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The plant disease that's threatening your chocolate stash

Chocolate frosty pod rot is not a poorly conceived cereal brand. Instead, it's a fungus that devours cocoa pods — turning them to nasty mush while still on the branch. Quietly spreading through Central America, chocolate frosty pod rot can devastate cocoa crops, wiping out entire plantations. Maggie 11

8 foods that aren't as frightening as Buzzfeed thinks they are

An actual chemist looks at claims made about "toxic foods" in a recent Buzzfeed linkbait post and calmly explains why the whole thing is ridiculous. Of the 8 foods (actually, mostly food additives) mentioned, one is hardly used anymore, another was withdrawn from the market two years ago, two only sound scary if you failed chemistry, and four have had their risks vastly overstated. It's the sort of situation where some studies show a risk, some studies don't, and there's good reasons to think the risk — if it exists — isn't that big, to begin with. Maggie

Cooking breakfast in a bag

Tom Fassbender went camping with his daughter and cooked bacon and eggs in a paper bag set over campfire coals. He says it was a "mixed success" but the results look tasty!

An Experiment in Campfire Cooking

Volcano Dust - made from ghost chili peppers

Volcano Dust is a brand of powdered bhut jolokia chili peppers. Also known as ghost chills, bhut jolokias are mind-bendingly hot. For example, an average jalapeño pepper measures about 5,000 on the Scoville heat scale; a bhut jolokia measures 1,000,000 Scovilles.

The manufacturer of Volcano Dust sent me a box of samples, and I carefully tried them out. They are certainly the hottest powdered chili peppers I've ever tasted, but I like them. A slight dusting of the Hot Italian Blend on my easy-over eggs or chicken soup turns them into an exciting culinary experience. Here's to blown-out capsaicin receptors!

(I gave Cory a jar of the pure powdered bhut jolokia when he came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully he'll share his thoughts on it.)

Volcano Dust

Ra Chand Citrus Press squeezes every last drop of juice from fruit

Living in Southern California, we have an abundance of citrus nearly year round — lemons, limes, kumquats, grapefruits, and more. I also have a household of beverage enthusiasts, from my kids who love to make lemon-, lime-, etc. -ades, or “kid drinks” as they call them, to my wife and I who are crazy about cocktails, flips, fizzes, and sours. This is why I graduated from my fine, but slow, hand juicer, to the monstrous, restaurant-calibre Ra Chand J210 Bar Juicer. It makes quick, efficient work of juicing tons of citrus. Rather than dread all the labor, I’m now happy to juice enough fruit to make a full pitcher of Ginger Limeonade with my kids to sell in their DIY juice stand.

The Ra Chand is dead simple. No motors or fragile plastic parts to break — in fact it only has six parts, made of cast aluminum, plus a wire return spring and a few bolts. The mechanical advantage it provides is tremendous. With its long lever and offset pivots, even my six-year-old daughter can use it to easily squeeze a half-lemon dry. The Ra Chand is big enough for me to juice a medium grapefruit — when I have a larger-sized one to contend with I quarter it (and secretly wish I had the even-larger model, the J500).

The straining cone (which looks like a half beehive) allows juice and the occasional small seed through, but very little pulp. This is also due to the fact that pressing (rather than twisting like a motorized juicer) bursts the cells of the fruit, but doesn’t shred the membranes.

If I have one complaint it is that the juicer can be tipped forward easily until you get the hang of pulling the lever down, not down-and-toward-yourself. I’ve gotten used to this, but I do hold onto the base when my kids use it to avoid a mess.

In all, the Ra Chand is hands-down the best citrus juicer I’ve used. I appreciate its size, speed, power, ruggedness, and simplicity. I imagine it’ll be in our family for many years, hopefully providing juice for generations. -- John Edgar Park

Ra Chand Citrus Press $194

Scientific American in the late 1800s: eating horse flesh is good for the economy


At the Smithsonian's Smart News blog, a fun post looking at historic debates in America's science media about whether it's okay to eat horse meat, with links to some Scientific American articles from the 1860s and 1870s.

One such article published in 1875, "Shall We Eat The Horse?," argues that "in not utilizing horse flesh as food, we are throwing away a valuable and palatable meat, of which there is sufficient quantity largely to augment our existing aggregate food supply. Supposing that the horse came into use here as food, it can be easily shown that the absolute wealth in the country would thereby be materially increased."

A decade later, SciAm published this piece screengrabbed above, on the shifting cultural norms that made eating horse totally not cool.

Cupcake appears to be topped with bloody glass shards

This completely edible Dexter-themed cupcake would go well with the Carrie cake I saw several years ago at a craft fair.

Cheese-flipping robot patiently rotates gruyere

K0re on YouTube had a genuinely wonderful day in Switzerland that included the HR Giger museum, lashings of absinthe, and a good deal of time in the company of a machine that patiently rotates wheels of cheese.

I wanted to see the Giger Museum and Bar in Gruyeres about an hour away from Montreux.

The driver Pascal suggested the cheese factory and took me on a mini-tour of how they make gruyere and how the cows are treated, etc. after an afternoon of absinthe and grotesquerie.

Cheese Robot (via Kottke)