America’s Test Kitchen Radio was launched nationally in January 2012. The public radio show features caller questions, as well as the cooking rescues and answers to kitchen stumpers America’s Test Kitchen is known for. The radio show also features weekly stories on everything from Cleopatra’s last meal to the world of competitive eating, revealing surprising facts about common household items and celebrity chefs alike. Below are 5 of our favorite facts revealed on the radio:
1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Doesn’t Mean Anything (in the US, Anyway)
We know “extra-virgin” means “best” when it comes to olive oil, right? Not so fast—an unregulated olive oil market in the United States can mean a bottle of so-called extra-virgin olive oil from Italy can contain anything from olive oil from Tunisia to sunflower oil for South America. The United States’ unregulated olive oil market means that no certification is required to label a bottle “extra-virgin” (unlike in Europe, where strict laws dictate olive oil classifications). So what’s a shopper to do? One expert interviewed recommends buying olive oils from California, where olive growers are competing on quality rather than quantity of oil sold.
Listen to “How to Buy Olive Oil”
2. There Never Was a Betty Crocker
General Mills invented Betty Crocker in the 1920s to respond to letters the company was receiving from consumers. At the height of her popularity, Betty Crocker was receiving 5,000 letters a day and had her own radio show. Betty Crocker continued dispensing domestic advice for decades, with hardly anyone realizing that she didn’t seem to age.
Listen to “The Secret Life of Betty Crocker”
3. Astronauts Hate Space Ice Cream
Any school kid who’s been lucky enough to go on a field trip to a space museum know what astronauts eat in space—those freeze-dried ice cream bars sold in the gift shop. In reality, the astronauts immediately despised the dry, crunchy cubes that tasted nothing like ice cream and they never made it into space. Instead of wasting the technology that went into developing the so-called astronaut ice cream, they were then packaged and sold in space museums where the cache of being meant for astronauts was enough to keep school kids crunching down on these oddly-textured cubes to this day.
Listen to “What’s for Dinner on the Space Station”
4. Tupperware Revolutionized Marketing
Tupperware is one of those products that has become so successful, we now use the word “tupperware” to describe all plastic storage containers in our kitchens, regardless of brand. The huge success of the tupperware brand is because of Brownie Wise, a housewife turned marketing maven, who first came up with the idea of tupperware parties to sell this product—turning the company into a household name seemingly overnight.
5. Wine Experts Can’t Tell Red from White
In blind taste testings, wine experts have been stumped on everything from price of the bottle to country of origin, even whether they’re trying a red or a white wine. In tasting wines, the appearance of the bottle and what we read on the label can have an even bigger influence over the wine’s taste—so much so that wine that was rebottled in expensive-looking bottles got a high rating, and wine that was rebottled in cheap-looking bottles got a low rating. So if the experts can’t even tell, where does that leave us? The advice of one wine expert: Drink more wine, and lots of different wines, and figure out what you like. Not bad advice.