Trivia Bits: OK to Eat Your Words

Times Staff Writer

Everyone has endured their share of dreadfully dull parties or social events and combatting the chronic tedium at such affairs is the impetus behind a recently introduced food product.

A Dallas firm has brought to market Trivia Bits, a revolutionary Cheddar cheese cracker that aims to "provide entertainment and stimulation in any atmosphere."

Trivia Bits break new ground in the cracker world because a slip of paper upon which is written an obscure question is baked inside two cracker rectangles. The paper extends about 1 inch farther than the cracker so it can be differentiated from similar snacks.

These descendants of the Chinese fortune cookie contain the question's answer on the opposite side of the paper. Consequently, care must be taken when selecting a Trivia Bit from its 7-ounce container so as not to gain any advantage over fellow cracker consumers.

The firm which developed these cerebral biscuits claims the inspiration was the fact that there was "too much boredom . . . at social get-togethers." Trivia Bits are meant to end this problem and can do so "indoors or outdoors."

Concerns about accidently munching the paper slips along with the crackers are apparently misplaced. The company states the paper and print meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration food additive guidelines and thus people should not have any fear of "eating their words."

Goodby Jack--First it was the clown. Now it's the box. In the coming months, the 788 Jack in the Box restaurants throughout the country will get a name change, according to a restaurant trade magazine.

The new logo is Monterey Jack and is already in place at the chain's outlets in Seattle, St. Louis and Albuquerque. The reason for dispensing with the clown five years ago was to do away with the kid's food image. The most recent overhaul is due to an ownership change and a gradual revision of the menu, reported Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

Expect the Jack in the Box burgers and fries to be deemphasized in favor of tacos, salads and dinner platters, the article states.

What About Pickles?--There's a generally accepted tale that women crave certain foods during pregnancy. A recent University of California study set out to pinpoint the foods 60 healthy moms-to-be were drawn toward and others that they found unappetizing. The study then looked at the nutritional implications of such cravings and aversions.

The foods most likely to be disdained by those carrying child include strong smelling or strong tasting vegetables such as onions, garlic and members of the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn. which reported on the study.

A set of foods that were craved by some but avoided by others were "greasy foods." For instance, the journal reported that "ethnic foods, which some women said they craved, made others queasy."

The foods most often longed for by those women surveyed included milk, milk products and sweets such as cake, candy and cookies. Others had an insatiable desire for fruits, particularly citrus and melon, the research found.

Those women claiming to be vegetarians were more likely to experience cravings than the carnivores, according to the survey. Not surprisingly, the pregnant vegetarians were attracted to items such as meat, fish or poultry.

Unfortunately, the study did not explore the reason for these particular food habits and offered no explanation for often-stated pickle preferences.

Looking for Lead--Travelers to Mexico who purchase ceramic dishes, bowls and pots should be careful the items are lead-free before using them for food preparation, storage or service, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The attractive ornamental containers can pose a health hazard because of high lead levels due to incomplete ceramic construction. A recent FDA inspection of Mexican pottery in Seattle found unsafe levels of the toxic heavy metal.

"Lead poisoning produces a wide range of confusing symptoms, including constipation, diarrhea, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, sleep disturbances, nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, body pain, trembling and (fatigue)," the agency reports.

Children are especially susceptible to lead and can experience brain dysfunction, impulsive behavior and poor visual-motor coordination.

The pottery in question is typically sold at roadside stands and urban marketplaces for tourists in Mexico. However, it is also available in the United States at art fairs and gift shops, the FDA stated.

There have been no injuries or health problems linked to the current discovery of lead-tainted pottery. Nevertheless, the agency stated that a similar episode in 1979 involving Italian pottery was linked to a number of "debilitating symptoms."

The problem can be avoided by purchasing Mexican pottery for food use which contains a label or sticker stating that the item is lead free, the FDA recommends.

Hot Dogging July--Those that chronicle such things know that July has been officially declared National Hot Dog Month. To commemorate the designation the Best Kosher Sausage Co. of Chicago sent out a list of meaningful hot dog-related events and data.

A few of the items are worth including inside a Trivia Bits Cheddar cheese cracker. For instance, the company claims that 50 million hot dogs are consumed every day in the United States. In other words, one out of every 4.5 Americans will eat a hot dog today.

However, the question that could prove difficult for trivia buffs to master is, "which single location in the world sells the most hot dogs in one year?"

The answer: Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

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