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Every home chef knows the literal sting of onion tears, and the Internet is rife with tried and true remedies for quelling ugly onion cries. 

Ever been told that chewing gum will stop the waterworks? How about pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth?

Turns out, crying over an onion has nothing to with your olfactory senses. Those involuntary tears cascading onto your cutting board are actually caused by a chemical reaction that occurs when the inside of an onion is exposed to oxygen. So if you really like gum, chew away. Just know it’s useless for easing the pain.

Food and our relationship to it is a beautiful and precarious thing. For example, cilantro has become the belle of the ball in many foodie circles in recent years. Those that hated it were labeled “picky eaters” for years until recent studies found that those who hate cilantro have a genetic variant that makes them more sensitive to the smell and taste of cilantro than others. This was great news for legions of cilantro haters, who now have a scientific defense against pushy coriander enthusiasts.


However, we normally don’t think too much about the “why” of our food. We simply have things that we like and don’t like. We eat the things that make us happy and avoid the things that gross us out. 

But why not slow down for a second and examine a few kitchen mysteries a little more closely? For example, a pound cake usually weighs much less than a pound, so where does the name come from? Is there a reason (besides the obvious) that red wine makes your head pound? 

In the following list, we’ve found some answers to some common food-centric annoyances and a few fun facts to boot, so read on for some pretty strange and surprising food trivia!

  • 1. Did You Know…

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    You could play handball with cranberries? Cranberries have also been called bounce-berries because when they’re ripe, they bounce like rubber balls.

  • 2. You’re Really Eating Bugs

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    Your red candy is coated with bugs. If your food has red dye, the color probably comes from crushed red insects like the cochineal.  

  • 3. How to Get Rid of Garlic Breath

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    Have garlic breath? Scientists recently found that apple, lemon juice, parsley, spinach, green tea, and mint were the most effective foods to neutralize the offensive scent of garlic.

  • 4. Why Onions Make You Cry

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    The strong smell of onions has nothing to do with why you’re crying as you cut them. When you cut into an onion, you release a strong sulfur compound that wafts upwards toward your eyes. When the gas reacts with the moisture in your eyes, it begins to burn, creating those all-too-familiar onion tears.

  • 5. Where Pound Cake Got Its Name

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    In the 1700s, pound cake was thus named because the recipe contained one pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs.

    Check out more wild facts about food.

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