Browsing Category

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is there seawater in that taffy?

June 9, 2015

Salt Water Taffy | UncommonGoods

Nope, sorry. It has been widely agreed upon that Saltwater Taffy’s origins come from the mind of a business-savvy candy maker, though the specifics remain a little murky. However, there is a Jersey Shore legend that seems pretty convincing:

In 1883, a massive storm hit Atlantic City, clearing the boardwalk of many businesses. Most remaining storefronts were flooded, including a candy shop owned by David Bradley. When a girl came by the shop to buy some taffy after the storm, Bradley looked around the watery store and joked, “All I have is salt water taffy.” His mother overheard the exchange and suggested that it was a catchy name. It was eventually picked up by other vendors in Atlantic City, and then adopted by other vendors in coastal towns. Talk about a name that sticks! Ba-dum-chhh.

Salt Water Taffy, $6.50

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Should you yell at that crow?

June 7, 2015

Perching Birds Bookends | UncommonGoods

NO! Definitely no! Unsettling studies have shown that crows have the ability to remember the faces of threatening humans. Researchers at the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources wore a unique mask as they trapped, banded, and released up to 15 birds at five study sites near Seattle. The released birds immediately began to go Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds on the mask wearer, encouraging other birds to join in and eventually forming an angry mob. As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, the researchers later put the masks back on while traveling to a different area. Crows immediately recognized the “dangerous face” and began to Hitchcock it up again, showing that the birds learned of the threat through social means and not a direct experience. So what happens when you’re on a crow’s hit list? The bothered crow will first give out harsh calls, called scolds, in order to tell other crows a mob is in order. Then, the mob of birds takes action, diving from the sky to drive you out of their territory. Think the grudge won’t last too long? Crows can live for up to 20 years, meaning you’ll be the target of retribution for quite some time—and even from some birds you never even met. We’d hate to be a scarecrow right about now.

Perching Birds Bookends, $90


Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why is it called a “bar and grill?”

June 2, 2015

Tabletop Party Grill | UncommonGoods

Often named for a colorful proprietor or fictional drinking buddy, the “bar and grill” is a familiar fixture in big cities and small towns alike. The term is shorthand for a drinking establishment that serves food (beyond bowls of stale peanuts), and the combination may have been encouraged by blue laws that allowed bars to admit minors if they offered a solid food menu along with their liquid one. Hence, the “grill” in bar and grill. Case closed, right? Not so fast. Time for another round.

The “bar” part of the term most likely hails from the turn of the 17th century, describing the railing or bar that provided a clear barrier between thirsty tavern patrons and the potent potables of the house (and also served as a handy support for tired or tipsy patrons). Over time, the name of this beloved barrier became synonymous with the drinking establishments themselves. But there’s a little more to the “grill” part of this etymological equation. Costumed interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg’s Raleigh Tavern proudly point out that, in their joint at least, “bar and grill” may refer to the teller window-like gate that locks up their precious grog off hours—the 18th century forerunner of the horizontal bar familiar to happy hour patrons today. So the “grill” part of “bar and grill” may have its origins in liquor security rather than kitchen equipment. Now…last call!

Tabletop Party Grill, $149

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Did the colonies take shape because of beer?

May 31, 2015

Wise Beer Growler | UncommonGoods

Plymouth Rock and Massachusetts’ Cape Cod has beer to thank for its deep roots in history. Back in 1620, the Pilgrims were heading for an area of land right around what is now Virginia to settle and plant crops. This area had been checked out and authorized to colonize. After months of stormy seafaring and a series of inconvenient events, however, the final straw came when the beer supplies were depleted. At the time, clean water was hard to come by, so beer was the go-to solution for hydration. The pilgrims found themselves quite a bit north of their target destination in the middle of November—not exactly New England’s most nurturing time of year—but the lack of clean drinking options made dropping anchor a must. Once landed, passengers were hastened ashore so they could find water, leaving the seamen to drink the remaining brewskis. While the Pilgrims did discover plenty of clean streams, they were wary of the New World’s liquids and not really clamoring for the spring water taste—one passenger wrote that they “dare not prefer it before good beer.” Sounds like someone needs a happy hour.

Wise Beer Growler, $45

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why do we wish upon stars?

May 26, 2015

Starry Friends Necklace | UncommonGoods

Part of pop culture ever since a cartoon cricket sang about it in Pinocchio (1940), wishing upon a star is a familiar habit for those seeking a little celestial intervention. But like so many superstitions, its historical origins are hazy. Astronomers will be irked right off the bat: the tradition relates to wishing on “falling stars,” which of course are not starts at all, but meteors going out in a blaze of glory as they enter earth’s atmosphere. In the 2nd century AD, Greek astronomer Ptolemy presented the dubious theory that shooting stars flew through the gap between cosmic spheres when the gods pried them apart to peek down at the activities of mortals on earth. In later Christian tradition, they were thought to represent rising or falling souls or angels. In any case, wishing on them amounted to trying to tap into the mystical to improve your fortunes through a fleeting, fantastic phenomenon. The tradition has been strengthened in the modern era, when urban light pollution made shooting star sightings more difficult and wish opportunities more precious. But if you consider that the granddaddies of those cute shooting stars have—and still can—spell doomsday for planets in their path, you might consider wishing that they pass by harmlessly. The dinosaurs probably never saw it coming…

Starry Friends Necklace, $105