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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #101

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.


Disabled by Junk Food?

The headline in the New York Daily News was pretty alarming:

"Study: Teenager Went Blind on Diet of Mostly Junk Food."

I immediately thought this was hyperbole; we all know that junk food is so-named because it is the antithesis of health food, but would it really cause blindness? The U.K. teen was a self-described fussy eater, preferring Pringles, French fries, white bread and the occasional slice of ham or sausage in lieu of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, beans, and lean(er) meats and proteins.

At age 14 he complained of tiredness. His physician conducted a few tests and determined that the young man was suffering from anemia and low B12 levels. He was given a few injections to boost him up, given dietary "advice," and sent on his way.

A year later, he was complaining of hearing loss and visual problems, but the doctors could find no cause. Two years later, at age 17, he was legally blind. It was then that the severity of his condition was finally discovered. He had a severe vitamin B12 deficiency and low levels of copper, selenium, vitamin D, and reduced bone density. By his diet, he had given himself nutritional optic neuropathy, an irreversible condition.

The take-away from this is that nutrition is more than calorie count. Here was a young person of average height and weight. He didn't look malnourished. In fact, he was consuming the proper amount of calories, but they were empty calories with little nutritional value. Even if one does not go to the extremes of this young man, it is best to think twice about fad dieting. Please don't sacrifice your long-term health for a quick-fix loss of 10 or 20 pounds. Your health is important. You are important.

Let's Get Started

Are you ready to look into today's mailbox with me? If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

The first question today comes from John Hansen (aka Jodah).

What is Angel Food Cake?

Oh here is a question for your series. What exactly is “angel food cake” and how did it get its name?

Angel Food Cake

Angel Food Cake

"Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all?"

John Hansen (aka Jodah) thanks for a great question. Angel food cake is unlike any other cake made. It's classified as a "foam cake," meaning that it gets its puff (lift) from beaten eggs, not baking powder or baking soda. Chiffon and sponge cakes are in that category too. But, unlike chiffon and sponge, angel food (1) is made of whites only, no yolks and (2) there is absolutely no fat in the recipe—no butter, shortening, or oil.

Angel food first became a "thing" in the late 19th century. The Home Messenger Book of Tested Recipes, 2d ed., 1878, by Isabella Stewart, contained the first recipe for Angel's Food Cake. Stewart's recipe called for eleven egg whites, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and cream of tartar. There is no absolute story on the origin of the name; one can assume that it was dubbed "angel" food because of its ethereal, heavenly light quality.

P.S. although I can write words of praise for angel food cake, it would not be my choice from the dessert cart. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a minus 3.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Kitchen

"Tonight the art of grating. Watch out fingers. Uh Oh -- you can now just add an easy peasy for kids section in your articles."

Eric, I’m pretty sure that your Gabe not only knows all of these rules, he could probably teach the course (he’s 9 going on 39). But for everyone else who might have little people helping in the kitchen, here are some guidelines:

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Staying Clean and Healthy

  • Wear an apron (or an old shirt) to keep your clothes clean. BUT, don’t wear anything big and baggy. Loose-fitting clothing can bump things on the floor, get caught in mixers, catch on fire, etc. Roll up your sleeves, tie back your hair, and don’t wear dangly jewelry (this goes for adults too).
  • Wash your hands. Wash before you do anything else. Then wash again if you touch raw meat or if you touch your face.
  • Don’t lick your fingers while you are cooking/preparing food.
  • Washing as you go is a good idea, but don’t ever put sharp knives into a sink full of soapy water.
  • Wipe up spills when they happen so that no one slips and falls.

Getting Ready

  • Get everything ready. Even professional chefs do this. They call it mise en place. Get your mixing spoons, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and knives out. The same goes for your ingredients. Instead of running back and forth for stuff from the pantry and refrigerator, gather everything you’ll need ahead of time.
  • Read your recipe before you begin. That way you’ll know what happens first, what the next step will be, and so on. You’ll also know when to add things—they don’t always go in at the same time. I have a story to tell you—once my daughter decided to bake a cake, all by herself. She was able to read the list of ingredients and knew how to measure, and so she did just that. All of the flour, the sugar, eggs, butter, and baking powder went into the bowl at the same time. She mixed and mixed and dumped it in the pan. What came out tasted okay, but it sure didn’t look like a cake.
  • Keep things that would burn away from the cooktop—paper towels, dish towels, and potholders.

Staying Safe

  • Never put water in a pan that has hot oil in it.
  • Always turn the handles of pots and pans away from you. If they stick out and overhang the front of the cooktop, you could accidentally get bumped and spill on the floor, or on you!
  • Never grab a hot pan with a wet potholder.
  • Use a kitchen timer so that you don’t forget something in the oven or on the cooktop. Even the best of cooks can’t remember everything.
  • When stirring a pot on the stove, always hold onto one of its handles so that the pot doesn’t spin away from you.
  • Don’t point knives as anyone and always pick them up by the handle. Ask an adult to show you how. Never use a knife without supervision.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

Bye For Now


Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 15, 2019:

Thank you for providing such a well thought out reply to MizB. When I read her comment I was enroute and not able to write much. I have a fur baby too and we've struggled with what to feed him. So people even advocate a raw diet. (I could ever go there). Maybe it's time for a slight departure and devote one Q&A to pet food again.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 14, 2019:

MizB, thank you so much for posting this comment. I was so close to switching my cats' dry food to grain free (I feed them twice a day with Rachel Ray Indoor Dry mixed with Friskies wet). My girls will be 12 next month and my boy just turned 11. Your comment just may have prolonged their lives. Fortunately, all three are very healthy and I certainly don't want to change that!

When you think about it, we all need roughage. That comes in the form of grains and certain veggies. The roughage is necessary for cats to spit up their hairballs - or hair "tubes", as I call them.

Leave it to a kitty-monitored food site to bring nutritional information to humans and the cats who own them! Tee hee.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 13, 2019:

Excellent point.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 12, 2019:

Just like to add regarding the teenager going blind: Have you been keeping up with the deaths of dogs and cats from grain-free pet foods? I said I would never join the fad and feed my cats grain-free food, then I read the find print and discovered that the favorite dry food they've been eating for a couple of years is grain-free. Fortunately, the vet says they are healthy. I immediately switched them and told them this would be their new "favorite" food.

Fads are killing our pets, too. I may be gluten-free by necessity, but even I'm not grain free. People need to read the label on their pet foods, too.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 10, 2019:

MizBejabbers, I do almost all of the cooking in our household and the few times that Mr. Carb cooks it's better for all (or at least for my blood pressure and/or sanity) that I not be there to witness.

Those old dogs are stubborn.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 10, 2019:

Linda, Great question about the angel food cake, an old Southern favorite. Once I bought a sponge cake thinking it was the same as angel food. What a disappointment. They were my favorite cake until I was prescribed gluten-free. Our local Kroger stores sell the best ones, especially the sour cream angel food cakes.

I read your list of "don'ts" for children. My husband is our cook, which I've probably mentioned. He daily violates nearly every one of them, and there's nothing "mommy" can do to teach him to do better. Oh well, you can't teach some old dogs new tricks.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 09, 2019:

Wow Lori, that is one trippy story. One on one spaghetti with Gabe just about puts me into anxiety mode. Back in my day of restaurants the waitresses were not even allowed in back. Not even dishwashers - could come near the oven/stoves. Of course I could mop and wash and work the heat but that was because I was manager.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Lori, I'm glad to hear that the owner of the McD's stepped in and made sure that little boy was out of a hazardous environment. Imagine the liability!

I love writing about the history of food, hence my book. And, like you I'm appreciating this rain-filled PNW day.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Eric, not only are you not violating copyright, you are doing exactly what I hoped would happen.

I will probably never know the joy of having grandchildren, but I can feel the warm glow of knowing that Gabe appreciates his Aunt Linda.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 09, 2019:

Whahoo I had a fast food hamburger yesterday and fries and onion rings.Still feel the bloat 24 hours later. Can you even imagine incorporating that in your diet. Now I make my 9 year old go hiking on cliffs and swimming in rivers but I would never expose him to a fast food diet. (psst I did not tell him about the burger)

I hope I am not violating copyright -- Your safety tips are now posted on the fridge. He did the cooking last night with me pretending not to pay attention - OK a little with spice, and a fire extinguisher within reach.

You bring love to life. I know a bit about life and death and love. You keep us on the right side and have made a little boy happier in it - and healthier ;-) Not to mention his dad and mom.

Lori Colbo from United States on September 09, 2019:

Great advice about kids in the kitchen. When I worked at McDonalds years ago the manager from hell used to bring her five-year-old son in because she didn't or couldn't afford a babysitter. Not only was he underfoot, but he and the workers were put in potentially dangerous situations. Hot oil, hot coffee (everyone knows McDonald's coffee is dangerously hot), and dozens of other hazards. We were mostly concerned about his safety. The owner got wind of it and put a stop to it. That's really not what you were talking about as much but it triggered that memory.

I love how you give historical information on food. And now, I'm off to make breakfast on this rainy Pacific Northwest day.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Mary, that's a good question (about the angel food cake). I'll answer that next week.

I'm glad that the worst that happened in your kitchen was a mess to clean up. Could have been so much worse!

Mary Wickison from USA on September 09, 2019:

Hi Linda,

My husband mentioned that story to me about the boy who went blind. You're right, people go crazy counting calories and not thinking about if something is good for the body or not. I still indulge occasionally in cookies and ice cream but it's balanced off by my oatmeal and salads.

When I was young we had angel food cake as my father had a heart problem, so fat was off the menu. I haven't had it in quite awhile but I remember enjoying it. Is it necessary to make it in a bundt pan?

We had exactly that kitchen accident this week where a handle wasn't turned in. A pan full of onions and oil, hit the tile floor. What a mess!

Have a great week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Sha, I'm shocked. You think you really know someone, and then they say something totally out of the blue that knocks your sock off. "What's wrong with angel food cake?" Flourish summed it up pretty well I thought. It feels like the sponge you use to wash dishes.

I'm glad to have you back here. That storm had me concerned. I hope you are well.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Bill, the change in seasons means I need to get out there and do the fall cleanup. There's lots to do. I hate saying goodbye to the flowers, but like you I'm enjoying this cooler weather.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Pamela, it's good to hear from you. Like you, I rarely bake anymore. That stuff is just too dangerous.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 09, 2019:

Thank you Flourish. I thought I was alone in the world.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 09, 2019:

Hey, Linda! I know I've been MIA lately and I apologize for that.

I love, love, love your tip about turning the handle of a pot or pan away from you. That's the way I was raised, as well. It blows me away that on just about every cooking show I watch, including "Chopped", where the cooks are dashing about and behind each other, chefs leave the handles sticking out over the stove! Don't they know better?!

And what's wrong with angel food cake? I love it!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2019:

When I went down to Oregon last weekend to see my buddy, I ate junk food for two days. I definitely felt it...sluggish...upset stomach. To think I lived on it for years. Now my body say NOOOOOOOO!

Loving the rain...Happy September my friend!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 09, 2019:

I liked reading the history of the angel food cake. I haven't made one in quite a while, but I don't bake like I use to. I don't need the calories! I think you kitchen tips were excellent also. Have a wonderful week, Linda.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 09, 2019:

I completely agree with you on angel food cake. It’s like eating a soft sponge. Yuck. Someone likes it, I’m sure.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on September 08, 2019:

John happy to see you first in line. Safety is a big deal in my kitchen. I know some adults who need some lessons too.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 08, 2019:

Great job, Linda. thank you for answering my question about angel food cake, even its -3 rating lol. Good tips to stay safe in the kitchen too. Cheers.

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