Did you know that Feta cheese is Greece’s national cheese and is one of the most popular cheeses in the world? But what most people don’t know is that feta dates back to ancient times. It’s always been made from the milk of sheep and goats. In fact, the scary Cyclops (the one-eyed giant of Greek myth in the Odyssey) made sheep’s milk into feta cheese even back then. How ancient and cheesy can you get?
Some Romans swigged a sweet energy drink containing goat dung. Charioteers were known to boil goat dung and vinegar into a drink or grind it into a powder. They gulped it down as a pick-me-up when they were exhausted. In fact, one of the most well-known lovers of goat dung refreshment was the crazy Emperor Nero. You wouldn’t want to mess with him.
How would you like to eat mashed-up sheep’s innards? Yes, that’s haggis. Even the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns described haggis as ‘gushing entrails’ – and he was trying to be kind about it. Haggis is a bit like a giant sausage balloon cooked in a sheep’s stomach. It’s filled with oatmeal, fat, a sheep’s cut-up liver, heart, lungs, kidneys and any other gooey innards available. After it’s simmered for four hours, serve up and enjoy (or not!).
10 Tasty Haggis Facts:
- In 1984 the first vegan-friendly haggis was launched. No sheep involved.
- Until the 18th century, haggis was eaten mainly in England. Norway’s version of haggis is vegetarian and is made from beans and lentils. Apparently, the first mention of a Scottish haggis wasn’t until 1747.
- In fact, the most haggis today is sold in England and not Scotland. One haggis company sends 60% of the over 1,000 tons of haggis it makes to London each year.
- Importing haggis to the USA was made illegal in 1971. Could it be a secret weapon?
- In 2003, a study revealed that up to a third of American visitors to Scotland thought a haggis was an actual animal. Can you imagine a field of grazing haggises?
- Brace yourself… you can buy haggis flavoured crisps and ice cream. Yum.
- The world’s biggest haggis was made by Halls of Scotland and weighs 2,226 lb 10 oz – that’s as much as a small car. And for pudding? A fried Mars Bar, of course!
- Even though haggis is the national dish of Scotland, it wasn’t invented by the Scots. It was probably invented by the Romans, who brought it to Britain over 2,000 years ago (that’s a very old haggis).
- Haggis hurling is an actual sport. In 2011, Lorne Coltart set the record, hurling his haggis over 66 metres. He obviously wanted to get rid of it.
- Ireland, France, Spain and Hong Kong are the biggest buyers of haggis outside the UK. Not many people know that.
Believe it or not, the first recorded image of kebabs is on the Bayeux Tapestry.
Norman knights celebrate their victory over the Saxons by grilling skewers of meat over an open fire. It looks like whole chickens are cooked on spits, so maybe Hastings KFC were the caterers for the after-battle party. It looks as if the soldiers’ shields double up as table-tops.
Of all the food at Christmas, there’s one that can cause quite a stink – the humble Brussels sprout. You either love them or loathe them.
So why do some people gag at the taste, while others find them a mouth-watering delight? After all, they’re only little cabbagy buds from Pakistan and cultivated in Belgium from around the 13th century. Probably since the 1500s they appeared on Christmas tables, particularly around Brussels.
A serving of sprouts contains four times more vitamin C than an orange, and a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains only about 60 calories. So, they’re good for you. Convinced? The trouble is, sprouts are often overcooked and boiled too early for Christmas dinner (sometimes it tastes like they’ve cooked since November). Not only does over-boiling destroy their vitamins, but also makes them smell like rotten eggs.
To put it bluntly, sprouts can give you wind. The problem with sprouts is that they contain chemicals that our bodies struggle to break down. That means they get only partly digested when they move from the stomach through to the colon. Here the bacteria go a bit crazy, trying to work on all that sprouty goo – so sometimes the effects are noisy, smelly or both.
To put it even more bluntly, sprouts contain sulphur, which protects them from animals wanting to chomp their leaves. This sulphur makes the slightly bitter taste that some people hate and other people love. The bacteria in our bodies turns that sulphur into extra smelly gases, which (brace yourself) can result in distinctive ‘sprout farts’.
If you hate Brussels sprouts, think of this as a superpower that protects you from sulphur and a windy Boxing Day.
Death by Eating
King Henry I of England (the son of William the Conqueror) ruled with an iron fist but he had a weakness – eating lampreys, an eel-like blood-sucking fish. After a lamprey feast in 1135, at the age of about 66, the king looked a bit odd and promptly died. It was reported like this: ‘Henry stopped at St. Denys in the wood of Lions to eat some lampreys, a fish he was very fond of, though they always disagreed with him, and the physicians had often cautioned him against eating them, but he would not listen to their advice. This food mortally chilled the old man’s blood and caused a sudden and violent illness against which nature struggled and brought on an acute fever.’ Moral of the story – always listen to your doctor and lay off the fish and chips in France.