As the holiday season approaches, please make sure your greetings are properly seasoned. In honor of one of our coterie auditioning for Jeopardy! (fingers crossed), here is a “Things that Start with B or C” trivia roundup. Grab some blue crab, black currants, and broasted chicken.
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1. The first known recipe for what we call “chili” comes from the Aztecs in 1519. The recipe, recorded by one of Hernan Cortés’s underlings, contained only tomatoes, salt, and chiles, and was traditionally prepared—but not eaten—the night before a major battle. The meat, you see, was to be the flesh of conquistadors. I have no idea if that’s true, but it somehow seems both plausible and implausible at the same time.
Centuries later, American frontiersman would make dried bricks of beef, chili peppers, and spices, to be rehydrated on the trail. The idea was subsequently (re)appropriated in the early 20th century, when consumers could purchase “brick chili” at their local greengrocer, which once again raises the question of why more foods are not sold in brick form. Chili’s growing foothold in US cuisine owed much to its popularity in San Antonio, where “chili queens” hawked their wares nightly in the town square, until “the man” shut down the queens for assorted health code violations in 1937. Nonetheless, “chili parlors” sprouted up across the US, firmly entrenching the dish in the gustatory zeitgeist.
The hottest chili on record is made with the Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango: the Guatemalan insanity pepper…grown deep in the jungle primeval, by inmates at a Guatemalan insane asylum.
For the record, the best athlete named Chili? Chili Davis:
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2. Elements that start with B or C:
4: Beryllium (Be): Beryllium was used in fluorescent lighting, and can cause serious alveolar damage when inhaled in particulate form. The resulting illness—berylliosis—is diagnostically difficult to distinguish from sarcoidosis, which is the thing you’re second least likely to come down with (after lupus), if watching House has taught me anything.
5. Boron (B): Borosilicate glass is resistant to thermal shock, and sold as Pyrex. The most common form of boron is borax, used as a detergent and cleaning product. It’s also used in semiconductors and neodymium magnets.
6. Carbon (C): An inanimate carbon rod was once named employee of the month at the Springfield nuclear power plant.
20. Calcium (CA): Calcium carbonate is a primary ingredient in most antacids. Overconsumption of such antacids over time can lead to milk-alkali syndrome, an excess of calcium in the blood.
24. Chromium (Cr): Chromium salts are used to tan leather and in dyes and pigments. Chromium is mixed with iron to produce chrome, and electroplated on various car accessories to make them look shiny, patriotic, and attractive to fish.
27. Cobalt (Co): The name comes from the German “kobold”, meaning goblin. Cobalt has been used a blue dye/pigment since at least the Egyptian empire, and cobalt alloys are now used in turbine blades. In the early 1960s cobalt compounds were added to stabilize beer foam in Canada, leading to a malady known as beer drinker’s cardiomyopathy.
29. Copper (Cu): It’s estimated that there is enough copper in the top kilometer of the earth’s crust to sustain current mining levels for five million years, which is cool because copper is incredibly easy to recycle, and it’s estimated that 80% of the copper ever mined is still in use today. What a great element.
35. Bromine (Br): Bromine is a real charmer: a “fuming, red-brown liquid, corrosive and toxic” at room temperature. Still, bromine compounds are used to purify drinking water and maintain pools, as flame retardants, in anti-knock gas additives, pesticides, brominated vegetable oil (the emulsifier used in Mountain Dew, that is illegal in Europe), and until the early 20th century, as a sedative/pain killer, most prominently in the form of Bromo-Seltzer.
48. Cadmium (Cd): Cadmium is usually only found as an “impurity” in zinc oxides, but is used in batteries, electroplating, and as a pigment.
55. Cesium (Cs): My high school chemistry teacher called it “Sleazium” because “it reacts with anything.” It’s used in atomic clocks, and is one of only a few metals to be liquid at (or near) room temperature; it melts at 82 degrees Fahrenheit, unless it’s coated with a thin candy shell.
56. Barium (Ba): Used to make green coloring in flames and fireworks, and for enemas.
58. Cerium (Ce): Cerium is a sort of jack-of-all trades used in catalytic converters, glass polishers, colored glass, fluorescent lighting, carbon-arc lighting, tungsten-arc welding, and arks of all types.
83. Bismuth (Bi): Bismuth was thought to be the heaviest stable (non-radioactive) element, until scientists recently labeled it “slightly radioactive” and estimated its half-life at a billion times the age of the universe, which makes one wonder how low the bar is for “slightly”. Bismuth also gives Pepto-Bismol its name, although no one is yet clear on the exact mechanism by which pepto works.
96. Curium (Cm): A ton of spent nuclear fuel contains 20 grams of curium.
97. Berkelium (Bk): Just over one gram of berkelium has been produced in the United States in the last 50 years.
98. Californium (Cf): The heaviest element that occurs naturally on earth.
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3. Candy bars were not really a thing until they were developed and marketed by Fry’s. The Fry chocolate company had been founded in 1759 by a Quaker; his son eventually took over the business, and in 1795 developed a method of grinding cocoa with steam power, thus introducing “modern” factory techniques to chocolatiering. Chocolate was traditionally a rich man’s vice, especially in England, in part because of import taxes on cocoa; only when those restrictions were relaxed could chocolate be produced for the common man. In 1847, Fry’s began selling the first “candy bar.”
In 1914, they released the wildly popular Fry’s Turkish Delight, a chocolate-covered turkish delight. When I read the Narnia books as a kid, I assumed turkish delight was some kind of exquisite candy ambrosia, only to eventually eat some and be aggressively disabused of that notion. Turkish delight: my greatest letdown, next to Nabisco’s continued reluctance to produce the triple stuf oreo. Oddly enough, the Cadbury company was also founded by Quakers, though they initially sold tea and coffee in addition to “drinking” chocolate (Cadbury and Fry’s merged in 1919, less than a year after the end of WWI…conspiracy?).
Here are some other B-or-C-related candies: Baby Ruth (supposedly named after Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth, and not Babe Ruth; although it’s also claimed that this story was made up to avoid trademark lawsuits with the baseball player. As part of a marketing scheme, thousands of Baby Ruth bars were dropped over Chicago in 1923; each bar had its own parachute); Bar None (discontinued Hershey product, said to “tame the chocolate beasty”); Big Turk (chocolate covered turkish delight, Canadian-style, meaning it is actually ham covered in maple syrup and sold only at Tim Horton’s); Crunky (chocolate and crisped rice, sold in South Korea); Chunky (milk chocolate, peanuts, raisins. A smaller version called a “Chunky Cutie” used to be available); Club Sandwich (chocolate covered peanut-butter and cracker sandwich that is – I repeat – called a “Club Sandwich”); Carlos V (Mexican milk chocolate – “El Rey de los chocolates”); Cup-O-Gold (marshmallow-filled-cup-type candy product, with almonds and coconut); Caramello Koala (koala-shaped caramel-filled chocolate)
• Chicken ‘N Beer is a 2003 album by Ludacris.
• Famous pirates from the golden era include Blackbeard, whose flag depicted a skeleton spearing a heart while toasting the devil:
4. The silly way to do a “Things that Start with B or C” category is that some correct responses start with B, others with C. The better way is if each correct response must include both a word that starts with B and one that starts with C, phrased in the form of “What is B or C?” For example: A: “A man’s name.” Q: “What is Bill or Chet?” So:
“Actors who have played Batman”
“Mass produced American beers with silver and red labels”
“A government worker”
“Teams that played in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII”
“Thin, unleavened pancakes often served with sweet or savory fillings”
Others that didn’t quite make the cut: a) “Olympic host city in 1988 or 1992”, b) “A piece of furniture most often used to hold clothing”, c) “Something you urinate in”