10 Things People Misunderstand About Popular Foods

We all know how to eat, and most of us know how to cook, at least on some basic level. We can’t all be Chef Bobby Flay, right? However, while we tend to have a pretty good idea of how food works, we often have misconceptions about particular recipes, especially when they come from other countries. There are also some ingredients that defy popular understanding and have things about them most people are not aware of.

Related: 10 Misconceptions About Cooking And Food Safety

10 Ricotta Is Not a Traditional Layer in Meat Lasagna

In America, most lasagnas are made by alternating layers of meat sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, and lasagna noodles. Some will mix this up by using cottage cheese or even cream cheese instead of ricotta. These people will often argue about who is right—and get quite heated about it—but actually, none of them are right at all.

In a proper Italian Lasagna, it is actually traditional to do a layer of noodles, meat sauce, mozzarella, and then bechamel sauce. The reason for the difference in America is that Italian restaurant owners adapted their recipes to more American tastes. There are also variations where the extra white sauce or white cheese layer is left out entirely, although this is not as common.

While Italians use bechamel traditionally, you may still find a ricotta lasagna or a cottage cheese lasagna in a restaurant in Italy that is more tourist-traveled, as they are catering to the Americans. This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with making it however you want at home, but if you want to be traditional, using oven-ready lasagna noodles and ricotta is not going to get you there.[1]

9 Peanut Butter Is American but Not Invented by Goerge Washington Carver

Peanut butter and the peanut butter and jelly sandwich are basically the quintessential modern American food. Sweet and savory, cheap and convenient, and we can customize it however we want. It’s a very American thing that many Europeans don’t understand, and we can definitely claim to have invented it— or at least the modern version of it. The thing is that the Incas may have used some form of peanut butter hundreds of years ago, but that would at least still make it South American, even if not North American.

In the modern world, peanut butter was first reinvented in 1895 by John Harvey Kellog, the famous cereal maker, and has been a huge American staple since. As for George Washington Carver, contrary to popular belief, he didn’t actually invent peanut butter, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a genius.

Carver actually invented over 300 uses for peanut butter, including shampoo, shaving cream, glue, and so many others that it would take several articles just to list them all. This easily makes him one of the greatest inventors of all time, as few have spent such a singular study of something exploring absolutely every imaginable use.[2]

8 Light Roast Coffee Is Actually Stronger (Super Strong Coffee Is a Scam)

Many people will go somewhere to grab a coffee, and if they are super tired, they go for the dark roast coffee, thinking that it will really wake them up. However, the truth is that they are actually shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. Now, it isn’t like it will be that huge a difference, but if you are trying to really get the most out of your cup of coffee, you actually want as light a roast as possible because the beans haven’t had as much mass burned out of them.

Some of you may have also wondered about the caffeine behind those coffees that are covered with health disclaimers and promise to be super strong. The truth is these companies are basically low-key scamming you by overcharging you for a blend that contains an unknown percentage of low-quality coffee.

You may have noticed that most of your coffee beans promise to be completely arabica. This is because Arabica beans give you a way better experience. Robusta is three times as strong, gives you a terrible crash, and also tastes really bitter.[3]

7 British People Take Food with Their Tea for a Good Reason

Many cultures around the world drink tea on a regular basis, but none is known more for literally making a meal of it than the British. For hundreds of years now, they have had a tradition of drinking tea in the mid-afternoon along with biscuits—cookies in America. For most outsiders, this looks like one of the most fun parts of their culture. After all, who doesn’t enjoy stopping in the middle of the day to eat cookies and drink a delicious caffeinated beverage.

However, while many may think the British just put this tradition together to flaunt their wealth during the days of the old British Empire or because they really like sweets, it is more complicated than that. The British actually have a very good reason for this tradition, and it involves the compounds that you can find in the black tea they love to drink.

Black tea contains tannins, which you can also find in red wine, and can make you feel sick if you drink them on an empty stomach. As for why the British chose sweets to go with their tea, it is likely because those same tannins make black tea extremely bitter.[4]

6 The Hard Taco Is a Completely American Invention

In America today, it is probably more popular than not to eat your tacos with a hard shell. You see them in every grocery store, and in places like Taco Bell, they are heavily advertised as the flagship item. The combination of crispy, crunchy, and all the soft fillings is very satisfying to many, and there are a lot of Americans who couldn’t imagine eating them any other way. However, what they are doing is certainly very American, as Mexicans don’t really eat hard-shell or crunchy tacos.

It is hard to pin down just when it was actually invented, but it started really becoming popular in the United States in the early 1900s and has been popular ever since. If you go to Mexico, especially authentic restaurants, however, you will likely be disappointed if you want an American-style hard taco.

Not only are they extremely unlikely to put a taco in a hard shell even to please tourists, but they actually tend to make most of their tortillas out of corn, as opposed to most being made of flour in the USA. A Mexican traveler looking at an American version of their food would be more confused than anything.[5]

5 Taking Skins Off Potatoes Removes Half the Nutrients

Potatoes are quite popular around the world, especially in America, where they use them as a side for almost everything. From french fries with the skins taken off to mashed potatoes with the skins removed, Americans really love their potatoes. Many recipes in America will specifically tell you to remove the skin and discard it, leaving you only with the white part inside to make your fries, hash browns, or whatever else you want.

Unfortunately, this habit is another unhealthy American pastime, as they are removing most of the goodness in the potatoes this way. The problem is that apart from the culinary sin of taking all the texture away and leaving yourself with nothing but white mush, the fact is a whole lot of the nutrients are in the skin. Roughly 50% of the vitamins are in the skin, and about 50% of the fiber is in the skin as well. This means you just took half of all the good stuff in that potato and just threw it right in the trash, along with giving yourself more work by peeling it in the first place.[6]

4 Pasta Carbonara Is Actually Really Simple and Doesn’t Include Peas

American pasta carbonara, often called chicken carbonara and served with peas in it, is an American dish that you will find in Italian restaurants all over the United States. You will also find a lot of recipes in America that involve using eggs, parmesan cheese, cream, bacon, chicken, and peas in order to create a goliath of pasta, meat, and veggies that an Italian would faint at the very sight of. This version is wrongly referred to as pasta carbonara. Still, it is so different from the original dish that it should really get its own name. It doesn’t even use the right cheese.

Pasta carbonara is traditionally one of those Italian pasta dishes designed to be really simple and make something quick and hearty out of a fairly empty pantry. It is actually a really easy recipe that usually consists of eggs, pecorino romano cheese (not parmesan like in America), pasta, guanciale, and black pepper. Guanciale is pork jowl and is similar to bacon, and some say bacon is okay if you can’t find the real stuff. However, chicken isn’t supposed to be part of the recipe. It is also a big no-no to add cream, and it is very, very wrong to add green peas to a pasta carbonara.[7]

3 Fortune Cookies Are about as Chinese as Baseball and Apple Pie

Fortune cookies are believed by many to be the quintessential part of finishing a Chinese meal. You finish eating, pull out your fortune, and eat your cookie. The cookies don’t taste like much, but reading the fortune is fun, and they are full of Confucian wisdom, so it is easy to believe they are authentically Chinese. However, the truth is that fortune cookies are about as Chinese as apple pie, or perhaps we should say, about as Chinese as matcha green tea. You see, the fortune cookie was actually invented, according to most accounts, by a Japanese-American man from San Francisco in the early 1900s.

These cookies are manufactured entirely in America, and most of them are made by a group called Wonton Foods Inc. in their factory in Brooklyn, which is said to make 4.5 million fortune cookies daily. The demand has become huge, and Chinese restaurants all over the world end their meals with a fortune cookie—except for China itself, where they don’t eat them at all. In fact, when Wonton Foods Inc. tried to sell fortune cookies in China, they discovered that the customers at the restaurants where they were tested were so unused to the idea that they usually accidentally ate the fortune.[8]

2 When You Eat Pineapple, It Eats You Right Back

Pineapple is a delicious fruit, and many people worldwide love it for a good reason. The taste is truly unique, and it has a weird tingly sensation when you eat it that makes it like no other food. It has its own special cake designed after it, and it’s one of the first things tourists want to try when they reach Hawaii. However, despite being pretty familiar with it, most people don’t realize that pineapple actually has a special enzyme designed as a defense mechanism that is the reason you get a weird feeling in your mouth when you eat it.

This enzyme is called bromelain and is designed to defend the pineapple, although, if anything, it just makes us like it more. That numb feeling you get when you eat pineapple is the enzyme trying to actually eat you right back in order to get you to stop eating it. If used properly, it can be so effective that it can actually act as a way to relieve a mild toothache or relieve pain after wisdom teeth extraction. However, we caution that while it may be better than taking a shot of whiskey or brandy, it is still not a substitute for going to the dentist.[9]

1 Pudding Was Originally Savory Meat Boiled in an Animal’s Stomach

Even if you aren’t too familiar with British food, you probably know it to some extent, at least from series like Harry Potter. If you have read any books or had any other exposure to their food, you might have noticed that almost everything is a pudding. There are savory dishes like steak and kidney pudding, but there are also a lot of desserts called pudding. And to make matters more confusing, dessert is referred to as pudding even if other dishes are being served.

Some people probably wonder if this is the British just being silly, like when they named a new scientific aquatic vessel “Boaty McBoatface.” However, this actually has some important food history behind it. Back in the early days of England, people used to boil meat in an animal’s stomach. They called this pudding, and over time, they started adding grains to go with the meat they boiled. This then evolved to them boiling in cloth bags and making recipes with more grains until they started making sweet recipes, too. This is why many foods in England are puddings.[10]

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