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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, and Cooking, #85

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

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Definitions

Earlier this week I received a sweet note from our friend Eric Dierker:

God sends angels my way. I have not got a clue how that works. But I can spot an angel 1.3 million miles away. Don't know what air you have flowing up there. But the love flows all the way down our Mexico border way.

Maybe as a master Chef of love you can answer this one. Believe me I have no clue where it came out weeding my garden and thinking of you.

Bountiful. Maybe Cornucopia? Where does that come from? Our foods here are so plentiful.

Yes, once again I'm allowing Eric to provide the introduction because he's talking of what my objective in writing this weekly column has always been—I love food history and I love to tell stories; I love cooking and sharing my 50+ years of knowledge with you; I love helping anyone and everyone to achieve, to grow, to learn. You are my friends and I gather you into my kitchen. Let's have a cup of coffee (or tea) together, share stories, and help one another.

So, getting back to Eric's question about the cornucopia—it's an odd-sounding word, usually associated with Thanksgiving Day, a woven basket with apples, pears, clusters of grapes, nuts, gourds, and other assorted produce items spilling out. The word Latin “cornu” means horn, and “copia” means plenty. But how did this concept begin?

The website Atlas Obscura provides a beautifully-worded explanation:

According to the ancient Greeks, the horn of plenty, as the cornucopia was originally known, was broken off the head of an enchanted she-goat by Zeus himself. As the myth goes, the infant Zeus was hidden away from his father, the titan Cronos, in a cave on the isle of Crete. While in hiding, the baby Zeus was fed and cared for by Amalthea, a figure alternately depicted as a naiad (water nymph) or she-goat. Whether Amalthea was the goat herself, or just its caretaker, most of the myths agree that Zeus, while suckling at the teat of a magic goat, broke off its horn, which began to pour forth a never-ending supply of nourishment. Thus the symbol of the horn of plenty was born.

Thanks, Eric for asking the question. I learn each time I do research for this column, and all of you gain a bit more wisdom, some useful, some obscure, but always interesting and entertaining. And, it's free.

Let's get started with the questions that came to the mailbox this past week.

Cooking With Aluminum Pans

I have a question about aluminum pans. My husband was making a custard and the recipe said not to make it in an aluminum pan, why would that be?

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Mary the problem here is the eggs in the custard. They don't play nicely with aluminum.

Aluminum is a great heat conductor (second only to copper) and it's lightweight so easy to handle. That's the good news. The down-side of aluminum is that it is a "reactive" metal. In the words of Martin Luther "what does this mean?" A reactive metal interacts with foods that are acidic, alkaline, or sulfurous. That reaction will alter the flavor and appearance (color) of the food being cooked.

Aluminum is reactive, so are cast iron and copper. So, don't use them if you are cooking acid foods (containing coffee, vinegar, fruit), alkaline foods (most vegetables, grains, and beans), or sulfurous foods (eggs).

Do Old Eggs Really Float?

Speaking of eggs, the next question is from "anonymous" who wondered if there is any science behind the claim that fresh eggs sink and old eggs float, or is this just an old wives tale?

I can tell you that this absolutely is true, and this is why it works.

  • You've probably noticed that there is a membrane between the egg white and the shell.
  • And, if you've ever shelled a hard-cooked egg, you have probably also seen a slight indentation in the rounded end of the egg (not the pointy end, the other one). This is because there is a very small air pocket there.
  • Egg shells are porous and as time passes, they absorb air. When enough air enters the shell, the air pocket at the rounded end enlarges to make the egg buoyant.

And, while we're on the topic of eggs...

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Each week we learn about a food item that you probably toss into the trash bin without a thought or a care—until today that is. Let's find out which discards can be re-used and re-purposed. Last week I gave a few suggestions on how to use discarded eggshells.

  • Repel slugs and snails
  • Plant with tomatoes to prevent blossom-end rot
  • Use for potting up seedlings. Just as good as pulp pots and they're free.

Several friends pointed out that there is at least one more way to use them that I had not considered. You can grind them up in a clean spice grinder and add to your dogs' food as a calcium supplement, about 1/2 teaspoon to a serving of kibble.

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.

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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: lindalum52@gmail.com.

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

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on June 19, 2019:

Linda

The story about Zeus was very interesting.

Lawrence

manatita44 from london on May 22, 2019:

Aaahh! Touching!

I still have a lot to do in East Africa. Gratitude.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 22, 2019:

Manatita, you are a rascal (and I hope you never change). It is good to have you back on hub pages.

manatita44 from london on May 22, 2019:

That egg idea was so cool! Nice!

Cornucopia? A big word and you explained it quite well. Can you tell me something about ants? Ha ha. Joke.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 22, 2019:

Rinita it is good to hear from you again. You have been missed. I don't have geckos in my part of the world, but I am sure that other readers do, so thank you for that advice. As for aluminum pans, I think it best to not use them.

Rinita Sen on May 22, 2019:

I have always wondered about the floating eggs, too. Now I know. We also use egg shells for repelling the common gecko. As for aluminum vessels, my doc advises not to use them (at least not pure aluminum) for any kind of cooking, because they could make food toxic at high heat.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 20, 2019:

Hi Flourish. Yes, I would retire the aluminum pans unless you are simply boiling water. As for eggs, the trick I mentioned above is for raw (not hard cooked) eggs. Put them, one at a time, in a glass of water. If they sink they are fresh. If they hover in the middle of the glass they are OK, and if they float toss them out.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 20, 2019:

My mother cooks with some of my great grandmother’s aluminum pots and I’m going to tell her to stop out of safety. Yikes. Is there a way to tell if unboiled eggs are fresh when you don’t have a date to rely on? My young nephew gathers the eggs and we’ve received some bad ones because he’s fallen behind in his duties. Kids.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 20, 2019:

Mary, I'm beginning to think that I'm going to have to start sharing the proceeds from this gig with you because you are providing most of the inspiration. If you can wait until Monday I will have (fingers crossed) ann answer for you.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on May 20, 2019:

Oh Linda, I forgot. I had a recipe for a chocolate cake in a mug. This I made in the microwave in all of 3 minutes. However, my husband confiscated my fuse out of my plug (UK plug) so the microwave isn't working. I never really trusted it anyway, so I wasn't that miffed.

However, I still want cake without much planning or mess. Do you have a stove top quick recipe that would be similar? If I make muffins, it takes me too long to get through them and boredom sets in. I'm thinking maybe one or two servings only.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 20, 2019:

Mary, I was glad to help. I've also heard those stories about aluminum and Alzheimer's but the jury is still out. However, since it has not conclusively been ruled out I think it best to limit one's exposure.

By the way, you wrote last week and gave me a suggestion for a new topic (remember the escargot?) and I'm having an absolute blast working on this. Way too much fun. Thanks for the idea.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on May 20, 2019:

Thanks for answering my question about the pans. I have heard that it could be linked to Alzheimer's disease.

I never had heard the story about the cornucopia, really interesting.

I have an audio book, I've yet to listen to about Greek myths. I must get to it.

Have a great week.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 20, 2019:

Shauna, it's a good thing that Eric came to the rescue. This post was looking mighty puny. Next week will be better, I promise.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 20, 2019:

Lots of science in this installment, Linda. Sometimes when we're told not to do something, we're not told why. Scientific explanations are irrefutable.

I love the story behind horn of plenty. I'd not heard it before. Thanks for the education!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 20, 2019:

Bill, thanks for the affirmation. Have a great week my friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on May 20, 2019:

Pamela, a short but sweet one this week, easy-peasy as we say in the Carb Diva household. Thank you for your kind comments. I hope you have a wonderful week as well.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 20, 2019:

All true about eggs. We get a multiple of uses from our eggs and yes, old eggs DO float!!!

Happy cool Monday, Linda! Have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 20, 2019:

I love the addition of a kitty picture to your Monday post. This is an interesting article with some history again, and I like learning new things also. I have never used aluminum pans, but have used cast iron, stainless steel and some with copper over the years. It is always good to know what is safe. Thanks Linda for another good article to start the week, and I hope your's is a good one.

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