A taste of honeys

Recently (very recently), my friend and fellow blogger Joseph Nebus posted a tidbit on his blog about a can of pumpkin.

(Disclaimer: I have never actually met the very splendid and worthwhile Mr. Nebus.  Our interactions to date have consisted of cross-blog discussions of subjects such as the history of the color indigo, how to use tea lights as toys, the relationship between Vincent Price and St. Louis, and the connection between Robert Boyle and 3rd Century Saint Pancras.  However, I find his writing very entertaining, and I believe that should I ever find myself in Michigan or he in North Carolina, our meeting would be quite amicable, and dominated by some random aspect of our surroundings.  His blogs are quite good.  Go read them here and here while I try to remember what I was saying.)

Ah, yes, now I remember.  Joseph was doing a statistical analysis of the ingredient of 100% canned pumpkin and took great comfort in the results.  (Spoiler alert: it’s pumpkin.)

In what could only be termed synchronicity if this train of thought had been recorded by The Police in 1983, I had a similar revelation a few weeks ago.  I found a packet of honey (pictured above) in the break room at work, and I was taken by two thoughts:

  1. Honey can be graded, which means that there is an occupation called “honey grader”.  I am now considering a second career in the lucrative and prestigious honey grading industry after retirement  I wonder how much schooling is required.
  2. It’s hard to read because I am such a lousy photographer, but just below the honey-pot-obscuring glare, the following is written in tiny, friendly letters:

INGREDIENTS: HONEY

At the time, I was taken aback by the idea that one had to list the ingredients of pure honey, and happy that the term “pure” was apparently not a euphemism, like “natural” or “nutritious”. But after reading Joseph’s report, I now have a more important question: Why is pumpkin considered an ingredient (singular), but honey is considered “ingredients”.  Is it because that can of pumpkin all came from the same gourd, while the honey was gathered from multiple hives?

Or were the corporate lawyers for Big Honey just covering their bases.  “Let’s call it ingredients, just in case we find something else in there, like mangled bee limbs, or tungsten.  It’ll save on printing costs later.”

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Making fun of leaves

Did you ever read something on the internet that was so bizarre, so outrageous, so…wrong that you just had to write something else on the internet to contradict it and set people straight?

No, of course not.  That’s just silly.  Why would anybody write unpleasant things down in public?  And why would anybody else care what someone else wrote on the internet?  If someone has a disagreeable notion they would like to share, it is much simpler to ignore them.  They don’t know any better.  They were probably raised by wolves.

Which is why I was taken aback when I read the following shocking statement. (Trigger warning: Do not try to feed Trigger.  He’s not your horse.  And he’s dead.)

There are no fun facts about arugula. Period.

The author of the statement above justifies himself by saying the following:

I need FUN facts about arugula in order to encourage others to buy it, plant it, grow it, eat it.

Now I have a motto: There are no unfun facts.  There are only facts not having fun. (Disclaimer: This is not my motto.  It’s not even on my list of mottos, which is here.  This is a stupid motto.  I wouldn’t touch that motto with a ten foot pole.)  If you don’t have fun facts, it’s important to make the facts fun yourself. To that end, I’d like to share with you some fun facts about arugula.

(Important Disclaimer: The statements below are for fun purposes only.  They should not under any circumstances be considered encouragement to buy, plant, grow, or (God forbid) eat arugula.  I’d sooner recommend a timepiece from Hammacher Schlemmer.)

Credit Where Credit is Due Announcement: All of the unfun facts below have been cribbed directly from Wikipedia. Technically, this stretches the definition of the word “fact”, but it’s still more research than I normally put into a blog post.

Fact: Arugula is commonly known as salad rocket, rucola, rucoli, rugula, colewort, and roquette.

Fun fact 1: If anything should commonly be known as salad rocket, it’s the carrot.

Fun fact 2: Despite the fact that kids will eat anything if you call it a “salad rocket”, people insist on calling this stuff “arugula”, which is not Italian for “salad rocket”.

Fun corollary 2a:  “Salad rocket” in Italian is “razza di insalata”, which in and of itself is fun to say, particularly in a comical Italian accent.  See what I mean? (You know you tried it.)

Fact: Some botanists consider it a subspecies of Eruca vesicaria.  Still others do not differentiate between the two.

Fun fact 3: There are at least 4 botanists (2 on each side) involved in this dispute. Yet you never read about it in the press. Nor is there a reality show designed to exploit this conflict. Not even on HGTV.

Fact: It is also used cooked in Apulia, in Southern Italy, to make the pasta dish cavatiéddi, “in which large amounts of coarsely chopped rocket are added to pasta seasoned with a homemade reduced tomato sauce and pecorino”, as well as in “many unpretentious recipes in which it is added, chopped, to sauces and cooked dishes” or in a sauce (made by frying it in olive oil and garlic) used a condiment for cold meats and fish.

Fun fact 4: This is all one long run-on sentence.  Trying to diagram it would kill more time than it’s worth.

Fun fact 5: If I am parsing correctly, apparently once there were many unpretentious dishes that contain arugula.  None survive to the present day.

Fact: It was listed in a decree by Charlemagne of 802 as one of the pot herbs suitable for growing in gardens.

Fun fact 6: Charlemagne, King of the Franks and first Holy Roman Emperor, issued gardening decrees.  Perhaps one of them outlawed unpretentious uses of arugula.

Fun fact 7: Arugula is no longer the most popular pot herb grown in gardens. Especially in Colorado.

Fact: The species has a chromosome number of 2n = 22

Fun fact 8: n = 11, which is prime.  (Disclaimer: this is not fun in and of itself, but is provided for the sake of people who are still diagramming that sentence above, and don’t have time to do the math themselves.  Maybe you’ll find the next fact more to your liking.)

Fact: The taxonomic name of arugula is Eruca sativa.

Fun fact 9: “Arugula” is an anagram for “aura lug”, which sounds like work.  On the other hand, “Eruca sativa” is an anagram for “active auras”, which sounds much healthier.

Fun fact 10: “Eruca sativa” is also an anagram for “caviar eat us”.  Caviar is disgusting fish eggs.  This is a subliminal message.  You should not eat the same things that fish eggs eat.

Fun corollary 10a: “Salad rocket” is an anagram for “croaked last”.  This is a thinly veiled attempt to make you think arugula is good for longevity.  Don’t fall for it.  “Salad rocket” is also an anagram for “cloaked rats”.

There you have it.  Ten fun facts and two fun corollaries about arugula.  As the kids say when they’re having fun, “Whee.”

Fine tree stand dining

The other day I was at Barnes & Noble, and I heard a couple guys in the next aisle mocking one of the books.  This struck me as unusual, because the only places I normally hear mockery in public are in my head and coming out of my mouth.

As I went around the corner, I saw two employees put down a book and go back to whatever they were doing.  Thankful that I didn’t see myself already standing there, I walked over to where they were standing and picked up the book they were looking at.  It was called “The Camping Cookbook”.

Now, I have never been camping in my life.  If you’ve been following along, you know that Mother Nature and I are mortal enemies, and we have a simple “live and let die” policy, where we don’t directly attack each other, but neither of us will lift a finger to help the other.  Camping would be unnecessarily provocative, like firing rockets into a neighbor’s yard. Continue reading

Better living through warnings

As I have explained before, warning signs are what separates modern humans from cavemen.  If Neanderthals had spent less time doodling on cave walls and more time putting up signs saying “Warning: Cro-Magnons may be hazardous to your survival!”, actuarial tables show that Neanderthals would be approximately 92% less extinct than they are today.

Fortunately for us, modern humans warn the crap out of each other.  This morning, while I was getting my oil changed, I walked down the road to a nearby coffee shop.  (Disclaimer: it was not olde enough to be a shoppe.)  While I was waiting, I glanced up at the menu board and saw a warning in small print at the bottom.  I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of the message was this:

Allergen warning: Some of the products here may contain the following allergens: peanuts, tree nuts (which I first read as “tree moss”), wheat, milk, and (wait for it) fish.

Fish. Continue reading

It’s a wonderful morning

I am not a morning person.  The only reason I experience mornings at all is because they’re usually there when I wake up.

Today was a great morning, though.  All day, everywhere I went, pretty girls were smiling at me.  (Disclaimer: I use the term “girls” intentionally, as in each case I am old enough to be their father’s older brother.)  Because of the age difference, I may compliment the girls, but I do not hit on them in any way.  (Sort of like a fisherman who throws back fish that are too small.)

When I went to the dry cleaners this morning, the girl who took my shirts had one of those smiles that could melt ice cream.  I’m not used to getting that greeting from someone who’s only getting dirty shirts in return, so I complimented her on her smile.  She just got a bigger smile and thanked me like I had just rescued her from the Daleks.  Score: John 1, Dry Cleaner Girl 1, Morning 0.

I then went to IHOP for breakfast.  For a Saturday morning, the place was surprisingly unpacked, and I got a seat immediately.  A lovely young waitress came up to me, and we had the following true but improvised conversation: Continue reading

A meal by any other name

I don’t write jokes.  I don’t think I’d be very good at it.  I find it difficult to be funny on demand.  My sense of humor arises from the fact that the world amuses me.  God has given me one of the greatest gifts imaginable: the ability to look at the world through a humorous lens.  I try always to use my gift for good instead of evil (given the source of the gift).  I love to make people laugh.  However, I’m not always in control of it.

Today, I ate lunch at Chick-Fil-A.  It was a late lunch, so there was nobody in line when I arrived.  My order was taken by a beautiful blonde girl.  After placing my order and paying, we had the following conversation:

Her: What name should I put on this order?

Me: John.  No, wait, that’s my name.  That might be too confusing.  I usually call this meal Lunch.  Will that work?

Her (laughing): I’ll just go with John.

Now understand, one of the great joys of my life is making pretty girls laugh.  On my list of raisons d’etre, this would be in the top three.  (Disclaimer: I do not have an official list of raisons d’etre.)  And I was thrilled that she played along, instead of just staring at me like I had two heads.  But the thing is, I have no idea where that response came from.

Sadly, this story ends on a downbeat note.  When I finished my meal and started out the door, the beautiful blonde did not “just go with John”.  She stayed behind with the remnants of my meal.  Still, I don’t take it as a personal rejection.  I prefer to think that she was just confused by the similarity of our names.

Actual cooking

I don’t cook.  I actually cook.

Actual cooking derives its name from the reaction I get when I tell someone that I decided to make something complicated, as exemplified below:

Me: I’m thinking of making veal picatta tonight for dinner.

Not me: You mean you’re going to ACTUALLY cook?

Actual cooking is the highest form of dining, the pinnacle of the five levels of in-home food consumption.

Level 1: Eating in.  Eating in involves the least preparation, and usually produces the best results.  The secret to eating in is that it involves only transportation.  Find pre-prepared food somewhere in the world (or “out”) and bring it to your place of residence (or “in”).  Works best for cold foods like sandwiches and fast food from nearby restaurants (5 minutes or less away).  (Note: It is not a requirement that you personally commit the act of transportation.  You can outsource this to many local establishments for a small fee.) Continue reading

Auto-pilot

Food is a sensual experience — if you eat sensually experienced food.  I don’t.  I eat a lot of fast food, which does not get its name from any of the five senses.  Fast food is less an experience than a process.  The successful experience of fast food is built on continuity — this sandwich tastes the same as the sandwich I ordered the last time.  Whenever I go to any of my favorite restaurants, I order the thing that I like at that restaurant.  If I wanted something else, I would go to a different restaurant.  When I go to a Japanese restaurant, I order chicken teriyaki (with shrimp if they have it).  When I go to a burger joint, I order the bacon cheeseburger.  I always get chicken and broccoli at a Chinese restaurant, the Chicken Planks at Long John Silver’s, original recipe at KFC, a baked potato with cheese at Wendy’s, and so on.

I am not in a rut.  Stop saying that.  I just know what I like.  I have been eating for over half a century, on and off.  They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.  If you assume one hour a day spent actually eating on average, I have approximately 18,000 hours of practice, which means I have been a master of eating for 24 years. Continue reading

Ice Cream of the Future

Reposted from Facebook:
Today at the mall, I once again passed the kiosk for Dippin’ Dots, “Ice Cream of the Future”.  I’ve never tried it, because I live in the present, so I assume it’s not ready yet.  But this got me thinking.  I’ve been a student of the future since I was 8.  I remember looking forward to the launch of the Jupiter II in 1997, 2 years before the moon will be blasted out of orbit by a freak accident at… the nuclear waste dump on the dark side, and 4 years before the launch of the Discovery mission to Jupiter.  (Note to self: in the future, stay away from things and places named Jupiter.)  I’ve seen and read about alliances and empires and federations from this century until the year 10,191 and beyond.  I’ve seen humans live underground to avoid the apes on the surface, and live on the surface to avoid the Morlocks underground.  I’ve seen dystopian worlds where some people live forever, and utopian worlds where everyone dies at 30.  (Note to self: check this one out — a utopia full of twenty-somethings is an oxymoron.) But across a hundred futures spanning a million years, I have never once seen anyone enjoying a serving of Dippin’ Dots.  No one ever walked down the DS9 Promenade or the Babylon 5 Zocalo and passed a kiosk for “Ice Cream of Right Now” in dot form.  The TARDIS has never materialized in an alien bazaar where people were marveling at “Ice Cream of the Distant Past”. I’m not sure what to make of this.  Someone is lying to me, either the Dippin’ Dots people or the future.  I am not happy about this.
As an aside, according to my friend Sara, other people walk around the mall thinking about clothes and shopping and where they parked and stuff. Bunch of weirdos…