March 30th, 2020
The Archie Club
When my youngest daughter was about 12 I guess, her mother sent her to Simpson-Sears to pick up a prepaid package. The mail order clerk asked for some identification and the only thing she had in her wallet was her membership card in the Archie Club. There was no hassle from the department store since a member in good standing of the Archie Club would be deemed to have some status and also good taste in men. Archie was intrinsically cool but also beautifully naive: characteristics that endeared him to hundreds of young girls. They didn't identify with the sly, the macho and the slick. The clerk would have recognized a fellow traveler, albeit only 12.
Even though Archie struggled with the usual trials and temptations he seemed to effortlessly overcome them with his continuing good nature. What's not to love? Certainly the Archie Club card today won't net you much headway at the airport or the customs office, but it tells us where your values are.
Even more beautifully naive was Beaver. He may have been younger than Archie but he had those same endearing characteristics one of which was honesty. There is always safety when you can rely on your friends to say what they think. Our children classified their classmates as bady-bads, goody-goods and normals and claimed they were normals. I would have been more than satisfied with Beaver or Archie.
The school principal said to Beaver, " Why do you want to be a garbage collecter when you grow up Beaver?" He replied, " Well, You don't have to wash your hands so much, and people don't mind if you smell." It's clear that Beaver was not quite ready for Betty or Veronica at that point but the candor he displayed would eventually give Archie and most of the rest of us a run for the money.
It seems to me that both of tthem will likely roll into adulthood becoming reliable without becoming sly, macho and slick.
Foods of Yesteryear
When one looks at today's foods, the ethnic cooking, the diet food, the cosmopolitan choices of ingredients available, the prepared foods and restaurant meals, the food stuffs of yesteryear are frequently forgotten! The things we ate during the thirties and forties : pioneer food, and poor person's foodstuffs are of some interest, particularly to me. I have tried some of these recipes to take a fresh look at what we ate in those days.
Raisin Pie was at least as common as apple pie in those days when I was a kid. No one eats raisin pie today but I was reminded how good it tasted when I made one and experienced a certain reminder of days gone by. It wouldn"t put any more pounds on than Shoofly Pie which Joan and I tried only once. When all you had for ingredients was brown sugar and molasses then that's what you used. We tried Apple Pan Dowdy with the Shoofly . They were both a disappointment but they were not part of our history.
I tried Irish Soda Bread and to give it authenticity, cooked it in the fireplace on a grate over woodcoals since I didn't have chunks of peat. It wasn't bad for a bread without yeast or peat. Just a bit labour intensive. I never tried Colcannon till I grew gobs of Kale one year so tried it mixed just with potatoes. It was delicious.
My mother made Mock Apple Pie a few times during the war, with soda crackers, lemon juice and sugar as a substitute for apples. Apples were in short supply. That's why crackers, lemon juice and raisins instead. Mock Apple Pie is a poor substitute for apple pie but it was surprisingly deceptive when I made it from her old recipe. If we were still hungry after supper my mother said we could have bread and milk laced with sugar. I tried it the other day. It was filling.
I had never eaten Brewis 'til we went to Nova Scotia and I ordered in a restaurant. We don't have salt cod here on the wet coast and available but Brewis isn't too bad at all and fits in with food of yesteryear for sure. The food available today is only a reflection of the preponderance of ingredients. If you can mix twenty ingredients together it will be fit for the gourmet to speak about.
March 26th, 2020
The Opposable Thumb
Much ado has accompanied the widespread discovery of skeletal remains that suggest that several species of the Homo genera have existed in the remote past and that these genera have failed to thrive is attributed in part to the competition of Homo sapiens. Skeletal remains may suggest such species existed but the bones themselves do not provide a cogent or blanket idea of how or why the species were eliminated. For example, did Neanderthal mankind have an opposable thumb? I don't know and how would anyone else know if they couldn't examine the multiple bones of the wrist and particularly the position of the scaphoid and trapezium.
In 2014 I wrote an article on the thumb of Homo sapiens and on mine and all others of that genera. The opposable thumb is provided with strength and motion by two small muscles in the hand, Opponens pollicis and its friend Adducter pollicis. The muscles provide the motor for fine pinch and grip, a skill available, refined as far a we know, only in Homo sapiens because of the completely opposable thumb. What I am about to tell you is earth-shaking news, not just about dinky little muscles making pill-rolling motions with the thumb and index finger. Pay attention because this is important. From the article *
* "Homo sapiens could never have the fine and complex pinch unless they also could lift the thumb away from the palm. Mankind's opposable and complex digital sinews brought into play by extension of the thumb has allowed the singularity of this early gift as the foundation for the development of intellect. How so you say. Intellect builds capacity, but capacity builds intellect. A stunning chicken and egg interaction that fueled the development of both. Possibly Homo sapiens overcame Neanderthal mankind due to the ability to perform complex pinch and grip and the ensuing intellect that lead to clever deception rather than simple head bashing activity." *
The importance of anatomy in the development of intellect should never be under estimated. The evolution of change and its rate of change has gone from selection of Homo sapiens out of the Hominidae family to the conquering of interstellar space by way of the opposable thumb. To suggest the foregoing is overstatement, may be to deny the domino effects of evolution. If you think this is a reach too far---not so----
time was on our side and great changes come from a chain of little things.
March 25th, 2020
The phenomenon of mind body interaction is mysterious.
When Joan and I bought our piece of ground on Lotus Island the first job was to look for water. We had the use of a jointly owned well but we needed a backup plan. We hired a witcher. There is a reason it is called witching. It may be more accurate to call it bewitching. I had some knowledge of the fruitless search for water from the movie Mr. Blandings builds his Dream House but we were on the wet coast, surrounded by water and in the drainage basin of the zone called The Hundred Hills.
Our dowser came with his witching rod of willow and dowsed in the most likely of places. I expected the process to be amusing and primitive. Sure enough, his dowser dipped here and there but these areas
were too near the surface for use other than watering plants if it were cribbed as a shallow well. More important to me than water however was the mystery of the dowsing.
I was so intrigued that I began dowsing myself as an inquiry into the internal-external process. I used forked willow, forked vine maple and a wire coat hanger, When I approached an area on the property where water was probable each of the rods I had chosen dipped easily and strongly, including the wire coat hanger of course. What was this phenomenon? Speculation is not a substitute for explanation. I reviewed the interesting literature on water witching, also called dowsing and divination. There are no studies that give credence to the process or suggest any evidence basis for it, but I had to determine if it was me that was crazy. I was convinced that though my mind said this was nonsense, my body responded as if it wasn't, Cognitive dissonance. My dipping rods seemed real including the metal one.
It was no surprise that water was noted because we had ground water everywhere and rising to the surface. It was no surprise to the skeptical that a wire coat hanger was identical to willow and vine maple. The only common factor was me and the incapacity to set aside the mind body reaction that misleads and allows reaction to supplant evaluation. Think before you act my dad used to say without having any idea he was talking about evidence based observations.I suppose it is understandable and human as dowsing for everything from gold and jewel to water has been done for 400 years and we all have a tiny bit of us that like to think that magic is really possible.
Man and Animal
Margaret Mead, the famous Anthropologist was asked to tell us when that pivot point happened when mankind emerged from the animal world. It had resulted from antecedent discussions about Darwin, Wallace, Christian ideas, Survival of the fittest, Altruism and the like. In particular she was asked what existing archaeological artifacts she was aware aware of that reflected the departure from the animal world that mankind may have made. You may, like me, question departure or emergence from that world. No anatomist or embryologist would see any separateness whatsoever today or in the past. Margaret Mead's choice of artifact was the archaeological find of a healed fracture of an adult femur. She said a fractured femur in an animal would lead to an early death. In the human with a fracture of the femur time for union takes a minimum of 12 weeks. Someone had to feed, clean the toilet material, protect, harbor and splint the leg of the human . That might be altruism and is not likely an example of survival of the fittest. There had to be an natural impulse to leave and look after oneself. That would be normal in the animal world. To stay and nurture, is that the pivot point?
There's lots of room to argue here with Margaret. What about my dog who is full of love and will stay by me forever, or what seems like forever and wait by my gravestone for my reappearance. And my horse with whom I am bonded for life, or other animal oddities that demonstrate compassion that belies elevation of the fittest. Or do we have still members of mankind who still follow the precepts of survival of the fittest and are they therefore cultually certified members of the animal world? Margaret was a Cultural Anthropologist so may not be interested in anatomy and embryological definitions but I am, and I see no pivot point here. There Is a pivot point culturally in that mankind's departure from the animal world in music, art, abstract thought and charity. On the other hand there may have been the seeds of these originally according to Wallace who suggested Intelligent Design . And then no need for a pivot point. Who knows?
An Unnatural Act
I was removing with difficulty a string of Christmas lights from the Quince tree that I had left too long into March. Some of the small branches were traumatized as the electrical wires clung to them and the freezing cold has still rendered them rather brittle. As i was working away on the stepladder, a small voice said,
"You've made me look like a tart." Then the voice said,
"You've spent a long time yapping about Mother Nature and how organic you are and you even quoted a poem about me once by Euripides and now you have made me into a freak."
I must say I was taken aback by this tree's assertion as I hadn't meant any disrespect. I didn't think it unseemly to string lights on living bones but now I realize for the first time it is an unnatural act and has nothing to do with Christmas either.
" I guess you are right that I am a hypocrite, ' I said, "but it was out of ignorance rather than intent."
" No way," The Quince said, " You have made such heavy weather of your connection to the vegetable world and apparently worshiped the dialogue between us. It gives us the suspicion that you talk a good game but have little understanding or respectfulness for living bones. Rather than your feeble attempt to illuminate me, try to illuminate yourself for a change."
Well you can readily see that I felt pretty crushed particularly since she has provided faithfully every year beautiful quince for jellies and preserves, a home every year for the Western Flycatchers that grace our summers and she never develops powdery mildew. She has clearly discussed the matter in the orchard with her cousins the pears and apples.I have assured her that I will not repeat any unnatural acts in the future and will scale down my rhetoric, beating my breast about how connected I am when they all really know better!
Bad Breath Soup
A variety of soup we occasionally enjoyed in our house in the olden days was Bad Breath Soup. The name was coined by our saucy children who were of that age when our failings were transparent and easily exposed. Nevertheless both the name and the soup have survived hence for a further forty years and they now speak of it in terms of minor reverence. The soup was a derivative of the previous day's meal which was New England Boiled Dinner. This consisted of ham, onion, cabbage, carrots and potatoes boiled together. The second day the ham was finely diced, the original boiling water added, seasoning and a dollop of split peas and all the leftover vegetables into the large pot and recooked. There was always enough to freeze several Ziiploc bags of soup.
The nose and tongue, though aligned and working in concert are neurologically autonomous. The taste buds of the tonque are mediated by the 7th, 9th and 10th cranial nerves and the olfactory plate of the nose by the 1st cranial nerve. Therefore what an object smells like is somewhat different than how it tastes. The professional cheese and wine tasters know this, but they may not know why. Bad Breath Soup is a misnomer. It should have always been called Strong Breath Soup. That is a more apt name because it smells like cabbage and onion, both hearty and pungent vegetables that emit a superb scent. The quality of the delicate taste however is a blend of all the ingredients ; the sensations conducted by an orchestra of autonomous cranial nerves but in harmony with one another,
Bad Breath was preferred over Strong Breath because they named it and it stuck. Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren now live apart from us but when they come back from time to time, and we eat this soup and say Grace, it is pertinent to remind them, that Bad Breath is better than no breath at all.