Question: My husband and I were in New York City for a few days; one night we had the stomach grumbles and hit the streets looking for an all-night eatery. We passed a closed restaurant with a window sign offering "bibi-something," - allegedly the best in town. What was the restaurant claiming to be the best of? - H.C., West Chester, Pennsylvania
Answer: It could have been "bibimbap," a Korean dish that means "mixed rice." Bibimbap is a combination of seasoned and sauteed vegetables, chili pepper paste, soy sauce, egg and sliced meat, all served on a bed of white rice. This is only one of many recipes I came across; it's a bit like chili in this country - there is no one way to make the dish.
Q: I attended a black-tie art exhibit. Placed around the exhibit area were colorful platters of food. Some were meats, others seafood, and they all had vegetables and fruits on them. Some of the platters were mixtures of different items, but each was colorful, with a variety of offerings. There is a rather unusual name for these platters. Do you know what it is? - J.L., Newark, Ohio
A: They are called "salmagundi." The idea is said to have originated in 17-century England. There's not a single recipe; instead, it's a presentation of a large plate of various ingredients. The dish aims to produce a wide range of flavors, colors and textures on one plate.
LET'S LEARN ENGLISH: In the U.K., babies wear "nappies," while in America, they wear "diapers." In the U.K., you'd drive on a "roundabout." In the United States, you'd traverse a "traffic circle."
Q: I watched the first episode of the new TV series "Crossbones" on NBC. A young boy identifies himself as a "something-lolly boy" - or something like that. Do you know what that is? - D.M.C., Port Huron, Michigan
A: The term is "loblolly boy." On a warship, a loblolly boy was an assistant to the ship's surgeon. According to more than one maritime historian, it was the worst job aboard the ship. The loblolly boy was responsible for cleaning up after the surgeon and the patients - I'll let you use your imagination about what that was like. The assistant got the name from a stew called loblolly, which was served to the sick. Over the years, the duties changed little, but the nickname changed several times. My favorite is "Sick Bay Tiffy" ("Tiffy" was slang for "artificer") in the 1890s.
"Crossbones" is set during the golden age of piracy, in the 1700s, and centers on legendary pirate Blackbeard, played by John Malkovich. The surgeon, Tom Lowe, played by Richard Coyle, was assigned to kill Blackbeard. Chris Perfetti plays the loblolly boy.
Q: My girlfriend invited me to a picnic. The hostess pointed out the food table and the pitchers of beer along with several coolers of bottled brew. The pitchers were weird: One was orange-colored with orange slices, and the other was green with lime slices. I stuck to the bottled stuff and was very happy. What was this pitcher concoction? - T.F.L., Cape May, New Jersey
A: It's a shandy. A shandy is made by mixing beer with a soft drink, citrus beverage or even apple juice. Recipes are limited only by your imagination. I visit friends in Trinidad, and they always made shandy using equal parts Carib Lager and Pepsi-Cola. I know, it sounds terrible, but it is surprisingly good. You can even have nonalcoholic shandies, called "rock shandies"
Q: Who was the last NHL player to not wear a helmet? - F.J.K., Bangor, Maine
A: Craig "MacT" MacTavish played from 1979 to 1997 with five different hockey teams, all the time not wearing a helmet. When MacTavish began his career, helmets weren't mandatory, and he was exempt from wearing them under a grandfather clause. After hanging up his skates, he became a coach and is currently the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers.
In August 1979, the NHL president announced that protective helmets would become mandatory in the NHL.
Q: In the beginning of the 2014 movie "Pompeii," there is a statement by someone named Pliny who describes the horrific events of the eruption that wiped out the town of Pompeii. Did a Hollywood writer make up the words? - W.R.L., Martinsville, Illinois
A: A screenwriter did not make up the words; they are the chilling description of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius from a letter by Pliny the Younger to his friend, Cornelius Tacitus:
"You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore."
At the time, Pliny was 18 and living at his uncle's villa in the town of Misenum, northwest of Vesuvius. The city of Pompeii was much closer and south of the volcano. Many of Pompeii's neighboring communities, most famously Herculaneum, also suffered damage or destruction from the blast. The eruption occurred on August 24, 79, just one day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire. Pliny the Younger's uncle, Pliny the Elder, died in the aftermath of the eruption.
DID YOU KNOW? During Gregory Peck's early days, he worked as a Radio City Music Hall usher and as a catalog model for Montgomery Ward.
Q: When I measure soil or water to determine how alkaline or acidic they are, I read the results as pH. What do the letters P and H mean? Why is the H capitalized? - K.L., Phoenix. Arizona
A: According to the Carlsberg Foundation, a Danish group that manages the Carlsberg beer laboratories where the concept of pH was first introduced, the letters stand for "power of hydrogen." The H is capitalized because it is standard to capitalize elemental symbols.
Q: As I write this, I am looking at a VHS sleeve of the 1937 movie "Born to the West." Alan Ladd is listed on the credits. I've watched this movie dozens of times looking for my favorite actor, but I don't see him. In which scene or scenes is he? - B.K., San Angelo, Texas
A: None! There was a clerical error that incorrectly listed his name on the credits. To this day, there are many Alan Ladd filmography lists that include this movie.
Q: Not too long ago, I stayed at a hotel on a lake in Switzerland. The rooms were on stilts over the water. The hotel had an unusual name; I was told it meant "buildings on stilts." Do you know the word? - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
A: According to the my Merriam-Webster dictionary, a "palafitte" is "an ancient dwelling built on piles over a lake; specifically: a Neolithic lake dwelling in Switzerland or northern Italy." I suspect you were staying at the Hotel Palafitte on Neuchatel Lake.
Palafitte, or stilt houses, are built over land or water. They are primarily for the protection against flooding and also keep unwanted critters out of your home.
Q: When we think of a harem, we think of one male and a group of females. What if it's reversed and there is one female and a group of males? - M.W., Gonzalez, Lousiana
A: I could not find a definite word for the collection of males lead by a woman. Some sources suggest "stable," "reverse harem" or "male harem." Take your pick or use your imagination and come with your own name.
The word "harem" comes from the Arabic "haram," meaning "forbidden because sacred."
- Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIA@gmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.