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|1199||English King Richard I is killed by an arrow at the Siege of the Castle of Chalus in France.|
|1789||The First U.S. Congress begins regular sessions at Federal Hall in New York City.|
|1814||Granted sovereignty in the island of Elba and a pension from the French government, Napoleon Bonaparte abdicates at Fontainebleau. He is allowed to keep the title of emperor.|
|1830||Joseph Smith and five others organize the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Seneca, New York.|
|1862||Confederate forces attack General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh, Tennessee.|
|1865||At the Battle of Sailer’s Creek, a third of Lee‘s army is cut off by Union troops pursuing him to Appomattox.|
|1896||The Modern Olympics begin in Athens with eight nations participating.|
|1903||French Army Nationalists are revealed to have forged documents to guarantee a conviction for Alfred Dreyfus.|
|1909||Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Henson become the first men to reach the North Pole.|
|1917||The United States declares war on Germany and enters World War I on Allied side.|
|1924||Four planes leave Seattle on the first successful flight around the world.|
|1938||The United States recognizes Nazi Germany’s conquest of Austria.|
|1941||German forces invade Greece and Yugoslavia.|
|1965||President Lyndon B. Johnson authorizes the use of ground troops in combat operations.|
In the late 19th century, scientists figured out how to derive vanillin—the dominant compound that gives vanilla its signature aroma—from less expensive sources. These included eugenol (a chemical compound found in clove oil) and lignin, which is found in plants, wood pulp and even cow feces. Today, about 85 percent of vanillin comes from guaiacol that’s synthesized from petrochemicals. This isn’t something many of us realize, because labeling can be confusing.So a product containing "natural" vanilla might come from something other than vanilla beans. However, producing vanilla beans is still a lucrative business. Read about the history and the process of producing vanilla at Smithsonian.
In short, vanilla is the plant. Vanillin is one of up to 250 chemical compounds that make up the flavor we know as vanilla. The Food and Drug Administration broadly defines “natural flavors” as those derived from “a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material … whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” Artificial flavoring, on the other hand, is defined as being derived from substances outside of those parameters—even if the chemical composition of the two products are similar.
Like many worthwhile quests, Thompson’s started as a late-night joke. “[The demise of McDonald’s pizza] is something I’ve always had in the back of my mind,” he says. “Every few years it would pop up and I would think about it.” One night, discussing the recent wave of true-crime podcasts, he decided it might make a good topic for a satirical investigation. So he opened his laptop, plugged in a microphone, and dialed up his local McDonald’s. The resulting, fruitless calls became Episode 1.Read the rest of the story over at Atlas Obscura.
Thirty-four unlikely episodes later, Thompson has chased his titular question through complicated corporate dial-up menus, across gulfs of conflicting information, and finally all the way to Pomeroy, Ohio, one of only two locations in the United States that still has a pizza oven fired up. (The other is in West Virginia.)