He Plays With Food

An affable biologist double-dips his chips for TV science.

Do Diet Pepsi and Mentos candy make a volatile combo? Mild-mannered Adam Ruben investigates. Photograph by Luigi CiuffetelliAdam Ruben last summer took a few breaks from developing a malaria vaccine to tackle more pressing issues.

Like just how much backwash is in your bottled water? Is it possible to woof down six saltines in under a minute? Does spittle wind up on birthday cake when you blow out the candles?

Wilmington-raised Ruben, a molecular biologist by day, was tapped as a guest expert in 13 segments of Food Network’s “Food Detectives,” a show hosted by Ted Allen that debunks the greatest myths, misconceptions and mysteries about food.

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Ruben took on dirty bar counter snacks, diet cola and Mentos, and the famous “double-dipping the chip” faux pas.

The show’s producers needed science, so a casting call went out for scientists who have stage experience. Ruben, a standup comedian, fit the bill perfectly.

So Ruben filmed with a buddy his own segment about the saltines challenge. “I had to do it myself over and over and over again,” he says. “By the end of the day my mouth was so cut up.”

After a screen test (about preventing tears when chopping onions) and a pilot (about the 5-second rule) Food Network picked up the show. Ruben became a fixture, engineering experiments, most dealing with bacteria, to test whatever gnarly case came his way.

Ruben filmed eight segments for the first season of “Food Detectives” and five more for the second. As of June, it was not known if the show would return for a third.

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The 30-year-old graduated from Concord High School in 1997, then earned his doctorate from Johns Hopkins after four years at Princeton. He works full-time at Sanaria, a biotech firm in Rockville, Maryland. His employers had no issues with Ruben’s side gig, which sometimes landed him in unsavory situations.

When filming a segment in Central Park about unsanitary water fountains, the crew encountered a man rinsing bicycle grease from his hands, another who wanted to wash his produce, and a third who lifted his little dog to the nozzle to drink.

In one of Ruben’s favorite episodes, he and Allen traveled to a Chinese restaurant in New York to debunk the myth that the additive MSG is harmful.

“I got some hate mail from a woman who is on some kind of consumer advisory council, and she’s certain MSG is the devil,” Ruben says. “I guess she thinks I’m paid off by the glutamate lobby.”

—Matt Amis

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Page 2: Center of Attention | DSU’s new state-of-the-art wellness center will benefit students–and the community.


Center of Attention

DSU’s new state-of-the-art wellness center will benefit students—and the community.

Delaware State University’s new wellness center is a slam dunk.

The spacious building features two basketball courts that can be easily converted for volleyball, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, a suspended running track and, coming soon, an adjoining outdoor recreational swimming pool.

The center, which officially opens this month, will not only fill a void for students, but also the community. DSU is offering memberships to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

That, says Dr. Paul Bryant, the university’s vice president of student affairs, is what makes the new center unique. “There are schools that have wellness centers, but very few have wellness centers with a community component to it,” Bryant says. “We invite the public to come out.”

Membership fees had not been decided as of early summer, but Bryant says the price will be competitive, “and we may not have the long lines.”

The two-story, 54,000-square-foot building, part of a complex that includes Memorial Hall and a strength and conditioning facility for athletes, also offers family changing rooms and space for dancing and other activities. “It was designed as a family operation,” Bryant says.

The 3,415-foot swimming pool will be accessible from the center’s first floor locker room. It will feature a fountain, three lap lanes, an inter-pool bench with water jets, and four basketball hoops. Like the wellness center, the pool will be used for intramural sports.

“We’re hoping to promote health and wellness on campus,” says Bryant. “This will be a beacon to promote healthy lifestyles.”

—Drew Ostroski

Page 3: Building on Her Success | A Wilmington author’s most recent book is something to write home about.


Rachel Simon, husband Hal Dean and Zeebie enjoy a typical day. Photograph by Joe Del TufoBuilding on Her Success

A Wilmington author’s most recent book is something to write home about.

Drawing parallels between home renovation and personal relationships is prime breeding ground for puns.

So when Rachel Simon, an award-winning author from Wilmington, discusses her recently released memoir, “Building A Home With My Husband; A Journey Through The Renovation of Love,” she can’t resist a little wordplay.

“More than a few people said to me, ‘Wow, the book made me look at my marriage in a new way,’” she says. “Another person said she took steps to repair relationships with a family member. A renovation causes people to take concrete steps—pun unintentional—with the people closest to them.”

Simon’s previous book, the popular “Riding the Bus with My Sister,” had a similar theme: examining steps that can be taken to fix broken relationships. That book was adapted for a 2005 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie starring Rosie O’Donnell and Andie MacDowell.

“A friend said the style of this book is somewhat similar to the first,” Simon says. “I think it’s deeper. It has humor, but it’s not unremittingly sad. Both take on serious issues. They make you laugh, cry and think. They just do it in different ways.”

Does Simon hope that “Building a Home” also makes it into movie form?

“[Having ‘Riding the Bus’ adapted for a movie] was a peak life experience that was wonderful in every way,” she says. “It satisfied every desire I would have. If it happens again, it would be grand, but…”

In typical Simon fashion, she draws a comparison to love: “Do you keep looking even after you think you’ve found someone?”

Movie or not, there’s no doubt Simon hopes her book’s popularity will go through the roof.                                  

—Drew Ostroski

Page 4: Biden Time | A monthly review of the veep.


Biden Time

A monthly review of the veep.

Joe appeared at UD in late spring to talk about the importance of wind power. Ironically, Biden’s speech went on for four and a half hours. Just kidding. (But you believed it, didn’t you?)

Celia Cohen, on Delaware Grapevine, recently quoted Valerie Biden Owens as saying: “What do I like best about being vice sister? I like that name. And the second thing is totally vacuous: I love that motorcade.” Gotta love the motorcade.

In The News Journal, one Delawarean offered advice to a Maryland transplant who is embarrassed to admit he’s from Biden’s state: “I suggest he move back to where he can take pride in that state’s contribution to the vice presidential office: Spiro Agnew.” Take that, Free Stater.

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