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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #101

Updated on September 8, 2019
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Disabled by Junk Food?

The headline in the New York Daily News was pretty alarming:

"Study: Teenager Went Blind on Diet of Mostly Junk Food."

I immediately thought this was hyperbole; we all know that junk food is so-named because it is the antithesis of health food, but would it really cause blindness? The U.K. teen was a self-described fussy eater, preferring Pringles, French fries, white bread and the occasional slice of ham or sausage in lieu of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, beans, and lean(er) meats and proteins.

At age 14 he complained of tiredness. His physician conducted a few tests and determined that the young man was suffering from anemia and low B12 levels. He was given a few injections to boost him up, given dietary "advice," and sent on his way.

A year later, he was complaining of hearing loss and visual problems, but the doctors could find no cause. Two years later, at age 17, he was legally blind. It was then that the severity of his condition was finally discovered. He had a severe vitamin B12 deficiency and low levels of copper, selenium, vitamin D, and reduced bone density. By his diet, he had given himself nutritional optic neuropathy, an irreversible condition.

The take-away from this is that nutrition is more than calorie count. Here was a young person of average height and weight. He didn't look malnourished. In fact, he was consuming the proper amount of calories, but they were empty calories with little nutritional value. Even if one does not go to the extremes of this young man, it is best to think twice about fad dieting. Please don't sacrifice your long-term health for a quick-fix loss of 10 or 20 pounds. Your health is important. You are important.

Let's Get Started

Are you ready to look into today's mailbox with me? If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

The first question today comes from John Hansen (aka Jodah).

What is Angel Food Cake?

Oh here is a question for your series. What exactly is “angel food cake” and how did it get its name?

Angel Food Cake
Angel Food Cake | Source

"Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all?"

John Hansen (aka Jodah) thanks for a great question. Angel food cake is unlike any other cake made. It's classified as a "foam cake," meaning that it gets its puff (lift) from beaten eggs, not baking powder or baking soda. Chiffon and sponge cakes are in that category too. But, unlike chiffon and sponge, angel food (1) is made of whites only, no yolks and (2) there is absolutely no fat in the recipe—no butter, shortening, or oil.

Angel food first became a "thing" in the late 19th century. The Home Messenger Book of Tested Recipes, 2d ed., 1878, by Isabella Stewart, contained the first recipe for Angel's Food Cake. Stewart's recipe called for eleven egg whites, sugar, flour, vanilla extract and cream of tartar. There is no absolute story on the origin of the name; one can assume that it was dubbed "angel" food because of its ethereal, heavenly light quality.

P.S. although I can write words of praise for angel food cake, it would not be my choice from the dessert cart. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a minus 3.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Kitchen

"Tonight the art of grating. Watch out fingers. Uh Oh -- you can now just add an easy peasy for kids section in your articles."

Eric, I’m pretty sure that your Gabe not only knows all of these rules, he could probably teach the course (he’s 9 going on 39). But for everyone else who might have little people helping in the kitchen, here are some guidelines:

Staying Clean and Healthy

  • Wear an apron (or an old shirt) to keep your clothes clean. BUT, don’t wear anything big and baggy. Loose-fitting clothing can bump things on the floor, get caught in mixers, catch on fire, etc. Roll up your sleeves, tie back your hair, and don’t wear dangly jewelry (this goes for adults too).
  • Wash your hands. Wash before you do anything else. Then wash again if you touch raw meat or if you touch your face.
  • Don’t lick your fingers while you are cooking/preparing food.
  • Washing as you go is a good idea, but don’t ever put sharp knives into a sink full of soapy water.
  • Wipe up spills when they happen so that no one slips and falls.

Getting Ready

  • Get everything ready. Even professional chefs do this. They call it mise en place. Get your mixing spoons, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and knives out. The same goes for your ingredients. Instead of running back and forth for stuff from the pantry and refrigerator, gather everything you’ll need ahead of time.
  • Read your recipe before you begin. That way you’ll know what happens first, what the next step will be, and so on. You’ll also know when to add things—they don’t always go in at the same time. I have a story to tell you—once my daughter decided to bake a cake, all by herself. She was able to read the list of ingredients and knew how to measure, and so she did just that. All of the flour, the sugar, eggs, butter, and baking powder went into the bowl at the same time. She mixed and mixed and dumped it in the pan. What came out tasted okay, but it sure didn’t look like a cake.
  • Keep things that would burn away from the cooktop—paper towels, dish towels, and potholders.

Staying Safe

  • Never put water in a pan that has hot oil in it.
  • Always turn the handles of pots and pans away from you. If they stick out and overhang the front of the cooktop, you could accidentally get bumped and spill on the floor, or on you!
  • Never grab a hot pan with a wet potholder.
  • Use a kitchen timer so that you don’t forget something in the oven or on the cooktop. Even the best of cooks can’t remember everything.
  • When stirring a pot on the stove, always hold onto one of its handles so that the pot doesn’t spin away from you.
  • Don’t point knives as anyone and always pick them up by the handle. Ask an adult to show you how. Never use a knife without supervision.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

Bye For Now


Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum


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