WTF Fun Fact 13186 – Medical Term for Ice Cream Headache

Eating ice cream too fast can hurt! In fact, so many people have experienced the phenomenon of these headaches (also called “brain freeze”) that there’s an official name for them. The medical term for ice cream headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Why is there a medical term for ice cream headache?

The world loves ice cream. And sometimes we eat it too fast either because 1) it’s so delicious, or 2) we need to eat it before it melts. But we pay the price.

But what we sometimes call an ice cream headache is also referred to as “brain freeze” and can happen without the delicious ice cream.

According to the Cleveland Clinic (cited below), “Brain freeze is a brief but intense pain in the front part of your head. It occurs when you eat, drink or breathe something extremely cold…” So it can include breathing in freezing air as well as eating slushies, ice cubes, popsicles, etc.

While we have lots of colloquial names for the pain, the scientific/medical term for ice cream headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Who is at risk for getting ice cream headaches?

Anyone can get a brain freeze. Children may be more likely to get brain freeze because they may not have learned to slow down when eating something fun like an ice pop.

Some research has shown that sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is more common in people who get migraine headaches.

What is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia?

An ice cream headache comes on quickly, but it also goes away relatively fast. It’s often gone in a few minutes, tops, and doesn’t need to be treated with medicine.

Brain freeze doesn’t cause other symptoms either – no nausea or sensitivity to light, for example. It’s just temporary pain that occurs “When your body senses sudden, extreme cold in the mouth or throat” and “tries to react and warm up.”

The headache sets in as “Blood vessels throughout the head expand to let extra blood into the area for warmth. That quick change in blood vessel size causes sudden pain.”

Of course, you can prevent the pain caused by doing that thing by avoiding that thing. But who wants to avoid ice cream and other cold treats? Instead, try warming up your mouth and throat by drinking room-temperature water or pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Or just slow down on the ice cream.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Brain Freeze” — Cleveland Clinic

WTF Fun Fact 13150 – When Moscow Ran Out of Vodka

On May 9, 1945, reports that Nazi Germany had surrendered to the USSR resulted in a 22-hour celebration. The Soviets partied so hard that the entire country briefly ran out of vodka.

How the Soviets ran out of vodka

On May 9, 1945, a radio report in the USSR announced that Germany had officially surrendered to the Soviet Union. There was every reason to celebrate immediately. Joseph Stalin, the country’s leader, would address citizens later that day, but revelers were too overjoyed to wait.

While the country probably wasn’t entirely devoid of vodka, those who stayed up to celebrate drank the store shelves dry. And grain was in short supply in wartime, leaving few vodka reserves on hand to replenish the shelves.

War History Online notes that in the book History of Russia, author Walter Moss wrote, “During the famine of the early 1930s, Stalin ensured that sufficient grain and potatoes were still available for vodka production, and vodka revenues in this period provided about one-fifth of government revenues.”

There was also a state monopoly on alcohol. Stalin made its production a national priority, even during the widespread famine. So it’s likely that the shortage didn’t last long since vodka production never stopped.

In any case, by the time Stalin officially addressed the nation on that fateful day in 1945, those who hadn’t celebrated had to find another way to do so. Those who had were probably nursing one heck of a hangover.

Accounts of the vodka shortage

According to Mental Floss (cited below): “As one reporter put it, ‘I was lucky to buy a liter of vodka at the train station when I arrived because it was impossible to buy any later… There was no vodka in Moscow on May 10; we drank it all.‘”

War History Online quoted naval navigator Nikolai Kryuchkov, who recalled:

“On May 9, 1945, with the permission of the commander, I left for 3 days in Moscow. It was impossible to tell what happened on that day in Moscow…. We celebrated Victory Day with my family, the owner’s apartments and neighbors. They drank for the victory, for those who did not live to see this day and for the fact that this bloody massacre would never be repeated. On May 10, it was impossible to buy vodka in Moscow, because it was completely drunk.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Time Russia Ran Out of Vodka” — Mental Floss

WTF Fun Fact 13141 – Making Champagne Secular

As you likely know, champagne production for the masses started with a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon. And while it might seem odd that we have a French Abbey to thank for our New Year’s bubbles (after all, he made it so they could be mass-produced and shipped worldwide), it actually took time for the drink to lose its religion and to make champagne secular.

How champagne became secular

Fr. Dom wasn’t the reason champagne was associated with religion, to begin with. In fact, he’s one of the reasons it became a worldwide phenomenon.

You see, bubbly was not only difficult but dangerous to produce because bottles would explode. For a long time, sparkling wine was confined within the walls of the institution that made it. That is until the French kings got involved. Eventually, it became a celebratory drink for things like baptisms and coronations.

As VinePair (cited below) puts it:

“Before the abolition of the French monarchy, France’s royal family had longstanding ties to the Champagne region. The multi-century connection began in 496, when reigning monarch Clovis I was baptized in a small church in Reims. The city and that exact spot (which was eventually replaced by a grand cathedral) went on to become the traditional location for French coronations, and cemented the link between region and royalty.”

In other words, wine from Champagne (pre-bubbles) started out as a holy wine.

Of course, red Burgundian wine was long the official celebratory wine of France. But when secondary fermentation was discovered by Dom Perignon in 1668, things changed…slowly.

Rise of the champagne industry

In the 18th century, King Louis XV became a champagne lover, making it very fashionable. It was also chic because he made sure it was the only wine that could be sold in glass bottles (which also made it dangerous because of all the exploding glass, but that’s not really a matter for kings to care about).

Eventually, if you wanted to be cool in France, you had to buy wine from Champagne.

At this point, champagne had made it out of the Abbey walls and into castles. However, this is all pre-French Revolution, in a time when kings and Catholics ruled.

Then came the Revolution. Heads came off, heads of state were replaced, and people became far more skeptical of powerful institutions, including the church.

There’s no one moment (that we know of) when champagne became untangled from production by religious workers, but the Revolution certainly changed the nature of all things elite.

Marketing secular champagne

By 1796, George Washington was serving champagne at a state dinner.

And, according to VinePair, “Within a century, one didn’t even have to hold office to toast with Champagne. In the latter half of the 1800s, increasing supply and better worldwide distribution channels made Champagne a commodity most middle-class families could afford…The period also saw significant marketing efforts from Champagne houses to place their bubbles as the celebratory beverage. The images and language on many bottle labels targeted newly engaged couples and soon-to-be parents…”

It was no longer associated with religion, but with any kind of celebration.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Religion, Royalty, and Bubbles: How Champagne Became the Go-To Drink for Celebrating” — VinePair

WTF Fun Fact 13140 – Champagne and NYE

Have you ever wondered why champagne became associated with New Year’s Eve? Sure, popping the bubbly does seem festive, but one doesn’t suggest the other’s presence…or does it? Champagne is difficult to make, and real champagne only comes from one small region in France (called Champagne). Thanks to the association of champagne and NYE, the production of the beverage actually shot up between 1800 and 1850 from 300,000 to 20 million bottles a year!

Why are champagne and NYE associated?

Sixteenth-century European aristocrats loved to pop the champagne. It didn’t hurt that their king Louis XIV loved it as well. Champagne was once part of religious rituals (but more on that in the next fun fact). Obviously, it became a secular celebratory mechanism.

Dom Perignon may have been a monk, but as the creator of the elite new bubbly drink all those centuries ago, we might also say he’s the father of parties. He made the bottles safer and the drink easier to produce, which also made them cheaper to create and sell.

By the 1700s, champagne could be marketed to those in the relative middle class because the price of creating it went down. And as you can imagine, people being able to afford things made them more popular. And champagne because associated with joy for all.

It’s all about the bubbles

Whether you’re drinking real champagne or sparkling wine from elsewhere in the world, that festive feeling you get from hearing the cork pop (although it’s not supposed to make a noise if you open it properly) is one that goes back centuries. The bubbles as well (although sometimes indicative of a dusty glass) feel celebratory. And so does New Year’s Eve.

As champagne production rose, exports rose. Champagne was a smashing success – even for ship christenings. This is just another way it became associated with joyous celebrations.

And if you’ve ever tried to pour a glass, chances are you’d had to struggle with those bubbles overflowing. Your cup runneth over, as they say – which is a toast to good luck and fortune for a reason. Champagne and NYE are a marketing match made in heaven.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Why everyone drinks champagne on New Year’s Eve” — Business Insider

WTF Fun Fact 13134 – Brussels sprouts bitter no longer

Have you ever wondered why today’s Brussels sprouts don’t taste as gross as they might have while you were growing up? It’s not just your palate that’s changed, but the sprouts themselves. Thanks to some genetic tinkering, Dutch scientists have made Brussels sprouts bitter no longer.

Brussels sprouts get a makeover

Brussels sprouts simply don’t taste the same way they did a few decades ago. If you hated them as a kid, there’s at least some chance you might like them now.

According to NPR (cited below): “This all started to change in the 1990s, and it began in the Netherlands, where Brussels sprouts have a simpler name: spruitjes. A Dutch scientist named Hans van Doorn, who worked at the seed and chemical company Novartis (the seed part is now called Syngenta), figured out exactly which chemical compounds in spruitjes made them bitter.”

The next step was to consult the seed archives (libraries of seeds for different types of Brussels sprouts). Companies then planted them all and began selecting for the ones with the least bitterness.

Making a better Brussels sprout

Once scientists chose the best candidates for less bitter sprouts, “They cross-pollinated these old varieties with modern, high-yielding ones, trying to combine the best traits of old and new spruitjes. It took many years. But it worked.” Then word spread in the professional culinary scene. It took off mainly in the United States, not in Europe.

Once word got out about everyone’s least favorite vegetable from childhood tasting a bit different, big-name chefs (like David Chang at Momofuku in New York) got on board and started selling them again. People were delighted to have a new vegetable to enjoy and the “new” Brussels sprouts took off without people knowing the bitterness chemical had actually been bred out of them.

Most of us who like Brussels sprouts now assume we just have more mature palates. But we actually have the Dutch to thank for getting our greens with less suffering.  WTF fun facts

Source: “From Culinary Dud To Stud: How Dutch Plant Breeders Built Our Brussels Sprouts Boom” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 13117 – The Flavors of Kit Kat in Japan

Since the first Kit Kat was launched, the brand has produced over 300 limited edition flavors in Japan. The first specialty flavor was green tea.

Kit Kat in Japan

Much of the variety of Japanese Kit Kats comes from chef Yasumasa Takagi. He opened a Kit Kat Chocolatory in Japan and started experimenting with flavors. The company has jumped on board with producing and selling them. They’ve opened up 7 other Cholatories in the country.

What kind of flavors are we talking about here? Well, there are high-end orange-chocolate rum, sweet potato, and cheesecake flavors. But there are also regional flavors made from locally sourced ingredients. You have almost no chance of being able to buy those if you live in another country.

According to the website Japan Based (cited below):

“For instance, in southwestern Japan, you’ll often find Ocean Salt Kit Kats made with sea salt taken directly from the Seto Inland sea. Alternately, on the Japanese island of Kyushu, you’re more likely to find Purple Sweet Potato Kit Kats locally produced on the island itself.”

Manufacturing funky flavors

Nestlé produces some limited-edition flavors for sale to slightly larger audiences. “Any excess product is usually saved and sold in gift bags called ‘fukubukuro,’ a Japanese New Year tradition where merchants sell grab bags of confections at discounted prices.”

While some of these are pretty strange, it’s all quite a creative endeavor.

Would you try an Azuki (red bean) Kit Kat? How about Brown sugar syrup? Hot Japanese chili? Saké?

We’d be happy to try a Cherry blossom or Caramel macchiato Kit Kat. But we’d be more hesitant about a Soy sauce-flavored Kit Kat.

But it looks like we’re alone on that. In 2010, soy sauce was the best-selling Kit Kat flavor.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Craziest Kit Kat Flavors in Japan” — Japan Based

WTF Fun Fact 13109 – The First PB&J

In the last WTF Fun Fact, we told you about the invention of sliced bread. Now, we’re here to tell you about something so delicious it actually pre-dated automatic slicers – the first PB&J, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Inventing sandwiches

Whether it was the Earl of Sandwich or someone else who decided to first put things between bread, some would have you believe that the PB&J is an integral part of history. (cited below) says “After English speakers adopted the word “sandwich,” they began coming up with new words and phrases to describe different types, from meaty Sloppy Joes to the layered club sandwich.”

We understand that desire to put meat and vegetables into a sandwich, but we’re still stumped on what made someone decide to create a sandwich out of what are largely considered to be two condiments.

“The first known recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich appeared in 1901 in ​​The Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science & Domestic Economics. During the 1920s, companies began to mass-manufacture peanut butter in the United States, and targeted children as potential new consumers. This helped make the PB&J a common school lunch.”

Standardized in Home Ec and rose to fame via school lunches? Ok, we could have guessed that.

How the PB&J came to be

So we can date the formal sandwich itself back to 1901, but did it exist in some form before that? Well, the answer is we’re not sure, but it’s unlikely.

Smithsonian Magazine has the answer to how the PB&J came to be, and if you guess “because of vegetarians,” you are correct!

Around the late-19th century, ladies’ luncheons were popular, and tiny tea sandwiches were often served. Alongside the cucumber and cheese option was one that contained no animal products at all. In addition, “health food advocates like John Harvey Kellogg started promoting peanut products as a replacement for animal-based foods (butter included). So for a vegetarian option at these luncheons, peanut butter simply replaced regular butter.”

Peanut butter wasn’t created for mass manufacture until the 1920s. And at that point, it was marketed specifically to target children.

Smithsonian also reports that it was cookbook author Julia Davis Chandler who wrote, “some day try making little sandwiches, or bread fingers, of three very thin layers of bread and two of filling, one of peanut paste, whatever brand you prefer, and currant or crabapple jelly for the other. The combination is delicious, and so far as I know original.”

Ladies took the sandwich idea from the garden party to their children’s lunch boxes in the 1920s when they could finally get mass produced peanut butter (with hydrogenated vegetable oil and sugar to make it tasty).

And no one was happier than Skippy, the first brand to target children “as a potential new audience, and thus the association with school lunches was forged.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Who Invented the Sandwich?” —

WTF Fun Fact 13108 – The Invention of Sliced Bread

Have you heard the expression “It’s the best invention since sliced bread”? Well, that only goes back to the 20th century. The invention of sliced bread occurred in 1828.

Inventing sliced bread in Missouri

Humans have been baking bread for millennia (around 30,000 years, we estimate). But pre-slicing it is another matter. And we have to admit that while bread baking has reinvented itself to make bread slices seem passé, it’s convenient to have!

According to (cited below), “The first automatically sliced commercial loaves were produced on July 6, 1928, in Chillicothe, Missouri, using the machine invented by Otto Rohwedder, an Iowa-born, Missouri-based jeweler.”

Rohwedder had long tried to make a machine to slice bread but was thwarted for over a decade when a 1917 fire destroyed his factory, blueprints, and prototype.

But he persevered, and “in 1928, Rohwedder’s rebuilt “power-driven, multi-bladed” bread slicer was put into service at his friend Frank Bench’s Chillicothe Baking Company.”

The reaction to slicing

People seemed to know immediately what pre-sliced bread meant for convenience in the home. As the website recalls, “an enthusiastic report in the July 6, 1928, edition of the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune…noted that while some people might find sliced bread ‘startling,’ the typical housewife could expect ‘a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows. So neat and precise are the slices, and so definitely better than anyone could possibly slice by hand with a bread knife that one realizes instantly that here is a refinement that will receive a hearty and permanent welcome.'”

We’re only surprised that “some people” may have found sliced bread “startling.” But we know there will always be folks startled by new technology – in fact, we’ve been there. It’s hard when things change, but the convenience of sliced bread remains (as do beautiful artisan loaves without a knick in them).  WTF fun facts

Source: “Who Invented Sliced Bread?” —

WTF Fun Fact 13105 – The Banana Curve

Have you ever looked at the way a specific food grows and been totally surprised? We’ve certainly felt that way – especially about asparagus and pineapples. Now the banana curve is blowing our minds (with how little we know about our food).

How the banana gets its curve

The reason bananas don’t grow straight and instead have a curve is so that they can retrieve sunlight. It makes sense, we just couldn’t quite picture it at first.

According to Chiquita, “Bananas go through a process called ‘negative geotropism’…What it means is that bananas grow away from the ground, instead of growing towards it, hence the ‘negative’ geotropism.”

Despite bananas being ubiquitous on grocery store shelves, they come from the rainforest (or at least places that can simulate that environment). In a place with so much foliage, bananas had to find a way to claim some sunlight for themselves since they hang downward.

Bananas evolved not to grow straight up but rather to curve in order to get around the foliage and soak up some rays.

More about banana growth

You might think that if it’s looking for the sun, a banana would evolve to grow upwards. But they’re simply too heavy to do that. Because gravity pulls them down, they develop a slight curve rather than a new growth pattern.

Not only is banana growth a fun new fact for us, but we also didn’t know they were considered a berry. Bananas may have actually been one of the first fruits. They date back about 10,000 years, although they taste much different now.

And it turns out the world loves them – we consume about 100 billion bananas globally every year.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Bananas. Not only one of the healthiest fruits but most recognizable!” — Chiquita