The Perfect Potato Chip, the Origin of Seltzer, and Why We Eat “Beef” and Not “Cow”: TMSIDK Episode 29

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Alex Guarnaschelli (Iron Chef America and Chopped) is our special guest co-host, with Sean Rameswaram (Radiolab Presents: More Perfect) as real-time fact-checker. (Photo: Lucy Sutton)

Joseph Priestley, who you might know as the scientist who discovered oxygen, also designed the first seltzer machine in 1770. The technique was rather simple — basically moving water back and forth through carbon dioxide under pressure, then corking it — but he had high hopes for the beverage. He believed it would cure scurvy for the British Navy, thinking that drinking a replica of the water famous in spas might bring health.

Priestley was wrong about seltzer’s potential to cure scurvy, but having put his idea to paper, he shared it with the world. A Swiss manufacturer, Johann Jacob Schweppe, happened to read it and decided to create a business around this idea. He opened his company, called it Schweppes, and moved to England.

Alex Guarnaschelli (Iron Chef America and Chopped) is our special guest co-host, with Sean Rameswaram (Radiolab Presents: More Perfect) as real-time fact-checker. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know explores the origins of food words, children’s menus, and seltzer.