There are two things you should bring to any dinner party; fine wine and sparkling conversation. You can pick up the wine on the way, so I’ll just serve up a few interesting facts about the things on the dinner table.
FACT: sweet potatoes are a totally different species from yams
In North America the word yam is often used interchangeably with sweet potato, but they are two plants of completely different species. Yams come from Africa and Asia. Sweet Potatoes from South America, and now grown locally in the US and Canada. The misnomer came when local sweet potato growers needed a name to differentiate between firm and soft varieties. The firm kind was called a yam, as it did look similar to the true African yam.
FACT: red peppers, green beans, and cucumbers are all fruits
Usually it’s only tomatoes that are questioned as vegetables, but these three plants are also technically in fruit territory. The rule is simple. If part of the plant contains or holds seeds then that part is labeled as a fruit. Conversely, there is no specific requirements to be a vegetable… it’s just a plant we like to eat.
FACT: in the US, a tomato is legally declared to be a vegetable for tax reasons
One fellow was importing tomatoes into the US and he refused to pay a tariff based on the argument that the tomato is not a vegetable. While technically he was correct, the US Supreme Court passed a law in 1833 making the tomato a vegetable and thus firmly qualifying for the tax to be paid.
FACT: the fork was once banned for religious reasons
The fork was once banished by the Catholic church in Italy circa 1000 AD. Everybody ate with their fingers as God intended, so the Byzantine princess who brought the fork to Italy was viewed as an unwelcome blasphemer. The fork vanished for about 500 years, until it was finally accepted into polite society when in 1633 King Charles I of England made a royal decree that it was decent to use a fork.
FACT: carrots have only been orange for about 500 years
The historical evidence suggests that the orange carrot on our dinner plates is a pretty new thing, popping up in Europe about 1600. Throughout human agricultural history carrots have been white, yellow, red, and purple but never known to be orange. We’re not certain how it happened, but they do figure that the new orange carrots were proudly encouraged and cultivated by the Dutch people, where the orange colour was a symbol of political independence.
Hopefully that provides you with a few interesting “Did you know…?” conversation starters. In case you were wondering, I recommend a red… perhaps Merlot.