A Brief History of Braces

A word to all the pre-teens out there who are suffering through constant taunts of "metalmouth": at least you're in good company. Braces go all the way back to the days of the mummies; some of them have been found with crude metal bands wrapped around their teeth. Archaeologists think those bands were connected by catgut, stretched taut to pull the teeth together. (Mmm, sanitary!) Hippocrates and Aristotle are both on record wondering about ways to straighten teeth, too, and the Etruscans (precursors of the Romans) buried their dead with their dental appliances still installed. One Roman who died in Egypt even had a super-deluxe version; his teeth were bound with gold wire, which may make him the first recorded person in history to sport a blinged-out grill.

Heavy Metal

Interest in having a straight, neat smile apparently resurged in the 1700s, right about the time that George Washington was popularizing the idea of wooden teeth. Oddly enough, it was the French, those global arbiters of chic, who introduced the most terminally unfashionable accessory of all time. In 1728, French dentist Pierre Fauchard published a book called the The Surgeon Dentist, describing an extraordinarily painful-sounding device called a bandeau. A horseshoe-shaped piece of metal, it supposedly helped expand the arch, although we think it may have been primarily intended as a torture device. But the dentist to the King of France liked it too, and the bandeau stayed in vogue until 1819, when Christophe Delabarre came up with the wire crib, which was a lot closer to today's braces.

Over the next 100 years, dentists would make huge strides in understanding how the teeth worked (and why they so often fell out). But braces themselves largely remained unchanged until the mid-20th century. Most were made from gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, or vulcanite, although orthodontists occasionally turned instead to ivory, zinc, copper, brass, or—believe it or not—wood. The wires were almost always made of gold, however, because the metal was so easy to shape. (Stainless steel was widely available, but it didn't replace gold until the late 1950s.) And all of them wrapped entirely around the teeth. Dentists didn't figure out how to glue the brackets onto the front of the teeth until the mid-70s, and they didn't move them to the backside of the teeth until the mid-80s.

This article was excerpted from 'In the Beginning: The Origins of Everything,' which is available in the mental_floss store.

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The Simple Way to Reheat Your French Fries and Not Have Them Turn Into a Soggy Mess
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Some restaurant dishes are made to be doggy-bagged and reheated in the microwave the next day. Not French fries: The more crispy and delectable they are when they first arrive on your table, the more of a soggy disappointment they’ll be when you try to revive them at home. But as The Kitchn recently shared, there’s a secret to making leftover fries you’ll actually enjoy eating.

The key is to avoid the microwave altogether. Much of the appeal of fries comes from their crunchy, golden-brown exterior and their creamy potato center. This texture contrast is achieved by deep-frying, and all it takes is a few rotations around a microwave to melt it away. As the fries heat up, they create moisture, transforming all those lovely crispy parts into a flabby mess.

If you want your fries to maintain their crunch, you need to recreate the conditions they were cooked in initially. Set a large pan filled with about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 cup of fries you want to cook over medium-high heat. When you see the oil start to shimmer, add the fries in a single layer. After about a minute, flip them over and allow them to cook for half a minute to a minute longer.

By heating up fries with oil in a skillet, you produce something called the Maillard Reaction: This happens when high heat transforms proteins and sugars in food, creating the browning effect that gives fried foods their sought-after color, texture, and taste.

After your fries are nice and crisp, pull them out of the pan with tongs or a spatula, set them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Now all you need is a perfect burger to feel like you’re eating a restaurant-quality meal at home.

[h/t The Kitchn]

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Bone Collector
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