14 Tart Facts About Lemonade

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Sweet or tart, pink or yellow, a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade is the perfect accompaniment to a sunny afternoon. An idyllic symbol of summertime and childhood, the simple drink has a surprisingly rich cultural history. Thirsty folks all over the world have been enjoying lemonade for at least 1000 years, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon—just ask Beyoncé. Kick up your feet and enjoy these refreshing lemonade facts—hammock optional.

1. LEMONADE PROBABLY BEGAN IN ASIA, BUT WAS FIRST RECORDED IN ANCIENT EGYPT.

Lemons originated in China, India, and Myanmar, and it’s safe to assume that some form of sweetened lemon water was first enjoyed in the ancient Far East. But the earliest written record of the beverage comes from Persian poet Nasir-I-Khusraw, who wrote detailed accounts of daily life in Egypt around 1050 CE. The medieval Egyptians’s version of lemon juice and sugar, called qatarzimat, was a valued trade item and was frequently exported to other cultures.

2. PRE-REVOLUTION FRANCE HAD WANDERING LEMONADE PEDDLERS.

As global trade continued to expand, lemons and lemonade became increasingly popular across Europe. The drink took particular hold in Paris, where the Compagnie de Limonadiers was formed in the 1670s. This roving group of street vendors would sell glasses of lemonade to passersby, directly from tanks strapped to their backs. Convenient!

3. “LEMONADE” MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS IN DIFFERENT PLACES.

Across North America as well as in India, “lemonade” refers to that familiar blend of water, sugar, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. But order a lemonade in England, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, and you’ll get some bubbles as well; in those countries, “lemonade” refers to carbonated lemon-flavored (or lemon-lime) soft drinks, similar to Sprite. (Pro tip: If you want something more resembling the American version in the UK, ask for a “cloudy lemonade,” but even that can be fizzy.)

4. THE MIDDLE EAST TAKES THEIRS WITH MINT (AS OF LATE).

On a hot day in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan, you might reach for a Limonana, a local variation that includes crushed mint leaves. The combination is a classic one, but its status as a regional favorite (and that name) are surprisingly recent. In 1990, as a way of proving the efficacy of their marketing campaigns, the Israeli agency Fogel Levin began advertising the drink on public buses. Although the product didn’t exist, the campaign generated enough buzz that restaurants and soft-drink companies began making their own lemon-mint blends.

5. IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, BUT THERE IS SOME SCIENCE BEHIND LEMONADE.

Just about any iced drink is pleasant on a sweltering day, but food researchers have discovered why lemonade really hits the spot. Sour or tart drinks stimulate our salivary glands, which provides relief to the “dry mouth” feeling we associate with being tired and dehydrated. This effect even continues after you’ve polished off the glass, making lemonade “thirst quenching” in a literal sense.

6. ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR PROVERBS BECAME WIDESPREAD THANKS TO AN ACTOR’S OBITUARY.

Marshall Pinckney Wilder, second from right. Wikimedia Commons

When life gives you lemons … you know what to do, right? The classic advice to “make lemonade” out of our problems became famous probably thanks to the 1915 obituary for Marshall Pinckney Wilder, who achieved success as an actor, writer, and humorist despite battling dwarfism and related health problems throughout his life. The original version of the phrase, penned by writer Elbert Hubbard, read "He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.”

But despite what is often said, this was not the first use of the phrase. In 1909, the "Retailers Newspaper" Men's Wear said: "In business turn obstacles into conveniences. When handed a lemon—make lemonade of it." But perhaps the most literal telling of this advice is from the Chicago School of Sanitary Instruction in 1911: "If anyone hands you a lemon, make lemonade of it. It is both healthful and pleasant to take."

7. THE HUMBLE LEMONADE STAND IS MORE THAN 135 YEARS OLD.

It’s an image straight from Norman Rockwell: a few enterprising tykes selling fresh lemonade in the front yard. But lemonade wasn’t always kid stuff. The New York Times first referenced a Wisconsin shopkeeper hawking the drink outside his store in 1879, and by the following summer, stands popped up all around New York City, selling cups for a nickel each. "Before, if a thirsty soul wanted a glass of lemonade on a hot day, he had to go into some bar-room and pay 15 cents for it," the Times reported in July 1880. "Now, at any one of these lemonade-stands—and scores of them have been established—a customer can have a glass of ice-cold lemonade, made before his eyes, for 5 cents.”

8. WE’RE STILL CHARMED BY LEMONADE-STAND ECONOMICS.

Lemonade has proven to be a surprisingly robust subject for business-simulation games. The earliest such example, Lemonade Stand, was included for free on Apple II computers beginning in 1979; players determined their success through manipulating simple variables such as selling price and advertising budget. The game’s accessible formula led to a more complex simulator, Lemonade Tycoon, in 2002, as well as countless board games, educational tools, and apps. You can still play that original version online at Archive.org!

9. ALEX SCOTT TURNED LEMONADE INTO MAJOR MEDICAL AID.

As a 4-year-old battling neuroblastoma (a form of pediatric cancer), Alexandra Scott began selling lemonade outside her family’s Connecticut home to raise money for cancer research. Her first venture raised more than $2000 and inspired other children and adults across the U.S. to join her cause. Alex’s efforts were later featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Today Show, and were the subject of the 2006 documentary Alex Scott: A Stand for Hope. Although Alex passed away at age 8, her vision lives on as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which to date has raised over $100 million for cancer research.

10. PINK LEMONADE ORIGINATED IN A WASHTUB.

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What gives pink lemonade its distinctive hue? These days, it’s made with a few drops of red food dye, or a splash of strawberry juice. But according to Joe Nickell, author of Secrets of the Sideshows, the invention was a rather unappetizing accident. As the legend goes, circus vendor Pete Conklin had sold his entire stock of regular lemonade, and needed to make more on the spot. Without access to running water or a well, Conklin resorted to using a tub of water that had been tinted pink after being used to wash the red tights of circus performers. Another, slightly more appetizing tale is that circus man Henry Allott was making lemonade when some red cinnamon candies fell in, discoloring his beverages. Bottoms up?

11. ONE OF AMERICA’S GREATEST GOLFERS MIXED HIS WITH TEA.

Bellying up to the bar at the 1960 U.S. Open, golf superstar Arnold Palmer ordered a blend of lemonade and sweet tea, and his name’s been attached to that popular variation ever since. Add vodka to an Arnold Palmer and it becomes a John Daly (a bit of dark humor referencing fellow golfer Daly’s struggle with alcoholism), or for a real kick, swap out the vodka for Everclear—that’s now known as a Happy Gilmore.

12. NO VODKA FOR FIRST LADY "LEMONADE LUCY" THOUGH!

In 1877, in an attempt to curry favor from the Prohibition Party, the White House banned alcohol from all parties and state dinners. Although the decision was made by President Rutherford B. Hayes, his wife, First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes, was a known teetotaler and received the brunt of criticism—as well as the enduring nickname "Lemonade Lucy," which was coined 11 years after her death—from detractors.

13. LEMONADE STANDS HAVE BECOME A HOT-BUTTON ISSUE.

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If your kids are thinking of spending the afternoon hawking lemonade from the front lawn, beware—the “industry” has gotten thornier than you might remember from your youth. Unsuspecting sellers can be slapped with heavy fines for failure to comply with health and safety regulations or local permitting laws. Naturally, the issue has become a flashpoint for critics of government regulation and has led to protests, most notably Lemonade Freedom Day.

14. THE SWEET DRINK HAS INSPIRED SOME SWEET MELODIES.

These days, Google “lemonade” and you’ll get more Beyoncé than beverage. The superstar singer’s “visual album” Lemonade was an instant hit when it was released in April, and it proved that, 100 years after Marshall Pinckney Wilder, the advice to “make lemonade” out of our hardships still resonates. But Bey is hardly the first artist to draw inspiration from the drink—singer G. Love used Lemonade as an album title in 2006, and musicians as diverse as Gucci Mane, Danity Kane, and Blind Melon all have songs of the same title in their repertoire. There's also Lemonade, the dance band from San Francisco, and Lemonade, the Eve Ensler play. One thing’s for sure: Whether you’re drinking lemonade, making it, selling it, or singing about it, no one can get enough of it.

Wrap Yourself in the Sweet Smell of Bacon (or Coffee or Pine) With These Scented T-Shirts

adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images
adogslifephoto/iStock via Getty Images

At one point or another, you’ve probably used perfume, cologne, body spray, or another product meant to make you smell like a flower, food, or something else. But what if you could cut out the middleman and just purchase scented clothing?

Candy Couture California’s (CCC) answer to that is “You can!” The lifestyle brand offers a collection of graphic T-shirts featuring scents like bacon, coffee, pine tree, strawberry, and motor oil. If you have more traditional olfactory predilections, there are several options for you, too, including rose, lavender, and lemongrass. There’s even a signature Candy Couture California scent, which is an intoxicating blend of coconut, strawberry, and vanilla.

candy couture california bacon shirt
Candy Couture California

According to the website, CCC founder Sara Kissing came up with the idea in 2011 while working in the e-commerce fashion industry, and her personal experience with aromatherapy led her to investigate developing clothing that harnessed some of those same benefits. The T-shirts are created with scent-infused gel, which “gives off a delicate, mild smell—just enough to boost your mood.”

So you don’t have to worry about your bacon shirt making the whole office smell like a breakfast sandwich, but you yourself will definitely be able to enjoy its subtle, meaty aroma whenever you wear it. The shirts are also designed to match their scents—the chocolate shirt, for example, features chocolatey baked goods, while the coffee shirt displays steaming mugs of coffee.

candy couture california chocolate shirt
Candy Couture California

The fragrances don’t last forever, but they’ll stay strong through 15 to 20 washes before they start to fade. CCC recommends using unscented detergent so as not to conflict with the shirt’s aroma, and you can further prolong its life if you’re willing to wash it by hand.

Prices start at $79, and you can shop the full collection here.

The Fascinating History Behind Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food on Christmas

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For Jewish New Yorkers, scoring a seat at one of veteran restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld’s Chinese eateries on Christmas Day could be compared to a holiday miracle. “I think on that day we do more business than many restaurants do in three months,” Schoenfeld tells Mental Floss. “We serve all day long, we stay open all day long.”

Schoenfeld is the Jewish owner-operator of RedFarm, an Asian-fusion dim sum restaurant with two locations in New York (plus one in London), and Decoy, a West Village shrine to traditional Peking duck. While his expertise lies in Far Eastern cuisine, Schoenfeld grew up in Brooklyn and learned to cook from his Eastern European grandmother. And just like his customers, Schoenfeld and his family sometimes craved Chinese food on Christmas, eschewing homemade fare for heaping plates of chow mein and egg foo yung. The future restaurateur's grandmother kept a kosher kitchen, but outside the home all dietary laws flew out the window with the single spin of a Lazy Susan. Suddenly, egg rolls with pork were fair game, transfigured into permissible delicacies through hunger and willful ignorance.

As Gentiles feast on turkey and roast beef during the Yuletide season, why do many Jews opt for chop suey? For starters, it's convenient: Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But as historians and culinary experts tell Mental Floss, other ingredients play a part in this delicious story.

Jews developed their love for all things steamed, stir-fried, and soy-sauced after leaving the Old Country. Between the mid-1800s and the 1930s, waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Germany, and Greece began settling in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a gritty, inexpensive neighborhood teeming with tenements, docks, and factories—and filled with synagogues and kosher butcher shops. “You started here, and then moved on," Sarah Lohman, author of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, says.

While Jewish immigrants found community on the Lower East Side, "there was a lot of discrimination against Jews at the turn of the century,” Lohman adds. "They were often criticized not only for not dressing like Americans and not speaking the language, but also for not converting to an 'American' religion."

Right next door to the burgeoning Jewish community on the Lower East Side was the city's nascent Chinatown. Many Chinese immigrants had initially come to the U.S. to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. After its completion in 1869, these laborers faced violence and discrimination in the western states. They came to New York City seeking new business opportunities, and some opened restaurants.

By and large, Chinese restaurateurs didn’t discriminate against Jewish customers. Joshua Eli Plaut writes in his book A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish that the Chinese, as non-Christians, didn't perceive any difference between Anglo-Saxon New Yorkers and Jewish immigrants; they accepted all non-Chinese customers with open arms.

Jewish customers embraced Chinese food in return. The restaurants were conveniently located and inexpensive, yet were also urbane in their eyes. Jews saw dining out as an American custom that they wanted to try, largely because they sought upward mobility among other Americans. According to Yong Chen, a history professor and author of Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, "[Diners] were attracted to Chinese food because, in their mind, it represented American cosmopolitanism and middle class status." And they weren't deterred by the fact that food in Chinese restaurants wasn't kosher. But they could easily pretend it was.

Dairy wasn’t a big part of Chinese meals, so Jewish diners didn’t have to worry about mixing meat and milk (a no-no in kosher diets). And non-kosher ingredients like pork or seafood were often finely chopped, drowned in sauces, or mixed with other ingredients, like rice. These elements were well disguised enough that they could pass for more permissible forms of meat. “You could kind of willfully ignore that there might be pork in there," Lohman says. "It’s like a vegetarian eating a soup that has chicken stock. If you’re a little flexible about your Judaism, you would just ‘not notice’ the pork in your fried rice.”

Chinese food was exotic and new, filled with surprising flavors, ingredients, and textures [PDF]. But for some Eastern European Jews, it also had familiar elements. Both Eastern European and Chinese cuisines shared an affinity for sweet and sour flavors and egg-based dishes. "[Chinese restaurants] had these pancakes, which were like blintzes,” says Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, and the wontons resembled kreplach (both are meat-filled soup dumplings).

The fact that the Chinese and Jews were America’s two largest non-Christian immigrant populations brought them together, Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, tells Mental Floss. Unlike, say, Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants were open on Sundays and on Christian holidays. They also lacked religious imagery, which may have made them appear more welcoming for Jews.

Combined, these factors caused the number of Chinese restaurants in urban East Coast cities to skyrocket during the early 20th century. Jews soon accounted for 60 percent of the white clientele in New York City's and Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants, Chen writes, and Chinese restaurants would often go out of their way to cater to these clients. The eateries delivered their food to Jewish neighborhoods and to individual customers.

Yet an unwavering affection for Chinese food wasn't shared by all Jews. In an example cited by Chen and Lee, a reporter for Der Tog (The Day), a Yiddish daily newspaper in New York City, noted in 1928 that Jewish diners were in danger of drowning their culinary roots in soy sauce. To take back their taste buds, Jewish-Americans should hoist protest signs reading “Down with chop suey! Long live gefilte fish!” the journalist joked.

But Jewish cookbooks had already begun including Americanized dishes like chop suey and egg foo yung, which Chinese chefs had specially created to appeal to homegrown appetites. And as Lower East Side Jews moved to different neighborhoods, boroughs, and suburbs, Chinese restaurants followed them.

By the mid-20th century, Nathan says, Chinese restaurants had become de facto social clubs in Jewish communities. Familiar faces were always present, children were always welcome, and eating with your hands wasn’t just encouraged—it was required. Everyone left filled with food and gossip, whether it was Christmas or an ordinary Sunday evening.

Thanks to immigration patterns, nostalgia, and convenient hours of operation, this culinary custom has stuck around. “Jewish guests want to go out and eat Chinese food on Christmas,” Schoenfeld, the Manhattan restaurateur, says. “It’s become a tradition, and it’s extraordinary how it’s really grown.”

This story originally ran in 2017.

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