Division by zero does not compute.
If you’ve ever wondered how Cheese Doodles were invented, the answer might surprise you. Those puffy, airy curls that stick to your teeth and turn everything orange were created by an animal feed manufacturer, from ingredients originally intended for cows.
Beloit, Wisconsin’s Flakall Corporation made cattle feed from flaked corn-corn that had been finely ground to remove tough kernels and extract maximum nutrients-but sometimes the grinder would get jammed and need to be cleaned. Flakall tried cleaning the machinery by forcing moistened corn through it, but when the moist corn hit the hot grinder, it didn’t flake. It puffed up like popcorn, just without the hard kernels. One employee liked the look of these puffs so much that he took some home. A little ‘cheese’ powder later, and a snack was born! Flakall Corporation changed its name to Adams Corporation, lost the cows, and started churning out cheese curls, which were apparently far more popular than the livestock feed. It was a ‘happy accident’, an unintended consequence that turned out well.
My favorite happy accident involves White Zinfandel. Yes, you read that correctly: White Zin.
In the 1970’s, Sutter Home made Zinfandel: a deep, hulking red. They also made a ‘blush’ version, but it was modeled after dry Provencal rose, not today’s sweet, poppy pink. But in 1975, they had a stuck fermentation, a situation where the yeast dies out before consuming all the sugar. Would anyone buy this? Short answer: yes, everyone. White Zin quickly became Sutter Home’s biggest seller, then everyone’s biggest seller. Sweet pink wine was THE hit of the 70’s and 80’s, and while I don’t personally drink White Zin or suggest that you do, I AM glad it happened, because the heightened demand for Zinfandel grapes kept growers from ripping out old Zinfandel vineyards or T-grafting them over to Merlot or Cabernet. So once wine drinkers realized how utterly gorgeous a bodacious Zinfandel could be, 100+ year old vines were ready and waiting all over California.
Zinfandel is one of my favorite recommendations for Thanksgiving fare. Its bold flavors stand up to all those crazy side dishes, and its smooth tannins don’t fight with the fat, salt, and sugar inherent in the traditional feast. And Zinfandel is quintessentially American -we grow over 99% of the world’s Zin-which makes sense for a quintessentially American holiday.
So this Thanksgiving, be thankful for flaked corn and White Zin. And then drink some red.