August 23rd, 2011

how to cook a mastodon

A 1998 article from the Cornell University Chronicle:

Fans of hot, spicy cuisine can thank nasty bacteria and other food-borne pathogens for the recipes that come — not so coincidentally — from countries with hot climates. Humans’ use of antimicrobial spices developed in parallel with food-spoilage microorganisms, Cornell biologists have demonstrated in a international survey of spice use in cooking.

The same chemical compounds that protect the spiciest spice plants from their natural enemies are at work today in foods from parts of the world where — before refrigeration — food-spoilage microbes were an even more serious threat to human health and survival than they are today, Jennifer Billing and Paul W. Sherman report in the March 1998 issue of the journal Quarterly Review of Biology.

“The proximate reason for spice use obviously is to enhance food palatability,” said Sherman, an evolutionary biologist and professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell. “But why do spices taste good? Traits that are beneficial are transmitted both culturally and genetically, and that includes taste receptors in our mouths and our taste for certain flavors. People who enjoyed food with antibacterial spices probably were healthier, especially in hot climates. They lived longer and left more offspring. And they taught their offspring and others: ‘This is how to cook a mastodon.’ We believe the ultimate reason for using spices is to kill food-borne bacteria and fungi.”


August 21st, 2011

the English are so nice, so awfully nice

D.H. Lawrence trying for the world’s driest poem:

The English are so nice
so awfully nice
they are the nicest people in the world.

And what’s more, they’re very nice about being nice
about your being nice as well!
If you’re not nice they soon make you feel it.

Americans and French and Germans and so on
they’re all very well
but they’re not really nice, you know.
They’re not nice in our sense of the word, are they now?

That’s why one doesn’t have to take them seriously.
We must be nice to them, of course,
of course, naturally—
But it doesn’t really matter what you say to them,
they don’t really understand—
you can just say anything to them:
be nice, you know, just be nice
but you must never take them seriously,
they wouldn’t understand.

Just be nice, you know! Oh, fairly nice,
not too nice of course, they take advantage—
but nice enough, just nice enough
to let them feel they’re not quite
as nice as they might be.

Via the reading by spokenverse on youtube.

August 21st, 2011


I found this poppy spread at the Turkish shop near my house. Ingredients: Poppy.


In India, Iran and Turkey poppy seeds are known as khaskhas or haşhaş and are considered highly nutritious, mostly added in dough while baking bread, and recommended for pregnant women and new mothers.

I haven’t experimented much yet. I think it would probably make an interesting alternative to tahini in hummus. It’s nice on a beschuit with hagelslag on top.

Incidentally someone made an experimental tune called beschuit met hagelslag.

August 16th, 2011

phone sex

August 13th, 2011

we aren’t alone in the universe, we are the universe

From Alan Watts, Out of Your Mind:

We define manliness in terms of aggression, you see, because we’re a little bit frightened as to whether or not we’re really men. And so we put on this great show of being a tough guy. It’s completely unnecessary. If you have what it takes, you don’t need to put on that show. And you don’t need to beat nature into submission. Why be hostile to nature? Because after all, you ARE a symptom of nature. You, as a human being, you grow out of this physical universe in exactly the same way an apple grows off an apple tree.

So let’s say the tree which grows apples is a tree which apples, using ‘apple’ as a verb. And a world in which human beings arrive is a world that peoples. And so the existence of people is symptomatic of the kind of universe we live in. Just as spots on somebody’s skin is symptomatic of chicken pox. Just as hair on a head is symptomatic of what’s going on in the organism. But we have been brought up by reason of our two great myths–the ceramic and the automatic–not to feel that we belong in the world. So our popular speech reflects it. You say ‘I came into this world.’ You didn’t. You came out of it. You say ‘Face facts.’ We talk about ‘encounters’ with reality, as if it was a head-on meeting of completely alien agencies.

people say there was a primordial explosion, an enormous bang billions of years ago which flung all the galaxies into space. Well let’s take that just for the sake of argument and say that was the way it happened.

It’s like you took a bottle of ink and you threw it at a wall. Smash! And all that ink spread. And in the middle, it’s dense, isn’t it? And as it gets out on the edge, the little droplets get finer and finer and make more complicated patterns, see? So in the same way, there was a big bang at the beginning of things and it spread. And you and I, sitting here in this room, as complicated human beings, are way, way out on the fringe of that bang. We are the complicated little patterns on the end of it. Very interesting. But so we define ourselves as being only that. If you think that you are only inside your skin, you define yourself as one very complicated little curlicue, way out on the edge of that explosion. Way out in space, and way out in time. Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being. And then we cut ourselves off, and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang. But you are. Depends how you define yourself. You are actually–if this is the way things started, if there was a big bang in the beginning– you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang. You’re not something that is a sort of puppet on the end of the process. You are still the process. You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are. When I meet you, I see not just what you define yourself as–Mr so-and- so, Ms so-and-so, Mrs so-and-so–I see every one of you as the primordial energy of the universe coming on at me in this particular way. I know I’m that, too. But we’ve learned to define ourselves as separate from it.

August 13th, 2011

the shore of the heart where I have roots

A translation (by whom?) of Pablo Neruda’s “If You Forget Me”.

If you forget me
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

August 3rd, 2011

polystyrene foam macaroon of ginger with smoked coconut butter

The restaurant El Bulli is cataloguing its dishes online. I can’t stop looking and marvelling.
Above: ‘polystyrene foam macaroon of ginger with smoked coconut butter’.

More here.

August 2nd, 2011

more playing with food

Far be it from us to destroy anyone’s nerdy fascination with lighting stuff on fire with a microwave—one of the ultimate proofs of commitment to your geekdom—and what better object to show off this dangerous, potentially poisonous exhibit than with a grape?

The experiment is simple. Take a seedless grape and slice it down its length, making sure not to cut all the way through (this part is important!), so you leave just a small amount of skin connecting the two halves. Put it face-up in a microwave, turn it on for 30 seconds, and presto! A ball of flame.

So what the heck is going on in that thing? Grapes are packed full of electrolytes, an ion-rich liquid (also known as “grape juice”) that can conduct electricity. Each grape-part serves as a reservoir of electrolytes, connected together by a thin, weakly conducting path formed by the skin. Microwaves produce the energy that shove the stray ions in the grape back and forth very quickly between the two halves.

As a consequence, the current that’s produced pumps excess energy into the skin bridging the grapes, heating it up to 3000 degrees and eventually bursting into flame. Meanwhile, the traveling electrons arc through the flame and across the gap, which ionizes the air around the grape creating a bright blue burning plasma (phew!).

And what about the poisonous gas tainting your roommate’s dinner? Well, he’s talking about the ozone (O3) generated when the air inside the glass is ionized (think lightning storm). While not directly poisonous, ozone in high doses can cause issues with your lungs and just isn’t the best thing you could breath. And the smell isn’t all that appealing either.

From here via reddit/askscience

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