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Uncommon Knowledge

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

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What causes “brain freeze?”

May 24, 2015

Indulgent Food Pillows | UncommonGoods

It’s happened to everyone who enjoys ice cream now and then (in other words, everyone): you’re enjoying a dollop of that frozen goodness when—WHAM! You find yourself enjoying a blinding headache along with your soft serve. The common term for this Dairy Queen discomfort is “brain freeze,” though doctors have a technical term for it: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Trying to pronounce that is enough to give you a headache, but “brain freeze” itself is caused by the cold stuff you’re eating causing rapid expansion and contraction of two major arteries near your palate—the internal carotid and the anterior cerebral. These blood vessels converge near your ice cream enjoyment centers (aka your mouth and your brain), and when they essentially start shivering with the arctic swirl you’ve introduced, you experience icy pain in various parts of your head or face. Think of it as a momentary neurological vacation to Siberia. Fortunately for us frozen treat lovers, there are a few simple remedies: 1) drink a quick warm water chaser, 2) stick your tongue on the roof of your mouth to warm up the area, 3) wait a few seconds and the pain will pass…kind of like the ice cream truck if you don’t hurry!

Indulgent Food Pillows, $65

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why isn’t it the best, “hands up?”

May 17, 2015

Horse Racing Game | UncommonGoods

When someone tells you your joke was the funniest, your hair was the prettiest, your cooking was the tastiest (we’re very popular)—they usually announce your win, “hands down.” This saying originates at the racetrack, the earliest examples being found in 19th century sporting papers. If a jockey and his horse were winning by a lot, the jockey would often be able to cross the finish line with the reigns dropped and his hands down. What was at first used in a literal way soon became a metaphor for winning with ease—an 1853 newspaper described a horse’s win as “she won with the most perfect ease imaginable, little Sherwood going past the post ‘hands down.’” Now hands up if you think that’s neat.

Horse Racing Game, $75