certain foods as unclean, but rather to teach a spiritual lesson in self-restraint through abstention. During particularly severe fast days, the number of daily meals was also reduced to one. Even if most people respected these restrictions and usually made penance when they violated them, there were also numerous ways of circumventing them, a conflict of ideals and practice summarized by writer Bridget Ann Henisch:

It is the nature of man to build the most complicated cage of rules and regulations in which to trap himself, and then, with equal ingenuity and zest, to bend his brain to the problem of wriggling triumphantly out again. Lent was a challenge the game was to ferret out the loopholes. [3]

While animal products were to be avoided during times of penance, pragmatic compromises often prevailed. The definition of "fish" was often extended to marine and semi-aquatic animals such as whales, barnacle geese, puffins and even beavers. The choice of ingredients may have been limited, but that did not mean that meals were smaller. Neither were there any restrictions against (moderate) drinking or eating sweets. Banquets held on fish days could be splendid, and were popular occasions for serving illusion food that imitated meat, cheese and eggs in various ingenious ways fish could be moulded to look like venison and fake eggs could be made by stuffing empty egg shells with fish roe and almond milk and cooking them in coals. While Byzantine church officials took a hard-line approach, and discouraged any culinary refinement for the clergy, their Western counterparts were far more lenient. [4] There was also no lack of grumbling about the rigours of fasting among the laity. During Lent, kings and schoolboys, commoners and nobility, all complained about being deprived of meat for the long, hard weeks of solemn contemplation of their sins. At Lent, owners of livestock were even warned to keep an eye out for hungry dogs frustrated by a "hard siege by Lent and fish bones". [5]

The trend from the 13th century onward was toward a more legalistic interpretation of fasting. Nobles were careful not to eat meat on fast days, but still dined in style fish replaced meat, often as imitation hams and bacon almond milk replaced animal milk as an expensive non-dairy alternative faux eggs made from almond milk were cooked in blown-out eggshells, flavoured and coloured with exclusive spices. In some cases the lavishness of noble tables was outdone by Benedictine monasteries, which served as many as sixteen courses during certain feast days. Exceptions from fasting were frequently made for very broadly defined groups. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) believed dispensation should be provided for children, the old, pilgrims, workers and beggars, but not the poor as long as they had some sort of shelter. [6] There are many accounts of members of monastic orders who flouted fasting restrictions through clever interpretations of the Bible. Since the sick were exempt from fasting, there often evolved the notion that fasting restrictions only applied to the main dining area, and many Benedictine friars would simply eat their fast day meals in what was called the misericord (at those times) rather than the refectory. [7] Newly assigned Catholic monastery officials sought to amend the problem of fast evasion not merely with moral condemnations, but by making sure that well-prepared non-meat dishes were available on fast days. [4]

Class constraints Edit

Medieval society was highly stratified. In a time when famine was commonplace and social hierarchies were often brutally enforced, food was an important marker of social status in a way that has no equivalent today in most developed countries. According to the ideological norm, society consisted of the three estates of the realm: commoners, that is, the working classes—by far the largest group the clergy, and the nobility. The relationship between the classes was strictly hierarchical, with the nobility and clergy claiming worldly and spiritual overlordship over commoners. Within the nobility and clergy there were also a number of ranks ranging from kings and popes to dukes, bishops and their subordinates, such as priests. One was expected to remain in one's social class and to respect the authority of the ruling classes. Political power was displayed not just by rule, but also by displaying wealth. Nobles dined on fresh game seasoned with exotic spices, and displayed refined table manners rough laborers could make do with coarse barley bread, salt pork and beans and were not expected to display etiquette. Even dietary recommendations were different: the diet of the upper classes was considered to be as much a requirement of their refined physical constitution as a sign of economic reality. The digestive system of a lord was held to be more discriminating than that of his rustic subordinates and demanded finer foods. [8]

In the late Middle Ages, the increasing wealth of middle class merchants and traders meant that commoners began emulating the aristocracy, and threatened to break down some of the symbolic barriers between the nobility and the lower classes. The response came in two forms: didactic literature warning of the dangers of adapting a diet inappropriate for one's class, [9] and sumptuary laws that put a cap on the lavishness of commoners' banquets. [10]

Dietetics Edit

Medical science of the Middle Ages had a considerable influence on what was considered healthy and nutritious among the upper classes. One's lifestyle—including diet, exercise, appropriate social behavior, and approved medical remedies—was the way to good health, and all types of food were assigned certain properties that affected a person's health. All foodstuffs were also classified on scales ranging from hot to cold and moist to dry, according to the four bodily humours theory proposed by Galen that dominated Western medical science from late Antiquity until the 17th century.

Medieval scholars considered human digestion to be a process similar to cooking. The processing of food in the stomach was seen as a continuation of the preparation initiated by the cook. In order for the food to be properly "cooked" and for the nutrients to be properly absorbed, it was important that the stomach be filled in an appropriate manner. Easily digestible foods would be consumed first, followed by gradually heavier dishes. If this regimen were not respected it was believed that heavy foods would sink to the bottom of the stomach, thus blocking the digestion duct, so that food would digest very slowly and cause putrefaction of the body and draw bad humours into the stomach. It was also of vital importance that food of differing properties not be mixed. [11]

Before a meal, the stomach would preferably be "opened" with an apéritif (from Latin aperire, "to open") that was preferably of a hot and dry nature: confections made from sugar- or honey-coated spices like ginger, caraway and seeds of anise, fennel or cumin, wine and sweetened fortified milk drinks. As the stomach had been opened, it should then be "closed" at the end of the meal with the help of a digestive, most commonly a dragée, which during the Middle Ages consisted of lumps of spiced sugar, or hypocras, a wine flavoured with fragrant spices, along with aged cheese. A meal would ideally begin with easily digestible fruit, such as apples. It would then be followed by vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, purslane, herbs, moist fruits, light meats, such as chicken or goat kid, with potages and broths. After that came the "heavy" meats, such as pork and beef, as well as vegetables and nuts, including pears and chestnuts, both considered difficult to digest. It was popular, and recommended by medical expertise, to finish the meal with aged cheese and various digestives. [12]

The most ideal food was that which most closely matched the humour of human beings, i.e. moderately warm and moist. Food should preferably also be finely chopped, ground, pounded and strained to achieve a true mixture of all the ingredients. White wine was believed to be cooler than red and the same distinction was applied to red and white vinegar. Milk was moderately warm and moist, but the milk of different animals was often believed to differ. Egg yolks were considered to be warm and moist while the whites were cold and moist. Skilled cooks were expected to conform to the regimen of humoral medicine. Even if this limited the combinations of food they could prepare, there was still ample room for artistic variation by the chef. [13]

Caloric structure Edit

In monasteries, the basic structure of the diet was laid down by the Rule of Saint Benedict in the 7th century and tightened by Pope Benedict XII in 1336, but (as mentioned above) monks were adept at "working around" these rules. Wine was restricted to about 10 imperial fluid ounces (280 mL 9.6 US fl oz) per day, but there was no corresponding limit on beer, and, at Westminster Abbey, each monk was given an allowance of 1 imperial gallon (4.5 L 1.2 US gal) of beer per day. [15] Meat of "four-footed animals" was prohibited altogether, year-round, for everyone but the very weak and the sick. This was circumvented in part by declaring that offal, and various processed foods such as bacon, were not meat. Secondly, Benedictine monasteries contained a room called the misericord, where the Rule of Saint Benedict did not apply, and where a large number of monks ate. Each monk would be regularly sent either to the misericord or to the refectory. When Pope Benedict XII ruled that at least half of all monks should be required to eat in the refectory on any given day, monks responded by excluding the sick and those invited to the abbot's table from the reckoning. [19] Overall, a monk at Westminster Abbey in the late 15th century would have been allowed 2.25 pounds (1.02 kg) of bread per day 5 eggs per day, except on Fridays and in Lent 2 pounds (0.91 kg) of meat per day, four days per week (excluding Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday), except in Advent and Lent and 2 pounds (0.91 kg) of fish per day, three days per week and every day during Advent and Lent. [20] This caloric structure partly reflected the high-class status of late Medieval monasteries in England, and partly that of Westminster Abbey, which was one of the richest monasteries in the country diets of monks in other monasteries may have been more modest.

The overall caloric intake is subject to some debate. One typical estimate is that an adult peasant male needed 2,900 calories (12,000 kJ) per day, and an adult female needed 2,150 calories (9,000 kJ). [21] Both lower and higher estimates have been proposed. Those engaged in particularly heavy physical labor, as well as sailors and soldiers, may have consumed 3,500 calories (15,000 kJ) or more per day. Intakes of aristocrats may have reached 4,000 to 5,000 calories (17,000 to 21,000 kJ) per day. [22] Monks consumed 6,000 calories (25,000 kJ) per day on "normal" days, and 4,500 calories (19,000 kJ) per day when fasting. As a consequence of these excesses, obesity was common among upper classes. [23] Monks, especially, frequently suffered from obesity-related (in some cases) conditions such as arthritis. [24]

The regional specialties that are a feature of early modern and contemporary cuisine were not in evidence in the sparser documentation that survives. Instead, medieval cuisine can be differentiated by the cereals and the oils that shaped dietary norms and crossed ethnic and, later, national boundaries. Geographical variation in eating was primarily the result of differences in climate, political administration, and local customs that varied across the continent. Though sweeping generalizations should be avoided, more or less distinct areas where certain foodstuffs dominated can be discerned. In the British Isles, northern France, the Low Countries, the northern German-speaking areas, Scandinavia and the Baltic, the climate was generally too harsh for the cultivation of grapes and olives. In the south, wine was the common drink for both rich and poor alike (though the commoner usually had to settle for cheap second-pressing wine) while beer was the commoner's drink in the north and wine an expensive import. Citrus fruits (though not the kinds most common today) and pomegranates were common around the Mediterranean. Dried figs and dates were available in the north, but were used rather sparingly in cooking. [25]

Olive oil was a ubiquitous ingredient in Mediterranean cultures, but remained an expensive import in the north where oils of poppy, walnut, hazel and filbert were the most affordable alternatives. Butter and lard, especially after the terrible mortality during the Black Death made them less scarce, were used in considerable quantities in the northern and northwestern regions, especially in the Low Countries. Almost universal in middle and upper class cooking all over Europe was the almond, which was in the ubiquitous and highly versatile almond milk, which was used as a substitute in dishes that otherwise required eggs or milk, though the bitter variety of almonds came along much later. [26]

In Europe there were typically two meals a day: dinner at mid-day and a lighter supper in the evening. The two-meal system remained consistent throughout the late Middle Ages. Smaller intermediate meals were common, but became a matter of social status, as those who did not have to perform manual labor could go without them. [27] Moralists frowned on breaking the overnight fast too early, and members of the church and cultivated gentry avoided it. For practical reasons, breakfast was still eaten by working men, and was tolerated for young children, women, the elderly and the sick. Because the church preached against gluttony and other weaknesses of the flesh, men tended to be ashamed of the weak practicality of breakfast. Lavish dinner banquets and late-night reresopers (from Occitan rèire-sopar, "late supper") with considerable amounts of alcoholic beverage were considered immoral. The latter were especially associated with gambling, crude language, drunkenness, and lewd behavior. [28] Minor meals and snacks were common (although also disliked by the church), and working men commonly received an allowance from their employers in order to buy nuncheons, small morsels to be eaten during breaks. [29]

Etiquette Edit

As with almost every part of life at the time, a medieval meal was generally a communal affair. The entire household, including servants, would ideally dine together. To sneak off to enjoy private company was considered a haughty and inefficient egotism in a world where people depended very much on each other. In the 13th century, English bishop Robert Grosseteste advised the Countess of Lincoln: "forbid dinners and suppers out of hall, in secret and in private rooms, for from this arises waste and no honour to the lord and lady." He also recommended watching that the servants not make off with leftovers to make merry at rere-suppers, rather than giving it as alms. [28] Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the wealthy increasingly sought to escape this regime of stern collectivism. When possible, rich hosts retired with their consorts to private chambers where the meal could be enjoyed in greater exclusivity and privacy. Being invited to a lord's chambers was a great privilege and could be used as a way to reward friends and allies and to awe subordinates. It allowed lords to distance themselves further from the household and to enjoy more luxurious treats while serving inferior food to the rest of the household that still dined in the great hall. At major occasions and banquets, however, the host and hostess generally dined in the great hall with the other diners. [30] Although there are descriptions of dining etiquette on special occasions, less is known about the details of day-to-day meals of the elite or about the table manners of the common people and the destitute. However, it can be assumed there were no such extravagant luxuries as multiple courses, luxurious spices or hand-washing in scented water in everyday meals. [31]

Things were different for the wealthy. Before the meal and between courses, shallow basins and linen towels were offered to guests so they could wash their hands, as cleanliness was emphasized. Social codes made it difficult for women to uphold the ideal of immaculate neatness and delicacy while enjoying a meal, so the wife of the host often dined in private with her entourage or ate very little at such feasts. She could then join dinner only after the potentially messy business of eating was done. Overall, fine dining was a predominantly male affair, and it was uncommon for anyone but the most honored of guests to bring his wife or her ladies-in-waiting. The hierarchical nature of society was reinforced by etiquette where the lower ranked were expected to help the higher, the younger to assist the elder, and men to spare women the risk of sullying dress and reputation by having to handle food in an unwomanly fashion. Shared drinking cups were common even at lavish banquets for all but those who sat at the high table, as was the standard etiquette of breaking bread and carving meat for one's fellow diners. [32]

Food was mostly served on plates or in stew pots, and diners would take their share from the dishes and place it on trenchers of stale bread, wood or pewter with the help of spoons or bare hands. In lower-class households it was common to eat food straight off the table. Knives were used at the table, but most people were expected to bring their own, and only highly favored guests would be given a personal knife. A knife was usually shared with at least one other dinner guest, unless one was of very high rank or well-acquainted with the host. Forks for eating were not in widespread usage in Europe until the early modern period, and early on were limited to Italy. Even there it was not until the 14th century that the fork became common among Italians of all social classes. The change in attitudes can be illustrated by the reactions to the table manners of the Byzantine princess Theodora Doukaina in the late 11th century. She was the wife of Domenico Selvo, the Doge of Venice, and caused considerable dismay among upstanding Venetians. The foreign consort's insistence on having her food cut up by her eunuch servants and then eating the pieces with a golden fork shocked and upset the diners so much that there was a claim that Peter Damian, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, later interpreted her refined foreign manners as pride and referred to her as ". the Venetian Doge's wife, whose body, after her excessive delicacy, entirely rotted away." [33] However, this is ambiguous since Peter Damian died in 1072 or 1073, [34] and their marriage (Theodora and Domenico) took place in 1075.

All types of cooking involved the direct use of fire. Kitchen stoves did not appear until the 18th century, and cooks had to know how to cook directly over an open fire. Ovens were used, but they were expensive to construct and only existed in fairly large households and bakeries. It was common for a community to have shared ownership of an oven to ensure that the bread baking essential to everyone was made communal rather than private. There were also portable ovens designed to be filled with food and then buried in hot coals, and even larger ones on wheels that were used to sell pies in the streets of medieval towns. But for most people, almost all cooking was done in simple stewpots, since this was the most efficient use of firewood and did not waste precious cooking juices, making potages and stews the most common dishes. [35] Overall, most evidence suggests that medieval dishes had a fairly high fat content, or at least when fat could be afforded. This was considered less of a problem in a time of back-breaking toil, famine, and a greater acceptance—even desirability—of plumpness only the poor or sick, and devout ascetics, were thin. [36]

Fruit was readily combined with meat, fish and eggs. The recipe for Tart de brymlent, a fish pie from the recipe collection Forme of Cury, includes a mix of figs, raisins, apples and pears with fish (salmon, codling or haddock) and pitted damson plums under the top crust. [37] It was considered important to make sure that the dish agreed with contemporary standards of medicine and dietetics. This meant that food had to be "tempered" according to its nature by an appropriate combination of preparation and mixing certain ingredients, condiments and spices fish was seen as being cold and moist, and best cooked in a way that heated and dried it, such as frying or oven baking, and seasoned with hot and dry spices beef was dry and hot and should therefore be boiled pork was hot and moist and should therefore always be roasted. [38] In some recipe collections, alternative ingredients were assigned with more consideration to the humoral nature than what a modern cook would consider to be similarity in taste. In a recipe for quince pie, cabbage is said to work equally well, and in another turnips could be replaced by pears. [39]

The completely edible shortcrust pie did not appear in recipes until the 15th century. Before that the pastry was primarily used as a cooking container in a technique known as huff paste. Extant recipe collections show that gastronomy in the Late Middle Ages developed significantly. New techniques, like the shortcrust pie and the clarification of jelly with egg whites began to appear in recipes in the late 14th century and recipes began to include detailed instructions instead of being mere memory aids to an already skilled cook. [40]

Medieval kitchens Edit

In most households, cooking was done on an open hearth in the middle of the main living area, to make efficient use of the heat. This was the most common arrangement, even in wealthy households, for most of the Middle Ages, where the kitchen was combined with the dining hall. Towards the Late Middle Ages a separate kitchen area began to evolve. The first step was to move the fireplaces towards the walls of the main hall, and later to build a separate building or wing that contained a dedicated kitchen area, often separated from the main building by a covered arcade. This way, the smoke, odors and bustle of the kitchen could be kept out of sight of guests, and the fire risk lessened. [41] Few medieval kitchens survive as they were "notoriously ephemeral structures". [42]

Many basic variations of cooking utensils available today, such as frying pans, pots, kettles, and waffle irons, already existed, although they were often too expensive for poorer households. Other tools more specific to cooking over an open fire were spits of various sizes, and material for skewering anything from delicate quails to whole oxen. [43] There were also cranes with adjustable hooks so that pots and cauldrons could easily be swung away from the fire to keep them from burning or boiling over. Utensils were often held directly over the fire or placed into embers on tripods. To assist the cook there were also assorted knives, stirring spoons, ladles and graters. In wealthy households one of the most common tools was the mortar and sieve cloth, since many medieval recipes called for food to be finely chopped, mashed, strained and seasoned either before or after cooking. This was based on a belief among physicians that the finer the consistency of food, the more effectively the body would absorb the nourishment. It also gave skilled cooks the opportunity to elaborately shape the results. Fine-textured food was also associated with wealth for example, finely milled flour was expensive, while the bread of commoners was typically brown and coarse. A typical procedure was farcing (from the Latin farcio 'to cram'), to skin and dress an animal, grind up the meat and mix it with spices and other ingredients and then return it into its own skin, or mold it into the shape of a completely different animal. [44]

The kitchen staff of huge noble or royal courts occasionally numbered in the hundreds: pantlers, bakers, waferers, sauciers, larderers, butchers, carvers, page boys, milkmaids, butlers and numerous scullions. While an average peasant household often made do with firewood collected from the surrounding woodlands, the major kitchens of households had to cope with the logistics of daily providing at least two meals for several hundred people. Guidelines on how to prepare for a two-day banquet can be found in the cookbook Du fait de cuisine ('On cookery') written in 1420 in part to compete with the court of Burgundy [45] by Maistre Chiquart, master chef of Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy. [46] Chiquart recommends that the chief cook should have at hand at least 1,000 cartloads of "good, dry firewood" and a large barnful of coal. [47]

Preservation Edit

Food preservation methods were basically the same as had been used since antiquity, and did not change much until the invention of canning in the early-19th century. The most common and simplest method was to expose foodstuffs to heat or wind to remove moisture, thereby prolonging the durability if not the flavor of almost any type of food from cereals to meats the drying of food worked by drastically reducing the activity of various water-dependent microorganisms that cause decay. In warm climates this was mostly achieved by leaving food out in the sun, and in the cooler northern climates by exposure to strong winds (especially common for the preparation of stockfish), or in warm ovens, cellars, attics, and at times even in living quarters. Subjecting food to a number of chemical processes such as smoking, salting, brining, conserving or fermenting also made it keep longer. Most of these methods had the advantage of shorter preparation times and of introducing new flavors. Smoking or salting meat of livestock butchered in autumn was a common household strategy to avoid having to feed more animals than necessary during the lean winter months. Butter tended to be heavily salted (5–10%) in order not to spoil. Vegetables, eggs or fish were also often pickled in tightly packed jars, containing brine and acidic liquids (lemon juice, verjuice or vinegar). Another method was to seal the food by cooking it in sugar or honey or fat, in which it was then stored. Microbial modification was also encouraged, however, by a number of methods grains, fruit and grapes were turned into alcoholic drinks thus killing any pathogens, and milk was fermented and curdled into a multitude of cheeses or buttermilk. [48]

Professional cooking Edit

The majority of the European population before industrialization lived in rural communities or isolated farms and households. The norm was self-sufficiency with only a small percentage of production being exported or sold in markets. Large towns were exceptions and required their surrounding hinterlands to support them with food and fuel. The dense urban population could support a wide variety of food establishments that catered to various social groups. Many of the poor city dwellers had to live in cramped conditions without access to a kitchen or even a hearth, and many did not own the equipment for basic cooking. Food from vendors was in such cases the only option. Cookshops could either sell ready-made hot food, an early form of fast food, or offer cooking services while the customers supplied some or all of the ingredients. Travellers, such as pilgrims en route to a holy site, made use of professional cooks to avoid having to carry their provisions with them. For the more affluent, there were many types of specialist that could supply various foods and condiments: cheesemongers, pie bakers, saucers, and waferers, for example. Well-off citizens who had the means to cook at home could on special occasions hire professionals when their own kitchen or staff could not handle the burden of hosting a major banquet. [49]

Urban cookshops that catered to workers or the destitute were regarded as unsavory and disreputable places by the well-to-do and professional cooks tended to have a bad reputation. Geoffrey Chaucer's Hodge of Ware, the London cook from the Canterbury Tales, is described as a sleazy purveyor of unpalatable food. French cardinal Jacques de Vitry's sermons from the early-13th century describe sellers of cooked meat as an outright health hazard. [50] While the necessity of the cook's services was occasionally recognized and appreciated, they were often disparaged since they catered to the baser of bodily human needs rather than spiritual betterment. The stereotypical cook in art and literature was male, hot-tempered, prone to drunkenness, and often depicted guarding his stewpot from being pilfered by both humans and animals. In the early-15th century, the English monk John Lydgate articulated the beliefs of many of his contemporaries by proclaiming that "Hoot ffir [fire] and smoke makith many an angry cook." [51]

The period between c. 500 and 1300 saw a major change in diet that affected most of Europe. More intense agriculture on ever-increasing acreage resulted in a shift from animal products, like meat and dairy, to various grains and vegetables as the staple of the majority population. [52] Before the 14th century bread was not as common among the lower classes, especially in the north where wheat was more difficult to grow. A bread-based diet became gradually more common during the 15th century and replaced warm intermediate meals that were porridge- or gruel-based. Leavened bread was more common in wheat-growing regions in the south, while unleavened flatbread of barley, rye or oats remained more common in northern and highland regions, and unleavened flatbread was also common as provisions for troops. [27]

The most common grains were rye, barley, buckwheat, millet and oats. Rice remained a fairly expensive import for most of the Middle Ages and was grown in northern Italy only towards the end of the period. Wheat was common all over Europe and was considered to be the most nutritious of all grains, but was more prestigious and thus more expensive. The finely sifted white flour that modern Europeans are most familiar with was reserved for the bread of the upper classes. As one descended the social ladder, bread became coarser, darker, and its bran content increased. In times of grain shortages or outright famine, grains could be supplemented with cheaper and less desirable substitutes like chestnuts, dried legumes, acorns, ferns, and a wide variety of more or less nutritious vegetable matter. [53]

One of the most common constituents of a medieval meal, either as part of a banquet or as a small snack, were sops, pieces of bread with which a liquid like wine, soup, broth, or sauce could be soaked up and eaten. Another common sight at the medieval dinner table was the frumenty, a thick wheat porridge often boiled in a meat broth and seasoned with spices. Porridges were also made of every type of grain and could be served as desserts or dishes for the sick, if boiled in milk (or almond milk) and sweetened with sugar. Pies filled with meats, eggs, vegetables, or fruit were common throughout Europe, as were turnovers, fritters, doughnuts, and many similar pastries. By the Late Middle Ages biscuits (cookies in the U.S.) and especially wafers, eaten for dessert, had become high-prestige foods and came in many varieties. Grain, either as bread crumbs or flour, was also the most common thickener of soups and stews, alone or in combination with almond milk.

The importance of bread as a daily staple meant that bakers played a crucial role in any medieval community. Bread consumption was high in most of Western Europe by the 14th century. Estimates of bread consumption from different regions are fairly similar: around 1 to 1.5 kilograms (2.2 to 3.3 lb) of bread per person per day. Among the first town guilds to be organized were the bakers, and laws and regulations were passed to keep bread prices stable. The English Assize of Bread and Ale of 1266 listed extensive tables where the size, weight, and price of a loaf of bread were regulated in relation to grain prices. The baker's profit margin stipulated in the tables was later increased through successful lobbying from the London Baker's Company by adding the cost of everything from firewood and salt to the baker's wife, house, and dog. Since bread was such a central part of the medieval diet, swindling by those who were trusted with supplying the precious commodity to the community was considered a serious offense. Bakers who were caught tampering with weights or adulterating dough with less expensive ingredients could receive severe penalties. This gave rise to the "baker's dozen": a baker would give 13 for the price of 12, to be certain of not being known as a cheat. [54]

While grains were the primary constituent of most meals, vegetables such as cabbage, chard, onions, garlic and carrots were common foodstuffs. Many of these were eaten daily by peasants and workers and were less prestigious than meat. Cookbooks, which appeared in the late Middle Ages and were intended mostly for those who could afford such luxuries, contained only a small number of recipes using vegetables as the main ingredient. The lack of recipes for many basic vegetable dishes, such as potages, has been interpreted not to mean that they were absent from the meals of the nobility, but rather that they were considered so basic that they did not require recording. [55] Carrots were available in many variants during the Middle Ages: among them a tastier reddish-purple variety and a less prestigious green-yellow type. Various legumes, like chickpeas, fava beans and field peas were also common and important sources of protein, especially among the lower classes. With the exception of peas, legumes were often viewed with some suspicion by the dietitians advising the upper class, partly because of their tendency to cause flatulence but also because they were associated with the coarse food of peasants. The importance of vegetables to the common people is illustrated by accounts from 16th century Germany stating that many peasants ate sauerkraut from three to four times a day. [56]

Fruit was popular and could be served fresh, dried, or preserved, and was a common ingredient in many cooked dishes. [57] Since sugar and honey were both expensive, it was common to include many types of fruit in dishes that called for sweeteners of some sort. The fruits of choice in the south were lemons, citrons, bitter oranges (the sweet type was not introduced until several hundred years later), pomegranates, quinces, and grapes. Farther north, apples, pears, plums, and wild strawberries were more common. Figs and dates were eaten all over Europe, but remained rather expensive imports in the north. [58]

Common and often basic ingredients in many modern European cuisines like potatoes, kidney beans, cacao, vanilla, tomatoes, chili peppers and maize were not available to Europeans until after 1492, after European contact with the Americas, and even then it often took considerable time, sometimes several centuries, for the new foodstuffs to be accepted by society at large. [59]

Milk was an important source of animal protein for those who could not afford meat. It would mostly come from cows, but milk from goats and sheep was also common. Plain fresh milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, and was usually reserved for the very young or elderly. Poor adults would sometimes drink buttermilk or whey or milk that was soured or watered down. [60] Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling. On occasion it was used in upper-class kitchens in stews, but it was difficult to keep fresh in bulk and almond milk was generally used in its stead. [61]

Cheese was far more important as a foodstuff, especially for common people, and it has been suggested that it was, during many periods, the chief supplier of animal protein among the lower classes. [62] Many varieties of cheese eaten today, like Dutch Edam, Northern French Brie and Italian Parmesan, were available and well known in late medieval times. There were also whey cheeses, like ricotta, made from by-products of the production of harder cheeses. Cheese was used in cooking for pies and soups, the latter being common fare in German-speaking areas. Butter, another important dairy product, was in popular use in the regions of Northern Europe that specialized in cattle production in the latter half of the Middle Ages, the Low Countries and Southern Scandinavia. While most other regions used oil or lard as cooking fats, butter was the dominant cooking medium in these areas. Its production also allowed for a lucrative butter export from the 12th century onward. [63]

While all forms of wild game were popular among those who could obtain it, most meat came from domestic animals. Domestic working animals that were no longer able to work were slaughtered but not particularly appetizing and therefore were less valued as meat. Beef was not as common as today because raising cattle was labor-intensive, requiring pastures and feed, and oxen and cows were much more valuable as draught animals and for producing milk. Mutton and lamb were fairly common, especially in areas with a sizeable wool industry, as was veal. [64] Far more common was pork, as domestic pigs required less attention and cheaper feed. Domestic pigs often ran freely even in towns and could be fed on just about any organic waste, and suckling pig was a sought-after delicacy. Just about every part of the pig was eaten, including ears, snout, tail, tongue, and womb. Intestines, bladder and stomach could be used as casings for sausage or even illusion food such as giant eggs. Among the meats that today are rare or even considered inappropriate for human consumption are the hedgehog and porcupine, occasionally mentioned in late medieval recipe collections. [65] Rabbits remained a rare and highly prized commodity. In England, they were deliberately introduced by the 13th century and their colonies were carefully protected. [66] Further south, domesticated rabbits were commonly raised and bred both for their meat and fur. They were of particular value for monasteries, because newborn rabbits were allegedly declared fish (or, at least, not-meat) by the church and therefore they could be eaten during Lent. [67]

A wide range of birds were eaten, including swans, peafowl, quail, partridge, storks, cranes, larks, linnets and other songbirds that could be trapped in nets, and just about any other wild bird that could be hunted. Swans and peafowl were domesticated to some extent, but were only eaten by the social elite, and more praised for their fine appearance as stunning entertainment dishes, entremets, than for their meat. As today, geese and ducks had been domesticated but were not as popular as the chicken, the poultry equivalent of the pig. [68] Curiously enough the barnacle goose was believed to reproduce not by laying eggs like other birds, but by growing in barnacles, and was hence considered acceptable food for fast and Lent. But at the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), Pope Innocent III explicitly prohibited the eating of barnacle geese during Lent, arguing that they lived and fed like ducks and so were of the same nature as other birds. [69]

Meats were more expensive than plant foods. Though rich in protein, the calorie-to-weight ratio of meat was less than that of plant food. Meat could be up to four times as expensive as bread. Fish was up to 16 times as costly, and was expensive even for coastal populations. This meant that fasts could mean an especially meager diet for those who could not afford alternatives to meat and animal products like milk and eggs. It was only after the Black Death had eradicated up to half of the European population that meat became more common even for poorer people. The drastic reduction in many populated areas resulted in a labor shortage, meaning that wages dramatically increased. It also left vast areas of farmland untended, making it available for pasture and putting more meat on the market. [70]

Fish and seafood Edit

Although less prestigious than other animal meats, and often seen as merely an alternative to meat on fast days, seafood was the mainstay of many coastal populations. "Fish" to the medieval person was also a general name for anything not considered a proper land-living animal, including marine mammals such as whales and porpoises. Also included were the beaver, due to its scaly tail and considerable time spent in water, and barnacle geese, due to the belief that they developed underwater in the form of barnacles. [71] Such foods were also considered appropriate for fast days, though rather contrived classification of barnacle geese as fish was not universally accepted. The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II examined barnacles and noted no evidence of any bird-like embryo in them, and the secretary of Leo of Rozmital wrote a very skeptical account of his reaction to being served barnacle goose at a fish-day dinner in 1456. [72]

Especially important was the fishing and trade in herring and cod in the Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. The herring was of unprecedented significance to the economy of much of Northern Europe, and it was one of the most common commodities traded by the Hanseatic League, a powerful north German alliance of trading guilds. Kippers made from herring caught in the North Sea could be found in markets as far away as Constantinople. [73] While large quantities of fish were eaten fresh, a large proportion was salted, dried, and, to a lesser extent, smoked. Stockfish, cod that was split down the middle, fixed to a pole and dried, was very common, though preparation could be time-consuming, and meant beating the dried fish with a mallet before soaking it in water. A wide range of mollusks including oysters, mussels and scallops were eaten by coastal and river-dwelling populations, and freshwater crayfish were seen as a desirable alternative to meat during fish days. Compared to meat, fish was much more expensive for inland populations, especially in Central Europe, and therefore not an option for most. Freshwater fish such as pike, carp, bream, perch, lamprey and trout were common. [74]

While in modern times, water is often drunk with a meal, in the Middle Ages, however, concerns over purity, medical recommendations and its low prestige value made it less favored, and alcoholic beverages were preferred. They were seen as more nutritious and beneficial to digestion than water, with the invaluable bonus of being less prone to putrefaction due to the alcohol content. Wine was consumed on a daily basis in most of France and all over the Western Mediterranean wherever grapes were cultivated. Further north it remained the preferred drink of the bourgeoisie and the nobility who could afford it, and far less common among peasants and workers. The drink of commoners in the northern parts of the continent was primarily beer or ale. [75]

Juices, as well as wines, of a multitude of fruits and berries had been known at least since Roman antiquity and were still consumed in the Middle Ages: pomegranate, mulberry and blackberry wines, perry, and cider which was especially popular in the north where both apples and pears were plentiful. Medieval drinks that have survived to this day include prunellé from wild plums (modern-day slivovitz), mulberry gin and blackberry wine. Many variants of mead have been found in medieval recipes, with or without alcoholic content. However, the honey-based drink became less common as a table beverage towards the end of the period and was eventually relegated to medicinal use. [76] Mead has often been presented as the common drink of the Slavs. This is partially true since mead bore great symbolic value at important occasions. When agreeing on treaties and other important affairs of state, mead was often presented as a ceremonial gift. It was also common at weddings and baptismal parties, though in limited quantity due to its high price. In medieval Poland, mead had a status equivalent to that of imported luxuries, such as spices and wines. [77] Kumis, the fermented milk of mares or camels, was known in Europe, but as with mead was mostly something prescribed by physicians. [78]

Plain milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, being reserved for the very young or elderly, and then usually as buttermilk or whey. Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling. [79] Tea and coffee, both made from plants found in the Old World, were popular in East Asia and the Muslim world during the Middle Ages. However, neither of these non-alcoholic social drinks were consumed in Europe before the late-16th and early-17th centuries.

Wine Edit

Wine was commonly drunk and was also regarded as the most prestigious and healthy choice. According to Galen's dietetics it was considered hot and dry but these qualities were moderated when wine was watered down. Unlike water or beer, which were considered cold and moist, consumption of wine in moderation (especially red wine) was, among other things, believed to aid digestion, generate good blood and brighten the mood. [80] The quality of wine differed considerably according to vintage, the type of grape and more importantly, the number of grape pressings. The first pressing was made into the finest and most expensive wines which were reserved for the upper classes. The second and third pressings were subsequently of lower quality and alcohol content. Common folk usually had to settle for a cheap white or rosé from a second or even third pressing, meaning that it could be consumed in quite generous amounts without leading to heavy intoxication. For the poorest (or the most pious), watered-down vinegar (similar to Ancient Roman posca) would often be the only available choice. [81]

The aging of high quality red wine required specialized knowledge as well as expensive storage and equipment, and resulted in an even more expensive end product. Judging from the advice given in many medieval documents on how to salvage wine that bore signs of going bad, preservation must have been a widespread problem. Even if vinegar was a common ingredient, there was only so much of it that could be used. The 14th century cookbook Le Viandier, describes several methods for salvaging spoiling wine making sure that the wine barrels are always topped up or adding a mixture of dried and boiled white grape seeds with the ash of dried and burnt lees of white wine were both effective bactericides, even if the chemical processes were not understood at the time. [82] Spiced or mulled wine was not only popular among the affluent, but was also considered especially healthy by physicians. Wine was believed to act as a kind of vaporizer and conduit of other foodstuffs to every part of the body, and the addition of fragrant and exotic spices would make it even more wholesome. Spiced wines were usually made by mixing an ordinary (red) wine with an assortment of spices such as ginger, cardamom, pepper, grains of paradise, nutmeg, cloves and sugar. These would be contained in small bags which were either steeped in wine or had liquid poured over them to produce hypocras and claré. By the 14th century, bagged spice mixes could be bought ready-made from spice merchants. [83]

Beer Edit

While wine was the most common table beverage in much of Europe, this was not the case in the northern regions where grapes were not cultivated. Those who could afford it drank imported wine, but even for nobility in these areas it was common to drink beer or ale, particularly towards the end of the Middle Ages. In England, the Low Countries, northern Germany, Poland and Scandinavia, beer was consumed on a daily basis by people of all social classes and age groups. By the mid-15th century, barley, a cereal known to be somewhat poorly suited for breadmaking but excellent for brewing, accounted for 27% of all cereal acreage in England. [84] However, the heavy influence from Arab and Mediterranean culture on medical science (particularly due to the Reconquista and the influx of Arabic texts) meant that beer was often disfavoured. For most medieval Europeans, it was a humble brew compared with common southern drinks and cooking ingredients, such as wine, lemons and olive oil. Even comparatively exotic products like camel's milk and gazelle meat generally received more positive attention in medical texts. Beer was just an acceptable alternative and was assigned various negative qualities. In 1256, the Sienese physician Aldobrandino described beer in the following way:

But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth, it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one's flesh white and smooth. [85]

The intoxicating effect of beer was believed to last longer than that of wine, but it was also admitted that it did not create the "false thirst" associated with wine. Though less prominent than in the north, beer was consumed in northern France and the Italian mainland. Perhaps as a consequence of the Norman conquest and the travelling of nobles between France and England, one French variant described in the 14th century cookbook Le Menagier de Paris was called godale (most likely a direct borrowing from the English 'good ale') and was made from barley and spelt, but without hops. In England there were also the variants poset ale, made from hot milk and cold ale, and brakot or braggot, a spiced honey ale prepared much like hypocras. [86]

That hops could be used for flavoring beer had been known at least since Carolingian times, but was adopted gradually due to difficulties in establishing the appropriate proportions. Before the widespread use of hops, gruit, a mix of various herbs, had been used. Gruit had the same preserving properties as hops, though less reliable depending on what herbs were in it, and the end result was much more variable. Another flavoring method was to increase the alcohol content, but this was more expensive and lent the beer the undesired characteristic of being a quick and heavy intoxicant. Hops may have been widely used in England in the tenth century they were grown in Austria by 1208 and in Finland by 1249, and possibly much earlier. [87]

Before hops became popular as an ingredient, it was difficult to preserve this beverage for any time, so it was mostly consumed fresh. [88] It was unfiltered, and therefore cloudy, and likely had a lower alcohol content than the typical modern equivalent. Quantities of beer consumed by medieval residents of Europe, as recorded in contemporary literature, far exceed intakes in the modern world. For example, sailors in 16th century England and Denmark received a ration of 1 imperial gallon (4.5 L 1.2 US gal) of beer per day. Polish peasants consumed up to 3 litres (0.66 imp gal 0.79 US gal) of beer per day. [89]

In the Early Middle Ages beer was brewed primarily in monasteries, and on a smaller scale, in individual households. By the High Middle Ages breweries in the fledgling medieval towns of northern Germany began to take over production. Though most of the breweries were small family businesses that employed at most eight to ten people, regular production allowed for investment in better equipment and increased experimentation with new recipes and brewing techniques. These operations later spread to the Netherlands in the 14th century, then to Flanders and Brabant, and reached England by the 15th century. Hopped beer became very popular in the last decades of the Late Middle Ages. In England and the Low Countries, the per capita annual consumption was around 275 to 300 litres (60 to 66 imp gal 73 to 79 US gal), and it was consumed with practically every meal: low alcohol-content beers for breakfast, and stronger ones later in the day. When perfected as an ingredient, hops could make beer keep for six months or more, and facilitated extensive exports. [90] In Late Medieval England, the word beer came to mean a hopped beverage, whereas ale had to be unhopped. In turn, ale or beer was classified as "strong" or "small", the latter less intoxicating, regarded as a drink of temperate people, and suitable for consumption by children. As late as 1693, John Locke stated that the only drink he considered suitable for children of all ages was small beer, while criticizing the apparently common practice among Englishmen of the time to give their children wine and strong alcohol. [91]

By modern standards, the brewing process was relatively inefficient, but capable of producing quite strong alcohol when that was desired. One recent attempt to recreate medieval English "strong ale" using recipes and techniques of the era (albeit with the use of modern yeast strains) yielded a strongly alcoholic brew with original gravity of 1.091 (corresponding to a potential alcohol content over 9%) and "pleasant, apple-like taste". [92]

Distillates Edit

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew of the technique of distillation, but it was not practiced on a major scale in Europe until after the invention of alembics, which feature in manuscripts from the 9th century onwards. Distillation was believed by medieval scholars to produce the essence of the liquid being purified, and the term aqua vitae ('water of life') was used as a generic term for all kinds of distillates. [93] The early use of various distillates, alcoholic or not, was varied, but it was primarily culinary or medicinal grape syrup mixed with sugar and spices was prescribed for a variety of ailments, and rose water was used as a perfume and cooking ingredient and for hand washing. Alcoholic distillates were also occasionally used to create dazzling, fire-breathing entremets (a type of entertainment dish after a course) by soaking a piece of cotton in spirits. It would then be placed in the mouth of the stuffed, cooked and occasionally redressed animals, and lit just before presenting the creation. [94]

Aqua vitae in its alcoholic forms was highly praised by medieval physicians. In 1309 Arnaldus of Villanova wrote that "[i]t prolongs good health, dissipates superfluous humours, reanimates the heart and maintains youth." [95] In the Late Middle Ages, the production of moonshine started to pick up, especially in the German-speaking regions. By the 13th century, Hausbrand (literally 'home-burnt' from gebrannter wein, brandwein 'burnt [distilled] wine') was commonplace, marking the origin of brandy. Towards the end of the Late Middle Ages, the consumption of spirits became so ingrained even among the general population that restrictions on sales and production began to appear in the late-15th century. In 1496 the city of Nuremberg issued restrictions on the selling of aquavit on Sundays and official holidays. [96]

Spices were among the most luxurious products available in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper, cinnamon (and the cheaper alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. They all had to be imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, which made them extremely expensive, and gave them social cachet such that pepper for example was hoarded, traded and conspicuously donated in the manner of gold bullion. It has been estimated that around 1,000 tons of pepper and 1,000 tons of the other common spices were imported into Western Europe each year during the late Middle Ages. The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1.5 million people. [97] While pepper was the most common spice, the most exclusive (though not the most obscure in its origin) was saffron, used as much for its vivid yellow-red color as for its flavor, for according to the humours, yellow signified hot and dry, valued qualities [98] turmeric provided a yellow substitute, and touches of gilding at banquets supplied both the medieval love of ostentatious show and Galenic dietary lore: at the sumptuous banquet that Cardinal Riario offered the daughter of the King of Naples in June 1473, the bread was gilded. [99] Among the spices that have now fallen into obscurity are grains of paradise, a relative of cardamom which almost entirely replaced pepper in late medieval north French cooking, long pepper, mace, spikenard, galangal and cubeb. Sugar, unlike today, was considered to be a type of spice due to its high cost and humoral qualities. [100] Few dishes employed just one type of spice or herb, but rather a combination of several different ones. Even when a dish was dominated by a single flavor it was usually combined with another to produce a compound taste, for example parsley and cloves or pepper and ginger. [101]

Common herbs such as sage, mustard, and parsley were grown and used in cooking all over Europe, as were caraway, mint, dill and fennel. Many of these plants grew throughout all of Europe or were cultivated in gardens, and were a cheaper alternative to exotic spices. Mustard was particularly popular with meat products and was described by Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) as poor man's food. While locally grown herbs were less prestigious than spices, they were still used in upper-class food, but were then usually less prominent or included merely as coloring. Anise was used to flavor fish and chicken dishes, and its seeds were served as sugar-coated comfits. [102]

Surviving medieval recipes frequently call for flavoring with a number of sour, tart liquids. Wine, verjuice (the juice of unripe grapes or fruits) vinegar and the juices of various fruits, especially those with tart flavors, were almost universal and a hallmark of late medieval cooking. In combination with sweeteners and spices, it produced a distinctive "pungeant, fruity" flavor. Equally common, and used to complement the tanginess of these ingredients, were (sweet) almonds. They were used in a variety of ways: whole, shelled or unshelled, slivered, ground and, most importantly, processed into almond milk. This last type of non-dairy milk product is probably the single most common ingredient in late medieval cooking and blended the aroma of spices and sour liquids with a mild taste and creamy texture. [103]

Salt was ubiquitous and indispensable in medieval cooking. Salting and drying was the most common form of food preservation and meant that fish and meat in particular were often heavily salted. Many medieval recipes specifically warn against oversalting and there were recommendations for soaking certain products in water to get rid of excess salt. [104] Salt was present during more elaborate or expensive meals. The richer the host, and the more prestigious the guest, the more elaborate would be the container in which it was served and the higher the quality and price of the salt. Wealthy guests were seated "above the salt", while others sat "below the salt", where salt cellars were made of pewter, precious metals or other fine materials, often intricately decorated. The rank of a diner also decided how finely ground and white the salt was. Salt for cooking, preservation or for use by common people was coarser sea salt, or "bay salt", in particular, had more impurities, and was described in colors ranging from black to green. Expensive salt, on the other hand, looked like the standard commercial salt common today. [105]

The term "dessert" comes from the Old French desservir 'to clear a table', literally 'to un-serve', and originated during the Middle Ages. It would typically consist of dragées and mulled wine accompanied by aged cheese, and by the Late Middle Ages could also include fresh fruit covered in sugar, honey or syrup and boiled-down fruit pastes. Sugar, from its first appearance in Europe, was viewed as much as a drug as a sweetener its long-lived medieval reputation as an exotic luxury encouraged its appearance in elite contexts accompanying meats and other dishes that to modern taste are more naturally savoury. There was a wide variety of fritters, crêpes with sugar, sweet custards and darioles, almond milk and eggs in a pastry shell that could also include fruit and sometimes even bone marrow or fish. [11] German-speaking areas had a particular fondness for krapfen: fried pastries and dough with various sweet and savory fillings. Marzipan in many forms was well known in Italy and southern France by the 1340s and is assumed to be of Arab origin. [106] Anglo-Norman cookbooks are full of recipes for sweet and savory custards, potages, sauces and tarts with strawberries, cherries, apples and plums. The English chefs also had a penchant for using flower petals such as roses, violets, and elder flowers. An early form of quiche can be found in Forme of Cury, a 14th-century recipe collection, as a Torte de Bry with a cheese and egg yolk filling. [107] Le Ménagier de Paris ("Parisian Household Book") written in 1393 includes a quiche recipe made with three kinds of cheese, eggs, beet greens, spinach, fennel fronds, and parsley. [108] In northern France, a wide assortment of waffles and wafers was eaten with cheese and hypocras or a sweet malmsey as issue de table ('departure from the table'). The ever-present candied ginger, coriander, aniseed and other spices were referred to as épices de chambre ('parlor spices') and were taken as digestibles at the end of a meal to "close" the stomach. [109] Like their Muslim counterparts in Spain, the Arab conquerors of Sicily introduced a wide variety of new sweets and desserts that eventually found their way to the rest of Europe. Just like Montpellier, Sicily was once famous for its comfits, nougat candy (torrone, or turrón in Spanish) and almond clusters (confetti). From the south, the Arabs also brought the art of ice cream making that produced sorbet and several examples of sweet cakes and pastries cassata alla Siciliana (from Arabic qas'ah, the term for the terracotta bowl with which it was shaped), made from marzipan, sponge cake and sweetened ricotta and cannoli alla Siciliana, originally cappelli di turchi ('Turkish hats'), fried, chilled pastry tubes with a sweet cheese filling. [110]

Research into medieval foodways was, until around 1980, a much neglected field of study. Misconceptions and outright errors were common among historians, and are still present in as a part of the popular view of the Middle Ages as a backward, primitive and barbaric era. Medieval cookery was described as revolting due to the often unfamiliar combination of flavors, the perceived lack of vegetables and a liberal use of spices. [111] The heavy use of spices has been popular as an argument to support the claim that spices were employed to disguise the flavor of spoiled meat, a conclusion without support in historical fact and contemporary sources. [112] Fresh meat could be procured throughout the year by those who could afford it. The preservation techniques available at the time, although crude by today's standards, were perfectly adequate. The astronomical cost and high prestige of spices, and thereby the reputation of the host, would have been effectively undone if wasted on cheap and poorly handled foods. [113]

The common method of grinding and mashing ingredients into pastes and the many potages and sauces has been used as an argument that most adults within the medieval nobility lost their teeth at an early age, and hence were forced to eat nothing but porridge, soup and ground-up meat. The image of nobles gumming their way through multi-course meals of nothing but mush has lived side by side with the contradictory apparition of the "mob of uncouth louts (disguised as noble lords) who, when not actually hurling huge joints of greasy meat at one another across the banquet hall, are engaged in tearing at them with a perfectly healthy complement of incisors, canines, bicuspids and molars". [114]

The numerous descriptions of banquets from the later Middle Ages concentrated on the pageantry of the event rather than the minutiae of the food, which was not the same for most banqueters as those choice mets served at the high table. Banquet dishes were apart from mainstream of cuisine, and have been described as "the outcome of grand banquets serving political ambition rather than gastronomy today as yesterday" by historian Maguelonne Toussant-Samat. [115]

Cookbooks Edit

Cookbooks, or more specifically, recipe collections, compiled in the Middle Ages are among the most important historical sources for medieval cuisine. The first cookbooks began to appear towards the end of the 13th century. The Liber de Coquina, perhaps originating near Naples, and the Tractatus de modo preparandi have found a modern editor in Marianne Mulon, and a cookbook from Assisi found at Châlons-sur-Marne has been edited by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. [116] Though it is assumed that they describe real dishes, food scholars do not believe they were used as cookbooks might be today, as a step-by-step guide through the cooking procedure that could be kept at hand while preparing a dish. Few in a kitchen, at those times, would have been able to read, and working texts have a low survival rate. [117]

The recipes were often brief and did not give precise quantities. Cooking times and temperatures were seldom specified since accurate portable clocks were not available and since all cooking was done with fire. At best, cooking times could be specified as the time it took to say a certain number of prayers or how long it took to walk around a certain field. Professional cooks were taught their trade through apprenticeship and practical training, working their way up in the highly defined kitchen hierarchy. A medieval cook employed in a large household would most likely have been able to plan and produce a meal without the help of recipes or written instruction. Due to the generally good condition of surviving manuscripts it has been proposed by food historian Terence Scully that they were records of household practices intended for the wealthy and literate master of a household, such as Le Ménagier de Paris from the late 14th century. Over 70 collections of medieval recipes survive today, written in several major European languages. [118]

The repertory of housekeeping instructions laid down by manuscripts like the Ménagier de Paris also include many details of overseeing correct preparations in the kitchen. Towards the onset of the early modern period, in 1474, the Vatican librarian Bartolomeo Platina wrote De honesta voluptate et valetudine ("On honourable pleasure and health") and the physician Iodocus Willich edited Apicius in Zurich in 1563.

High-status exotic spices and rarities like ginger, pepper, cloves, sesame, citron leaves and "onions of Escalon" [119] all appear in an eighth-century list of spices that the Carolingian cook should have at hand. It was written by Vinidarius, whose excerpts of Apicius [120] survive in an eighth-century uncial manuscript. Vinidarius' own dates may not be much earlier. [121]

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