15 Quirky Food Facts That Will Amaze Any Foodie

Do you consider yourself a knowledgeable foodie? Do you think your knowledge of food history and the ingredients in your kitchen is superior to others? You might be surprised by some of these interesting food factoids.

The following are some unique characteristics of the food we enjoy daily. Whether it is how they were discovered or why they taste the way they do, you might learn a thing or two that will help you on your next trivia night. Or, they might just make you say, “huh.” Either way, enjoy these foodie details.

1. Origin of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

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You might be surprised these spicy Cheeto treats were invented by a janitor at the Frito-Lay factory. That’s right, Richard Montañez began making his own spicy recipe to coat the plant’s Cheetos, and his family and friends went crazy for it. He pitched his idea to Frito-Lay’s CEO in 1976, and the rest is history. He would eventually work his way up to executive vice president at PepsiCo North America.

The story is so captivating that Fox Searchlight Pictures released a movie about Montañez’s life called Flamin’ Hot.

2. Chocolate Was Used As Currency

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Ever since its discovery, chocolate has been a delicacy. People go crazy over it. However, the ancient Aztecs and Mayans valued the cacao bean so much that they used it as a form of currency.

The Mayans considered cacao a gift from the gods and used the beans for sacred ceremonies and funeral offerings. The Aztecs began growing the crop, and it is believed that in the 1500s, Aztecs could purchase a turkey or a hen for 100 beans. I wonder what the Mayans would do for a family-sized bag of M&M’s?

3. Ketchup Was Once Medicine

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That tangy condiment for your fries was once considered a special tonic prescribed by doctors. In the early 1800s, the condiment was believed to cure people with cases of jaundice, diarrhea, and heartburn. In 1834, an American physician, Dr. John Cook Bennett, decided to sell the recipe as “tomato pills.” He believed its fermented state would work the same way Chinese medicine used fermented foods to provide overall health.

Ironically, today, we use ketchup to put on foods that give us heartburn and indigestion.

4. Honey Never Goes Bad

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If you have a jar of honey sitting in your pantry, don’t worry. It’s perfectly fine to spread on your breakfast toast. The bacteria and microorganisms that make food expire need moisture to survive, and honey has minimal water content.

As long as it is in a dry space, honey will survive long after you and I are gone.

5. Caesar Salad Is Not Italian

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The next time you order a caesar salad at your favorite Italian restaurant, just know you are pairing your spaghetti with a Mexican salad. That’s right: the salad wasn’t named after the famous Roman emperor.

The Caesar salad was invented in 1927 by the owner of the Hotel Caesar in Tijuana, Mexico. Even in 2024, the town hosts an annual festival every June in honor of the tasty side salad. Still, having a caesar salad and a plate of tacos doesn’t seem right.

6. Bananas, Pumpkins and Lemons are Berries

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If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around bananas being a berry, here’s another curve ball. Raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries aren’t berries at all. They’re part of the rose family.

These fruits are categorized as “berries” because they are developed from the ovary of a flower and have three layers: the skin, the flesh, and edible seeds.

7. Cilantro Can Taste Like Soap

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If you hate the taste of cilantro or coriander, you might be genetically predisposed to the flavor. Studies have shown that the herb can contain some of the same aldehydes and chemicals found in soaps, detergents, and lotions.

With cilantro being used in so many Latin dishes, it must have been hard to go your whole life wondering why everyone likes putting soap on their tacos.

8. Figs May Not Be Vegan

Fresh figs
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Despite being a plant, figs cannot be guaranteed to be totally vegan. When the fruit is pollinated, a female wasp burrows inside the center of the fig to lay her eggs, dying in the process. While the insect’s remains are gone by the time we eat the fig, there’s no way to ensure that the fruit is entirely bug-free.

Vegans can calm down and rest assured that figs sold at the local grocery store are usually mass-produced and do not rely on wasps for pollination. Still, you can never be 100% sure.

9. There’s only one Froot Loop Flavor

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Remember that sugary cereal you used to chow down every Saturday morning while watching cartoons? The one with a rainbow of colors and flavors? Can you believe that all of those colors were really the same flavor?

Don’t go to your pantry for a taste test. You may have thought the colors represented cherry, orange, and lemon, but it’s all in your mind. My whole childhood was a farce.

10. Peppers Have More vitamin C than Oranges

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We all know that orange juice is a delicious source of vitamin C, but we might want to start juicing bell peppers instead. Still, adding bell peppers, especially the orange pepper, to your meals can add as much as 237mg of vitamin C to your diet.

To put that in perspective, a typical navel orange has only about 83mg of vitamin C—almost a third of the bell pepper.

11. Killer Molasses

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When you think of foods that can kill you, your mind usually goes directly to them being poisonous. That wasn’t the case when, in 1919, a storage tank full of molasses burst open in Boston, Massachusetts. The result was a rushing rapid of thick syrup reaching 35 miles per hour.

The disaster killed 21 people while 150 people were left injured, leaving the city with a lasting stale and sticky aroma. This sounds like a deleted scene out of a twisted Willy Wonka film.

12. Paprika is Ground-Up Bell Peppers

Smoked Paprika
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Paprika is one of the most versatile spices in a chef’s cupboard. It can be used for rubs, marinades, casseroles, and cream sauces. But, have you ever stopped and thought about what makes up the spice?

Paprika has one simple ingredient: bell peppers. To make paprika, take a bell pepper, dry it, chop it, and blend it into a fine dust. You can switch up the flavor by smoking it or sweetening it, but the recipe is still the same: blended bell pepper.

13. Canadians Invented California Rolls

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One of the most common orders at a sushi restaurant is the California roll. But, the roll, which comes with crab salad and avocado, was invented miles away from the Golden State.

Chef Hidekazu Tojo created this famous role in his Vancover-based restaurant in British Columbia. He used the state of California in the name because he observed that avocados could be added to almost any food when he visited San Francisco the year before. Today, you can find a Cali roll in almost any sushi restaurant.

14. Sandwiches are Named After English Royalty

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Can you imagine a world without sandwiches? What would we eat for lunch every day? Well, thank the Earl of Sandwich for inventing one of the most beloved meals of the modern day.

As the story goes, the Earl, John Montagu, was on a 24-hour gambling binge and refused to leave his table, thinking his luck would run out. He asked his servants to make him something he could hold in one hand while holding his cards in the other. The result is the renowned sandwich we all love today.

15. Pizza Hut kept Kale farmers busy

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Long before personal trainers and social influencers discovered the benefits of kale, Pizza Hut used the bitter leaves as a garnish on its salad bar. No, it wasn’t an option as a salad base; it was simply a garnish that made the salad bar look green and inviting.

At the time, there were so many Pizza Huts in operation that they were single-handedly the largest purchasers of kale in the United States. I wonder how many people it took to try kale before they realized it was a superfood and should be added to every meal?

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