Does Blotting Pizza With a Napkin Really Do Anything?

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iStock

Benign and universally beloved as it seems, pizza is a food that’s rife with controversy. The New York/Chicago rivalry over whose pizza is “best” will never be resolved, and politicians have been mocked for taking fork and knife to a slice. Perhaps even more contentious than these is the question of pizza-blotting—is it a culinary crime to dab at the grease atop a pizza with a napkin? Either way, there's some good news for blotters: blotting the oil off the top of pizza does make it measurably healthier.

Shockingly, federal funding for research into pizza nutrition has been limited, so there’s no strict scientific consensus on how many calories make the jump from pizza to paper towel when a slice is blotted. The closest approximation comes from the Food Network’s series Food Detectives. Host Ted Allen and a team of researchers from Popular Science came up with the figure of “35 calories per slice on average (3.5 grams of oil).” CNN’s Dr. Roshini Raj gives a similar appraisal: “You are probably cutting 20 to 50 calories a piece – not a whole lot, but […] if you have a couple of slices, it adds up.”

With an average slice of cheese pizza weighing in at 272 calories, blotting off 35 calories per piece equals a 13% reduction. Nutrition-savvy readers might recognize that 35 calories also equates to 1/100th of 3,500 calories: the number doctors generally agree equals one pound of human fat.

An infographic by Labdoor Magazine gets a little bit more realistic with its calculations, using a slice of Domino’s pepperoni pizza as its standard and calculating total calorie reduction over a year based on the national average for pizza consumption: 23 pounds of pizza for every American. According to those calculations, blotting off the pizza grease can soak up 6611.2 calories in a year, or nearly two pounds’ worth of fat. 

Of course, there are caveats to the pizza blotting strategy. Along with fatty orange oil slicks, an injudiciously applied napkin might remove a pizza’s seasonings or take a bit of cheese and sauce with it, so it’s a choice that shouldn’t be made lightly. Blot if you will, but maybe just once in a while, leave the napkin on the side and live a little.

[h/t Mic]

Why Does Santa Claus Give Coal to Bad Kids?

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iStock/bonchan

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.

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Why Are Poinsettias Associated with Christmas?

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iStock

Certain Christmas traditions never seem to go out of style. Along with wreaths, gingerbread cookies, and reruns of A Christmas Story sits the poinsettia, a red-tinged leafy arrangement that’s become synonymous with the holiday. Upwards of 100 million of them are sold in the six weeks before December 25.

Why do people associate the potted plant with seasonal cheer? Chalk it up to some brilliant marketing.

In 1900, a German immigrant named Albert Ecke was planning to move his family to Fiji. Along the way, they became enamored of the beautiful sights found in Los Angeles—specifically, the wild-growing poinsettia, which was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, the U.S.-Mexican ambassador who first brought it to the States in 1828. Ecke saw the appeal of the plant’s bright red leaves that blossomed in winter (it’s not actually a flower, despite the common assumption) and began marketing it from roadside stands to local growers as "the Christmas plant."

The response was so strong that poinsettias became the Ecke family business, with their crop making up more than 90 percent of all poinsettias sold throughout most of the 20th century: Ecke, his son Paul, and Paul’s son, Paul Jr., offered a unique single-stem arrangement that stood up to shipping, which their competitors couldn’t duplicate. When Paul III took over the business in the 1960s, he began sending arrangements to television networks for use during their holiday specials. In a priceless bit of advertising, stars like Ronald Reagan, Dinah Shore, and Bob Hope were sharing screen time with the plant, leading millions of Americans to associate it with the holiday.

While the Ecke single-stem secret was eventually cracked by other florists—it involved grafting two stems to make one—and their market share dwindled, their innovative marketing ensured that the poinsettia would forever be linked to Christmas.

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