Can toast be drunk? Where does ketchup come from?

Date:09-05-2014 07:58:04 read:0

Can toast be drunk? Where does ketchup come from?

A new book by James Steen, The Kitchen Magpie, is a veritable store-cupboard of fascinating foodie facts. Here are our ten favourites

A 2003 survey showed that a third of Americans believed a haggis was a small animal Photo: Alamy

On bee and wasp stings

Do not bother searching for a dock leaf to rub on the sting. The search could take hours, or days. Instead, rub the sting with vinegar. This will sooth, stop swelling and reduce pain. Poppy leaves are also said to do the trick.

On curing a headache (and jet lag and wrinkles)

Don't reach for the aspirin: have a dozen cherries instead, especially if your headache is in British cherry season (between June and July). Cherries contain anthocyanins, which are also potent antioxidants to fight cancer. Sour cherries such as Morello contain significant amounts of melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain that slows the ageing process and fights insomnia and jet lag. It's also being studied as a potential treatment for cancer, depression and other diseases and disorders.

The Haggis: myths and legends

In 2003 a survey of 1,000 American tourists visiting Scotland revealed that a third of them believed the haggis to be a small animal. About a quarter of those questioned were coming to Scotland to 'try to catch a haggis'. One American tourist described the haggis as 'a wild beast of the Highlands which only comes out at night.

Freaky fridge facts

In 1948 just two per cent of households in Britain owned a refrigerator. Even in 1959 only 13 per cent of home had one, compared with 96 per cent in America. But this next bit is even more alarming: in the 1700s when the word 'refrigeratory' was coined, no one had a fridge. It meant 'something that cools' – but no one really had anything that cooled. In the 1820s brewers came up with a cabinet for keeping food cool – they called it the refrigerator. The electric-powered household device was available from the end of the First World War. Refrigerator became frigerator and then Fridgidaire started making fridges. The word 'fridge' was considered a bit common; like 'loo' instead of lavatory. Cookbooks in the 1970s still shied away from the colloquial 'fridge', preferring 'refrigerator'.

Famous last words

Lou Costello – the funny, chubby half of US comedy duo Abbott and Costello – suffered a heart attack on 26 February 1959 and was admitted to Doctors Hospital in Beverly Hills. On 13 March he was visited by his manager, Eddie Sherman. Lous persuaded Eddie to nip off to a nearby drugstore to get him a strawberry ice cream soda. After relishing it, Lou declared, 'That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted.' Then he died of a heart attack.

A fan: Chef Marco Pierre White with his copies of The Kitchen Magpie

Why does salt bring out the flavour of food?

This happens for two reasons: 1. Salt can literally 'salt out' flavours. This means that it effectively pushes out of the product more of the volatile flavour. 2. The aroma (smell of food) can be enhanced by tastes that are 'consonant' with the flavour – these are the tastes that you expect. So a salty taste makes you think that volatile savoury flavours are stronger.


Ketchup, catchup or catsup, derives from ke-chiap (sometimes written ke-tsiap), which was a pickled fish sauce popular in China. European traders loved the sauce and brought it west with them in the 17th century. Or does the name come from Indonesia, where kicap (or kecap or ketjap) was a sauce made of brined shellfish, herbs and spices? Whatever the exact origin of the term, it was mostly catsup in Britain. Jonathan Swift's poem 'Panegyric On The Dear' (1730) refers to it:

She sent her priests in wooden shoes

From haughty Gaul to make ragouts;

Instead of wholesome bread and cheese,

To dress their soups and fricassees;

And, for our homebred British cheer,

Botargo, catsup, and caviare.

Why do cold things like mustard and peppers taste 'hot'?

This is due to 'chemesthesis' and our trigeminal senses, the nerves for which are wrapped around the papillae on our tongues, but also have branches on the eyes and nose. Trigeminal senses include heat from mustard and chilli as well as cooling sensations from mint and the pungency of onions. These senses can also induce 'cheese sweats' around the eyes.

Can toast be drunk?

It can. In Victorian times the British working classes drank 'toast water', using it during illness as a form of nourishment. The recipe goes like this: 'Toast a piece of bread thoroughly browned to its centre without being burnt, put it into a jug, pour boiling water upon it, cover it and allow it to stand and steep until it has cooled; it will then be fit for drink.' Toast water benefits from a dollop of blackcurrant jam, added to the jug before the boiling water.

Which month, which orange?

The tangerine is in season from October to March; the satsuma from October to February; the clementine from November to February; blood oranges are in season in February and March; Seville oranges are ready to eat in January and February.

Extracted from The Kitchen Magpie by James Steen (Icon Books, RRP £12.99). The book is available to order from Telegraph Books at £8.19 + £1.10 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013