Weird Universe


Atomic Peanuts

In 1959, Walter C. Gregory of North Carolina State College introduced "atomic" peanuts to the world. Despite the name, they weren't radioactive peanuts.

He had exposed peanut seeds to huge amounts of radiation to create mutant strains. Then he had selected the mutant strains with the qualities (size) he liked. And in this way created jumbo-sized peanuts.

As this article at Atlas Obscura notes, what Gregory was doing was "mutation breeding," and it's the way many of the varieties of fruit and veggies we eat nowadays are created. We no longer call it "atomic" food, though it is.

Since the 1950s and 60s, mutation breeding has created around 3,000 commercially available varieties of plant—durum wheat, rice, soybeans, barley, chickpeas, white beans, peaches, bananas, papayas, tomatoes, sunflowers, and more. Almost any grapefruit you've bought was probably a mutant.

"Atomic" peanuts

Man and woman eating "atomic" peanuts

Kansas City Times - Jan 12, 1959

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sun Aug 30, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Food, Science, Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, 1950's

A Meal In A Matchbox, 1956

Matchbox-sized meals. The utopian food of the future, as envisioned by British scientists of the 1950s.

"the housewife of the future will never have to worry about dishpan hands if science puts pills and water on the table instead of steak and potatoes."
— Port Angeles Evening News - July 25, 1956

Synthetic food, as tasty and more nourishing than the real thing, yet so compact that a three-course meal goes in a matchbox, has been made in top secrecy by Government scientists....
Matchbox meals can be kept almost indefinitely without deterioration. An example of the matchbox food could be soup, a dish of synthetic stewed steak followed by a sweet in the form of, say, apple puree. There would not be as much as you might be accustomed to see on a well-filled plate, but it would be satisfying to eat, and the flavour would be indistinguishable from the real thing. The soup will probably be in a tablet form. The stewed steak will be a packet of course granules. There will be a teaspoonful or so of white powder which will be the mashed potatoes. Another little packet of powder will contain the apple puree. The only thing to be added to the chemicals will be water.
— Keystone Wire Service, July 17, 1956

Port Angeles Evening News - July 25, 1956

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sat Aug 29, 2015 | Comments (5)
Category: Food, 1950's

I Hate Mayonnaise Club

Honolulu columnist Charles Memminger founded the Worldwide I Hate Mayonnaise Club in 1988. Its purpose was to spread the gospel of mayonnaise hatred. It did so by circulating quotations such as, "Mayonnaise, like hollandaise, was invented by the French to cover up the flavour of spoiled flesh, stale vegetables, rotten fish."

Member's would receive an official certificate that they could frame and put on their wall.

I'm not sure if the club is active any more. Its website ( is dead, though you can check out an archived copy of it at

Perhaps all the members saw the light and realized that mayonnaise is the greatest food ever.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sat Aug 15, 2015 | Comments (8)
Category: Food

Cheerios Kid and Cheerios Sue

From the days when a commercial could hold an entire narrative arc in thirty or sixty seconds. Apparently the Kid and Sue were thrill-seekers who could not resist dangerous environments.

Posted By: Paul | Date: Fri Aug 14, 2015 | Comments (2)
Category: Anthropomorphism, Daredevils, Stuntpeople and Thrillseekers, Food, Advertising, 1960's

Follies of the Madmen #257

Housewife wielding an axe?!? Don't get your hopes up. There is no John-Waters-style carnage ahead in this commercial.

Man, that appliance is huge. Where would it fit in a modern urban kitchen? Maybe in a McMansion....

What do you think the cherry cobbler cooked adjacent to the ham and sweet potatoes is going to taste like?
Posted By: Paul | Date: Wed Aug 12, 2015 | Comments (7)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Domestic, Appliances, Food, 1940's

Follies of the Madmen #256

What a simpler world...
Posted By: Paul | Date: Sat Aug 01, 2015 | Comments (5)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Disguises, Impersonations, Mimics and Forgeries, Food, 1960's, Australia

Weird Mayo

My latest article on

The Top 10 Weirdest Mayonnaise Stories of All Time

Posted By: Alex | Date: Thu Jul 23, 2015 | Comments (7)
Category: Food, Alex

Banana and Mayonnaise Sandwiches

I recently learned that banana and mayonnaise sandwiches are considered a southern delicacy. A variant is the peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich. Or combining all three: the peanut butter, banana, and mayonnaise sandwich.

There's a Facebook community dedicated to Banana and Mayonnaise Sandwiches. Also, this is apparently one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s favorite foods.

The Garden & Gun blog traces the popularity of peanut butter and mayo sandwiches (and presumably also of banana and mayo) back to the Great Depression:

Through the hardships of the Great Depression and the lean years that followed, peanut butter and mayonnaise kept many struggling households afloat. They were also the ingredients in a sandwich that was once as popular as peanut butter and jelly in parts of the South...
Newspaper clippings from the national heyday of the peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich, a period that seems to have begun in the 1930s and continued through the 1960s, provide evidence that the practice of adding mayonnaise to peanut butter could have originated as a way of transforming rough-hewn nut butters into spreadable pastes.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Wed Jul 22, 2015 | Comments (14)
Category: Food

A Whole Sheep in a Can

In 1948, the Continental Can Company ran a series of magazine ads presenting "uncanny" facts about the history of canning. One of these facts was the great technological achievement from 1852 of packing an entire sheep into a huge can.

The ad didn't bother to say who exactly did this, but after a bit of googling I figured out that it was the French inventor Raymond Chevallier-Appert (1801-1892). Before Chevallier-Appert, canned food kept spoiling. He figured out that it needed to be cooked at higher temperatures. Here's the rest of the story from the Stravaganza blog:

Studying the problem, [Chevallier-Appert] decided that higher degrees of heat were needed in cooking. The apparatus called the autoclave, a closed vessel in which steam under pressure gave heat much greater than boiling water, had never been used for cooking food, however, and there was danger of over-cooking, because it lacked apparatus to measure and regulate the heat. Chevallier-Appert equipped the crude autoclave with another crude device, a manometer, which had been used for measuring heat in boilers. It would measure differences of only twenty degrees. He made it an instrument of precision, capable of measuring half a degree, and patented the invention in 1852. With greater heat, and an instrument to measure and control it, the difficulties of canning were overcome to such a degree that in June, 1852, Chevallier-Appert exhibited to scientists a whole sheep that had been cooked and sealed in a huge can in his autoclave four months before.
Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Jul 17, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Animals, Food, Technology, Nineteenth Century

The Bible Diet

The spiritual nourishment was too rich for this boy's system.

Source: Florence Morning News - Jan 9, 1926.

More >>
Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Jul 13, 2015 | Comments (6)
Category: Food, Religion, Books, 1920's
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.